Friday, 29 September 2017

All Aboard The Canadian

Cross Canada Road Trippin'
All Aboard The Canadian


So this particular blog post is gonna be written a little differently than my others since I was writing them in real time but didn't have a chance to post due to there being no wifi on the train. Bare with me as it may be a tad long but then again, so was the train journey ;)

Day 1

[July 25th @ 10:45pm]

Alright I am finally on the train and let's just say that I am not exactly off to a great start. First of all, I packed WAY too much - which isn't at all surprising considering the fact that I was never the greatest packer to begin with. BUT to be fair, I did have to bring enough essentials to last me both the 4 day train journey AND my 5 week camping/road trip. See, last time I took Via Rail I nearly froze to death because I forgot to pack a blanket and the train was absolutely freezing at night...which may be a slight exaggeration on my part but it did make it super difficult to sleep so I'm not too fussed about the details. This time around I wanted to make damn sure I stocked up on both food and warm blankets, however I still somehow managed to pack a bunch of useless non-essentials which significantly weighed down my hand luggage. One of these non-essentials may have been a six pack of beer but hey, I am Canadian and beer IS ESSENTIAL.


See, I had this great idea of buying a pack of my favourite beer - Steamwhistle of course - and giving one of them to each of my road trip companions so that we could cheers to the official start of the epic detour. Cute right? You know what's not cute? Trying to carry said beer in a heavy dufflebag alongside a 45L backpack and an inconveniently large sleeping bag. I don't know if I've mentioned my chicken arms before but just imagine scrawny little me - with no upper body strength what so ever - lugging said baggage around and tripping three freakin' times on my new supercute hiking boots NOT TO MENTION falling flat on my face just outside the train station. Of course this glorious fall could not be complete without a chorus of laughter from the arseholes outside the station - with not one of said arsetwats offering to help me out, mind you - but that's Toronto for ya. The good ole 6ix. F&!@ing bag. F&!@ing stupid packing skills. F&!@ing stupid idea of bringing a 6 pack of beer. $#@%#*@^@!!!

So yeah, that may have been the first blip on my journey but don't you worry folks, the excitement does not end there.

At this point I have made it into the Via Rail station (barely), handed over my one backpack (again, barely) and then promptly left my cell phone at the ticket counter while I walked away completely oblivious towards the train queue. Luckily the Via Rail attendant noticed this and caught up with me before I boarded or else I would have completely forgotten about my phone until I was on the train and thousands of kilometres away (because I have the memory of a fruit fly) but this stupid mistake still makes it on the list as strike two of Joss' crappy train journey and at that point I hadn't even got on the train yet. 



As a bit of a side note I think it's important to mention that I generally have a habit of arriving super early for travel related things. This is partially because I hate being late for things but mainly because I have shit luck and like to anticipate said bad luck ahead of time so they don't end up ruining my trip. Fortunately I gave myself plenty of leeway - almost 3 hours - for this particular trip because apparently the seats in economy were not assigned ahead of time and so they were basically given out on a first come, first served basis. This meant if you had come late you were now basically stuck in a crappy seat for the rest of your journey - which in my case meant 4 days of torture, so that was NOT going to happen. Two thumbs up for my mad thinking ahead skills eh?!

Unfortunately it didn't even matter that I arrived stupidly early for the train since the 150 pass holders had to wait in a line totally separate from the rest of economy who were given first dibs on the prime real estate. I mean, yeah it makes sense that they would let passengers who paid full price for their tickets choose their seats first but it sucked because all those hours of waiting and making an arse of myself ended up serving no purpose since all the good seats (the ones by the windows and the outlets) were taken, leaving me with a shitty aisle seat. And I despise aisle seats. Two thumbs down for my mad thinking ahead skills...?

