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.