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Andy & Anita's adventures

Trans-Canada on a Greyhound

CANADA | Sunday, 19 April 2009 | Views [710]

DAY 1


We have not been to Whistler. I can already hear the gasp of the Vancouver locals; “OMG, two Australians that have NOT been to Whistler! How strange”. We always planned to go, we just never got around to it and then we didn’t want to pay for the $40 each bus ride. But as we now have an open ticket in our hand it was time to see the majestic Whistler.

We got up super early with every last possession we owned strapped to our back and enough sandwiches to keep us going for days. We caught the early bus to Whistler, a trip which takes about an hour. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was great.

Andrew in Whistler

We didn’t plan to ski, we don’t have the cash and we didn’t want to carry any gear, so we took the path less travelled and walked around the lake (about 7km). It was beautiful, the lake was still frozen, and we found a lovely park to have a picnic opposite the mountains. We also wandered the village, found out where all the Aussies in Canada were, and then jumped on the bus back to Vancouver just in time to transfer to the overnight bus to Lake Louise, Alberta.

DAY 2

First night sleeping on the bus – not so bad. We got to Lake Louise really early and it was COLD!!! Everything on this side of the Rockies is still very much in the grips of a long winter. We dropped our bags at the local post office and began the 5km uphill hike to the lake in the snow. Andrew loves to explore forest tracks so we were soon off the main road and hiking a lesser known trail along the river which was covered in fresh animal tracks (are there lynx and pumas up here???)

Lake Louise is meant to take your breath away with its sparkling emerald waters glistening up to the overbearing glacier, surrounded by lush vegetation and mountains… so I was less then impressed by the frozen white scene that was presented to us :-)

I should have known that it was going to be frozen. It is still winter after all. But it was kind of hard to even tell that it was a lake, and not just a clearing in the trees. It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it just wasn’t what I expected. Andrew seemed really disappointed that I wasn’t excited; I found out why later on.

Lake Louise in winter

Andrew was still keen to hike so he leads me up this steep slippery path to another lake. It is only 3.5km away but in snow and all uphill it may as well be 100km. We got half way to a lookout which overlooked the far end of the lake and it started snowing. Our tracks on the path made it clear that we were the only ones up there so it was a very romantic spot. Andrew obviously thought it was - it was the perfect place for us to finally get engaged. It only took 7.5 years! :-) It also gives us an excuse to come back here in summer to see the lake in its more traditional appearance!

So in a decidedly better mood we headed back down the way we came to the village and waited for the next bus to Calgary. We passed though Banff and checked out the scenery – it is a beautiful part of the world. We had a 5 hour wait in Calgary for the overnight bus to Regina, Saskatchewan, so we went into Calgary which was a bit of a ghost town (P.S. Calgary is closed on Sundays!) and then bided our time in the bus terminal, with our only excitement coming from the unorganized ‘security checks’ of all of our bags (someone was brutally murdered on a Greyhound bus last year). Some poor girl had all of her underwear and other ‘rather personal’ belongings dropped on the floor for all to see – she wasn’t very happy! :-)

Calgary tower in the early evening

DAY 3

Waking up in the prairies

I woke up with the sun this morning. It was awe-inspiring; this glowing red orb hovering just above the flat brown horizon. The praries of Saskatchewan are a sight to behold. I have never seen a place so flat, so barren, so uninhabited. I loved it. We stopped at places named things like ‘Moose Jaw’ and saw grain silos, salt refineries and tiny country towns seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was nearly mid-day by the time we got to Regina, a city which looms out from the flats just like the Lonely Planet said it would.


We didn’t really have anything we wanted to see in Regina (there isn’t much anyway) so we wandered the city a bit (there was noone there), went to the local shopping centre for coffee (ahh, found the people!) and then went to the local Y for a much needed shower. We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the Regina library to use the internet and relax.