At least my seat mate - an Aussie girl named Tiana - was cool. But it was only after we got ourselves settled in for the long haul that she noticed her foot rest was stuck underneath the seat which meant that we had to get a via rail attendant to help. Long story short, this charade ultimately led to us having to change seats since they weren't able to figure it out either. That was just flipping fantastic because I had already taken off my boots, removed my sleeping bag out of it's sausage casing and prepared myself for sleep at this point. Great. Just Great. *eye twitch*

Okay, I am not being completely honest...it actually was kind of a great thing since the new train car we were directed to was much quieter and we were each given a window seat with plug outlets! However I am still slightly on edge and not getting myself too comfortable just yet because if I have to change seats and lug my bloody duffle bag one more time I will blow a gasket.

Karma, will you take it easy on me for a bit?

Day 2

[July 26th @ 2:00pm]

Not too much to write about at the moment. Was able to get some sleep last night (strong emphasis on some) even though it wasn't very comfortable. I had two seats to myself for the most part - which helped - yet still managed to wake up with a huge kink in my neck and sore muscles all over. Oh the perks of budget travel.

Still 100x better than travelling by bus and 100x better than sitting in an aisle seat, so I am not complaining too much. At least I am able to get up and walk around as I please, plus the bathrooms are regularly cleaned unlike the coach buses which are...basically moving port-a-potties. Super classy.


At around 6:30am a new family came on board and after the mother kicked up a fuss, she managed to steal the spots of three guys who were forced to relocate to the two seats in front of me and the one beside me. I understood their pain. Moving when you had already got yourself settled in is not fun, but we must give the agitated mother what she wants! God forbid she unleashes her savage children on us *shudder*.

It actually ended up being for the best since Travis, Pete and Curran (the three lads and my new seatmates) are pretty cool guys and incredibly talented artists. They are all on a trip to Kenora - a tiny town in Ontario near the border of Manitoba - to tattoo at a parlour for a few weeks, which sounded pretty sick even if they were forced to pay for their own tickets. Personally I think their parlour should have subsidized those costs but then again I don't know anything about working at a tattoo parlour and what that entails. But for putting art on people's skin permanently I think they should get some serious credit as I could never do that. I can barely put makeup on properly and that shit is temporary, so I don't think I would cut it in that business.

Other than my new seat mates and my lack of sleep, there really isn't much else worth mentioning at the moment. We are at least an hour or two delayed for the moment but apparently this isn't uncommon. Guess I should try to be social or something...meh too much effort. 

Day 3

[July 27th @ 12:00pm]

Okay, I cheated a little bit. I got my hair washed and styled at a salon in Winnipeg, Manitoba during our 3 hour break. I know, I know. I must have broke some cardinal rule in the art of train travel but you know what? I don't really care. I was sweaty and dirty and beginning to smell after only 2 days on the train and lord knows what I would have looked like after 4 days but I wasn't going to find out It's actually the best feeling having your hair washed at the salon. So yeah...no regrets. 


[12:15pm]

On a scale from 1 - 10 I am a fucking idiot. Seriously. A complete moron. Freak of nature. Total twat. By some miracle act of the gods I have managed to smash my iPhone screen. This is probably my karma for getting my hair washed but seriously? Like how?! Why?! Nevermind, I know why. It's because I am an idiot, that's why. And I wish I could blame someone else for this act of idiocy but the truth is that it is 150% my fault.

Here I am, blogging away (having just returned to the train while we were on break in Winnipeg) and a guy comes to sit next to me (my last seatmates left early this morning so I had a free spot for a short period of time). This immediately has me flustered. Why? I haven't the slightest idea why since he was in no way remotely attractive (sorry but he really wasn't) but whether it was just my general awkwardness or paranoia of having people read my writing over my shoulder... either way I freaked the fuck out and closed my laptop. As I was placing it in the seat pocket in front of me and putting the tray table back up, I noticed that it was getting stuck on my laptop. So I removed my computer and tried again (getting more and more flustered of course). I finally get it to close but something still didn't feel right. When I looked to see if it got caught on anything, I noticed that my phone had wedged itself in between the chair and the metal rod of the tray table. It's only when I get it out that I notice the damage. The entire top right corner is completely smashed and the lcd screen is warped on the right side. The worst part is that I recently got the glass and lcd screen replaced not even 4 weeks ago due to a bloated battery issue that was a FACTORY DEFECT (ie. NOT my fault). It is just too bloody typical that I paid all this money to get it fixed and not even a month later I fuck it up again because some guy sits next to me on the train. What the hell?! HOW do I actually manage to do these things? *sigh* oh well looks like I have to shell out even more cash to fix it when I get to Vancouver. Lucky me!

