Sunday 10th August 10:00 p.m Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
Yesterday was a bit of a hectic afternoon and evening. I didn't get back to Vancouver from Sheree's until about five o'clock. I rushed to Gail's place, and sweat had soaked my shirt long before I got there. I needed to phone the Travelodge. One of my hosts from the States was staying there tonight. Kandy, from Washington state, had emailed me to say that she wouldn't be able to host me next week as she and her family were in Canada on vacation. However, they would be at the Vancouver Travelodge tonight if I wanted to catch up. The phone call caught her just as they were about to head out for the evening. We arranged to meet downtown, and found a neat little bar and grill with a balcony above the street.

Kandy and her husband Steve were a riot. I'm sure I would've really enjoyed staying with them, and could have spent all night chatting away there above Robson Street. As it was, we had little more than two hours together. Their eleven year old son Devon sat patiently for most of the time, although I wondered later if his attention may have been occupied elsewhere. When our waitress turned her back, Devon whspered to Steve "She's nice. I like her." The boy has excellent taste, because our waitress and all the other girls, were quite stunning.

By nine-thirty we'd said our goodbyes, and I joined the estimated 1.2 million people that pour into Gail's beachfront neighbourhood to view the annual international fireworks competition. This year the contenders were Canada, China and the Czech Republic. Now, it takes something really special for me to get excited about fireworks, and last night was exactly that! I don't know or care who won. It was the most spectacular and varied display of pyrotechnics I've ever seen. The entire performance was set to music, which was simulcast on radio and just made the whole scene overwhelming. At times, it made me feel like a little kid again. A couple of Gail's friends and neighbours came over and joined us on her balcony- a perfect vantage point. Gail being a far more accomplished photographer than myself, I left it up to her to capture the beauty of the fireworks. If we're lucky, she'll email me a couple of her best shots.

Gail with her trusty Canon Powershot.

No-one rose real early in Gail's apartment this morning. By the time we all got our act together, it was after noon, and my ferry to Vancouver Island left at one-thirty. Gail, Krista and I bundled into Gail's car. Gail had offered to treat me to breakfast at the ferry port, but time was slipping away and after my experience in Juneau, I didn't want to be late for another ferry! Gail and Krista ordered meals from the cafe, and a burger and fries for me, to go. Thanks Gail.

The ferry ride was an hour and a half. After scoffing my food I found a nice sunny spot, out of the wind, and slept most of the way. Cindy, my host in Nanaimo, only lives five minutes drive from the ferry port. I phoned her and before I knew it, we were driving back to her house. Cindy is a school teacher- on summer holidays, her husband Bruce a biologist. Bruce is also in the local search and rescue team, and was out doing a rescue when I arrived. Hopefully, he'd be home in time for dinner, Cindy said, but you never know how long a rescue is going to take. Cindy and Bruce share their beautiful hillside home with their four cats Max, Russell, Zeus and Madeleine. A sticker on the fridge states "One can never have too many cats". The cats came by one at a time to check me out, while Cindy and I chatted on their balcony. She's recently returned from her first big adventure, four weeks in South East Asia. Yes, I wanted to see the photos, of course! Cindy showed me two albums of photographs from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia. It reminded me how much I love South East Asia, and almost made me impatient for the later part of this trip! My favourite photo was one of Cindy with and old Cambodian man, in the ruins of an ancient temple, with tree roots growing down over the intricately carved temple walls. In the picture she was holding her Lonely Planet Cambodia guide book, and who was on the cover of the book? The old man she was sitting with. How cool was that?

Cindy with her Lonely PLanet book and her travel photos. Cindy and her Mum Carol, Bruce and his mate Scott, and myself.

Anyway, Bruce turned up in time for dinner, another injured hiker safely evacuated to hospital. He fired up the barbecue and cooked up some salmon steaks. Cindy had made salad and scalloped potatoes and biscuits *like savoury scones, for those who don't know* and it was quite the feast. We even had honey beer to wash it down, and homemade blackberry pie and ice cream for dessert. Hmm...maybe I should stay here two nights!

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