Ria Duykers – A tour guide Canada would be lost without.
It was right smack bang in the middle of the 2017 super storm Hurricane Irma, just a few weeks after Hurricane Maria has destroyed much of Costa Rica’s infrastructure and taken over three thousand lives in that land, The Virgin Islands and Dominica. As we all chatted in Johannesburg International airport’s departure lounge, most of the chatter was about Irma and whether our flight, flying directly over her eye, would make it to Atlanta and if it did, how would the turbulence affect the airplane, would the fasten seat belt light be on full time!?
1 Hurricane Irma was the biggest and baddest storm to hit the USA in recent history!
The group consisted of professional audiologists, acousticians and the hard core of Medifix South Africa management, plus a few hangers on, mostly lucky husbands who had to finance their own way on the sponsored training trip to Starkey headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, with a few adventures thrown in before we got there. Our Delta Airlines Boeing did alter course to avoid the worst of Irma, but we made it to Atlanta, and onto our connecting flight to Minneapolis, where we had no respite as we had to board our third flight to Calgary, the Winter Olympic city, on the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Canada.
Below the link to Canada 2017: Roll Call
At Calgary Airport the noisy group of forty, by now a little jaded after the 27 hour journey, boarded their tour bus and our tour guide stood in the aisle, microphone in her hand but…..!
Before she could could open her mouth, Roger Kassner, our own personal entertainment manager, took the microphone from her and introduced us to what would become the theme song for the trip, South African band, Goldfish and Deep of The Night. Roger’s sound engineer, Simone from Medifix, had been busy on the bus setting up our pre recorded music to play via the buses sound system and right on cue, Goldfish boomed through the bus. As per Roger’s instruction, we had to dip our shoulders as the chorus came in and it was heart warming to see our tour guide’s shoulder joining in! We were going to get on, and have a party!
Our Theme tune for the Medifix Trip!
Handed back the mike our tour guide introduced herself as Ria Duykers, a Calgary resident and obviously of Dutch descent. Ria then took charge, introduced us to the bus driver, Alan, laid down some rules regarding drinking on the bus, general behaviour, the importance of keeping to the timetable to ensure the driver’s shift times were not exceeded and Ria also apologised for the haze in the sky caused by the ongoing wildfires in the States of Alberta and British Columbia. A lot of our group was Afrikaans speaking and although all of our instruction was in Ria’s impeccable English, a few nuances had already leaked out between the Dutch origin Afrikaans and Ria! These would add to the amazing vibe that ensued on the next seven days of non-stop adventure!
Our trip with all the happenings, adventures, near misses and general fun times is covered in my numerous blog postings published with the title Canada 2017 in September through October 2017 and the USA leg in December of that year sub titled Eden Prairie. Ria’s professionalism and knowledge of her subject, Canadian history and geography is clear to see within my scrawlings.
2 Natural rock bridge on the Kicking Horse River. Ria kept coming up with spectacular sights!
Moments that impress were many, but one that comes to mind is the day we did a trip to the Athabasca alpine glacier. Ria, ever watchful of the time and between her informative lectures on what we were driving past, was impressed that we were all in the bus only a few minutes late that morning, rewarded us with a quick diversion to her favourite spot, the Emerald Lake! We did drop Ria a little at Emerald when our boat excursions on the glorious emerald water took longer than expected and some of us received stern looks as we clambered aboard our bus. We’ve got big shoulders! We can handle that! Sorry Ria!
3 Emerald Lake. Ria’s toutje or dessert for being early to board our bus!
From Banff, a jewel in the Canadian Rockies, where Ria gave us a few hours off to explore and nosh in the hazy sunshine on the rooftop of a local pub, to the icy cold of the alpine glacier Athabasca, where the foolhardy amongst us just had to strip off their shirts to impress the girls, past a Trans Canadian Railway freight train so long that through the so many twists, turns and tunnels, the train actually overtakes itself in places, alongside glacial blue rivers and clear alluvial rivers alike, into British Columbia and onto Vancouver, the jewel of the Pacific, Ria kept us entranced with her accurate and clear knowledge of Canada.
4 Ria shared this poster on our Whattsapp group! Do you think she was trying to tell the noisy lot something?
The naughty lot, in the back of the bus did keep Ria on her toes though, but she handled them like a pro, often joining in with us and our silly pranks! On our sad and all too soon departure at Vancouver’s Airport, Ria expressed her joy at having shared the epic journey with the South Africans, and one New Zealander, (yours truly), that we had lifted her spirits and that she would remember the trip for the rest of her life! We were, likewise honoured to have been assigned to you Ria Duykers, tour guide extraordinaire!
Dan Varoy 2019-04-27