And this here kids is exactly why I can't have nice things...

The bright side of the matter is that I am not completely torn up about the situation. Now I'm in no way happy about this but it's not the worst thing that could have happened. Not that I am asking for the universe to one up itself...I'm not. But at the end of the day it is just a phone. If anything, I just find the whole situation to be annoying and inconvenient...and a little ironic if I'm being honest. Of course something like this was bound to happen as I can't go one day without making an arse of myself.

[6:00pm]

The rest of the day I just spent reading, watching movies and chilling. Not too much to do on the train unfortunately and while I was really looking forward to meeting other travellers, it seems like this train is just filled with families, bitter old people or fresh out of high school youngsters....and I'm not really in the mood for that much energy. I'm actually better suited with the bitter geriatrics if I'm being honest. Mmm don't I sound like a heap of fun! Fellas get in line ;)

We are currently following a freight train which means that the train is going UBER slow (not to be confused with Uber drivers, since it's been my experience that they actually drive real fast...like Uber fast ;) heheheheh okay I'll shut up now). So slow in fact that we are actually at a complete stop at the moment. We have also been inching along for the past few hours that I just KNOW that we are going to be hella delayed. Frickin' freight trains. Why you gotta share the same track as us? Not cool. Also, as a side note...Saskatchewan seems boring as hell! Damn, that must be why it's called the plains: Nothing to do and nothing to see.

DAY 4

[July 28th @ 11:30am]

6 HOURS DELAYED! Did you read that clearly? SIX BLOODY HOURS! And at this point it is only going up :/ Just to keep you updated on the lavish train life I am currently living, I awoke to a screaming child who - and this is the best part - has continued to cry and scream sporadically throughout the trip and always at the most inconvenient hours. My butt is officially numb from sitting on these uncomfortable seats for so long and rest of me is still in pain from attempting (and failing) to sleep the past three nights. I have lost and gained another seatmate, this one fell asleep on my arm last night and attempted to spoon me from our seated positions - which wasn't uncomfortable in the slightest. Now we have arrived in Edmonton (6 hours late of course) and are given 45 minutes to chill outside so hopefully I can grab some wifi and something substantially to eat.

[11:35am]

45 Minutes? More like 5 minutes, for reasons which were never explained to us. To be fair it was probably for the best since we are already delayed and there were no food spots or wifi available in and around the train terminal. Now why they would have a train station so far away from a major city is beyond me but whatever. (Hindsight: I have now been to Edmonton and finally understand why this is the case...it's because Edmonton is a shite city so you're probably better off skipping it entirely. Too harsh?)

[3:30pm]

I ate my lavish meal of kraft's nacho lunchables. The balanced diet of every 3rd grader who ate in amidst the awe and chagrin of their peers who eyed those snack packs in envy whilst simultaneously taking a bite out of the soggy ham and cheese sandwiches their mom made for them that morning (prepared with extra love and mushy tomatoes of course). Shoot that was a mouthful! *wink* A real balanced diet of sodium packed tortilla chips, questionable salsa packets, and an orange cheese dip so bright it must have been created in a nuclear power plant. Oh let's not forget the tiny packet of nerds that will have your teeth rotting and dentists running for the hills. Mmm healthy. I would have had a makeshift Bloody Mary but I threw away the rest of the V8 after I made the first one and realized that it was NOT a comparable alternative to Tomato Juice. NOPE. I just couldn't put myself through the torture any longer.

