First time Travelling by Train to Edmonton

Leaving Vancouver on Via Rail was something else. I was passing through Vancouver to visit Edmonton for the first time. Everything was new. The Bridges, the buildings, and even the buses. I read once that the brain thrives on new experiences: “Novelty.” I may not know the neurological process, but I know that what I was experiencing felt good. Travelling makes me come alive fully.

READ MORE: 10 things to know while travelling

My train ticket from Vancouver to Edmonton costed me just under $200, which covered one economy seat. It was spacious enough and no one was sitting next to me. There were two bathrooms per railcar and I had access to the other railcars as well. Once we were settled in our seats, the conductors introduced themselves and laid down the rules and expectations for us. As soon as they were done, I made my way to see what the other cars looked like and where the dining car and the skydome were located. Basically, just to get a lay of the land. Familiarize myself with my surroundings since I would be travelling for 26 hours. I learnt that the bathroom in the other car next to mine was more spacious. And since there were fewer passengers, hardly anyone used it. Next, I grab my laptop, books, and note books and sat in the dining car to begin my writing. Too bad there was no wifi access. It is a feature benefit in the business car though, which was further from where we were. In a way, I felt an invisible label “lower class” placed on me. Not that the service was bad, it’s just that I felt the division. Maybe it was the way the server barked at me when I ventured down a hallway pass the kitchen were I shouldn’t have crossed. It was just a feeling…

On Via Rail in the dining car

Still, travelling across the country by train was a bucket list item. When I woke up the next morning, I could see snow covered pine trees. I didn’t order breakfast because I was still full from dinner the night before, salmon with rice and veggies. I planned to get breakfast in Jasper once the train stopped. I sat in the dome car with others, looking through the transparent ceiling at the mountains all covered with snow, the aqua coloured water below, and the pine trees lining the mountains. “Gorgeous” were the words just rolling off the tongues of passengers, and “Aw” and “Wow” “Unbelievable” “Breathtaking.” The best word that described this experience though was “Divine.” It wasn’t made by man, but by God. And it was perfect and flawless.

Inside the dome car

The train sped under tunnels that went through the mountains. The mountains were on both sides of the train. Our eyes swung from side to side, ahead and behind…just trying to capture every moment with our eyes, with our mind. I think I had. I can still see the experience vividly. But, not the same way as what it looks like on the many photos I took or the videos taken. No. The one captured in my mind cannot be replicated. It is as I saw it, and it will remain that way forever.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, I made conversations with a few passengers, listening to travel tales, and strange meditation practices or grounding practices. I often find that passengers who travel for fun are the retirees, which puts me as an anomaly. I was the only black person, except for the French conductor. Half the passengers were in my age group. One family was travelling with two infants, which must have been difficult. There wasn’t a bed for them to sleep on, or a place to play. The boy occupied the aisle with his toys. The baby was spread out on the large size seats. Very uncomfortable.

Stopping in Jasper for breakfast for the hour broke things up a bit. I was able to get fresh air, walk around, buy touristy things and grab breakfast before re-boarding. I went straight to the dome car to eat. I wanted a good view as I enjoyed my meal, with matcha tea that had messed up my white gloves, and left blotches of green on my black coat. After not bathing for over 24 hours or changed my clothes, I started to feel, dirty. Maybe I belonged in the lower class car at this point. It didn’t matter in the moment.

READ MORE: The Halifax Citadel: Lest we Forget.

I used my afternoon to read and journal about my experience. As it started to get dark again, I made my way back to my own seat. And sat there to enjoy what was left of the train ride. It would be arriving in Edmonton in 2 hours. Approximately 6:30 pm, I said my good -byes. The conductor was kind to take down my luggage and had it ready at the door for me. As I waited for my ride with an elderly woman beside me talking my ears off, she whispered, “we call it Dead-min-ton.” And then disappeared in her taxi.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

It turns out that the Gray line sightseeing tour bus was a great idea after all. On my third day, I was itching to get to Vancouver, for a number of reasons. Mostly, so that I could catch the Via Rail on the Monday afternoon. I felt that by arriving in Vancouver on Sunday I would have time to see the city and get to the train hassle-free in time. Since my hasty decision didn’t work out (or at least, I caught myself quickly enough….literally), I decided to use the tour bus as an opportunity to see more of the city that I might have missed.

