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The Art of Traveling with a Broken Leg

January 5, 2011

For the most part this takes a large dose of determination along with resourcefulness, patience and endurance. I learned this art after breaking my leg while mountain biking then finding myself unable to stay still along with a prior commitment to attend a wedding in the US mid-west. My plan had been to drive east from Vancouver through Canada for as long as I had time and return via Indiana but I could no longer depress the clutch so I sold my car and bought a plane ticket instead. Not as drastic as it may sound because I would only have 3 weeks left in Canada after being able to use the leg again, so I was only doing what I needed to do anyway but sooner.

When you’ve broken your leg you are suddenly forced to lift your entire weight using your arms and shoulders, then swing yourself forward with the aid of your stomach muscles, all of which have nowhere near the strength endurance of your legs. As for me, my first days on crutches I struggled to go further than a couple of blocks, and with that my shoulders, chest muscles, lower and upper arm and stomach muscles were painful. The next day everything still ached, along with bruised hands just to cheer me up a little more. Unfortunately, I had the underarm-style crutch which required me to grip them under my arms to stabilise them rather than them being stabilised by a ring round the arms. This meant for the whole time I also had to wear a sports-bra because otherwise my bra under wiring chaffed terribly!

With stubbornness and a “no pain, no gain” attitude I mustered on through the pain barrier to do things that needed to be done and still get around to be sociable and make the most of the awkward situation. I had a visitor from England and so wanted to show him around Vancouver. The muscles got the idea after a about a week but those bruised hands stayed for the duration. Bearing this in mind, you can imagine that adding extra weight in items that would need to be packed for a trip away will add to the above issues. Also, everything needed must be packed in a backpack as you have no free hands for the odd extra this or that.

I was packing for sightseeing, visiting friends, and a family wedding in late October. I had a faithful, roomy, 25 litre backpack with a handy expansion section on the front where it is possible, for example, to stash a coat if too hot. Here is a list of what I managed to fit either in the bag or on my person:
Travel towel, wash kit (everything less than 100ml for carry-on air travel), 4 sets of underwear, dress, trousers, small cardigan, pretty shoes (flat), 2 pretty tops, 2 t-shirts (1 worn), thermal, woolly hat, scarf, pair of jeans (worn), hooded sweater (worn or tied round waist), a book, a diary, phone charger, mp3 player, camera, wallet, phone. The latter 4 items I carried in the pockets of a long coat. In addition I stashed a sleeping bag in the expansion section of the bag. Overall it wasn’t too light, but given that I would need and use everything I took, it was the best I could do. This kit would last me nearly 3 weeks with a a few washes of course!

One advantage of the injury I sustained is that because of the location of the break in the knee, I didn’t need a cast. No extra weight there and it was fairly maneouverable into awkward spaces on planes/cramped buses etc!

After having got my muscles used to my own weight, carrying the bag was like starting out all over again with the pain in the shoulders returning and my hands were really not thanking me but I made my choice. Padded gloves may help a little but you still are putting a lot of pressure on a relatively small location (compare size of hand bar to size of feet).

For all of the cities I visited, I found accommodation that was close to public transport or had friends or family to pick me up from train/bus. The Skytrain in Vancouver has elevator/lift access to all stations so never caused any trouble. Some of the other cities’ subways did not have such easy access and so stairs often had to be navigated. I took them as a necessary challenge. I soon honed hopping down several stairs at once (handrail assisted) only occasionally finding that my sleeping bag would be shaken loose from its location, but it would never go far as I’d secured it to the bag.

As soon as I possibly could I would deposit the bag at my accommodation and set off with just my camera, wallet, phone and mp3 player upon my person to discover the city. For the most part, people on public transport were accommodating, but it was an interesting social experiment and I soon came to compare cities by how polite and courteous people were on the buses and subways. Here are my observations: Vancouver-bus drivers lower bus step and people move out of easy access seats without asking. Quebec City-as Vancouver. Montreal-I had to ask folk on subway to let me have a seat. Toronto-I had to ask folk on bus let me have a seat and had to stand up holding on for dear life on some occasions. Akron, Ohio – as Toronto.

