The Trans-Canada Journey, Part 2

I’m actually in Auckland now, since it’s taken me a while to get into a position where I can actually write down the next stage of this journey. However I want to finish talking about Canada before I get onto what I’m up to now I’m in New Zealand, so you’re going to have to  hold on for now.

Also note my highly imaginative renaming of my site. Can you tell what I did yet?

My last post finished in Sudbury. I wish that my journey had finished there as well but unfortunately there was about three thousand miles of Canada left before we would actually be able to stop moving. A theme of the various stops that we had to make was that the places we were stopped in were either extremely unremarkable, or we were just  nowhere near the actual centre of the places we were in. A case in point would be Thunder Bay which is either just a thin stretch of warehouse units or I was nowhere near the actual bloody town.

In a spectacular moment of utter stupidity whilst we were out foraging for some food in the brief twenty-minute hiatus we had in Thunder Bay I managed leave my passport on the counter in some fast-food restaurant and I only noticed this fact about five minutes before we were due to set off again. Cue frantic running across a busy road and madly dashing about inside the restaurant barking at people if they’d seen plastic folder left anywhere.

I briefly managed to put this guy to shame.

Otherwise the journey continued in extremely slow fashion in a relatively uneventful manner. We passed through a whole bunch more of unremarkable Canadian towns and villages and eventually the rugged beauty of Ontario gave way to the wide stretches of the prairies that make up the bulk of the interior of Canada. It is worth noting though that it took almost the entirety of the first day to actually get out of Ontario. This is partly because Ontario is absolutely massive (The UK would fit within Ontario eight times alone) but also because the roads weave, wind, duck and dive and largely do a whole bunch of geographical gymnastics that seemed rather out of place after the rigid lines of Toronto.

Sometime towards the end of day two we finally arrived at Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba and the first major city we were due to pass through on our way to Vancouver. Yet again my plans were foiled. We had a six hour layover here and even with our massive delays when leaving Toronto we were still looking at around four or so hours to wait for our new coach. However rather than being in the city the Greyhound station was – surprise! – not in the bloody city. It was in fact at the airport, nowhere near the city, but then that didn’t really matter too much because the fleeting glimpse we got of Winnipeg was unremarkable. Maybe it was the drizzly rain and dreary skies. Maybe it was the fact that I was in no small amount of pain from buggered muscles and cramped legs. Maybe it was because I was so damned tired after nearly two days on a fecking coach. Whatever it was I really didn’t care about whether or not I got to see Winnipeg in the end.

What was annoying though was that in all of Winnipeg airport all we could find to eat at was a bloody Tim Hortons. Now I’m a fan of Tims and I’m already missing it but God dammit I wanted some proper food! Not a lasagne in a pot! Oh well.

Whilst we were waiting for our next coach just about every machine in the waiting area broke down, which was weird. One by one they all busted and then ten minutes later after a ‘This machine is out of service’ label had been placed on them some overweight kid waddled up to them and jammed some coins into them anyway, because apparently he couldn’t read or something, and then lost his shit about losing his money. There was one brief moment of ‘faith restored in humanity’ when I watched some guy win an Angry Bird stuffed toy in one of those grabber arcade machine things and then promptly give it to some unrelated little girl who’d been playing nearby and walk off. A rare moment of class.

As a side-note the coach had airport-security level stuff going on, bag searches and everything, which was rather intimidating. I suspect this was in response to the Incident of the crazy Japanese guy who decapitated a guy with a sword. Yeah.

The trip out of Winnipeg towards Calgary was, at least at the beginning, a fair bit more enjoyable. We were split across two coaches this time and most of the noisy drug addicts went on the other one meaning that not only was our coach a damned site quieter but it was also half-empty and that we could spread out a bit and for the first time in two days. We both took separate chairs and I managed to make good use of this extra space during the night to get absolutely no fucking sleep at all. Again.

This is a good representation of my mental state by this point.

The prairies outside of Winnipeg had an eerie feel to them at night-time though so I didn’t mind too much. The sky was empty of clouds but there was a fiercely bright full moon casting a weird hue over everything. I saw my first ever shooting star whilst idly gazing out over the vast expanses, which was kinda cool. In the far distance there would periodically be weird looking flashing lights – presumably radio towers or something – and also the ominous red lights attached to electricity pylons that reminded me of Dear Esther of all things.