Photo by cheyyenne north on Pexels.com

Let me explain what I meant by “I caught myself.” I was dressed and getting ready to check out of the hotel that Sunday but I was running late. I still had to drop off the rental car and get to the ferry on time. I began feeling a little anxious. My scarf got caught in the zipper of the suitcase, while the scarf was hung around my neck, and the zipper just wouldn’t close! As I was bent over the suitcase, I also noticed I wasn’t wearing my socks (the ones I had in my hand just minutes before being stuck). In that moment, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit asked me, Why are you in a rush to leave today? To that, I quickly assessed the position I was in and decided against leaving. Strangely, the zipper loosened right away, and I glanced at my socks in my handbag. Do you believe in these random signs?

READ MORE: Walking in the rain at Beacon Hill.

I left the suitcase where it was, unpacked some of the unneccesary items and looked at the time. 11:30am. New plan: I will catch the sightseeing bus at 12pm. As usual, it was raining. Non-stop. I arrived on Wharf street and I saw the tour bus down the road, but I went the opposite direction to order my meal to go. I looked at the time while waiting for the server to pack my meal, 11:55. When I finally got my order, I hasted. “Ticket for one” I shouted jovially to the conductor, once I knew he could see me. “Hey we waited for you yesterday for 2 hours” Commented Derek. I was surprised he remembered me. “No, you didn’t.” We laughed. I made my way into the bus and was seats away from Derek, who would conduct the tour. “Oh you’re sitting with me today.”

“Yes. Am I able to eat in the bus?”

“Certainly.”

I unmask my face and made myself comfortable. There were a few other tourists, but they chose to ride at the top of the double decker bus. On a summer’s day, I am certain I would have loved to sit up there. But, it was too cold since the top section was roofless.

READ MORE: When it rains, it pours.

My Sunday tour turned out to be perfect. I listened to the audio tour guide, combined with Derek’s interpretation of Victoria’s history, and updates about when we were stopping. Since I was sitting so close, I asked my own questions. And he answered them in between his announcements. We passed through some of the places I had visited already like China town. Once we left the inner harbour though, I could see the Pacific Ocean in the outskirts. I was itching to join the people at the scenic lookout points. It was a glorious kind of deep blue and the sun glistened on the water. We passed through Beacon Hill and continued again along the ocean.

I hadn’t realize how much of Victoria was surrounded by the sea. Of course, I knew it was an island. But, it was on the tour bus that I could to see much more of what the island had to offer in terms of scenery. I decided to get off at Oak Bay. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to spend time by the ocean. “Be back here in 2 hours.” Derek told me. “I will be looking for you.”I stepped off the bus, in the cold, feeling sure I wanted to see the ocean up close. It was too beautiful not to. I walked down the hill, the bus passed me and disappeared from my sight. The sun that had come out earlier, had disappeared again. I kept on walking (yes, thoughts about getting lost, crossed my mind, but I ignored it.) hoping to see the ocean. It was too big not to miss. I passed houses after houses, and decided to turn down one street.

When I spotted the ocean, I followed the boardwalk that led to a restaurant. I could see the change of colour in the water. The deep blue emerged with large waves splashing on the rocks. What beauty. That’s when I realized, I have been from coast to coast. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. I was inspired. In awe. Absolutely amazed that I completed what I set out to accomplish eight years ago.

READ MORE: Travelling post Covid-19

These are the experiences you will have to experience for yourselves, because the telling of them doesn’t quite do justice. Like I said in an earlier article, travelling for me is a calling. I see things in a new way and experience life, in my opinion, the way it ought to be experienced. With Wonder.