On my journey I managed to board planes (all airlines are very helpful and provide wheelchairs and porters if requested), buses, coaches, and Amtrak trains. Boarding was probably the most tricky, but just a variation on navigating stairs but with the challenge of a narrow entrance and steeper steps. Exiting usually involved handing the crutches over to someone and using the handrails to aid getting down. Navigation of the inside of these vehicles was mostly done hopping, and I was once surprised to not be the only one doing so. One plane I shared with a lady who only had one leg, the other being non-existent apart from a stump above the knee.

In conclusion, if you can’t cope with sitting still whilst having a broken leg and want to go elsewhere, it is certainly possible. If you have a choice of where you can go, one of the easiest places to visit and navigate is Vancouver. Certainly it is a lovely city, surrounded by mountains, by the sea and packed with easily accessible tourist attractions. It was a shame I had already seen it all and wanted to go somewhere else!


12th Nov 2010 – Exploring Alberta, the Canadian Rockies and more!

November 13, 2010

My time in Calgary proved to be much more enjoyable than I’d expected. I had envisaged a few weeks of hard slog to top up my fun fund before my brother was due to arrive for a road-trip. Timing all worked out to move into a nice house with Carla, whom I already knew from Vancouver, at the place she was living in when I’d visited and gone to the Calgary Stampede. She put me in contact with her job agencies and I got a steady flow of office administration positions to keep me going.

When I arrived an Italian couple were also lodging there. They were just in Canada for a short time, using Calgary as a base to explore the Rockies. A couple of weekends were spent with them visiting Banff, hiking at Johnston Canyon and to a tea house above Lake Louise, exploring the Icefields parkway with its impressive glaciers, moody clouds and imposing craggy mountains. My car served us well, with Carla and I both sleeping in the back for these trips. Views were spectacular, especially by Two Jack Lake, one of the places we camped (for photos click here). I revisited Lakes Louise and Moraine with them as the colour of the water is truly spectacular and can be gaped at in awe for many an hour. More photos here.

The first week in September there was a public holiday so I decided I wanted to try and have a true rural Albertan experience. I searched on the Couchsurfing hospitality website and found a lovely couple who really did show us western hospitality. We spent our time around the fire, eating bison steak, going to the local eatery where the cowboys go for their steak and egg breakfasts, to a small local rodeo, hiking and bear spotting in the lovely mountainous countryside. It was great to meet these folk who’ve decided to sell everything and set off in a camper van for South America. Photos from this trip and Calgary here.

Alas, time came for Carla to leave but my brother soon arrived and after a short evening catching up with a relative we hot-footed it off in search of mountains and off-road cycling adventure. The weather treated us well and graced us with fantastic views near Jasper. We were treated to a cold night camping at around -7 deg C but at least the mosquitoes were not eating us.
Our first mountain biking on day 2 was at a place I’d been recommended by a couple of locals and a write-up in a backcountry mountain biking book mentioned “hike-a-bike”. Sure enough it was a scramble over rocks at the top, carrying our bicycles upon our shoulders, but we were rewarded with probably my favourite view for my entire time in Canada. Rather unexcitingly named Barrier Lake, in the Kananaskis, it was a sight to behold with the snow-topped mountains in the background. Day 3 ended up being almost a 7 hour expedition, either cycling or huffing and puffing pushing our bicycles over the top of two mountain ridges in the Rocky Mountains. It was only September but it was cold at the top of the first ridge and I was thankful for a handily stashed woolly hat for our picnic. Both the views and the descent made the climb worthwhile. The second ridge was nearly our undoing as sugar supplies became low. I had underestimated the effect of the amount of climbing on how long the ride would take and on our endurance. The north face of the mountain had at least 2 inches of snow which was not easy to ride through and then became a cold stream that sprayed up at us from the tyres as we descended!
The remainder of the road trip was mostly revisiting places I’d already ridden like Fernie, BC, with a few extra trails added, fitting in as much riding in as we could take. Unfortunately on the last day my brother was here (but fortunate we were not in the wilderness as previously) I managed to chip the top off one of my lower leg bones whilst trying to avoid falling in a ditch. It was painful but I didn’t expect the diagnosis or that I’d be leaving the clinic on crutches. I have since learned that I was extremely fortunate not to have needed surgery as this type of fracture usually requires! Eek. All of the pictures from the mountain bike trip can be found by clicking here