We still have five hours before we get to Jasper so I was able to borrow another passenger's wifi and message my couchsurfing host to inform him of the delay. Luckily he responded to me quite quickly and told me that it should be no problem since he decided to sit out of the camping trip anyways. Even though he said it was because of his shoulder, I just know it had something to do with me and while I feel awful to have ruined his plans, I am still super grateful to have a place to stay in Vancouver when I arrive and not be homeless for that short while.

[7:00pm]

Tiana (the girl I was sitting beside at the beginning of the trip and who now sits behind me) and I decided to pay for the dinner offered on board considering the fact that it was our last night so we made our way to the luxurious, fit for queens, dining car to eat our $12 salmon, mashed potatoes and veg whilst enjoying the majestic scenery as we entered into Jasper. To be fair the meal wasn't that bad and it was probably much needed due to my not so healthy breakfasts/lunches/dinners of days past. I mean, salmon for $12? I can't really complain. Unless I get food poisoning or a bad case of the shits (dear god please no) then I think it was a pretty good deal.


I attempted to go up to the dome car to catch more of the views on my camera but unsurprisingly it was full. One guy (who I swear is up there 99% of the time) had his shutter on high speed and was taking hundreds of photos in one go whilst simultaneously moving his camera. I understand the train is moving and you want to get a good picture, but there are major flaws to your execution buddy and I just know that none of those photos are going to turn out halfway decent. It kind of annoys me when I see all these people with state of the art cameras who have no idea how to work the darn things. They should be required to take some sort of course in photography or read the manual at least before they are even allowed to set their grimy paws on a DSLR, let alone purchase one. I may be slightly sour grapes but it doesn't seem fair to me. Oh well, I have my baby now (Sony a6000 with 24.3 megabites and a 16-50 optical steady shot) which I worked my butt off to get, so I can breathe a bit more clearly around the knobheads now. Emphasis on a bit. They still piss me off. Jury's out for the selfie stick users though. Can't stand the lot and have a burning urge to smack each of them upside the head when I catch them taking pictures of things directly in front of them with the stick. Gasp! Yes. I do in fact mean non-selfies. Or you know, regular photos if those are actually still a thing anymore. *sigh* I've lost hope in humanity.

[9:00pm]

After failing to take a picture in the dome car due to the cramped quarters and dirty windows (because who would even think to wash the windows for the petty economy passengers? Bah! What a ridiculous notion) I returned to my seat in defeat. We arrived in the town of Jasper shortly after and were allowed 45 minutes (actually 45 minutes this time and not 5) to roam around the town. I was able to take a few shots in front of the train and around some of the sites (camera shots obviously...not alcohol...although let's be honest, I probably needed at this point), which is more than I can say for the rest of the trip which I barely took the lens cap off my camera since there wasn't much to photograph (especially in Manitoba and Saskatchewan). Now it looks like I was actually on the train trip and didn't just get the bracelet as a souvenir.

When we reboarded the train after the 45 minutes we were joined by another large group of passengers who filled up the remaining seats. And yet again I found myself with another seatmate. This one was another guy and seemed hopeful (as he was kind of cute, even though he was ginger...like really ginger) but conversation was dull as fuck and he is a leafs fan so that crushed any potential YA novel meet-cute moment. Hey I am only human. And desperate...yeah, a little (a lot) desperate. But you know what? At least I didn't do something stupid like smash my phone or spill my drink so I take this experience as progress. Okay okay, I may have accidentally flashed the guy in my sleep - ooo cheeky - but I can't help it if my top has shifty fabric! Sometimes a tit pops out and says hello and there isn't much I can do to stop it. Oh well...what am I to do? For all I know he saw nothing and I was able to cover it up before chaos ensued...but he was acting a little flustered towards me this morning, so me thinks this wasn't the case. Ooops!

