Today we taxied to catch our train as we are inward bound to Prince George. Who are all the Princes I had asked Arthur? “I dunno, he said. But when they tore down the old Prince Rupert School they were going to name the new one the same, but my sister fought tooth and nail to have it named a First Nations name and that’s what happened. Prince Rupert is actually an Island called Kaien Island in the First Nations tongue. There’s a constant call to return to native names and to revive the language.
We boarded the train ready to leave 8am and I was really looking forward to this bit. We trained from Auckland to Wellington once and I enjoyed it a lot and would do it again happily, so when Ren suggested training through the Rockies to Jasper, I was keen as mustard. The first bit today has been a lot of coastal mountains and trees but there have been some beautiful little gaps with cabins lakeside and logging mills. I’ve been watching out for bears, but it seems they are well off train tracks today, though someone said the driver announced one and they saw it. We must’ve been asleep for that bit. Damn!
I think the immense size of Canada is highlighted as so much of what we have traveled through is trees and lakes and seems uninhabited and this bit we see is just a tip of Canada’s landmass. It’s actually hard to stay awake with the gentle sway of the train and the sun flooding the window, lulls me into nap, after nap.
At one point we have to stop in the middle of nowhere as a freight train needs to go through. They are massive here. As many as two hundred cars, carrying containers two high rolls through. These freight trains get ‘right of way’, more because they can’t actually fit into the sidings now at the length they are, so the smaller ones have to wait for them to pass. The conductor Ron has a slow Canadian drawl that drags out all his vowels and he tells us ‘the muuunney aaalwaaays geets riiight of waaay’ and says we just missed getting behind another freight train which would have put another two hours onto our arrival time. Luckily we’ll only be 15 mins late as we’ve managed to make up time and get ahead of him. Jesus! That’s a big difference. You kind’ve think there’s a schedule and that’s that, but no. Lots of things throw that out, he explains and it just depends, but tonight, we got lucky!
Ren’s booked us into a hotel here in Prince George and once again I’m ready for a good nights sleep, but first some food. We didn’t know but the train had very few options on board and most people have bought their own wine and snacks and pretty much anything they needed. “How did you know to bring food? ” I ask a trio of women who are sitting down to wine, cheese, salami and dips galore. “Well, this is the return trip for us but we didn’t know on the way here”, they laugh. Others are at the counter asking the conductor what he’s got, as most things seem to be run out. It’s lucky Gil and Ren DID bring a doggy bag home from ‘The Crest’ and we did remember to pluck it from the fridge this morning, and that I also had a few nuts and biscuits left, as its been a looonnng twelve hour day.
The trio of women have all but exhausted the white wines on board and seem a fun bunch. They want to know where we are from and where we are going. They tell us one is from Ontario, one from Toronto and one from Victoria, and that they holiday together each year. “So how did you guys meet?” Ren asks and Patricia from Toronto answers with a smile, “now that’s a story!” “Ahhhh, Ren smiles, I thought there must be a story” as she leans forward to hear. Patricia, (of course I remember her name), tells us that she first met one of the other two at kindergarten when they were going to do a dance and she turned to her and asked. “Can I hold your hand?” We laugh. That is so cute as we imagine these two ‘older’ women’ as four year olds. The third they met in Grade school and they shared teenage years. I looked at them and remembered the book, ‘The yaya sisterhood’, which told of three women who had shared childhood dreams and family holidays, teenage angst and parenting, grandparenting and finally old age. They bitched to, and about each other for seventy or more years, but always they loved and cared for each other more than words can say. I imagined these three having a similar story. Patricia tells Ren later she hopes to come to NZ, so we just may hear some more of this story as Ren shares her email.
We’re pretty tired but Ren finds the hotel on GPS, tells us it’s only 700 metres and steams ahead. In a few minutes a couple of boys are riding by on bikes and one asks, “Is there an event on our something? There’s heaps of people walking with bags”. “No, Ren answers, laughing, we all just got off the train”. A couple of minutes later we stop at a Chinese noodle and won ton shop. That is just what I feel like I say and we decide to stop and eat now. We veer in the doorway but before we can look at the menu we are told no more cooking. Finished up for the night, even tho there are a couple at the counter. That’s annoying I say as we head on up the street. When one of his customers who was at the counter drives past and leans out the window and asks why didn’t we buy the sushi he had. “Cause I wanted something hot”, I yell back. “That was weird”, Ren says laughing but never slows her stride, when another car drives up and a lady leans across her passenger and asks us if we got off the train. “Yep, we did”, we say smiling wondering if this is a candid camera kind thing. “Ohhh where are you staying? Are you going on the train tomorrow? Are you going to Jasper?” We haven’t stopped so she’s just idling along yelling at us. We tell we’re OK were staying at the motor lodge. “Oh ok she says I’ll see you there”. Ummm I beg your pardon? We shrug our shoulders and carry on. “Get a bloody move on, Ren laughs over her shoulder, cause I’m hungry and this town is full of crazies! “Bags dropped to hotel and food options assessed. “It’s a bit like Denny’s but nicer, or like Valentines but not buffet” she’s telling us getting excited as we get near. Don’t care Ren. Just wanna eat.
We are soon seated at ‘White Spot’ and order a feast and I sip my wine as we wait. These are funny glasses I say as I put it down and Ren’s in fits. Turns out I was drinking from the carafé. Well bring on the food already. Im starving!