Maps, ferries and trees

Mar 18th, 2008 | By | Category: International

Holy Week means the renewal of ordination vows. After the ceremony in Christ Church Cathedral, a little worldliness was permissible and a trip to Eason’s in O’Connell Street brought the sought after road map: an AAA map that covers British Columbia for an excursion in July that takes in Revelstoke, Nelson and Penticton.

The DART journey home allowed time and space to spread out the map and contemplate the route.

Highway 23 south from Revelstoke runs alongside the upper Arrow Lake for 48 kilometres before the lake must be crossed by ferry at Shelter Bay. Remembering a friend’s story of driving across Canada and coming to a crossing in the middle of the night, only to discover that the ferry did not run in the early hours, I checked the notes for the Shelter Bay-Galena Bay ferry, it runs from 6 am to 11.30 pm. On holiday, I would firmly intend to be in my bed between 11.30 pm and 6 am, the ferry would be fine. What struck me was that the ferry is free, in fact most of the Canadian inland ferries are free. One of the richest countries in the world and they provide their people with free ferries.

The last time I was in Revelstoke was in 1998, later that year I visited Tanzania. Travelling to Liuli, a remote town on the shores of Lake Malawi meant two days on the road. North of a place called Mbamba Bay, we reached a river where the bridge was down. The bridge had been down sometime, there was a yellow excavator sitting at the roadside, it was rusty and had not moved for months. It was claimed that there were no parts, something that would have been odd, given the African genius for managing to keep machines working long after most Europeans would have given up.

The bridge seemed mostly intact, the banks on either side had been eroded in rains months before and the bridge had tipped sideways and lay at an angle of about thirty degrees, one side of it now lay in the dried up river bed . A few workmen stood around with spades. To allow us to cross the a few tree trunks were pulled into place, allowing our jeep to proceed at an angle with one set of wheels on the bridge and the other on the trunks.

A few days later, the return journey meant going back the same way. The other Irish members of our group had flown out by Cessna aircraft. I was to travel with the baggage. We reached the fallen bridge. Nothing visible had happened in the intervening time, apart from the tree trunks being moved. Our driver and our African accompanier got out and there was a few minutes of conversation. The tree trunks were pulled back into the place they had been the previous week.

We drove on.

“How much did it cost?” I asked our companion.

“Five thousand shillings”, he said.

I took the note from my wallet and handed it to him – five quid to get the tree trunks moved.

Nothing to cross a huge Canadian river and £5 to cross a dried up African river bed – it’s a funny old world.

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  1. I’m jealous I’d love to go to Canada. We have very cheap public transport (including ferries) for the over 55’s (almost there) but our bridges seem to be replaced by tunnels with tolls and cashless toll booths (we have to have an e-tag in the car). One of the last and most enduring ‘punts’ in NSW has just closed down on the Hawksebury River at the no longer aptly named Wiseman’s Ferry . . we’ll have to rename it Wiseman’s Bridge – it too was free.

  2. In ireland it costs money to stand still! (M50 Toll)

  3. Tanzania sounds just up my street, with the technical bridge crossing, I would have loved to have been driving. Canada sounds fantastic, I too would love to go.

  4. Grannymar – the M50 doesn’t have a toll charge…

    That’s their car park fee! 😉

    Ian – as regards your ‘toll charge’ to cross the African river bed – necessity is the mother of invention… those workers needed your 5 quid more than any Canadian.

    Enjoy your excursion to Canada goes well!

  5. The Canada trip is at the end of June and arises from the Irish government’s special savings scheme that finished last year (they gave 25% on top of anything you saved, plus you got interest).

    You’re right, Steph,they needed the money, but it showed that poverty and corruption go hand in hand

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