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…..
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!