That’s enough for Part 2. I’ll finish this off with Part 3 in a few days time, then I can talk about Vancouver, my departure from Canada and my first thoughts on Auckland. So at least I have plenty to talk about for a while!

The Trans-Canada Journey, Part 1

I have done it. I don’t know how, but I’ve actually done it. 72 hours, give or take, of continuous coach journey all the way from Toronto to Vancouver. I’m sat here now in the crapped out, run-down Hostel Dan booked us into (more on that later) trying to fight off my incredible tiredness so that I don’t completely screw my sleeping pattern over so I thought this would be as good a time as any to try and assemble my thoughts and break down how the journey went.

Basically how it went was fucking terribly.

Surprise!

So come with me on this recent walk down memory-lane and revel in my continued ability to walk from one catastrophe to another.

It started just like any other day – a day of standing and swearing loudly to anyone nearby who would listen to my enraged cursing at the TTC – Toronto’s Transport Commission – failed to deliver me a streetcar within the ‘every five minutes’ category that they are supposed to. Not even within ten minutes. Or fifteen. Twenty? Nope. Twenty-five? Nah. Thirty? Eeeeeeh, alright then.

When it finally rocked up into place it was of course packed with people, and there’s nothing I like more than having to stand there holding a load of heavy bags for a half-hour streetcar journey whilst being rammed up against a bunch of other people. The icing on this particularly irritating cake was that the bus seemed to be full of screeching school-kids (which confuses the Hell out of me because I’m sure that the schools are off for summer now) who felt it necessary to hum in horribly out of tune fashion the invincibility theme from Super Mario Bros.

Upon finally arriving at the coach station we take our position, well over an hour in advance, and feel secure in the knowledge that we should be able to bag ourselves decent seats. Besides all that, how many other crazy bastards can there be out there who’d choose to do this kind of trip?

It. Was. FULL. Full! Full of people! So one of our main coping strategies of ‘spread out a bit’ had already gone down in lard-ass immigrant flames as everyone from Homer’s Indian cousins to the Hispanic Family decided that today of all days would be a really good day to go spend seventy-two-fucking-hours on a coach. But hey, at least it had power or Wi-Fi or something right to help pass the time with…?

So by this point I’m already angry. It’s an old coach. It’s cramped. It’s noisy. For no reason that was ever accurately explained we were also over an hour late departing, though I suspect it likely had something to do with the Jumbo Indians and the twenty (TWENTY!!) bags they brought with them. And then the old Hispanic lady reclines her seat straight into my knees and refuses to even acknowledge me as I ask, initially quite politely, for her to pull her seat back up at least a bit. So I lost my shit with her.

Those who know me will know that whilst I am prone to occasionally going off the deep end, it’s normally done in private and/or at people I know because at least I know that 8 times out of 10 I’ll get away with almost anything I say. So for me to reach critical mass before the trip has even started and start swearing away at this mad old bat says something for my frame of mind at this early point. However I quickly realised, much to my increased irritation, that she didn’t speak a word of English (Though I’m pretty sure she must have gotten my intent clear enough just from my colourful array of hand gestures) so Dan took the bullet for me and swapped seats.

Annnnnyway we set off and were both glad to be free of Toronto’s horrific humidity and horrific transport system. I liked the place but damn, its negatives hung like Acme-Weights during my temper when we pulled out. Beyond the racial stereotypes on the coach there was a guy who seemed to be the new Bob Geldof, a large bunch of what back in the UK would be called Chavs but here are just called ‘assholes’ who kept shrieking and whooping and drinking and smoking weed so that was great and also a bunch of tattoo’d thugs who seemed determined to start a fight with anyone who so much as sneezed at them. So we had the basic demographics sorted out nicely.

With no power there was no way I could pass the time using my laptop like I’d hoped to, plus it turned out that there was so little room even with a non-reclined seat in front of me that I could barely open the screen anyway. Mercifully I own a Kindle and right now I’d like to tell you that they are the best invention ever. With an entry price at a lowly $100 and a battery that lasts almost a month I cannot recommend one of these fantastic devices enough. If it were not for a Kindle and a large number of Terry Pratchett novels that I’ve been re-reading (having not read most of them since I was a kid) I think I would literally have lost my mind if I had not had the wonders of the Discworld to distract me.