Hindered but undeterred, I still managed to show a good friend who visited from England around Vancouver, fly to Quebec City and explore there, Montreal, Toronto and Niagara Falls before going to a cousins wedding in Indiana and catch up with old friends in Ohio (photos here). I am off crutches in less than a 1 week and then have 3 more weeks to explore this land before flying back to New Zealand. I plan on making the most of it!

13th Aug 2010 – After the Snow

August 14, 2010

Well since last writing many miles have been covered, by bicycle, motor vehicle and aeroplane. I spent a month being a tourist in Vancouver and learn about its history instead of just commuting through it in haste or viewing it from the top of a mountain. I also mountain biked on Vancouver Island and in Whistler.

I made my planned visit to Europe and stopped in on as many folk as I could fit into the short time I had in England and Sweden. In Stockholm I caught up with Helen and Maria whom I had met on the Trans-Siberian train over a year and a half ago. I then crossed Sweden by train to go to a wedding in Gothenburg before jumping back on a plane straight back to Canada a couple of days later.

Here travel has continued at a considerable pace as I drove to Calgary in my new facilitator of fun, a massive Volvo. I had decided to head to Calgary because the annual Stampede was on, a cultural event not to be missed. Calgary is to Canada what Dallas, Texas is to the USA: Cowboy Country. Organisers of the Stampede are very proud of their “Western Hospitality” and the show they put on. You can see some pictures here.

After all the rodeo fun was over, I headed off to achieve my ultimate aim: find the best places to mountain bike in Canada. I followed up some recommendations from links I made via the cycling touring hospitality website

The only trouble with mountain biking in Canada, especially in this area, is the presence of bears in the places where the trails are. In Alberta there are the more ferocious Grizzly bears and so I was a little nervous and it would have been rather foolish to ride alone. As the saying goes “safety in numbers” is the key to less anxious mountain biking so I had to hope that I would find friendly people to ride with. Thankfully I did and I rode with a couple of ladies in an area just outside of Calgary known as Station Flats. I was certainly relieved to have company. The other advantage of finding friendly locals is that they know the good trails to ride on and so they furnished me with other good places to ride and so the course was then set on my journey to Fernie, in south-eastern British Columbia.

I headed to Fernie via Banff National Park and visited the spectacular Lakes Louise and Moraine with their turquoise waters and glacial mountain backdrops.

Once in Fernie, I struggled to find decent trails, frequently getting lost (getting to where the map said there was a trail and it not materialising) and also not enjoying the length and steepness of the inclines in the heat of the day. After a frustrating couple of days I decided to follow a strategy I had thought of and should have done sooner. I visited the local bicycle shop and asked if they had a local ride going out or knew of any groups I could tag along with. Armed with knowledge, and after recovering in a hostel from a couple of unsettled nights sleeping in the car, I rolled along and met a local group of riders. The group happened to include the guy who designs and builds trails in the area who led the charge and took us on a part of the course for the Trans-Rockies event. This is a seven-day, 500+km (and considerable elevation) off road cycling race/challenge which I had seen featured on a cable adventure channel a few years ago and had wanted to do ever since. Unfortunately entries were already closed for this year but to be able to at least ride on some of the trails that these super-fit folk would be riding on was a huge bonus to me. I hadn’t put much thought into actually planning ahead to be able to take part in this ride because I still had knee trouble upon my return from New Zealand and didn’t know if I’d be able to put the training hours in. Anyhow, long story short, I came to Fernie intending to stay for a couple of days and actually stayed for over a week. Easily persuaded by tales of new trails, I found a place with a comfortable bed and rode as often as my unfit body (compared to the locals who regularly ride 500+m elevation) would let me.