The ghost-town that is the centre of Regina, Saskatchewan


It was so hard to get food in the city at 7pm after leaving the library. We ended up paying more then double the usual price for Sushi, served to us by a lovely Japanese lady who lived in Perth a few years ago – how she ended up in Saskatchewan was anyone’s guess!

Regina has a casino that would rival the Country Club in Launceston – we should have got dinner there! Instead we had coffee and played chess (we don’t gamble) before catching the overnight bus to Winnipeg. Regina also, surprisingly, had one of the best bus terminals on our journey.

DAY 4

Winnipeg is still in the prairies, but it is such a big city that you cannot really tell. We have too much luggage and it is, quite literally, weighing us down. We are about 15kg over our limit for our flight so the option is to ship it or toss it. We tossed a lot of good stuff – my Nepal ski jacket for one (I loved that jacket) and then we went into the city to find a cheap shipping option for the rest. We should have sent it all back in Vancouver (live and learn) but $350 and a visit to UPS later and we are considerably less burdened.

The St Boniface church façade in Winnipeg

It was getting hot by lunchtime when we headed over the bridge to St Boniface, the oldest French settlement in Canada. There wasn’t much to it. One semi-french street, a recreated fort (closed for the day), a church façade (that was nice) and a museum (also closed for the day). We seemed to be running perpetually late all day, restaurants were closed by the time we wanted lunch, everything closed by the time we wanted dinner, and all major attractions closed long before we arrived at their doors. Oh well, story of our life!

Winnipeg was nice though so we couldn’t complain. We have been doing a lot of ‘walking’ and ‘looking’ which is very friendly to our almost non-existent budget. A highlight of our visit to Winnipeg was a homeless man getting WAY to close to me in an attempt to take my Tim Hortons Sandwich (my lunch for tomorrow) whilst spouting the words “Spare some change? I’m not going to bite!” Ahh Canada… so many homeless....

We were on the bus and out of there by nightfall… tomorrow is going to be tough; a 30 hour non-stop journey to Toronto.

DAY 5

This day started out ok but quickly morphed into a nightmare by midnight. We stopped at Thunder Bay on the coast of the Great Lakes for breakfast and then quickly settled in to our journey; which took us on the road that runs parallel to the northern coast of the largest of the 5 great lakes, Lake Ontario.

We were about an hour from our lunch stop when the worst happened…. The bus broke down. We limped in to a teeny tiny town called Pays Plat; and Indian reservation in the middle of nowhere. We had to send for a replacement bus from Thunder Bay which was going to take a minimum of 4 hours to reach us so we settled in at the only shop in town and struck up a conversation with a very interesting native Indian who was not only very well world travelled but also an avid online poker player!


When our bus finally arrived the challenge was set to make up for lost time in order to get everyone to their connections. We skipped lunch and didn’t stop all day; and at times the driving was pretty hairy! Highlights of our lightning trip around the lake were seeing a huge Moose and a baby Black Bear in the wild, foraging by the roadside. It did worry me a bit that the Bear was so close to someone’s holiday cabin though… scary!

We got to Sault St. Marie well after dark and still well behind schedule so we got 10 minutes to run into Timmy’s and get something to eat for dinner and then it was back on the bus for another 3 hours to get to Sudbury; where we arrived just after midnight. Because we were so late our connecting bus was full of irate people and we were lucky to get a seat together.


We were so cranky and exhausted that we fell asleep almost instantly, which was a good thing because in 5 hours we would be arriving in Toronto.

DAY 6

Thank goodness we are in Toronto!!!! After yesterday we are so over busses and tonight we will have a hotel room – I was excited all day! Haha

Toronto is just like any other city - although if you speak to Dayna, a girl I knew in high school who now lives in the lovely city, she will tell you that it is a ‘rather unpleasant’ (I cleaned up her language for this blog) place to be most of the year because not only does it experience extreme Hot and Cold, but it sits in the middle of nothing; you are completely surrounded by more and more flat land. I think many of us take for granted the advantages of being close to Ocean or Mountains. It does have the lake though - although Torontonians don’t like it much and see its only benefit as being a way of keeping the Americans out!

