Well, here I am in Vancouver, 3 1/2 days after boarding ‘The Canada’ in Toronto.
And a most enjoyable train journey it was. The wonder is, that I am not 10 kilos heavier than when I set out! I have never been on a Cruise Ship but from what I hear there are opportunities to keep eating all day, should you so desire. And the ‘Canada’ seems to attempt to emulate the Cruise ships. Included in the ticket price were 3 meals a day, plus tea,coffee, juices, muffins biscuits etc. available more or less continuously. The meals were sumptuous, beautifully prepared and nicely presented, in the dining car. In a way it was fortunate that the train was a very long train and so the hike to and from the dining car certainly represented a significant walk!
So here I am in Vancouver: an attractive, compact city which I shall be exploring very soon.
But first a report on the train journey. Three and a half days travelling through lush forests, pristine lakes, green prairies and soaring mountains. An abundant land indeed. When I think back to the desolate landscape of Mongolia and the Gobi, I can’t help wondering about the contrasts on this earth, and more significantly, the chance that places a family in any particular spot on the earth. No doubt each country has its own particular challenges, and the human spirit being what it is, people learn to adapt and overcome and even go on to love the country of their birth. Some of course, if they are able, move on to new challenges in another country.
Suffice to say that Canada appears to be a land full of promise and potential. It’s a vast country (and many a Canadian has pointed out to me that Canada is the third largest country in the world) carrying a relatively small population. And like Australia and and New Zealand, most of the population is concentrated in just a few cities. So in Canada there are vast stretches with nary a soul in sight.
Starting out from Ontario the train meandered slowly through the usual endless suburban/industrial sprawl:not pretty and not particularly interesting. I discovered that Canada’s rail tracks have been around for quite a long time – and it shows. The train jolts and jiggles its way along and writing when in motion is impossible. I told a few passengers about the smooth-as-silk Chinese trains and they looked at me in dis-belief. Obviously thought I was exaggerating!
The train was pulled by a couple of huge diesel/electric motors
(unlike the the steam engines of yesteryear, seen at a stop-off in Jaspeer)
The carriages had an intriguing mix of layouts. I was in a short section of single-berth cabins: each had a fold-down bed set in one end
a wash-stand and a WC.
When the bed was up, a double bench seat was available. When the bed was down, it covered the seat and the WC, so it was time for bed! It was a compact and quite efficient use of the space. The cabins opened out onto a narrow corridor-only just one person in width. In the same carriage there was a non-sleeper section: Two rows of double seats with a passage-way down the middle. Consequently the passage-way dodged from side to middle and back again in the strangest manner. At the ends of the carriage were toilets and a very well set up shower room. This had lots of space and abundant hot water-quite a luxury on a train.
There was also a section set up as a games room with board games, books, jig-saw puzzles etc, with coffee, tea and snacks nearby. And above the games room was what they called ‘the dome’ – an observation lounge with a glass roof and comfortable air-line type seats. There were 3 or 4 of these domes along the train so usually it was easy enough to find a seat for a change of perspective.
Getting a photo record was not easy with all shots having to be taken through dirty glass with the inevitable reflection and focus challenges.
I was amazed at the amount of water laying around in Canada: we travelled for hundreds of kilometers through a seemingly endless lake district.
And at the edges of the lakes, the terrain looked like swamp country. Amazingly, trees and shrubs seem to flourish in these conditions and frequently large stands of trees seemed to be standing in water. It was evident too, that mosquitoes and midges loved this environment too. We passed a clearing (in the middle of nowhere) where a bunch of teenagers were playing baseball. We were parked for a few minutes and I noticed that the most exercise the kids were getting was swatting insects off themselves.
The only time the water more or less disappeared was on the prairies, yet even here water seemed to be laying in large puddles here and there. There was certainly no sign of a drought! But gone were the hills that had been with us for much of the time,
and we were not to see them again until we approached the Rocky Mountains. Grassland and vast areas of Canola plants, shining gold in the sunlight were a real sight to behold.
Stops were few and far between, the first one being Winnipeg (where I had time to walk a brisk circuit taking in some bridges and the cathedral.)
The houses reminded me of NZ with a lot of single-story weatherboard dwellings. No doubt these are suitably proofed against the winter (Double-glazing, heavy insulation and central heating driven by ‘furnaces’ seem to be the norm.) which can be really severe in this country. Winnipeg was an attractive looking city.
The next real stop was Jasper which is promoted as the gateway to the Rockies. A very tourist-oriented little town, but attractive for all of that.
A quick stretch of the legs and it was time to get going again. Heaeding for the Rockies!
The final run in to Vancouver was very pretty with the rail track following (yet another) river/lake system with high hills as a backdrop, for many kilometers.
But Vancouver has yet to be discovered so that will be another story.Tags: Food, Observations, Transport, Travel, Tag Index