I then made a trip to visit family in Edmonton, caught an Edmonton Eskimos vs Toronto Argonaughts Canadian Football league game, went back to Fernie to catch the start of the TransRockies race, volunteered my services to the support crew, loading, driving and unloading trucks full of kit and bicycles before heading back here (Calgary) to find some work to fuel more adventure.

I will probably be putting more photos up on my Flickr stream soon so check that out by clicking here.

Facebook album here.

Living the Dream

May 21, 2010

I can’t believe that I’ve been away for over four months on this leg of my adventures, it seems to have gone so quickly and yet I have managed to pack in plenty of new, fun and amazing experiences. Working on the mountain during the Olympics meant that I got to meet a lot of interesting people from many places including Australians who’d never ice-skated before, Mexicans whom I taught to skate backwards and I got my picture taken with a Taiwanese pop-star (unfortunately only on his camera). The weather has varied from clear blue skies and sun where I definitely needed sun-block to snow-flurries where I had to keep shoveling the snow from the outdoor rink. The shifts were either earlies or lates or the odd graveyard shift and occasionally I got extra hours as a ski-lift operator when not working on the rink. Post-Olympics, I was able to stay on at the mountain solely as a ski-lift operator with full-time hours. The work day had two shifts so that I could make the most of being on the mountain before or after my shift.

Initially I commuted a lot by bicycle, which did wonders to help me to get my bearings quickly and gave some spectacular views as I travelled at sunrise for an early shift and enjoy cycling around the seawall and by English Bay on my way home. I will never forget the picture in my head of the sun rising bright and reddish-golden behind Mt. Baker of Washington State, USA, and casting its light across Burrard Inlet.

I soon gave up on the cycle-ride commute when it became clear that it was not going to be possible for me to cycle for over an hour mostly uphill, work an 8 hour shift mostly shovelling snow and then cycle an hour back home and still have some energy left to achieve my other goal which was to learn to snowboard. I did try to fit in snowboarding for a couple of hours after work for a day or two when I’d cycled to work but quickly heeded the signs of overtiredness and resorted to the bus. This became my only transport option anyhow when I managed to badly sprain my wrist on my third attempt snowboarding. You learn quickly in snowboarding that the edges are your friends and you’d better make them your friends or they will be your enemies and you will end up in trouble. I managed to lose my heel edge whilst facing uphill and fell backwards onto a very hard, icy snow surface and hurt the wrist so badly I feared I’d broken it. Thankfully, despite it being very painful, it was ok and I was determined to carry on so I strapped it up thoroughly and continued to work shovelling snow and snowboarding. It was a very quick lesson in what not to do when you fall snowboarding. So many people injure their wrists or their tailbones in their first days snowboarding.
Now, a couple of months on and my injury seems so far away in my snowboarding history that I wonder how it was even possible for it to happen. I still don’t like icy surfaces but thankfully the spring snowfall and sun brought distinctly softer landings for unwanted falls. I had also thought that the injury would entirely put me off the extreme side of snowboarding such as jumps and tricks as I find that I do really just love the feeling of carving down the mountain. However, I founds some little jumps on the side of one of the runs, had a go, landed and was hooked! I have paralleled the two types of snowboarding with the two different types of cycling that I like for different reasons: To cruise down a wide slope, carving wide turns, feeling the wind in your hair and daring yourself to let the board gather more speed by doing less turns gives a similar thrill to when you’re speeding down a hill on a smooth road on a super-light road bicycle. To tackle the black runs, tree runs and jumps is more like mountain biking; you have to keep your eyes keenly on what lies ahead and respond quickly to it by shifting your weight to turn, stay balanced, and use your limbs as suspension to cushion bumpy terrain and land jumps successfully. Snowboarding certainly suits both my need for speed and for a challenge!

