Friday, September 11, 2009

Skipping over Saskatchewan

On the rails from Toronto to Winnipeg, I plotted my trip. The downside of the Via Rail Pass is there's just not enough time to see many cities. The pass is valid for 30 days and within that there's 12 days of travel. Twelve sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well, it isn't, cause that's only 12 calendar days. Very tricky. This means that if you leave at 11.59 pm that counts as one whole day off your pass. It took me 3 calendar days to reach Winnipeg, but in actuality the trip was only 34 hours. In order to make it all the way to Vancouver, I studied the train schedule for hours and eventually places like Kamloops and Prince Rupert were hacked from the itinerary. So far, it goes like this:

Leave Toronto Sept 5, Arrive Winnipeg Sept 7 (3 travel days)
Leave Winnipeg Sept 10, Arrive Edmonton Sept 11 (2 travel days)
Leave Edmonton Sept 15, Arrive Vancouver Sept 16 (2 travel days)

Take bus to Jasper Sept 23 or 24. (I know, I know, I'm not a purist in my train travelling. Apologies, environment.)

Leave Jasper Sept 26, Arrive Saskatoon Sept 27 (2 travel days)
Leave Saskatoon Thur Sept 31, Arrive Toronto Oct 2 (3 travel days)

I'd love to be less rigid in when I have to be certain places, but unfortunately the pass just don't allow it. Also, I've had to skip over certain provinces, such as Saskatchewan as I want to save Saskatoon for the end (I think it will be something special). Riding through Saskatchewan last night was the first time I've visited the province in over 10 years. I started to remember certain parts, like the homogeneous colour of the landscape - a muted mix of brown, green and yellow, and the peculiar way a dark dirt road stretches off and then disappears behind a slight ripple of land. The trees out here are toothpick thin and huddle together, as if for protection. There are new details now too, like the huge Potash factories that dot the horizon. These factories are recognizable by the tubular structure next to a tangle of pipes. They're also accompanied by a gray puff of cloud. Every so often a trail of leaves and fluff and grass go swirling down both sides of the train and, with the dappled light moving in and out of the cabin, it's something beautiful indeed. Like driving through a rainfall of the prairies itself. The saddest part is that I don't get to stop, not yet. Although I was allowed to climb out in small towns like Melville along the way, it's not the same. I have to keep going to Edmonton, even though my appetite for Saskatchewan is now whetted. This morning, after a stretch of factories, highways and clunky suburbs, I saw Edmonton off in the distance, a cluster of downtown popping up out of the prairies.

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