*Backdated to early August, 2012*
This is the story of 90 hours on a train. That’s 5,400 minutes, or 324,000 seconds. On a train.
After three months travelling east to west across Canada, I thought it would be a novel idea to take the four day train trip from Vancouver back home to Toronto as I’d flown from Montreal to Calgary on the way across. (If that string of cities made no geographical sense to you, see map below.)
I was also short on coin and VIA Rail was offering 70% off selected trips (these Express Deals run year-round, a good option if you’re flexible with travel dates). I booked economy (no bed, no meals) from Vancouver to Winnipeg, and a sleeper car from Winnipeg to Toronto (four nights sleeping in a seat is too much!). This normally would have cost an exorbitant $1000, but I managed to get it for around $300. Steal!
I was really looking forward to the trip – taking in all the scenery, reflecting on a summer travelling, and catching up on a whole heap of emailing, blogging and Weeds (I’d just started watching it and had six seasons to get through).
But half an hour after boarding, disaster struck.
Me: “Excuse me, I can’t seem to connect to the internet.”
Staff member: “That’s because there is none.”
Me (slightly panicked): “For the whole trip?”
Staff member: “For the whole trip. The only WIFI we offer is between Toronto and Montreal.” (Which I’d known about and hence assumed all services had it. If you’re reading this VIA Rail, whyyyyyyyy??!!!!!)
Things went downhill over the next 24 hours:
1) Boarded at 8pm, ate all food supplies by 10pm
2) 11pm, finished the only book I’d brought (Angela’s Ashes, already 3/4 read)
3) Had worst night’s sleep trying to get comfortable lying across four seats, and trying to drown out the constant snoring and farting of other passengers
4) Woke at 6am convinced that we were in Alberta already as all I could see out the window was farmland. Turns out, we were only in Kamloops, BC. In 10 hours we had travelled the equivalent of a 3.5 hour drive! It was then I realised this was going to be a looooooooooong trip.
But later that day, a shining beacon of light arrived in the form of the Rockies. This stunning scenery kept me entertained for hours as I alternated between my seat and the glass-roofed dome cart.
After two days and nights in economy, even nice scenery isn’t enough to make you feel human. I had turned into a grotesque version of myself: smelly, covered in mozzie bites that I’d scratched the crap out of through boredom, left eye all puffy and closing up (to this day, I still can’t explain that), leggings falling apart (I’d refused to throw them out until I got home)…my only consolation was that I only had another 12 hours until I was out of economy.
In the meantime, there was Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That is, flat plain after flat plain.
When I finally changed to a sleeper car in Winnipeg, I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me – bed, shower, three meals a day! I still didn’t have anything to do (I’d already resorted to plucking my eyebrows and editing all my photos) but at least I could sleep.
Things got exciting as we headed into Ontario. Not only was the scenery interesting again but we were in my home province – surely that meant we were on the home stretch?!
But alas, it was still a whole 24 hours before we would reach Toronto. (I hadn’t actually realised until that moment how big Ontario actually is – check back to the map and see for yourself!)
Ninety hours later, I made it back to Toronto – albeit a little weary, a little stir-crazy, and severely internet-deprived.
…But recovery time was brief, the next day I headed to Montreal for Osheaga 2012.