The winter season and my job have finished but spring is in full swing in Vancouver city and I’m full of ideas to explore the area now that I have some more time. My snowboard will be put away and the mountain bike reinstated to primary steed. I’m looking forward to finding those trails!

13th Mar 2010 – Whistler, Take 2

May 21, 2010

My second Whistler snow-sports experience can quite easily be described as infinitely more successful than the first. This time my chosen mode of transport was a snowboard, for which, unlike the skis I was sporting last time, I had had recent experience. I had strapped one on just the day before rather than 16 years hence. This time I also had a better idea of what I was letting myself in for when I’d agreed to go to Whistler, whose mountains are, in no uncertain terms, very much higher than the plastic excuse for a hill I’d learned to ski on.

I had been a little hesitant in my decision to join my friends this time because of the memories of my previous experience on the mountain as I didn’t really want to spend a lot of money on the lift ticket to then have a bad time because I was not ready for it. Realistically though, I’d had much more recent experience of snowboarding after having spent many hours after work on the local runs. I knew that I could definitely stop and had endurance for many several hours of riding. This already put me at a huge advantage compared to my first experience! The only thing that was bothering me was confidence in my turns but I knew that it was mainly a matter of getting out there and practising and what better way than a whole day on a massive mountain!

I was happy that I quickly discovered that I was able to keep up with my friends once I’d got the hang of strapping in quickly after getting of a chairlift (there was only 1 other snowboarder who was a lot more used to this process than me, the others were all on skis) and follow them down the same runs as we’d done last time. The difference in the experience was considerable. I couldn’t believe how short the runs were, how shallow they were compared to my memory and how long it had taken me last time compared to this. I was much more at ease.

We made it to the Seventh Heaven Chair which goes to the top of the mountain as it was opening and once at the top, traversed some way to find the good fluffy stuff. We chose to take a narrow ledge that was just wide enough to go down tentatively on an edge and we were then on the rim of a huge bowl of the soft stuff, rubbing our hands with glee, and with a sparkle in our eyes. Up to this point I’d only really been riding on machine-groomed and quite hard-packed snow and so this was a very exciting moment. The other snowboarder dropped in first and made some lovely turns in the fresh stuff with us onlookers in admiration, and then I went for it. It was so much fun and exhilarating. The ride was like floating on top of blancmange and my confidence was high knowing that any bailout would not result in any major bruising, well at least not of body, maybe the pride! To ride “fresh tracks” and not be hindered by ridges that other snowboarders and skiers had made was fantastic and most certainly addictive. There is one important thing that has to be thought of when dealing with this stuff though, you don’t want to lose momentum (say up a little rise or on a flattish section) or you can find yourself stuck and struggling to get going again and ensuring your board is waxed definitely helps with that!

