Five Tips from a One Time Group Travel Virgin

On ‘that’ trip. Scotland 2011
In I my pre-mum, pre-writing about travel with babies life I was often to be found curled up with a good book. On occasion I got myself out of the house and had an adventure or two. If you read until the end of my rather long tale of group travel virgin blog you will know that I married my tour guide. That fact basically makes me an expert in small group travel. Between the Kimberly trip which was my first time and the trip with Walkabout Scotland where I met my husband I also went by myself on small group tours to:
USA – epic road trip from California to New York -2008

Ayre Peninsula- South Australia -2009
Borneo  – 2010

 

On Safari in Tanzania -2011
A sail boat adventure in Turkey – 2011
A snowy road trip from Vancouver to Banff- 2011
A road trip/pub crawl in Ireland -2011
Here are some things I have learnt along the way:
Tip 1: 
When selecting the type of group travel to go for always choose something you love: ie if you go on a trip that involves camping, or trekking – because you love those things, you will meet like minded fellow travellers.
 Tip 2:
If your already out of your comfort zone – go even further and break the ice with everyone in your group, because…
 
Tip 3:
When you travel with an organised small group tour you are never on your own for very long. You may not know it yet – but you are about to become part of a new tribe!
 
Tip 4:
When reading a tour itinerary it is a good idea to keep in mind what is an ‘included’ item in the itinerary and what is an extra – that way you know what you are paying for before you go and can budget for any extras you might want to do.
 
Tip 5:
Beware – group travel is a gateway drug. Before you know it you will be jumping off the tour bus and into a solo travel adventure.
Flying solo in Israel -2011
Advertisements

Tale of a Group Travel Virgin

I wrote a travel story recently about my first experience of group travel. It saw me looking back to a trip that I took ten years ago. Writing it was quite an interesting journey in itself – funny how when you look back patterns reveal themselves. That’s one of the reasons I love writing. The story did not get chosen for the project I sent it off to- so I thought I would post it here.
 
Slow Starter
Darwin to Broome
On the first morning I woke up in Darwin with human faeces in the hallway of my hotel. I am someone who once returned the gift of a mystery flight because the idea of going somewhere new, by myself made me uncomfortable. And there I was, by myself in a very unpleasant hallway about to spend two weeks on a 4WD bus travelling though the remote Kimberly wilderness with a group of strangers.

Why, I asked myself, did you give up the comfort of your couch and your knitting to come here?
Booking myself onto this holiday had been a convoluted sort of process. With my first almost full time job I had a little bit of disposable income, and paid holiday time, but there was nobody to go on holiday with. A much more well travelled cousin encouraged me to visit her in Thailand, use her home as a base and look into some group travel as a way to explore Asia. Reading trip itinerary’s got me excited, but Asia semi-alone seemed a little scary. Fear of the unknown held me back. But the seed of the idea of group travel had been planted. Perhaps I could see more of my own backyard? I switched from brochures about Asia to brochures about small group travel closer to home, and a trip caught my attention: travelling from Darwin to Broome, along the Gibb River Road, camping, swimming in fresh water gorges, visiting El Questro and the Bungle Bungles.
Now it turns out that travel agents have this great skill – you make an enquiry, they hold something – say a tour and some flights provisionally, and then they tell you you have so many days to pay or you will loose the booking- they give the reluctant, pondering traveller such as myself a deadline and a fear of missing out. Which is I suppose how I went from enquiring about availability and flights to being alone in a fetid hallway.

That day we travelled out of Darwin, and after a swim beneath sun drenched rocky escarpments at Edith Falls and a long drive, we camped on lush grass at Timber Creek under strange, majestic upside down looking boab trees. On the second morning there was only kangaroo poo outside my tent. Big improvement, but I missed being amongst my people.

In early photos from the trip everyone is standing up very straight with their hands tucked behind their backs or in their pockets. We are travelling together, but we were not together. Those first days I dwelt on the contrast of how much more comfortable I was on camping holidays with friends or family. I was hyper aware of the little groups that existed within our ‘small group’ – I was not part of any group. There were two brothers travelling with their wives who spoke minimal English and were easily thirty years older than me; other couples travelling together, two friends who had come together, and an assortment of other solo travellers like myself. I felt lonely amongst this group of strangers.