Day 5

[July 29th @ 10:30am]

I am in absolute awe right now. We are well passed Kamloops on our way to Vancouver and my goodness it is absolutely stunning outside. Now I finally understand why everyone thinks Canada is a gorgeous country. Things are finally starting to come together and click for me. The mountains and tall trees around Jasper were enough to make my mouth gape wide open but even though we are well passed the little town I still find it hard to swallow. It is just so beautiful! I can't wait for the road trip to start so I can really explore some of Canada's natural beauty.

[1:00pm]

We are about to arrive in Vancouver (finally) and so I had to pack up my things. The worst was having to roll my sleeping bag back up. I honestly think the bag meant to hold the sleeping bags is 2 sizes too small so it was like stuffing it into a sausage casing but alas I managed to wrestle it back in the bag. Joss 1,  Sleeping Bag 0.

Despite rearranging my items and tossing out all the unneeded fillers, I am still loathing having to drag the luggage back to my host's place. I was hoping to catch an uber but apparently uber isn't a thing in VanCity...don't think that really matters though, sine my phone is wrecked. Luckily Dan (my couchsurfing host) said he is more than willing to pick me up from the station which is awesome! Now hopefully I don't die whilst attempting to haul my luggage back to the station from the platform. Pray for me.

[3:00pm]

Okay, I thought I was done but apparently not since we are actually further from Vancouver than I originally thought...basically I just spent the last 2 hours sitting on these uncomfortable chairs getting ass callouses. Meanwhile Mr. Dull and Ginger has come back and proceeded to eat...and eat...and eat. I know that the appetite of a young man isn't something to be questioned but for goodness sakes man! How hungry are you? The worst has got to be the munching. Oh god the munching. Oh and now he is slurping noodle soup. Greaaaaaat. How long until we arrive in Vancouver? HOW LONG?!

[7:00pm]

Apparently too long was the correct answer. Not only did we arrive in Vancouver 6 hours late, but we were also stuck outside the station for another hour and then one more hour waiting for our luggage. Not cool Via Rail. Not cool. Either way I have arrived in Van City! Also, I didn't die whist retrieving my luggage if that wasn't already apparent....guess that's pretty obvious since I am writing this...or am I? Muahahahah

Alright, I am clearly delirious. On that note I am gonna sign out. Thanks Via Rail for a memorable journey, the views were great and I now have welts on my derrière that will ensure that I never forget the Canadian. Only 4 more days until Chanel gets here, 5 for Becca and Sam, 6 for Lucy and 7 for the Wild Rumpus to begin. Ooo I am getting stoked! Are you?



Wednesday, 19 July 2017

We Are The North

We Are The North
Across Canada Roadtrippin'



Preface.

I don't know if you've heard but it's kind of a huge year for Canadians, it being our 150th Birthday and all. And we Canadians appreciate any excuse there is to party it up, so you can just imagine the excitement and festivities that were already underway leading up towards big day, let alone the carnage that ensued on Canada Day itself. Basically, this year is just a giant party in Canada and because of this, many Canadian travel companies and even the Canadian government has teamed up to offer some great deals so that everyone can share in the beauty that is our home and native land (or rather our home on native land, but that's a whole other story).

Now, I know I am not the only Canadian who has lived in this beautiful country for the majority of my life and have only seen a ridiculously small fraction of it. At least for me, this is mainly because I've always decided to travel to places farther away instead of exploring the land around me. I guess when you travel farther away from your homeland, things just seem more exciting and exotic, so you don't really think of indulging in the hidden gems that exist right under your nose. Well this year is different. This year all the Canadian National Parks are free for visitors (all you need to do is go online to This Website and order your pass free of charge) so it's no excuse for travellers and locals alike to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.


Air Canada and Air Transat also got in on all the festivities offering cheap(ish) domestic flights around Canada but one particularly amazing travel offer that occurred was Via Rail's 150 Rail Pass. For a limited time, Via Rail offered 1867 Canadians (ages 12-25) an opportunity to purchase a special rail pass that allowed unlimited travel around Canada for the entire month of July...all for only $150!! When I first read the details it seemed a little too good to be true as a one way ticket from Toronto to Vancouver is $526 for a youth at best, so a rail pass that allowed you make that trip and many more for a fraction of that price? Where do I sign up?!