The next lap up the mountain, we decided to go to the Blackcomb Glacier, which involved going down a narrowish run that we’d taken last time when I had been terribly tired and consequently had been scared I wouldn’t be able to make the tight turns required to get down it. I could strongly remember the emotion, which made me a little hesitant but I was much more confident on my snowboard and was soon wondering what my fuss had been about. The next challenge was a T-bar lift. This really did dent my ego. I’d really just like to say that I didn’t do it well, but that would not be a good story. Skiers ride a T-Bar in pairs whereas snowboarders can only ride it one at a time because they have to be oriented side on. One side of the “T” hooks underneath the leading leg, and only that foot strapped in to the board with the other resting on it and you hold on to the other two parts of the T. You then lean back and let it take you up the mountain, your board/skis remain on the snow but you are lifted just enough to enable you to coast up the slope. That’s the easier-said-than-done bit over. The first time I tried, I couldn’t find the correct position to stay in and ended up over-balancing to yells of “let go” from my friends. The next time I tried, I was much more successful and was enjoying the weightless feeling of being pulled up but then all of a sudden I caught one of the edges of the snowboard on one of the ruts in the slope. The snowboard went from underneath me, the T-bar slipped from its position and I was left hanging on to the T-bar which was now hooked under my right upper-arm. The snowboard, still attached by my right binding, was dragging along behind. I was about a third of the way up the slope and the advice “if you fall off just let go” was going through my head but I wanted to see if there was any hope for recovery. I attempted to bend my knees to bring the board back underneath me and see if I could possibly get my rear foot back on the board and get myself upright, but to no avail, I couldn’t oppose the drag of the board along the ground. I looked back, I looked up, could I hang on? I really couldn’t face the thought of letting go, having to ride down and try again so I just held on for dear life and let the thing pull me a long for a bit. Sometimes I’d try again to get upright again but it was no good. Eventually, the pain was too great to hold on any more and I already knew there’d be a commendable bruise from where I’d been clamping my upper-arm down on the bar to hold on. After letting go, I unstrapped my front foot and then hiked up the rest of the slope, which took some time because of the combination of the steepness and the altitude. A passing skier said I deserved kudos for the amount of time I had hung on for. I took some consolation from that as I approached my friends who’d been waiting for some time. Oh well, it gave me a story to tell and onlookers some entertainment!

I’m glad to say that riding the Blackcomb Glacier more than made up for my T-bar experience. We enjoyed large untouched areas of snow as we made our way down. I had tired myself out pretty good though so headed back to more familiar parts of the mountain rather than attempting the T-bar again!

At the end of the day, as we got to the bottom of the mountain, I was again quite emotional, this time with thankfulness and pride that I’d made it down without having to be rescued!

17th January 2010 – Whistler, Take 1

March 30, 2010

It could be said that if one’s first experience of skiing on snow is at Whistler then you’ve already experienced some of the world’s best runs, especially if they’ve had plenty of the fresh fluffy stuff lately, or even overnight (the lovely powder days). It could also be said that to ski at Whistler for the first time since some beginner lessons on a tiny, plastic, dry ski slope in a small Derbyshire town sixteen years hence is throwing oneself distinctly in at the deep end. However, I hadn’t been able to resist the opportunity to ski on my first weekend in Canada when the option was discussed over dinner, especially as a friend had ski equipment I could borrow. I told the story to two lovely lady ski patrollers on the way up to the very top of the mountain on my 3rd chairlift ride ever (the first had been just moments before); their description for the effort was “brave”.