My tent mate was a British doctor,

the start of everyday was a struggle for us- as we were both equally poor at functioning without coffee 

and the itinerary most days demanded we pack up our tent before breakfast. After breakfast we would be on the road again. The Northern Territory and Western Australia have properly Australian distances. We drove, and drove the next day, and the day after that and the day after that. We often drove through the hottest part of the day, arriving at our camp-site in time for a bit of an explore and a swim. Sometimes staying in one place for a night or two before moving on.

I have done a couple of road trips up and down the eastern coast of Australia with my family. Between Melbourne and the Sunshine coast the landscape is dotted with towns and cities. Between Darwin and Broome there are remote indigenous communities, farms that get managed via helicopter they are so huge, wild rivers, a few small towns and rough roads. The most spectacular locations, within the wide open land of the outback that is the Kimberly, can only be accessed via roads such as the notorious Gibb River Road – and its smaller, rougher off shoots.
Even in the dry season, robust, high clearance 4WD vehicles are the only way to attempt the journey if you want to see any of the countryside not immediately adjacent to the Great Northern Highway. There are river crossings, big remote distances without street signs or easy landmarks and changeable conditions. The road can be closed completely during the wet season, and vehicles even contemplating travel in the wet must have a snorkel! The debris stranded high up in the trees marked the height of the water in the wet season. As we covered those big distances I realised how challenging it would be for me, and my townie friends and family to ever embark on this type of journey. Going with a driver who know the terrain, and with an organised group – so someone else took care of all the preparations – gear, food, water etc. was a perfect way to experience this wild corner of outback Australia.

Every destination was absolutely worth the chunk of driving that it took to get there. The contrast of hot, hot days relieved by swimming opportunities in spectacular locations like Bell Gorge was without a doubt a highlight for me. On one of our hiking/swimming adventures we made a non-vehicular deep river crossing. Some strong swimmers (myself included) pushed inner tubes across, floating our boots, camera’s etc. to keep them dry. As I gained the far bank, with the kit safely ashore I looked back to see that one of the men in our group was loosing confidence. The water was slow moving, but dark, chest high and the river bed was slippery bottomed. Within a moment one of the tanned and barrel chested German brothers had taken his hand and supported him for the rest of the crossing. The moment: these two men, previously strangers to each other, holding hands as they emerged from the river was not captured by my camera, but the memory is one of my strongest from the trip.

Bell Gorge, Western Australia 2007

There were great reminders that the driving itself was part of the destination. When we drove the 50km 4WD only track into the Bungle Bungles I sat up the front with our guide.

In the truck I could feel every bump, taste the dust and see the blind corners coming – I truly felt like I was in the Kimberly. 

The vast glory of the Bungle Bungles was a great reward for surviving that terrain without the air-conditioning and good suspension of the cabin. We hiked through dry river beds at the base of ancient canyons in temperatures above 40.C and picnicked in the shade of Cathedral Gorge. You can see the evolution of friendships in those Bungle Bungles pictures, we are all a little wilted, very exuberant and our arms are interlocking in the foreground of images capturing a fragment of that majestic Martian landscape of orange beehive domes thrusting up from the earth’s crust.

And somewhere along those hot dusty roads, and in between swimming, walking, sweating and wildlife spotting I found I was not travelling with a group of strangers anymore. Perhaps it was Pip and I laughing together everyday in exasperation at our own continued inability to pack up our tent; perhaps it was those helpers who came along and sorted out our tent mess; perhaps it was conversations unfolding along dusty walking trails, by camp-fires and over card games on long drives; perhaps it was sharing snacks and beers at sunset over-looking the Bungle Bungles, watching the colours change on those ancient masterpieces in the cool of early evening. Somehow the alchemy of heat, dust, shared exploration and discovery, bumpy roads, river crossings, the minimal comforts of camping, spectacular locations; combined with cold beer, starry evenings and being away from everyone you know came to equal friendship. I don’t recall exactly when the cross over happened – but I do remember looking around at our group scattered about the camp-site one evening and realising that thesewere my people. I was not on the outside looking in anymore.

