From the lush forests of Vancouver and British Columbia to the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, that could be seen as we rolled into Jasper, we were now departing on the next stop of our cross Canada adventure.
Welcome to VIA Rail’s ‘The Canadian’ – from Vancouver to Toronto the train clicks and clacks it’s way across five provinces, each noticeably different from the rails.
My bed for the night, a sleeper class ‘for one’ cabin was small but cosy. My seat in which I had spent the past hour lounging in was now gone, instead a comfortable bed had been pulled down filling the space. Sitting I watch as freight trains rushes past and the city of Edmonton become a blur as we slowly slink out, past the glow of the city lights.
As a self-confessed aviation geek, I was a little nervous about spending 4-nights and 5-day onboard the train, even broken down with stops in Vancouver, Jasper, Winnipeg and Toronto, it’s a long way.
“Why bother?” I questioned, “you could fly between Vancouver and Toronto in just under 5-hours.”
My nerves subsided quickly on the first leg of our journey – Vancouver to Jasper – as Sophie‘s excitement was contagious and I slowly came around to the idea of train travel and even, dare I say it, liked it!
It was a bonding exercise for the group of girls who shared the four beds in the area, and was helped by the friendliness of our Cabin Attendant, Basil, who patiently took the time to answer all our questions about the train and the Sleeper Berths we were in for that night, as well as questions about Canada and what we were seeing outside.
It was during this leg that I realised that train travel makes the journey the feature as much as the destination.
Two days in Jasper quickly disappeared when surrounded by mountains full of adventure, snow and new friends. Coming as a group of 13 I thought we’d only socialise as a group, but being spread out over a number of carriages meant meeting new people was a daily experience.
One meal I was seated with a gentleman called Leo, an acquaintance from the ‘welcome onboard’ drinks from the night before, who talked about his travels across Canada and Australia with me. At another meal I met with a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and another a hipster currently living in Vancouver now heading home to see his family.
As someone who is usually a solo traveller and who enjoys spending time by myself it was a new experience to become so friendly with strangers at such a fast rate.
Anyone you encounter in the corridors offers a friendly “hello” and conversations started in dining rooms or activity cars are continued. It is like time is suspended outside the train as you feel like you’re meeting dozens of people each day on the rails. Train travel is a social event, if you want to keep to yourself then it’s still enjoyable but probably not the right experience for you.
Rolling through the countryside a call comes over the intercom welcoming us to Manitoba. Flat prairie land stretches out from my window, with grazing cows, corn crops and farm machinery breaking up the otherwise flat landscape.
I’d been up for hours but the view, despite plain, was mesmerising and window gazing from the comfort of my bed had become the days activity.
Normally the lack of connectivity would have driven me mad – the need to always be doing something, the need to be in motion – but Train travel forces you to slow down and enjoy life.
I have one more leg on The Canadian – tomorrow I leave to travel from Winnipeg to Toronto. Two nights and just over a day onboard the train to meet new people, cement friendships that we’ve created as we’ve Explored Canada and take time to slow down, enjoy the journey and savour the remaining moments we have together.
Have you ever travelled by train?
What lessons have you learnt from your travels?
How do you keep yourself occupied on long journeys?
My journey to Canada was sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission and VIA Rail.
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.