Convinced that I would survive being as I could remember the important things-how to fall (sideways) and how to stop (the good old snow-plough) and that I’m reasonably strong-legged from cycling, I was now attempting to keep up with friends for whom this scale of skiing had become as everyday as partaking in a cup of tea is for the Englishman. However, it wasn’t very long before I felt out of my depth. The first hill attempted was fine, it was wide and not too steep, but by the second steeper hill, the boots I had borrowed started to pinch my calves badly, even for my high pain thresholds and I tensed up as images of flying down the mountain uncontrollably (Bridget Jones style) were on my mind. My friends were extraordinarily patient and good coaches, making sure my “pizza slice” turning had good technique, but it was all taking it’s toll rather quickly on me and we’d barely done any skiing. In some places they could do intermediate runs and I would go the easy way but I was still in agony from the boots and going stupidly slow. At one point I had to pull my poor feet out of the boots and massage them to get the circulation going again and owner of the boots revealed they could be loosened a bit. Thank goodness. Back on the chairlift and up again and I enjoyed some flat-ish easy green runs as we traversed the mountain to get to a particular run they fancied. We traversed further to get to the best powder and it was a good fun wide intermediate run. I just followed rather slowly, widely and gingerly where they were going. The snow was so deep in one place, I managed to face-plant the snow whilst keeping both skis attached. The trouble with that was then I had to dig the skis out of the snow and was stuck in a giant hole in the powder that I’d created and couldn’t get up for a long time, each time I almost got my balance, I would then fall to the other side. One of the harder and less anticipated exertions of starting out in snow sports is this aspect: hauling yourself up after bailing out! The next run, I was happy to let the folk do without me as I sheltered and stocked up on energy and fluid for an extortionate fee in the hut at the top of the mountain. Mind you, the views made it worth hanging out there. Next, the decision was made to go down the other side of the mountain and the guys decided to go a certain way and send me down an “easier” way. It was still a blue intermediate run, and the access to it was down a narrow traversing section. Unfortunately I didn’t make it clear enough to them quite how tired I was already, and that I was really unsure that my fatigued legs would work to stop me rolling down the mountain. They did notice my technique was faltering though. We kept in contact by radio, and they managed to get to the bottom before I was even a third of the way down the mountain. Now the fatigued legs were really causing me trouble and despite managing to continue and get to the easier green section, it was still going to be some time before I would get to the gondola down and now the boots were hurting again and I was stopping every 2 minutes to sit down and allow the legs to recover before carrying on. I was determined to continue, and despite hearing a skidoo coming down the track, I continued on. I soon admitted thought that I was so tired I really was not going to make it before my friends would be getting hungry and I was at risk of being last off the mountain. So upon hearing another skidoo coming, whilst slumped on the floor in a suitably tired manner, I thumbed a ride! The kind Aussie electrician probably didn’t know quite how grateful I was, I was so relieved that I actually cried whilst he whisked me to the gondola and then shook his hand enthusiastically before heading down. I had wanted to ride a skidoo, but I hadn’t wanted it to be quite in this manner!

View some pictures here:

18 Feb 2010 – Olympic Victory Ceremony

February 19, 2010

Today I got a nice surprise when I got to work. I got a call from HR saying I had been awarded a staff appreciation award which meant I was to receive tickets to this evening’s Olympic Victory Ceremony. After a few calls were made and cover found, I headed down off my sunny mountain and towards BC Place Stadium, happy that I was getting to experience one of the Olympic events after missing being downtown during the opening ceremony (had been working and playing too hard and was asleep!). The ceremony was held in the same indoor stadium as the opening ceremony and had the Olympic flag flying, kept waving by air pumped out of the pole towards the flag. My seat had a good view of both the podium and the area where the medalist’s respective country flags were raised during the playing of the winner’s national anthem. The flags were brought in by a team of Mounties as the athletes were introduced with small clips of their achievements shown on the big screens. We arrived as Shaun White was jumping up on the podium, who at 23 is already well known world-wide, defending Olympic Champion and now renowned for inventing, executing and landing the Double McTwist 1,260 in the Men’s Half-Pipe Final.

Most people were not here to see him though. They were wearing their red maple leafs with pride as the winner of Canada’s third gold medal on home soil would be receiving her medal. The crowd was so loud when Christine Nesbitt took to the podium that there was no hearing the announcer. I am quite sure she was quite overwhelmed with it all and was sure I saw her mouth “it’s crazy” to one of her fellow medallists as they stood bearing the flashes of all the media photographers. It was fun to be a part of it, though some self-pinching had to be done to believe I was there.

Afterwards, my Canadian friend and I walked through the streets to find somewhere to eat and battled through crowds of happy Canadians who were buoyant after a close hockey (need I really say ice-hockey, they don’t here) match with Switzerland that had been decided in a tense shootout. We were also treated to a hearty rendition of the Canadian national anthem by some enthusiastic (read alcohol-fueled) revellers. A hockey win in Canada is equivalent to a football match win in England. Hockey is the only game to play here! Talking of which, I hope to try my hand at the real hockey deal here soon.