Bell Gorge, Western Australia 2007
On the last day I woke up in a tent pitched with a view Roebuck Bay in Broome, Western Australia. I was part of a group formed from people from all over the world who had shared the adventure of travelling through the Kimberly. I was soon to discover the main draw back of small group travel – that hollow feeling you get when the trip is over and everyone disperses back to their real lives.
But you carry those memories with you. And if you are lucky – like me, you will keep some of those friendships going. I caught up with one of my trip mates for a beer a few weeks later in Melbourne – she had continued on from Broome to Perth along the coast – and as I heard her highlights I began planning for my next small group trip. It turned out to be a road trip across America, but that is another story.
Cable Beach – Broome, Western Australia 2007
Many years later I went to visit my old tent mate in her home in Devon. I spent an idyllic few days walking forest and beach trails with Pip and her dogFinn before heading to Scotland to go on another small group trip – hiking in the highlands. I had been travelling in Africa, the Middle East and Europe – doing some small group trips, a family visit with my cousin in Egypt, (I never got around to visiting her in Thailand) and some completely solo travel, again that is another story.
 
The part that connects to my Kimberly trip, is where that Australian girl, who was a slow starter to solo travel, but was converted by spending two weeks driving through the outback with a group of strangers, found herself on the other side of the world,

trekking through bogs, up and down rain pelted mountains, making more friends from around the world and falling in love with her tour guide.

Four years later I am still here in Scotland, married to the man who led us up to the misty top of Ben Nevis. We have had plenty of adventures together, some of the travel variety, and some involving the birth of our two sons. Lately I have been reflecting that if I had never taken the plunge, gotten out of my comfort zone and gone on that first trip, perhaps I wouldn’t be living the life that I am now. And oh what a pity that would be.

Rover mum, Rafa and Finn, Cairngorms, Scotland late 2016

 

group travel, solo travel, travel
if you loved reading it why not pin it for later? Go on get social online – and off!

On loving Paul Simon’s Graceland

Graceland, Memphis – Tennessee

When I was in America in 2008 I visited Graceland. I am aware of Elvis Presley and his music, but the real reason I was excited about going to Graceland was the Paul Simon song. In the hotel car park in Memphis, on the morning of our visit I put Paul Simon onto my ipod nice and loud and had a little over-excited silent dance party, because – I was going to Graceland!

Elvis image – one amongst many at Graceland
‘…following the river down the highway through the cradle of the civil war. I’m going to Graceland… poor boys and pilgrims with families we are going to Graceland…’  
I have loved the Paul Simon album Graceland for as long as I can remember. The title song evokes a legend of music, it is about a journey and it literally bounces you along the road. It was released twenty five years ago – which (if my parents bought it when it was first released) means that I would have been about six years old when I first heard it. There was politics around the making of the album in South Africa and his fusion of sounds was ground breaking, but as a child I did not know a thing about any of that.

All I knew was that the loose limbed sounds were joyous and different, and there were evocative words like cinematographer, diamonds, delta, Memphis and bat-faced-girl, mingled with energetic whoooops. The music reverberated with a beat that made you want to move and then snatches of stories would burst through – conjuring up images of people and places far away from my world in regional Victoria:

‘people say she’s crazy she’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes…’
 
‘there is a girl in New York city who calls herself the human trampoline…’
 
