And finally, sadly yet gratefully after spending close to 5.5 months, came the day to say goodbye to beautiful Portugal. Friday July 12, 2020.
We soaked up the last rays of magical light in Lisbon and the boys said goodbye to their beloved Benfica football stadium.
And then, with two bikes packed in two bike boxes, our belongings in our bike bags, backpacks and handbags, documentation for our self-isolation plan approved by the Canadian government, 5 separate flight tickets, antibacterial gels and tissues readily available, passports in hand and masks on: we are ready to go to Lisboa airport and start our three day journey home to Haida Gwaii.
A surreal experience at the Lisboa airport: hardly anyone is there and only a few departing flights that day to other parts in Europe. Odd to see three scheduled flights to Amsterdam among the 12 departing flights this day...
We were so blessed with a very helpful Portuguese attendant, who helped us with filling out forms and - the most miraculous and blessed gift of all - organizing for our luggage (including Bike boxes) to be checked all the way to Vancouver. She said we would not be allowed to fly to Amsterdam, or the next day to Frankfurt, if we could not prove that we would continue to fly on to Canada. She said our luggage tags were the best proof we could have and she worked hard to get us 4 luggage tags for each piece of luggage.
The first flight to Amsterdam was much more filled than we had expected. We thought we would not be sharing our row with anyone else. But Sol and I were placed next to a Portuguese, who upon seeing Sol's Benfica Hoody proudly showed his Benfica shirt he was wearing. Masks on, I guess the airlines don't adhere to the same rules as trains do (where no one could be next to anyone else in the same row).
The flight was uneventful and even arrived early. Check! First flight done, 4 more to go. But first an overnight in Amsterdam. We expected a serious control at Schiphol airport, but aside from a flight attendant asking our plans at the arrival gate of the plane, we could walk out of Schiphol airport without any further stops. Not even to pick up our luggage, as that would be safely stored at the airport, awaiting our next flights.
Despite the lack of people at the Dutch airport, there are still rows and rows of bicycles parked! Oh that filled our hearts to see! Yet, to be real honest there was also a twinge of sadness as we didn't get to enjoy the pleasure of riding our bikes in Holland. But we decided to focus on the gifts, and one of them was the pleasure of briefly seeing my Aunt, who is a bus driver and her schedule happened to include Schiphol Plaza on the day of our arrival. We got to see her for exactly 4.5 minutes, safely distanced two meters away. Oh dear, it filled our hearts full to overflowing to see her smiling face!! Bittersweet to say goodbye and know she would be driving right by our hotel the whole evening long!
Anyways.... we had a good sleep and were well rested for the next epic day. Three flights ahead of us. First an hour to Frankfurt, then 9 hours on to Toronto and another 5 hours on to Vancouver. Pfff.... Miraculously everything went smoothly, flights continued to arrive early, security checks were a breeze, and no stress energy of masses of travellers to deal with... While the airplane to Frankfurt was again to our surprise quite packed, the flight to Canada was spacious. Air Canada provided travelbags with antibacterial gel and water upon entering the plane. Masks continued to be on everywhere.
And then came the hour we arrived at Vancouver Airport. And yet another miracle happened: our luggage, including two bike boxes arrived at the same time as we did!!
And after another restful night, we were ready for the last part of the journey. The part that perhaps had the most hours of research and organization, as there are no Air Canada or Pacific Air flights to Haida Gwaii. Taking a flight to Terrace and then taking the ferry would not have been acceptable as a return plan by the Canadian Government, as it would have meant stops at restaurants, public transit and 7 hours on the ferry. So finally we decided we needed to charter a plane to avoid to have to self isolate for two weeks in Vancouver and then another two weeks upon arrival in Haida Gwaii. We simply did not have the luxury of time anymore. Tracy is expected to start work July 1st.
The friendly and generous people of Cascadia Air decided to help us out in these unique circumstances and offered us a deal that was still manageable within our travel budget. Our two bike boxes were even able to fit, and so after a 50 minute ride to Pitt Meadows airport, we were ready for the last leg. The plane needed to stop in Port Hardy to fuel up, and Lief and Sol made good use of the break, gobbling down their lunch and kicking the soccer ball around! And onward we went until we saw the islands, our islands, islands of the people, Haida Gwaii, home!!!
Ah, the smell of home, the clear, clean, fresh air, the sounds of wind, waves, eagles, ravens, crows welcomed us. As well as our truck loaded with groceries by some amazing caretakers, waiting quietly for us in front of the closed airport. We still had a bit of travel to do to finally get home and before self-isolation on Robertson Island commenced: driving to Aliford Bay ferry landing to head over to Skidegate landing, and a couple canoe trips to bring our bikes, luggage and ourselves home.
We were also welcomed by lush greens, an abundance of flowering kale and daisies in the garden and wild roses growing along the shore. We were also welcomed by fresh greens, more groceries and care packages full of chocolates and other goodies from friends and neighbours.
Upon arrival home there was a flurry of activities to reconnect with our house and land. Sol instantly moved furniture around in his bedroom and declared he wanted to paint his room the very next day! Paint was ordered and delivered to Spruce Point and the very next day he transformed his room to a midnight blue; the changes in his room reflecting the changes he's gone through during the trip. We have all been busy in our own ways to reconnect and are grateful for this quarantine time, giving us time and space to do so without distractions.
We have been very well cared for by our friends and neighbours during this self-isolation time, we are so grateful to all of you!! We only have two more days to go, woohoo! See you on the other side!
So glad for the story of your last days in wonderful Portugal and for the miraculous travel home. Wishing you well for the last days of isolation! I hope to visit in the next month or two - love from Val
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A family from Haida Gwaii, BC, Canada hits the road.