Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adventures in British Columbia - July 25th

Saturday, July 25th
In Victoria, B.C. The alarm went off this morning at 5:30, and I bumbled around getting up and dressed in shorts, running shirt and shoes. I put fresh batteries in the GPS, strapped on a water belt, grabbed a cup of coffee with extra sugar from the motel lobby, and was out the front door at 6:06. I’m till hanging in there on the marathon training. From the motel in downtown I ran downhill to the harbor, along the waterfront, past sailboats and fishing boats, floating houseboats, the seaplane dock, and fisherman's wharf, past lots of waterfront condos, and finally out along waterside park trails overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the state of Washington and snow capped mountains in the distance. I’m still huffing and puffing on long distance runs, but I’m pleased with my finish time of 1 hour and 48 minutes...right on the 12 minute per mile pace for the whole nine mile route.
After I showered and changed clothes, we ate a big breakfast of potatoes, eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee in the restaurant adjoining the hotel. Gale and Sabra came to pick us up at 9:30. They took us on a meandering tour of Victoria, then back to the motel to pick up the rental car, and we followed them out to the airport to return the car. We all rode together the short distance to Bouchart Gardens, only to find out that the admission price was jacked up today for the fireworks display this evening. We opted to come back on Sunday instead.

The Victoria waterfront is a great place to be on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in July! Buscar bands and acts spread themselves arbitrarily along the quay just far enough apart that each could command its own audience. In one spot a group in their teens and early twenties belted out punk rock with considerably more enthusiasm than talent. Farther along a darkly tanned guitarist was singing “Brown-Eyed Girl” along with a Jamaican steel drummer. A comedian/juggler hustled up his own crowd with audience participation schemes, wild antics, and witty patter that kept everyone in his venue laughing.

The narrow, deeply indented Victoria Harbor is continuously criss-crossed with tiny passenger ferries that are not-too-distant cousins of the little boats we saw herding rafts and logs in the sorting pond at Beaver Cove. Each one of these slightly tippy little aquatic taxis holds a maximum of 10 people. For a few dollars the captain will take you anywhere in the harbor, cheerfully pattering about the shoreline sights, and should you see something you like before your stated destination, will hand you a token good for re-boarding his or any other ferryboat after you’ve strolled around on shore long enough.

We got off at a dock surrounded by thirty or forty houseboats. They lay snuggled together side by side and gently jostling each other in the slight motion of the water. Some were small, single-room affairs, while others were two stories tall, with several rooms, lounging decks with planters, and all the comforts of a real home. Along the wharf there were several food stands, and we enjoyed a couple of overpriced hotdogs on buns before boarding another putt-putting little ferryboat to head back to the hotel.
There was considerable publicity on posters and in guidebooks about the annual “Luminara” festival to be held in a city park that afternoon and evening, but the weather began to look threatening. Just before sunset it began to rain. We waited. Then waited some more. It seemed as though the heaviest rain had slacked off, so we put on rain jackets and started to walk down to the park. We saw lots of wet, bedraggled people heading the other way, many of them herding young children in soggy, drooping costumes.
A paved path led up a wooded slope in the park, and pulsing sounds of music floated down through the dark. Big drops of water dripped from overhanging branches and leaves, and I was thankful for the hooded rain jacket. Several hundred people were in the clearing at the top of the hill where the path emerged from the woods. They were jumping and twisting, arms over heads or holding long skirts up out of the mud, prancing and dancing, or standing on the sidelines clapping or nodding heads while the throbbing rhythms of the Chikoro Marimba Band pounded out through the pouring rain. There were at least five marimbas, the largest of which had deep toned wooden bars eight inches across and a couple of feet long. PVC pipes of different lengths hung underneath, resonating and amplifying the hypnotic beat.
No one seemed to be paying the slightest attention to the rain, which continued to pour down on dancers and musicians alike, and water splashed off the marimba bars as the padded mallets pounded on. The set finally came to an end, and lights on sidewalk stands began to turn off. As the marimbas were being dismantled the crowds of people began to wander off into the dark with smiles on their faces.

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