Of course I can only glimpse that child through the sive of my current self. But I know how the music touches me still, and I have no hesitancy saying that that little tape was from the beginning of our intimacy a precious object holding a special magical energy.
My trip to America was not particularly a Paul Simon pilgrimage, but the man, and his music touched various legs of my trip. Early on, I had an overnight bus ride from San Fran to LA, arriving in the pale empty city very early in the morning, hassled on the bus, with no sleep, already missing my new San Fran friends and my boyfriend terribly. I sank into a rather deep hole. With four hours to kill before I could get into my room, have a wash and a sleep I turned to the only thing I could think of to lift me out of my funk- I sat down with my ipod and listened to Paul Simon – and the magic worked. He pulled me out.
There is a Graceland 25 year anniversary tour going on in Europe starting this week, and I came very close to buying myself a ticket to go and see the man, but the stars were not aligned properly for me to go on that particular journey.
New Orleans – 2008
I did see him once, not in a concert hall, or at a rock concert but in a bookstore in New York. Weeks after he helped dry out my tears in LA, and I had visited many many iconic locations (including Graceland) I was scanning the street press for New York things to do, when I saw that the man himself was speaking at a bookstore.
Central Park and two mad hatters – 2008
I went along to the packed event and took a spot near the back. My hero talked about song writing, his long career as a performer and New York, and every now and then he sang. The legs of some must have tired, because as the evening wore on I was able to make my way closer to the man sitting on a stool with a guitar at his side. And at the close of the evening, while others had given way to the fatigues of standing upright, neck craning for a view- I did not have to crane my neck at all to be able to watch Paul Simon sing the Only living boy in New York right in front of me.
Paul Simon New York 2008
I have always felt blessed to have been lucky enough to see Paul Simon in his hometown… and although I am sad that I won’t get to see him perform for the 25th anniversary of Graceland I carry the music with me in my heart nonetheless.

 

Search Keywords

Flamingo kisses in 2011, Lesvos Greece

I have a very good friend who has recently started a blog all about stamps and her love for post, it is called i heart post and I am loving her work, but it has made me realise that I have no idea what my blog is actually about. My flamingo exploring has been a little thin on the ground of late and I don’t seem to have any found any new overarching theme. I have explored, elucidated, postulated, pompously prosed on about hippos, garbage, Mr Darcy, art, skiing, life, the universe and ice creams on my little blog, but I have no nice little niche to bracket everything into.

Mine is a rather grass -roots following: ie I meet people I tell them about the blog and sometimes they read it. As well as my loyal and beloved readers I have discovered that sometimes people randomly stumble across my writing while searching for that particular something or other that their life is in need of.
I often while away perfectly good writing, eating and knitting time checking out the statistics that appear at the back end of the blog. So I know that people have found my blog by searching for:  
Sculpture, Venice, Italy
Naked boy rat Venice biennale 2011
Hytee
Darcyshire
Rogers Arena Canucks
Flamingos Lesvos
I was sorting out my possessions
The outside things of rogers arena hockey
Dennis Oppenheim Engagement
Flamingo packing tape
Where to see naked men in Venice
Bridge Harry Potter Scotland
English bay symbol
Flamingo habitat
Any restrictions on canoeing on a lake in Ayvalik Turkey with Flamingos

Glenfinnan Viaduct, AKA Harry Potter bridge, Scotland

Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada

 I don’t know if their searches ended with my blog, I like to think that it sent them off in a totally new direction.  It is fun maybe being a part of someone else’s world exploring and hopefully inspiring them to get out and explore some place new. I love the different quirks, connections and pathways that make up a life, and I know that some of the avenues this flamingo adventuress has travelled down have been due to typing a few words into a search engine, following the words and pictures and packing my bag for the next adventure. So I like the idea that my little online bubble might participate in other peoples adventures.

 I also like to dream that they come back to visit Flamingo Rover of their own free will- but I haven’t figured stalk my readership that well yet.
The things that people have typed into their search engine of choice and then clicked through to Flamingo Rover don’t give me much help when it comes to figuring out which box my blog lives in, but pondering other peoples keywords has helped me imagine my blog as part of that larger online universe. 
Maybe my mission should be to make Flamingo Rover all about what it was in the beginning… maybe it could be synonymous with random adventuring to see what you can see. 
Then again perhaps it is Seinfeldian and about nothing at all.  

