Well that’s one way to get an upgrade…

Kamloops to Toronto by Via Rail

After the retreat, two local supporters of the monastery very kindly put me up in their home for the night, fed me, and woke up at “Oh-dark-thirty” to drive me to the train station, plying me with a care package of goodies for the road. I continue to feel warm gratitude for all the boundless help I receive on this trip!

From Kamloops to Jasper the train rode through the Canadian Rockies: Swiss-like mountains, rivers, and forests for miles and miles. While clearly visible, most of the views were behind and in between trees. Easy to see with the eye, but it became a comic effort to take pictures of anything in particular, other than trees. It was that way for nearly all of the trip – when one is moving so fast, in the time it takes to turn on the camera and/or focus it on the desired object, the opportunity is gone. I found it was easier to relax and enjoy the view without trying to make it last.

Bit by bit, we became more and more behind schedule waiting for freight trains with priority to pass. We got into Jasper, BC later than expected, which cut our visit time to a brief 45 minutes. Long enough to admire the surrounding mountains and browse a few shops. It looks like it could warrant a future visit.

Back on the train, we had a few hours of light in which to see local wildlife including moose and a coyote. As the sun went down, so did the elevation. By the next morning it was clear we weren’t in BC anymore, with gently rolling hills similar to eastern Montana. Pretty quickly the hills disappeared and transformed to flatter farmland, which continued for the rest of the second day.

I imagined when I booked the train that there would be bathrooms but no showers on the train. I was pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise. The shower is the basic 36″ size, but there is refreshingly hot water. It times out after 30-60 seconds, but can be immediately restarted. The challenge came in staying upright while the train was lurching from side to side, much like what taking a shower in a boat must entail. A boat on very choppy water, that is.

The food on the train has been another pleasant surprise. It comes as a package for those staying in bunks or rooms, and is quite good. There are usually about four choices for each meal, and are way above what you’d expect on a train – more like a  nice restaurant, complete with white tablecloths and the like.

So after some dietary indulgences, lost sleep, and general travel fun, I ended up with a migraine on the second day, and left the dinner table after the first bite. After I lost lunch as well, no less than three management folks came to talk to me about my symptoms. The result was that even though I had no fever and explained these were usual migraine symptoms, I was put in quarantine for 24 hours. Rather inconvenient, but on the plus side I was given an upgrade from my upper berth to a private room, and room service to boot. While I would not advise getting a migraine on a train, it certainly came with advantages! 

On the third day the landscape had transformed to boreal forests and lakes, which continued throughout the day as we rode through eastern Saskatchewan and Ontario. We ended up in Toronto about 3 hours late, just after noon.

All in all, it was a good trip, although if I did it again I’d do it a little differently. I’d spend a night or two in Jasper and Winnipeg to break up the constant sitting. I’d pack more clothes (some a little dressier than jeans and a t-shirt for the dining room) with me vs in my checked luggage that I didn’t have access to. And I’d spring for the single room.

While it was a surprise not to have Internet, especially when I had planned to use it for correspondence, its absence wasn’t the end of the world. It also gave me more opportunity to just sit and enjoy the view, which seems to be what the train experience is all about.

Ontario muskeg
Trees again!

Author: mettatsunami

In 2009 I was working full time in medicine, and living a life that was alienated from what I truly valued. While volunteering with a local hospice, I began to wonder: "What would I do differently if I had six months to live?". This began the impetus to change direction. While it has been a case of two steps forward, one step back in many ways, there has still been slow movement in the direction of a more authentic life. Since the pivotal decision to change direction, I have been a Buddhist nun, returned to lay life, changed Buddhist schools, returned to medicine part time, and then full time, quit again, traveled extensively, trained in yoga, spent time in several Buddhist monasteries, and am in the process of how to live according with Buddhist and yogic practice and values, and how to streamline this life into something worthwhile. In the Theravadan Buddhist practice, one of the daily reflections is "Has my practice born fruit with freedom or insight, so that at the end of my life, I need not feel ashamed when questioned by my spiritual companions?". That is my practice. My goal in this blog is to share the journey along the way.

10 thoughts on “Well that’s one way to get an upgrade…”

  1. So sorry about the migraine but what an experience you are having. It is wonderful that you can see the good in what others may consider as a bad situation. Looking forward to your next blog and the next part of your journey. Sending love to you. Mom


  2. oh yes, the old migraine trick….i will remember that next time i want the upgrade, ha!

    sounds fun nice pics i love the train, it reminds me of alaska, i am going back in sept and will ride the rails

    have fun! metta paul


  3. How wonderful!!!!!! Thank you so much for your sharing – dialogue and photos – both made me feel like I was there. Sorry about your migraine. Good time to be on a train, while it’s still cool enough not to be missing minutes of sunshine outside, while you’re inside. Continue on……….. safely. Gail


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