A three-day train ride is a bit like hitchhiking – you have no control. We would sit there hypothesising how much longer we’d be stuck in Portage-la-Prairie and consuming a nauseating amount of caramelised almonds, and in the end, miraculously, still got to Vancouver in time.
24 hours into the trip, after stepping out in -41°C for the first time in my life (together with all the people who’ll go where they’re allowed to smoke no matter what the conditions), I was told that we’re still in Ontario. A traveling Londoner later commented that “it feels like cheating, really – a new province every day now; we’re just racing through”.
It was a good trip, anyway. An old Canadian horticulturalist bought me hot chocolate, gave me a grapefruit (“Are you sure? It’s a very nice grapefruit.”), and chatted to me about pesticides and pathogens. We also passed Chilliwack, which supposedly is where all the drugs destined for the States travel through, so I got cocaine stuck in my head (the song, not the substance).
It’s always a little scary to set off on your own, until you realise that you never actually travel alone. I hitched a ride to get off a mountain once I made it to the west, and because the driver didn’t speak English I chatted to his most endearing 12-year old son Leo.
Leo: I’m not a very good geographer; I like history and maths.
I: Do you think you’d like to do history after you’re done with school?
Leo: I don’t think I want to be an archaeologist… But hey, you never know! Maybe one day you’ll see me digging for bones somewhere.
I: I’ll wave.
Leo: Do you know Oprah Winfrey?
I: I’ve heard of her, yes.
Leo: One of her most famous lines is ‘When you own a limousine, everyone will want to ride with you, but when your limousine breaks down, who will ride the bus with you?’
I: So that friend you were telling me about would be the kind of guy who’ll take the bus with you when your limousine breaks down?
Leo: Unfortunately I don’t have a limousine.
I: Well then it can’t break down either.
Leo: That’s true; I haven’t looked at it that way!! If you don’t have a limousine it can’t break down!!