The Struggle was Real.

I knew right away that an offer like this was going to go viral because things like these don't last too long before everyone finds out about them, so I went immediately on the website to book my ticket. And while the link was correct in their details for the offer, Via Rail Canada wasn't expecting the sheer volume of people trying to purchase these tickets, so their site actually went down.

Okay, I'm sorry but are they stupid? I mean how could they have not possibly anticipated this? Travelling around Canada is pretty frickin' expensive so I don't know how they could not have been prepared for a large number of people to be interested in purchasing the pass....but maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I called their phone line seeing if purchasing the tickets over the phone was an option but the lady informed me that their system had also crashed making the sale of tickets not possible for them as well. She also told me that there should be no issue in me acquiring tickets when the issue was resolved because at this point they hadn't put a cap to the number of rail passes they were going to sell. At first I was relieved even though it didn't sound completely realistic, but when the lady told me that the passes weren't just for Canadian residents but open to the entire world?!! Well I just knew that it was only a short time until a cap was agreed upon. I mean, there are only so many seats on a train!

And sure enough at 6pm (after constant refreshing on my part) another detail was added to the event informing everyone that only 1867 passes would be sold...because that's the year Canada became a country (they are just so clever aren't they). But only 1867 tickets for the ENTIRE WORLD?! Ffs, safe to say any hope of getting these tickets went from 100 to 0 real quick and yet, I was still determined to get a ticket. I mean it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, I would be a fool to not at least try to acquire one of these Willy Wonka Golden Tickets.


And by some miracle act of the gods, I did. After 16 hours of constant refreshing, 300 phone calls and 2 hours on hold, I finally managed to snag one of the last ones at 3:28am before they completely sold out. I even had my mate Becca trying to get me a ticket on her end, this is how dedicated we were. Unfortunately we weren't able to get Becca or her boyfriend Sam their tickets as well since getting two was 99% more difficult than just getting one, but the fact that I was able to get one at all goes to show that stubbornness and perseverance will be rewarded!

An Idea was Born.

Now a few months prior, my friend Chanel (whom I had backpacked with in Portugal) had mentioned that she was coming to Canada for 2 months to travel around BC and Alberta. Becca and I had talked about doing a Cross Canada road trip for a few years now without actually making any concrete plans, so with Chanel coming over for the summer and the free access to national parks, I felt that it would be a perfect opportunity to make a real trip out of this. After discussing the idea of a road trip with Chanel and Becca I easily got them both onboard with Becca's boyfriend Sam and Chanel's friend Lucy keen on joining as well. Two Canadians, Two Brits and an Aussie...these are where the best stories are born and so, The Eh Team was assembled and another slightly spontaneous/kinda planned epic detour began.

The plan was to meet in Vancouver before August 4 (as this is when our Campervan was booked) and road trip around BC/Alberta for 31 days. Seeing as I had now acquired a Via Rail pass, my travel from Toronto to Vancouver was covered meaning that I had one less thing to worry about and one more thing to look forward to.

We had a few setbacks as per usual since Becca and Sam could only commit to half of the trip (as Becca had already made a prior commitment to attend a friend's wedding) and also the campervan company we chose had some false advertising on their website and unhelpful staff, which resulted in us having to pay more for a much larger campervan than we needed. But alas, we managed to sort everything else and book the campervan with now only the waiting game to worry about....oh yeah and bears because apparently their a bit of a problem when you go exploring the wilderness around Canada...who knew?



So now the countdown begins... T minus 6 days until I leave on my train journey aboard The Canadian and T minus 16 days until the epic detour. Get your seatbelts fastened kids because this is going to be one wild ride, I can assure you! Pun absolutely intended.


Stay Tuned.