Somehow our train arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule! Ever since some tweaking of the departure timetable from Toronto it seems that Via is doing a much better job at running on time despite some delays. My aim had been to catch an afternoon ferry home, arriving early meant I should be able to be on the 10:00am.
$5.00 for two skytrain and one bus and there I was. (Weeks later I found my Compass Card that I had accused my youngest daughter of losing when I loaned it to her) Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal – my gateway to the island. Island life, even if one lives in Victoria, is interesting. Passengers purchasing tickets had to make way for two, yes two, kayaks being brought through the terminal. Such precious cargo does not go into – let alone fit – the baggage cart! A few of pondered if they had taken the kayaks to the passenger decks. My guess is they must have as they were walking through the terminal rather than from the ferry. So kayaks might be allowed on upper decks but not so pets – yet.
I was nearly home! Standing at the outside deck watching the ferry unload. Briny ocean smells, seagulls calling, the ocean breeze held the promise of island life. I love to travel but it is the island that calls to me.
On-board, blue sky, blue ocean, a single fishing boat and a float plane – I cannot think of a more iconic homecoming than that! My final extravagance (not that I had many) was to shell out $12.00 to enjoy the views, and of more importance, the quiet, from the Seawest Lounge. No talking on mobile phones. No loud talking. If watching anything use of headphones. This is a place for reflection, or a quiet space for working. Coffee, tea and some nibbles are included in the price.
I walked off the ferry, exhilarated to be home as well as exhausted. Two more buses, a five minute walk, and I would be home. From the Vancouver Via Station to my front door it took about six hours where I discovered our kitten Musa was now a plump plantain! I put him on a diet.
One month later I am plotting my escape!
EXPENSES: I did not have my book with me at the time of writing this; however, I did have the foresight to add up all my expenses, then all my credits a couple of weeks ago. I even took my one way flight into consideration! I could not believe that my average daily spent was a mere 10CAD! (11.00AUD; 6.85EUR; 53.50CNY; 7.55USD) Of course I would not have been able to do this if I had not stayed with family. BUT! There are so many ways to save, even on accommodation.
For some reason it is taking much longer to write about my train ride than the actual trip took! However, the time has given my the opportunity to reflect on some of my notes, my very few photos and my hope to do it again!
After warming up from my chilly night in the dome car with an excellent cup of coffee – my own of course – and breakfast I spent a good part of my day staring out the window, reading my book and dividing my window time between my seat, the dome car and the gathering area where people chat, play games, eat and listen to the entertainment. Summer train travel is great for the entertainment side. Usually a small audience yet so appreciative. I am always happy when the powers that be have not allowed economy class to enjoy live music and a break from the eventual monotony or train travel.
I thought I had his name – nope! However, he is from Victoria so maybe I will see his picture somewhere he will be playing when not on-board.
By the time we reached Sioux Lookout time was approaching a standstill. We were not exactly behind, just going through Northern Ontario…..and going, and going. Getting outside was becoming a palpable need for all onboard.
My seat mate left sometime before Sioux Lookout, I would have the two seats to myself for the remainder of my trip. Small mercies! Soon enough we were in Winnipeg where I was joined one woman to explore the Forks, an area I am now quite familiar with after a few trips to -even staying at – Winnipeg in recent years. The Forks is a great place to stock up, I bought a giant chickpea roti and a vegetarian Somosa (I seemed to have been eating these lovely bundles a lot) to supplement my packed meals. There was so much I expected they would last a couple of days.
I met up with two writers I had talked with while in line in Toronto who were travelling in the sleepers after their attempt to visit me and a fellow passenger onboard had been thwarted. Thinking on our feet one handed me her only business card to take a photo of for me to look up.
Once the train left Winnipeg, with a new crew, there was a sense of truly going west. Many passengers left the train yet it still seemed quite full, enough that I was a little worried I might lose my double seat.
As I wound my way through the muskeg, rocks and mosquito laden land – firmly seated in the AC dome car – I was once again struck by how fortunate I am to be travel in our vast land even though on a cinched tight budget.
Shades of straw with goldenrod hues peeking through green fields and manmade blue ponds turning to mud – it was not yet drought conditions. Saskatchewan fields live up to the oft used patchwork quilt. Arrow straight, stitched side roads to forever. Lovely field of sunflowers appeared outside my window seat – a perfect, silent in memory of the death of my father nine years ago, born in Saskatchewan. Sadly I missed the Perseus Meteor Shower.
Stopped long enough in Saskatoon to walk to front of train!
Then suddenly, we were in Alberta. Red hills, undulating, rolling, held in stasis until we pass. It was a strange sensation. We crossed over what was once (still?) the longest train trestle in Canada.
Many of us were train weary by the time we finally made it to Edmonton. I was in dire need of a shower. Upon discovering we had only three hours at a relatively new side station with the closest places 3 kilometres away walking in the oncoming mosquito infested dusk. (A few of us considered taking one of the taxis buzzing around much like the mosquitoes) settled to wash my hair in one of the Ladies Room sinks. I discovered I was not the only one!
Hurray, I was still at two seats when we pulled out about 45 minutes late, way past my bedtime in any province. The doldrums of day 3 were dissipating. We were headed to Jasper with visions of mountains to greet us in the morning.
Jasper! Mountains, fresh air, pine trees, rivers,, small town feel with so much to see and do. One passenger said he was equipped to camp for two days in the mountains before hopping back on the train. Winter vs. summer – the mountains appear tame with no sign of the bone chilling snow and ice. Do not be fooled. There are bears in them hills. The fellow said he had camped in Africa where the lions roam. (I have not heard anything about a missing hiker in the area so he must have survived) My closest encounter, soup and a small loaf of day old bread at The Other Bear Claw, now a favourite stop when in Jasper. It was time to sit back to enjoy the views.
Back on the rails, expectations from nature – best quotes far. Upon seeing Thunder Falls on the far side of Moose Lake one passenger quietly exclaimed to her seat mate, “That’s it? We came all this way to see a trickle?” Much later Pyramid Falls silenced them. Except they wanted the train to stop!
We passed a tiny place called Blue River, except it’s green – ribbon of molten moss. Passengers come and go – moving vignettes into the lives of travellers. Boredom was interspersed with the glories of canyons and mountains and eavesdropping. A call for a nurse or a doctor also meant we stopped along the way. Some sort of medical emergency. A nurse practitioner from economy class stepped up and it seems a doctor from the sleeper cars was also available. One of the crew members had her radio with her that crackled the ‘patient’ was conscious. It seemed they would be sent to a hospital in Kamloops.
I finally had to order a meal. Not always easy with dietary needs! The chef went out of her way to determine if there was anything I should not eat in some of the choices before suggesting a chef’s salad with an extra egg in place of the ham. Lots of fresh vegetables, and great garlic bread.
We arrived in Kamloops as the sun was setting before I was lulled to sleep with dreams of home.
Expenses: The Other Bear Claw – lunch $9.00; onboard dinner – $11.00 (I had reluctantly thrown out the other half of my roti bought in Winnipeg. It was delicious, just too much potato and chickpeas that seemed to upset my stomach. Just as well I did not have a seat mate!