I hadn't originally planned on taking the train for any particularly long journeys...I wasn't entirely sure that I would go overly far between stops, wasn't sure where I was planning after Ottawa. I sound disorganised, and in some aspects of my life that's me through and through, but usually as far as things like this trip are concerned I like to be planned as far as is sensible. Clearly I don't plan each and every day, but it settles me to know where I'm headed, where I'll stay when I'm there, how I'll get there, and probably the place after that.
I was in Montréal and decided that I was going to skip over a big chunk of Canada and go straight to Edmonton. I started my usual research into the cheapest way to get there, and it was going to be a flight. I had almost decided on getting a flight when Elizabeth talked me into looking at the trains again. The train was more expensive, but only by the cost of three nights in a hostel, the amount of time I'd be on the train. I felt like I should go for it...I'll get to see the bits of Canada I'm not visiting directly.
So, yesterday, I got my first train down to Toronto. I arrived at 9, checked my bag, and immediately joined the queue for my second train of the day. The seats are unassigned so I wanted to get in quickly to increase my chance of finding a window seat, and one that suited my tastes at that. I succeeded. I'm in a window seat, seated at the back end of the window...no pillar in the way to spoil my view. At the moment I have two seats to myself. Let's hope it stays that we for awhile.
The train left on Tuesday at 10pm, and will arrive at 6:30am on Friday, taking into account a two hour time difference - I'll be 7 hours behind in Edmonton.
Now the train isn't exactly uncomfortable...but it's uncomfortable. I'm in Economy (obviously, not going to pay for a cabin) and the seats are nice and spacious, they have a little kick out leg rest thing...and go fairly far back. I don't like to put my chair back much at all, but last night I noticed the girl behind me had curled up across her two seats, so I didn't feel bad in pushing it further than I might usually have done. I didn't sleep well. While there is a lot of legroom, the chairs themselves aren't that well cushioned. They're a bit old. Years ago I slipped over on the ice, clearing some snow so Jen could drive away (I promised never to let it go, and I'm a woman of my word) and since then my coccyx complains on any journey where I'm sitting for too long. Lucky I'm on my own in my seat, it makes me a fidget monster and I know it annoyed the girl sat next to me on the coach from Toronto to Montréal.
It was also REALLY cold. I had my jumper and a coat on, and another over my legs, and I was still pretty chilly. This morning I went and got myself a coffee and decided the blanket was worth it. I was right, I'm well snug.
Aside from the train itself, it has been pretty amazing so far. We aren't just going along next to roads, we're speeding through some beautiful forests and lakes. It's been snowing and the trees look especially wonderful with the icing sugar dusting they've got, and I now have a weird fascination in seeing how much of a lake or pond or stream or puddle has frozen over. It's the most exciting when it's frozen enough for snow to settle on it.
We've been stopped for a little while at a tiny town called Hornepayne, with 1000 residents. I jumped off with most other people to stretch legs and get a cold drink that isn't hugely overpriced. It is, unsurprisingly, really very cold. But it's fine, I was out and aboot (had to) in my first Canadian snow!
Still in Ontario, amazingly. Makes you realise the scale of a place when you can be in a train for 16 hours and still be in the same province.
It's now Thursday. I woke up this morning stopped in Winnipeg. As you may or may not have seen, last week there was a derailment near Edmonton which has disrupted a lot of things. Our train had fewer cars and supplies on board as it had to be put together in Toronto out of cars already stripped for the season as the usual ones were stuck out in Edmonton. So when we stopped in Winnipeg there were loads of things going on board and whatnot. It was a four hour stopover, which mean everyone had the chance to really get out and stretch their legs, there were bookings being taken on board to go on a tour...I decided to give this a miss. I had thought I'd get out, find some coffee and wifi, and have a bit of a walk. First problem, no coffee places in the station. I've noticed this in a few stations here, maybe because the distances travelled are further and people tend to bring their own things, but there are hardly any coffee shops or suchlike compared to home.
Second problem was that outside it was FREEZING. Now I have plenty of cold weather clothes, but they are all packed in my bag, which has been checked. I have my two coats but not an incredibly warm top underneath so not ideal in the weather. In my search for coffee I found a pancake restaurant and decided some warm breakfast would do very nicely. I got myself some delicious pancakes and bacon and a nice cup of coffee. Mmm.
Back on board the train, we've been travelling for a couple of hours or so. We're now in Manitoba and I can inform you that if the view from the train is anything to go by, it's flat. There are fields, then some more fields, one or two fields, and then if you squint and look very far in the distance you might just be able to make out a field, if you can believe such a thing. Not the most exciting view I've ever seen. Yesterday I was able to amuse myself for quite awhile by just listening to music and watching the world go by as it was just so damn pretty. Now...I'm not so sure.
I've a feeling this is going to be a long day. We're currently sat on the sidings waiting for a freight train to pass. These are so much longer than home, I timed one recently and it took two minutes to pass us. That's long. We've been informed that, since the derailment, there's been a big hold up for these freight trains and we are always going to have to stop for them, so we should expect to be late arriving at any of the stops. This doesn't bother me so much. Yeah, the train isn't that comfy, and the views aren't as spectacular now, but we're due to arrive in Edmonton at 6:30am tomorrow, and I can't check into my hostel until 11. If we're a bit later then I stand a better chance of being able to check in early and get my bed sorted. I can leave my luggage locked up and go for a wander around town, but I don't want to have to come back and make my bed before sleep. There is nothing more hateful in the world.
I was distracted for awhile by movies and a beautiful sunset. Possibly one of my favourite views of the journey. Could not stop taking photos.
I never slept particularly well, but last night was the worst. We were due to get into Edmonton at 6:20am, so I was a little bit restless and worried about oversleeping and having to leap up and grab everything and forget stuff. I was awake from 5am as a result. I needn't have worried. We were so delayed by freight trains throughout our journey (including sat for an hour waiting for them this morning) that we ended up arriving at about 11:05. Plus point, I get 50% off my next train journey!
Train adventure over. Worth it...I'd say so. Long and uncomfortable, but beautiful. I would have been happier if I were shorter and had a real pillow as many other passengers did. One guy brought an air bed. Seriously. If you get the chance, do it. But put films on your ipad and bring snacks.