The looooonnng journey east…….

Having had three great days in Penticton I repacked my bag, and headed to Kelowna with uncle Phil and Nadine for my two buses that would take me up to Jasper. Allowing plenty of time in the station paid off here as there was a massive que for the single ticket desk with a nervy 20 minutes passing before I could get my baggage checked in. Thankfully I got everything sorted in time, and I my said my goodbye’s (see you in Septembers really) and jumped on the bus – an overnighter to Jasper via Kamloops. By this time it was nearly 6pm and I had a couple of hours on the bus to take in the beauty of the area before it got dark and the powerful silhouettes of the mountains faded into the blackness. There was a 2 hour stop in an abandoned Kamloops station (where I typed most of this and the last post) and then I settled down to sleep away the next leg to Jasper…..

Dawn in Jasper.....

Dawn in Jasper…..

Well I tried to sleep away the ride to Jasper! Even with my large pillow and two seats to myself I found it very hard to get comfy, and didn’t really sleep that much, if at all. I arrived in a freezing cold Jasper before dawn and was thoroughly hanging. To add to my situation the train station wasn’t open until midday, which meant spending 5 hours in the window of Tim Hortons before I could check in my stuff and go off exploring. Thanks to my computer and a my friend Craig on Whatsapp the hours did tick by, and after handing in my bags I managed to hitch a lift to the bottom of Jasper’s Skytram (posh word for gondola). At the top is a small cafe which enjoys spectacular views all around, a perfect place to stop for lunch!

On the way back down the gondi I decided that I’d walk down the road back to the village. The walk is about 8km and I’d definitely recommend it if you want to save on a bus / taxi fare back to Jasper itself. Just make sure you take care on the first 3-4km down the road side. After that a path breaks away from the road and its a pleasant stroll full of scenery and the promise of coming across some wild life. After day dreaming all the way down about hopefully coming across a bear or something, I’d almost given up hope when 2 Elk suddenly sprang out of the trees on the other side of the road just a few metres in front of me! Success!



As I arrived back at the station my train was just pulling in, and I made my way straight to the dome car to take in the staggering beauty of the mountains as we left Jasper. Complete with champagne and canopies, the standard greeting on this train!

Free booze!!

Free booze!!

By the time I’d had dinner the sun was low in the sky, and we were entering the foothills on the way to Edmonton, my early start and bad night sleep had caught up with me, and I collapsed on my luxury shelf for some much needed kip.

The sun sets on the west....

The sun sets on the west….

During the night things hadn’t gone very well. We’d been on the go for 6 hours when a cargo train in front of us developed a wheel fault, stalling our progress. My laptop came into it’s own here as I was able to quite happily amuse myself on Kerbal Space Program instead of going mad with boredom, as we sat for 8 hours just outside the small town of Chauvin, AB. The scenery was considerably less dramatic than yesterday!

It was like this for 8 hours.....

It was like this for 8 hours…..

Finally we got moving again but we were somewhere close to 11 hours behind schedule. As the light faded the pace of the train grew and this resulted in a very bumpy nights sleep as the engineers on the train put their foot down to make up time.

The next day we awoke to Winnipeg and a rushed crew change. It was about 7am so I didn’t bother getting out of bed to see Winnipeg again! The landscape was now changing again and as we neared Ontario it turned from the open plains to the endless boreal forests and lakes that Ontario is famous for. Toronto felt close, but there was still 36 hours of travelling ahead!

By the morning of the final day we were now closing in on Toronto, weaving through the lakes, most notably of all past lake Muskoka. I’ve heard many of my Toronto friends talking about how nice the place is, and they aren’t wrong some of the views I had as we made our way south were very pretty.

I'd quite like this house.....

I’d quite like this house…..

By now we had been subjected to another delay and were some 13 hours behind schedule. I wasn’t too bothered as I only had to get to my friend Margo’s house, but other guests on the train were understandably hacked off by this point. Many had plans that they had to change / cancel, often at they’re own cost, and VIA Rail were either unwilling / unable to offer any sort of compensation. Not even free drinks. My chief annoyance was that we would now arrive in the dark, and I’d really wanted to get some footage of the arrival, but now it would be difficult. The fault for the delay itself lay entirely with the track owners Canadian National (CN), and despite this they continued to place us at a lower priority to their cargo trains, which was what had caused the delay to spiral from 8 to eventually 13.5 hours. Finally however Toronto came into sight and I was able to get some pictures of the tower as the train drew in.



