25-27.05 Novo Scotia: Planning panic / New Brunswick: Getting a grip
Here we go… I nominate Canada for the Corners of my World Award for ‘Most difficult country to travel in’! Surprised? So was I! It was not because of a language barrier because there is none. No insurmountable cultural differences either; I yet have to meet my first unfriendly or uncooperative Canadian, and heck, they also dislike ‘Trumps’ and mock the Brits [for BritEx].
So why this nomination? It is because Canada is ruthless to backpackers without a plan. It is unimaginably vast, sparsely populated and freaking expensive. So unless you are rolling in money or don’t mind to sleep ‘on a bench’ you have to plan ahead. I don’t consider myself a member of the first category and benches are a ‘no-go’ for female solo travelers, so I was one of those who needed a plan. And… I didn’t have one. All I knew is that I wanted to take the Canadian (train from Toronto to Vancouver) and visit British Columbia. No clue which route, which places to stay and how to get from a to be (to c…z).
My life got exponentially more difficult after I ruled out flights and rental cars (where possible) due to extortionate rates. I had confined myself to public transport and, admittedly, I hate public transport. I only take a train to Amsterdam Airport and my last bus ride was back in 2001. So this journey could get interesting! I figured out that trains were my best option although infrequent, slow and still expensive. Buses, albeit cheap, were too slow for long distances but potentially OK for shorter stages.
I decide to nominate when I was deeply stressed. I was about to disembark a ferry in an unfamiliar place, I had no idea where to go, how to get to this ‘unknown place’ and where to sleep. All rules in ‘Linda van Dijk’s Policies & Procedures Manual’ were smashed in pieces. I felt an irrational urge to flee from the place that had made me feel miserable whereas I could rationalise that any new place would be minimally as bad.
I forced myself to get a grip and started to solve the puzzle piece by piece. First: transport. The bus was the only public transportation available so that was easy. Second: bed. I picked Moncton in New Brunswick. The bus would reach in the later afternoon, it was pretty central for sightseeing and had a hostel with availability.
Moncton by air (c. Chris McMahon, photographer/friend)
My panic attack subsided, at least, until I found out that I got myself stuck in a presumably depressing ‘hamlet’ (in dutch: gat waar als je er een bom op gooit het een groter gat wordt) for two days since that is their train schedule… Whoosh, gone was my newly restored mood! (Dear Dutch Railways, I take back all the words that have hurt you in my previous blog!).
Sometimes you win and sometimes you loose. I accepted my loss and decided to use the days to properly plan the rest of my Canadian adventure. First priority was getting a ‘Can Pass’, the nation-wide, 60-days, flexible railway pass for the 5,300 kilometers from East to West. I walked to the railway station [hey, Moncton is really tiny] and engaged with their front desk manager.
>> Time in: 5 minutes before closing time. Mood in: grumpy
>> Time out: 2,5 hours after closing time. Mood out: happy
What the h### happened in there? In one word: Chris! Chris happened. He helped me to outline the coolest itinerary ever, to reserve all trains tickets with free rescheduling/cancellations and to pay 600 dollar less than I had expected.
I offered Chris a beer as a ‘thank you’, which he thought was hilarious so he topped it by inviting me to sightsee Shediac, New Brunswick’s most popular beach area.
Now, jumping into a stranger’s pick-up truck, at night, to drive to an unknown location god knows how many miles outside civilisation… is breaking about all the rules in the Instruction Manual for Female Solo Travelers. I thought I would be absolutely safe with Chris but nevertheless updated my bunk mate of my plan and asked her -should I not return- to report to police that I had been abducted by a railway employee. I n hindsight, I have to offer my sincerest apologies to Chris, because -of course- it ended well, actually, it ended very well; I made a new friend!
My two daysconfinement in Moncton were gone before I knew it and I had to move on to Quebec City. I got a pleasant surprise once boarded the train… Someone had given the train crew a heads up that they had a ‘VIP writer’ on board… and I got an extra special treatment (thanks all 🙂 )
It is funny how a town that I had erroneously stigmatised as ‘depressive’ could turn out to be so good. Moncton is a swell place! I think I may even withdraw Canada’s nomination. Let’s see first how it treats me in the next few weeks 🙂
Hostel’s cat. Layzyyyyyy