I wake up this morning with the dreaded thought that we’re getting on a plane and swopping the gorgeous Rockies for the city of Vancouver. It’s one step closer to home (my flight to Cape Town leaves in four days), but I am scared of what awaits me at the airport. I really wish we don’t have to leave the mountains and our friends. A tiny part of me regrets booking this flight. But, what’s done is done and we just have to make the most of this last magical morning here.
The decided plan of action involves Megan walking around the town of Banff and its souvenir shops while Bruce, Han and I hop on the gondola up Sulphur Mountain to get a last reflective look at the scenic surrounds (photo above). The ride certainly brings back many ski resort memories – the quiet whirring of the capsule chugging up the hill, its shadow gliding over the treetops just below. It’s a mad rush and we literally only spend fifteen minutes up there, snapping away. Timing is everything. We do have a plane to catch after all.
What a stunning view though! So green and vastly different from what winter must look like. We spot some mountain goats below and shake our heads in disbelief at the endless kilometres of pine trees all around us.
The drive to the airport proves better than our previous experience in June – now we know where we are going! I’m so grateful we’re not in the traffic in the opposite direction. Think Nelson Mandela Boulevard outbound at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Nightmare.
It’s a classic ‘drop and go’ of rushed goodbyes and then a short wait before we board our last domestic flight.
The flight duration is 1h45, but the time difference makes it appear like a 45min flight. How bizarre. We’ve flown into the past yet again.
The Canadian Immigration Officer’s words still haunt me when we land in Vancouver, so I face facts and go chat to the British Airways staff. I’m truly disappointed with their lack of compassion for my situation and they confirm my fears. They refuse to put me on a plane to Heathrow in four days’ time because I no longer possess a Canadian visa and thus technically require a UK transit visa, despite the fact that I only have a layover of five hours and have absolutely no intention of leaving the airport! My reasoning lands on deaf ears and all I’m told is ‘get a transit visa’. The wall is up. It’s my problem and they can’t help. I’m not given any more thought or assistance. They do however, take my 12 September flight and move it to the 20th because ‘that’s roughly how long I’ll wait to get a transit visa’.
I know this might not seem so bad, but right now my world has crumbled and I feel nothing but utter despair. And a deeper despising of the woman who stole my bag. Does she not understand how inconvenient this is?!
We just want to leave the airport now and catch the wonderfully efficient train to downtown Vancouver. It’s a rather large city and it takes us a while to map out the sections and directions.
We check in at a hostel on Granville Street, which at least is easy to find and very central. I want to take in the surroundings, but I am walking with worry in my heart and stress etched on my face. We drop the bags and I go on a solo mission to walk a few blocks in search of a travel agent. But I can’t find one and soon enough I am sobbing behind my sunglasses. How am I going to get myself back home? I don’t want to apply for this stupid transit visa! (I’ve had enough of visas) and I can’t afford to buy a new flight home. Back in the hostel room and in Megan’s presence, I have another little breakdown. I catch my tear-streaked reflection in the mirror and, seeing the humour in this, moan that my new mascara is rubbish and not good for crying.
Dinner happens at a place nearby and Megan orders her new favourite thing – pulled pork. I wish I could say I had the same appetite, but I keep zoning out, only to have Megan boss me and try to change the subject and make me laugh. Thank God she’s there. I’m a real ray of sunshine right now!
We’re later joined by two German girls in our hostel room who chat away in a language too different from anything we know to decipher.
It’s been a draining day and of course despite my exhaustion, precious sleep hovers nearby … but just out of reach.