After hauling my stuff onto the subway and a long to Margo’s I was finally back in the city! Albeit hugely late!



So rather than doing a post on Whistler I did a whole page, so that it doesn’t get lost in the archive or whatever! I’ve also updated a couple of the other pages with my experiences. Click the little menu hexagon button on the right hand side to see the pages. Here’s a video of me and a friend Harriet screaming down one of Whistlers most famous runs, The Saddle!

Penticton and the Okanagan

The next stop on my journey east was the Okanagan, and my uncle Phil’s. He’s not technically my uncle, but anyway whatever. He’s been in Canada for some 20 years living near and around Penticton, a small town that sits between the Okanagan and Skaha lakes. I didn’t see much as I arrived, because it was late in the night, and after several hours on a Greyhound I was still slightly hungover from my last night in Whistler, so I promptly passed out! The next day however, after a hearty fry up, we set about visiting all the places that I’d visited with my family the previous times we were here, some 10 or more years ago. First stop was one of uncle Phil’s old houses. It had been some 15 years since I’d seen this place and it probably brought up some the strongest feelings of nostalgia of any of the places, as we drove past in the car. I remembered playing baseball out side with my sister, and I remembered that it was the place where I’d seen my first episode of Futurama! Anyone who knows me will know I’m obsessed with that show! Haha. From there we headed out to a look out spot just outside of town overlooking Penticton. We’d had some family photos taken here years ago.

Pretty nice view...

Pretty nice view…

After that we headed out to Penticton’s own take on the Hollywood sign and then back to uncle Phil’s, via the ice cream shop for an ice cream with his girlfriend Nadine. I’d not really seen the house in the night when I arrived, so we did a bit of a tour around, and then took Oliver the dog for a walk around the nearby orchard. We ended the day with Big Rock and a BBQ!

The next day we headed down into Penticton again and made a stop at that Canadian institution that is Tim Horton’s. To be honest I’m not a coffee man so I can’t really comment on it (and I’ve found their panninis be aweful!) but they do make a passable cup of earl grey, which sorted me out fairly well for the rest of the day and a bit more sight seeing. With a fresh brew in hand we headed over to the SS Sycamus, an old paddle steamer that sailed the waters of the Okanagan some 100 (ish) years ago under the ownership of the Canadian Pacific rail company. It sits with it’s bow still in the waters of the lake at one end of Penticton’s beach and serves as a museum and tea house. My main interest however was in its impressive train set! It dominates the lower deck and depicts how the area would have looked all those years ago, when trains where the main method of long distance transport in the region. I’d been able to drive the trains last time I was here but unfortunately the place was closed for refurbishment and I had to settle for staring at it through the windows.

I didn't actually get the boat in shot!

I didn’t actually get the boat in shot!

After that we went to grab a spot of lunch with Nadine, and then headed off into the Okanagan wine country. You’d think, being in the centre of Canada’s mountainous west, you wouldn’t be able to grow things like grapes around here, but actually the Okanagan enjoys fairly warm, dry, conditions that make for fertile growing soils suitable for grapes, apples, and the region’s famous peaches. The scenery here resembles something more like the Mediterranean crossed with the American wild west, with dusty logging tracks, wild horses, rows of grapes vines, and even the odd cactus. We popped into one of the local wineries and I asked the owner a few questions about making wine and tried a couple of samples! After that I helped uncle Phil pull up some carpet and visited the jewel in the Okanagan crown – the Summerland dump! Followed by curry!

On my last full day in Penticton we headed up to the Skaha Bluffs, this was an area famous for its great rock climbing over looking Skaha Lake. It was a really interesting walk as I got to see first hand the affect of the areas regular forest fires. There were loads of chared stumps all around and you could see how the forest was renewing itself, with new growth sprouting up all over the place.

Pretty charred...

Pretty charred…

We took Oliver with us too, he’s not the biggest of dogs, but he did a good job keeping up with us and clambering over the rocky sections of the path.

Weaving around the rocks.

Weaving around the rocks.

We also came across a few climbers and I found myself filled with envy as we watched them leading up the superb granite formations that the area is known for.

Really wish I'd brought my rack.....

Really wish I’d brought my rack…..

That afternoon and during the evening I began preparing for my arrival in Toronto by starting the hunt for somewhere to live. Its the last piece of the puzzle for summer and the next few months and I need to get on it before I arrive back to make sure I get somewhere as quickly as possible. The following day I began to make serious tracks back east!