Take a Walk

The many layers of a city take a while to explore, and for me one of the best ways to unravel the ins and outs of a city is on foot. Walking the streets of a new city at different times of the day, seeing the light change, seeing the habbits of the people and feeling the temperature shift are all things unique to being in a place- as opposed to looking at pictures in a magazine or on a hand held device.
While I was in Vancouver I took many walks:
to my various backpackers
to the library
out to dinner
to Rogers Arena- the home of the Canucks to watch the ice Hocky
to Granville Island to get tasty and pretty things
to go and see the twinkling Christmas ‘Lights of Hope’
Rogers Arena- Home of the Canucks

 

‘Lights of Hope’ St Pauls Hospital, Burrard Street Vancouver

 

The walk best worth sharing however is the one I did around Stanley Park on the afternoon after my Visa interview. I was pretty mentally worn out- having spent all remaining omph on getting my papers together and over the line. But after a post interview nap I set off outside again- the sun was out and the 10km walk along the sea walls seemed like the best thing for my tired brain.
It was late November and although the sun was splendidly out when I started, it (and its warmth) were well and truely gone when I had finished. It was a people watching expedition, nature walk and sculptue walk all in one.
The first sculpture I encountered was  Dennis Oppenheim’s Engagement, this eye catching piece was originally only a temporary installation as part of the Vancouver Biennale, but it has recently been gifted to the city. Of course they speak of romance, commitment, promise and love, but the twin ‘stones’ on the rings, illuminated at night, also remind me of light house beacons, are they warning ships off? Or showing the way home safely.

 

Engagement: Dennis Oppenheim,

 

An Inuk Shuk looking out onto English Bay

Some of the sculptures on my walk tell stories of Canada’s indigenous population. The hefty stone blocks are an ancient symbol of Inuit culture traditionally used as landmarks, but also representing northern friendship and hospitality. Before I saw this sun drenched mammoth I had only seen examples of the Inuk Shuk dangling from key rings. The one on my walk was far more impressive. The same goes for of the grand, vividly coloured carvings telling first nation origin stories- they were the first real looking totem poles I had seen in Canada.
As the journey progressed I became anxious that I had missed my most looked forward to sculpture. I knew it was possible to miss her, as she is positioned out in the water, but I was reassured when I asked a passing local that she was still ahead. Many people refer to her as the mermaid, though any attentive glance will reveal that she is wearing flippers and goggles. I don’t think of her as marooned there on her rock, she is just taking a break, The sun had gone from the harbour by the time I greeted her, giving her something of a lonely aura, but I imagine the swimmer takes on different attitudes in different seasons and it would be lovely to revisit her some sparkling morning.

Girl in Wetsuit: Elek Imredy

Getting back towards the city I re-visit the Meeting – a sculpture instalation I first encountered on a morning run on my first day in Vancouver. I love this serene circle of figures who mock world leaders who sit down to endlessly try and fix the worlds problems, but also reminds you that the act of sitting down together is probably the best way forward.

 

Meeting: Wang Shugang

 

The Drop: Inges Idee

By the time I got to The Drop my legs were weary and the air was cold. It is impressive- but more so are the views beyond it.

 

Making it back into the city as dusk was falling the 10km I had walked on concrete was making my legs very tired, that and the icy wind from Grouse Mountain told me that outdoor time was over for the day- so  I took myself for a feed in Gastown. Slightly re-invigorated after my meal I could not help finishing my sculpture filled walk at the Vancouver Public Library even though it was slightly out of my way.  The whimsical light installation outside this magnificent, and always welcoming curved building were great favourites of mine in Vancouver-
The Words Don’t fit the Picture: Ron Terada
This work by Ron Terada makes me think: what words- the words in my head? The words in a book? The words on the forms I have to fill out? Does the bureaucracy ever fit with any picture of reality? No!
But we do it anyway- because sometimes it gets us what we want/ where we want to be.
A walk helps you get to know a city, but it also sets me free, sends my mind spinning in new directions, fills in the blanks, reminds me that there is more to life than paperwork.
And the Stanley Park walk – packed full of mountains, trees, ships, bridges, sculptures and history… PERFECT.