Legend.

Of course there were wonders outside the coach window don’t get me wrong. Most of Ontario’s scenery is extremely impressive with most of the road having been blasted out of the rock and creating some quite dynamic vista’s that reminded me of some of the roads around Stockholm. Throw in a variety of greenery and intermittent views of Lakes Michigan and Superior and there was definitely some stuff to be looking at.  The thing is though, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful exactly…but after several hours of it your eyes start to go blurry. It’s just so hard to maintain constant interest in that sort of thing, for me at least. Dan didn’t even have the Kindle yet somehow managed to find enough constant amusement in the scenery that he staved off madness but I needed Pratchett for that.

We eventually reached Sudbury which was our first major stop on the long road out of Ontario. As you can tell this is going to be a bloody long story as I’ve only just gotten out of Toronto as far as the narrative is concerned, so I’m going to break this up into a small series that I’ll work on uploading over the next couple of weeks. Hey, at least this way I can guarantee some content!

 

Moviegasm

As you may have noticed before, I rather enjoy movies. It’s been something I’ve always indulged in probably as a result of the fact that both parents often took me to the movies, sometimes resulting in me seeing the same film twice which was actually less awesome than it sounds. Especially when that film was the Super Mario Bros movie.

To this day I am still trying to scrub my brain of the memory.

It is also a passion that Dan follows as well, perhaps with somewhat more zest than myself. Whilst I do enjoy a wide breadth of cinematic loveliness, I admit that my favorite end of the spectrum is somewhat in the…flashy region. Where I might, say, get Dan to watch The Expendables, he will get me to watch Citizen Kane. I’ll grab The Thing, and he’ll come back with a Streetcar Named Desire. A case in point, we both went to see the Avengers when it came out in Canada the other week. I thought it was fantastically enjoyable, cheesy superhero nonsense with some great fizz and spectacle, he thought it was vapid tripe with transparent characters and a large turd where the plot should have been.

He’s probably right too.

But that’s not the point because

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF MY FUCKING HAMMER RAAAARRRRRRR!!!

But of course it’s not all like that. I actually enjoyed Citizen Kane and Streetcar, much to my surprise, and he’s enjoyed…uh…well, probably nothing I’ve got him to watch. But I’m sure I enjoyed trying to make him enjoy it. Hum.

It was with childlike glee we trotted about Toronto during our first couple of weeks here. We discovered the Revue Cinema, a not-for-profit screen which we conveniently then wound up living just around the corner from, and saw Jurassic Park. Then we found the Underground Cinema in Downtown and saw Aliens and Clockwork Orange. Now, Jurassic Park we both did see (whilst being very young mind) when it came out. But Clockwork Orange predates our very existance by a number of years, and we were both the massive age of One when Aliens came out which may have been a touch young for at least every scene in the film. Though it would be interesting to study the effects on a child who see’s such a film at such a young age…

Anyway, I digress. It is with great joy that I discovered a film festival of sorts taking place both at our local Revue Cinema and another on the other side of town, Fox Theater, that will involve the showing of some of the biggest cinematic classics ever. I take particular joy in this because I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this happen back in the UK, and it just serves to be another reminder of how fantastic a place Toronto can be. I mean, I guess there are probably cinemas in London that do this sort of thing. But in the places I’ve lived and visited that had cinemas in close proximity (Dartford, Maidstone, Lancaster, Ilfracombe to name but a few) I’ve never known them to ever show anything other than the big releases of RIGHT NOW and nothing else. Hell even then it wasn’t always guaranteed. I had it in my mind to go see Hot Tub Time Machine when that came out, and Four Lions, and neither of those were even shown at my local ENORMOUS Odeon cinema.

I can’t link this picture for some reason, so just check out this link for a second. I literally don’t know where to stop with what films I want to see on that list. Frankly, if you can’t find at least four films there that you wouldn’t want to see given the opportunity then I’m afraid you just don’t belong as a member of the Human Race anymore.

LEAVE, NOW, AND NEVER COME BACK!

So at least I know what I’ll be doing at the back end of June. I can’t say as I imagined “seeing a lot of old movies” would be one of the highlights of my trip to Canada, but hey, I’ll take what I can get!