In Toronto we got breakfast, wandered over to the Toronto tower and other ‘must see sights’, strolled along the lakeside and then explored Younge St in the city. We also had a look at the museum and walked through the university grounds.

Having fun by the Lake, Toronto

We wanted to get to Niagara Falls as soon as possible and when it started to rain it was time to go. It isn’t very far from Toronto (no more then an hour by Car) but the bus took so long and I think it was about 2.5 hours before we got there. By the time we got a taxi and found a hotel in our budget we were soaked to the skin but very excited to have a nice warm bed and hot shower for the night.

We slept for awhile and then went out to see the falls before darkness. Niagara Falls is magic. Even with the rain they were everything I expected and more. It was a great time to visit, as the tourist season has not really started yet and there are no crowds.

The most romantic spot on this continent... I can see why; it was beautiful!


The town of Niagara Falls itself is very ‘Vegas-like’. It is so bright and glitzy, with theme park rides, wax museums, casinos, theme restaurants and, of course, Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’. It was tacky but a nice change from traditional Canadian towns; despite being shoved right next to a natural wonder. We had Boston Pizza for dinner (Bad choice, I wanted veges!), I called Mum and Dad (I still hadn’t told them about our engagement other then to change my status on Facebook so I thought I better speak to them!) and then went to bed.

The demure town of Niagara falls!

DAY 7

We have to get on the bus to New York City by 11am today so we only had a few hours to gaze at the Falls. We decided to do the walk through the tunnels that pass under the horseshoe falls (very nice) but unfortunately didn’t get time to do a Maid of the Mist boat ride. It gives us an excuse to go back. It was interesting to learn that they limit the flow of water over the falls (they nearly turn them off at night) because they are receding so rapidly; I think it was at a rate of 5 foot every year.


Our time was short but we loved Niagara Falls and it put us in a good mood to embark on our trip to the mighty USA. We had an efficient border crossing; and in stark contrast to our crossing at the Peace Arch on the B.C/Washington border the Border Cops were very polite and friendly. But O.MG. it is so immediately evident that you are on US soil the moment you pass the border!

Americans, like I have said in the past, are loud, demanding, pushy and arrogant… I find it very discomforting. We stopped several times and once had to get off the bus to get a snack from a vending machine…. It was intimidating! I can’t really describe the feeling or why it happens but I just don’t really like how the USA makes me feel. The people seem larger and more aggressive by nature and I feel very small and insignificant in comparison. I am used to being pushed around in crowds after being in India but the difference there was that I am generally larger then the average Indian and can push back!

I know that the highlight for Andrew’s day was stopping in Syracuse for lunch at Subway, as the American guy serving behind the counter greeted us with a very stereotypical ‘WHAT ‘U WANT?’, with the Ipod firmly stuffed in his ears and frown on his face…. I don’t think he gets much joy from working at Subway! The thing we find so interesting about fast food places in America is that the people working there are usually middle-aged; rather then the high-school kids that work in them in Australia.

Back on the road we ran late getting into Manhattan and then had to wander 10 blocks with luggage through the New York City Streets to Penn Station. It didn’t matter though because the place was packed and there was a familiar sight on every corner. We got the train on the Long Island express line by about 11.30pm and it took an hour to get out to where my friend Hayley lives and works. She came to meet us at the train station and took us back to the Marriott hotel where she works – where she got us an amazing rate and an upgrade to a Junior Suite; Thanks Hayley! We stayed in that hotel for 2 nights and I swear I wanted to steal the sheets – they were so soft!

So concludes our 7 day bus journey along the Trans-Canadian highway…. 5000km, 6 provinces, several dozen cities/towns and every type of scenery you can imagine from knee-deep snow, sky high mountains to baking prairies and the lush farmland of upstate New York…. It was an awesome trip!

 

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