 

The Christmas Letter

In 2011 I left Melbourne, left Nowa Nowa, spent time in 15 different countries and in the process
said a lot of Hellos and Goodbyes; after many flights, bus rides, hostel beds, and adventures I am sending my Christmas greetings from wintry Scotland.
It was the year of big things, the year of flamingos and the year of too many firsts to list.
Instead I thought I would go for a recap of the year in festivals:
 
– New year was celebrated in Nowa Nowa with friends family and miscellaneous campers.
– The epicly attended ‘festival of Sandy’ was held In Kilcunda and Kongwak to observe my 30th.
– Easter saw Helen, Grant and I on a road trip that took in Nowa Nowa, Mt Beauty and Melbourne, before both Grant and I left Aussie shores for other horizons.
Helen and Grant enjoying a beer in Mt Beauty
– I celebrated the Swedish mid-summer festival in Cairo with much singing, eating, drinking and dancing around the may-pole.
– Travels in the Middle East had me a little anxious about Ramadan as I don’t do so well without regular food and drink, luckily Ayvalik, the town I was staying in in Turkey when Ramadan began, did not seem overly observant and I have been able to learn about Ramadan without being an active participant.
– I love spending Christmas with my family and uncertainty over where I would be this Christmas has been hovering for months, exacerbated by uncertainty over how long my visa trip to Canada would take. Thankfully things got sorted- which led to a very festive beer, post ski lesson in Whistler, to celebrate being given my UK visa.
– I have headed back to Scotland to celebrate Christmas, Hogmanay and beyond.
Aside from the obvious suddenly having no job and deciding to indefinitely become a backpacking bum the biggest surprises of the year have been:
 
Discovering how gross Hippos are.
 
Discovering that I can stand up on skis.
How welcoming so many people have been to this unemployed waif- many thanks to all, from Australia and beyond who have given me a bed this year.
Meeting the lovely Jon.
How much more sense Christmas carols, cards ect make once you spend the festive season in snowy climates.
That people have seemed to enjoy reading my little blog almost as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
My reading list has been a little random, mostly dictated by which books I could scavenge from hostels. My top books list has somehow ended up being almost all sci-fi:
 
– Never let me go, Kuzo Ishiguro– haunting vision of humanity gone awry.
– Making History, Stephen Fry- mr clever pants bringing history into the now and messing with it.
– Count Zero,William Gibson- not his best but he is so good that it still makes the list.
– And a non sci fi book to round it out- Jane Austen- A Life, Claire Tomalin- helped me indulge in my Austen daydreams in the English countryside.
No favourite places list, but the top adventures that come to mind just now are:
 
– Canoeing Lake Tyres with my mum, Nowa Nowa, Australia

– Boating, swimming, kayaking and fishing for Calamari in Turkey

– Night hike up Mt Sinai, Egypt
– Swimming in the dead sea in Jordan and Israel
– Walking to Beer with Pip and Fin, Devon, England
– Of course I need a Flamingo highlight, so biking to see Flamingos on Lesvos, Greece makes the cut
– Epic walking trip in the Scottish highlands
Glenfinnan Viaduct- or THE Harry Potter bridge! Scotland
The Quiraing, Isle of Skye
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dinner on a Felluca with Fraine and family on the Nile, Egypt.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Being ‘teacher’ in Jambiani, Zanzibar.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This year, as with last my last words are borrowed from my Grandma Ruthie; for food, for friends, for love I give thanks. Much love and best wishes for the new year, Sandy. x

Must Do!

