Introduction

It’s been said that everyone has a book in them. I’m not sure whether that’s true so I decided to write a few things down and see if it started to look like more than a collection of rambling thoughts!

The first question was what type of book? I’ve always fixed things for a living so a novel is probably not my best option, all that development of characters and plot twists when I really just want to rattle on to the last chapter.

On the other hand, I’ve always been on holidays and travelled, with varying degrees of success, so perhaps a book about travel?

The following observations chart the journey of two naive tourists abroad as they gradually become seasoned travellers, possibly despite their efforts rather than because of them.

What follows is not in chronological order.

Chapter One – Canada

With our 25th wedding anniversary rapidly approaching Mrs M decided we should treat ourselves to the holiday of a lifetime. For some, that appears to be an all-inclusive fortnight that disappears in an alcohol-induced haze. Others trek in Peru. We chose a camper van in Canada.

Now, Canada is quite a way from the UK so flying was the only option really, that’s not a problem except that I sleep on planes. Even trans-atlantic ones. So, more than a little boring for anyone travelling with me. True to form I was snoring within 15 minutes of take-off and only woke up when the undercarriage deployed on the approach to Vancouver. Needless to say jet-lag is never a problem.

On the other hand jet-lag IS a problem for most people and you have to wait until the next day to pick up your camper van in case you fall asleep at the wheel and write it off before leaving town. The next morning was an introduction to how they regard food and customers in Canada – it’s the same in the US.

Calling in to the nearby equivalent of a Little Chef we set off on what turned out to be a marathon breakfast with mountains of muffins, scrambled egg and toast washed down with gallons of orange juice and coffee. After parting with a very modest amount of cash, about £5, we waddled back to the hotel firmly convinced we wouldn’t need to eat again for some time.

Shortly afterwards our taxi arrived.

On arrival at the pick-up point for our camper-van we assumed they were running late, after all there was just the huge thing about the size of a rural bus parked there and we had ordered a ‘mini’ mobile home. This monster, it turned out, WAS the ‘mini’. Having signed all the paperwork and now being in possession of an axe, for reasons that will become clear, we set off for our first experience of touring Canada. After collecting the obligatory pizza and wine at a local supermarket we pitched up for the night on the outskirts of Vancouver.

The site was really no more than a large concrete rectangle with service posts sticking out of it and it would not be until we hit our first National Park that we would really start to see Canada. That was where the fun would begin.

Mrs M is nothing if not prepared. We would be walking in the National Parks. Canada has bear. We would need some form of protection – bear bells. Never heard of them? They’re little bells attached to an elasticated strap that you put on each wrist so, as you walk, you tinkle. Apparently, this alerts the bear to your presence and, so the theory goes, as bear are naturally shy they will avoid you. Not convinced that letting something big enough to eat you know where you are was a good idea I decided to check with the local Tourist Information Centre.

Dropping the bear bells on the counter I asked “These bear bells, do they actually work?”

Canadians have a dry sense of humour and, with a deadpan expression, the assistant explained “Well, they’ll be about 8 feet tall, weigh around 500 kilos, can run as fast as a racehorse over a couple of hundred metres and they’re not scared of a damn thing. What do you think?” I took that as a no.