Oh, also, I’m going to be setting up a new blog when this Canadian leg is over. Partly because having a Travel Blog called ‘Raiding Canada’ when I’m no longer in Canada would be a bit weird, but also because I’m looking to setup something a bit more…professional. Plans are afoot. Anyway I’m taking suggestions on a name right now so if you have an idea drop it in the comments box!

Fresh Developments

So I think my Nan’s Birthday post has sat here quite long enough. Events have been slow to come, but a few things have occurred now that warrant speaking of. Chief among them is that (almost) all the details of ‘Operation: New Zealand!’ have finally been ironed out. And Holy Shit, this is gonna be a long, long journey. Let me talk you through it.

You, yes you! Pay attention!

So owing to the fact that I finish working for Atlas Machinery on July 27th, that gives me a few days before I have to be out of this place or pay another months rent, so there’s an outside chance that we might head to New York for a few days. But that’s undecided.

What is decided is that on July 31st we are going to set off on the longest motherfucking coach journey you ever motherfucking did see.

Over the course of our three day journey, we will be taking in somewhere in the region of, and I’m really not joking, around 80-100 different stops across the entire length of Canada. Those of you with a mind to use Google Maps, a few of these locations include such wonderfully named places as Wawa, Thunder Bay, Winnepeg, Moosomin, Indian Head (wtf?), Calgary, Banff and Chilliwack to name just a tiny, tiny few. I am hoping, nay praying, that the coach I am on has some sort of power source – it has been suggested to me that it might, may even have wi-fi in fact – because otherwise I’m going to go out of my freaking mind.

Remember this?

I am however loaded up with more games, films, TV shows and books than I could possibly get through inside of a decade, so I should have plenty to keep myself occupied…so long as there’s that power supply. I mean sure, there will be plenty of shiny shiny Canadian countryside, some of which I’m assured is Very Nice To Look At. Well, apart from the prairies which have been described to me by several people by now as “Endless fucking nothing in every direction”. That…might get a little boring. Although, the way they describe Calgary to me as this huge City nestled at the bottom of the Rocky Mountains on the edge of the plains, I can’t help but picture it as Minas Tirith.

Identical, of course!

I would at least be able to cry “Mountains Gandalf!” when we pass through the Rockies, but since we’ll be doing them during the night-time all I’ll get to do is shake my fist impotently at the window whilst I watch mountainous shapes whizz by vaguely in the distance.

So anyway, assuming me and Dan haven’t cannibalized each other during the journey, we’ll be spending four days in Vancouver to recover/explore the city. This doesn’t quite compare to the entire year we had planned on spending there originally, but I’ll take what I can get. This entire coach trip/stay in Vancouver is largely aimed at trying to compensate for the massive amount of Canada we’ll be missing as a result of our trip here being shorter than intended, and also poorer than intended meaning we’ve barely gotten out of Toronto the entire time we’ve been here.

Anywho, after that we’ve got a 27 hour flight to Auckland because obviously what I want to be doing is spending more time in transit, especially on a form of transit I enjoy so much.

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING.

Our flight initially takes us from Vancouver to Los Angeles, City of Angels, Land of City Planned Racial Segregation and whoops, did I say that last bit out loud? It’s kind of an anticlimax to be spending literally 3 hours in LA, considering our Grand Plan involved us spending a few days there and flying to NZ direct from there rather than Vancouver. Plus I have some friends that live there it would have been nice to visit. It’s a city that I’ve oddly studied quite a lot, be it in History, Geography or Sociology so it would have been nice to look around a bit, even if it is a bit shit by all accounts. But noooo, I get to see the wonders of LAX (reportedly one of the worst airports in America) and that’s it.

So assuming I escape LAX it’s then a nice long flight to Fiji, which again would be cool if I were spending anything more than a fraction of time there, and then on from there to finally arrive in Auckland.

I will probably be doing this for at least five minutes upon arrival.

Then it’s off to the hostel in Auckland and from there…who knows. In fact I’m meant to be working on my CV for New Zealand right now rather than writing this blog post, so maybe I’d better do that instead…

VAMPIRE UMPIRE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

imagine hearing this collection of words over and over and over and over. Basically for the full length of a journey to work. Welcome to my morning.

I’m not going to go on a rant about the Crazy People in Toronto, as I’ve already done that before, but it’s still a pretty damned jarring way of starting your day.