 Whistler – Blackcomb
As I mentioned in my last Ski blog, learning how to ski was a must do for my trip to Canada, the question was when and where?
Like Petra in Jordan and the Pyramids in Egypt, Whistler is a must do when you visit British Columbia. And like all must do tourist sights there is (for me at least) often something a little tiresome about the constant insistence that you must do them- until I visit and then I become one more in a long line of people who will now tell everyone I meet that they must visit!
Whistler and its brother Blackcomb are only two of many mountains stretching farther than my imagination can take in. Highway 99, otherwise known as the Sea to Sky highway takes you from Vancouver to Whistler Village and the road itself is now on my must do list. In fact I stayed an extra night so I could do the return run in daylight. As I sit in the Greyhound peak after white topped peak flash by in the December sun and the big deep waters of Horseshoe Bay reflect it all back, doubling the wondrous panorama. When we break the drive in Squamish the whole area is ringed with the lacy up and downs of snow capped mountains. As is so often the case when man and nature mix, the town itself seems squat and almost squalid in comparison to the natural surrounds. And then we are off again up to Whistler.
After spending quite a bit of time tramping along public footpaths and mountain tracks in the UK it took a while for the slowly shifting gears of my brain to realise that when I visit Whistler- Blackcomb I was not visiting mountains exactly but a resort.
The resorts physical infrastructure marks out how visitors will interact with the mountain; there are cafes at varying altitudes, chair lifts, gondolas, moving carpets, snow machines and of course ski trails of varying difficulties.
Along with the physical infrastructure to get people up and down the mountain and feed and water them the resort requires man power- and in mid December as it gears up to service hordes of snow tourists the resort attracts job seekers like honey to a hungry Pooh Bear. And why not with such a spectacular location. While staying at a backpackers almost everyone I meet is looking for work and or accommodation for the season, and everyone is anticipating a blessed life of hard work and hard play at the snow.
And it is absolutely true that Australians are in the majority.
This Australian however is not here to look for work, I am on the other side of the fence: I am going to ski school.
Gearing up on the first morning I soon discover that while there are bonuses to coming prior to the official season (in the form of discounts) there are trials as well. The very new staff don’t quite seem to know which way is up. Luckily the blanks in the knowledge of those dealing with gear hire do not translate into deficits in our teachers. We were well provided for by our instructors knowledge, both of the mountain and of skiing in general.
Because of my half day on Grouse I start out as a Level Two skier and we spend a sunny day on the long slow training slope where I ski with poles for the first time, manage to keep myself upright, perform both left and right hand turns and occasionally almost ski parallel.
The Carpet on the teaching slope at Whistler.
 I graduate to Level Three for my second day. We have sun again and although there is some complaining about the lack of new snow, I personally am happy to have blue skies and sunshine as we explore the sights, slopes and challenges of Whistler and Blackcomb the best way possible, whizzing by on our skis. In between runs we trundle about in high enclosed gondolas and rocky ski lifts, with me still chanting ‘stand up’ to myself every time I exit in case I forget and accidentally get stuck on the lift Bridget Jones style. 
Chair lift on Blackcomb
 The mountain’s infrastructure is imposing but I cannot imagine how we would get about without it, as I have enough trouble just carrying my skis and poles over short distances and still have not mastered the art of moving over flat snow in my skis.
Although it is a grey day, life is good on day three. My body is still functioning, I have hardly had a tumble and although I can feel the fatigue of two days skiing I am keen to have another day on my skis. Fog and all.
.
On our last day we get a taste of what it is like to be on a busy run. On our longest and possibly highest run there are skiers and snowboarders rocketing in from everywhere.
I do finely take a couple of tumbles after lunch and I discover the difficulty of righting myself on a steep hill while trying not to slip off the edge, but I am comforted by my brother’s statement that: ‘a few good tumbles usually indicates that you are pushing your limits at least a little.’
On the most part even our little troupe of novices manages to navigate successfully. Something I thought I would never master- avoiding other people on my ski’s while moving at speed is now coming quite naturally.
And even my one collision with a snowboarder is navigated by both parties without incident. It was not until after I have turned to the boarder, smiled, said ‘nice’ in relief at neither of us tumbling over that I realise he had a camera strapped to his helmet. Our almost crash at slow speed probably wont make it to a snowboarding video near you but you never know.
At the end of day three I have a new bruise or two, confidence on my skis and a smile on my face. I have enjoyed myself immensely and having always thought of myself as a fairly uncoordinated lass, the discovery that I have inherited some of my families sporting abilities is quite a nice feeling.
I don’t suck!
And I will be quite happy to tell anyone who asks that they must visit Whistler and they must learn to ski.
New Convert