The flight over northern Canada emphasized the enormity of this under-noted country. We spent several hours over snow-covered mountains with no apparent evidence of human habitation, gradually giving way to greener hillsides and the occasional dirt track road. As we neared Edmonton, the chequered design of the homestead plots looked like a massive crossword puzzle. All the plots were an identical size although not all included farm buildings/homesteads anymore and intermittently one would be subdivided. We were obviously on the wrong side of the plane to see the city as we came straight off the fields and onto the runway. We passed through the airport process with minimal problems, hopefully looking distinctly unsuspicious, and boarded the Skyshuttle to the Greyhound bus station. Our mini tour of Edmonton didn’t reveal any thing in particular besides a considerable amount of construction and this was endorsed after we dropped off our bags and started looking for somewhere to spend the evening. It was only 7pm and our bus wasn’t due to leave until 12.30am.
Our wanderings identified a few closed bars and restaurants, being Monday presumably, a closed mall and only a couple of likely looking places. With a distinct lack of adventurousness we entered a pub called the Sherlock Holmes which had a red phone box outside and boasted British Ale. We endeavoured to consume our evening meal despite our bodies telling us it was 3am. I was pleased to be able to chose a ‘gluten-friendly’ cajun chicken and bacon pizza which was a new term to me but presumably gets around the guarantee of no cross-contamination. It was delicious but far too big so the 2 excess pieces were put into a rather large box which became a complete pain when trying to negotiate an 80 litre back pack and 30 litre day pack plus excess clothing as it was quite warm but the bags were full. However 2 slices of cold pizza at 5am made for a very acceptable breakfast.
Our meal didn’t take very long nor did it do much to revive us so we decided to return to the bus station and get a little shut-eye before the next stage of our journey. Ambitiously, we did set the alarms incase we fell into a deep slumber – haha. Whilst the concourse was a little busier than when dropped off the bags there were still less than 20 people which seemed odd until it transpired that between 7pm and 12.30am only 4 buses depart and all of those are in the final 1/2 hour. There was a bit of light entertainment provided by some of the great unwashed, enough to keep me awake but not disturb Roger too much.
More and more people poured in during the last hour or so but it was difficult to tell which bus they were aiming for. Our waiting seats transpired to be infront of what became the hand luggage security check which appeared to be almost optional but completely ineffective anyway. The new arrivals started gathering around the departure gate, much to my consternation as surely we’d been waiting longest (2nd as it transpired). We executed my cunning plan and managed to maintain our position through the gate followed by Roger packing the bags into the hold whilst I found us decent seats. On boarding the bus with 2 rather large day packs I was actively encouraged to sit in the second row seat by a strange little Irish Canadian who was actually stood in them at the time. He assured me that he wasn’t sitting there but was across the aisle where his bag occupied his reserved seat. Trying to manoeuver past each other was quite a feat particularly when trying to maintain the blessed pizza box upright and intact! During our ‘doseydo’ he informed me that he didn’t want the ‘bad’ people sitting there! Whilst there had been some strange behaviour at the bus station, including his own, I can’t say that we noticed any dubious characters, just nutters and now we would be sat next to one for the following 3.5 hours! When the driver turned on the lights it transpired that we were occupying the priority seats for the elderly and disabled, great! Now that the bus was pretty full we would be lucky to even get seats together if we had to move. Fortunately that wasn’t required and we even managed to sleep off and on for most of the journey. Roger would have slept better if I hadn’t needed to waken him urgently as the bus arrived at our stop and we had been too fast gone to notice and gather our belongings; except it wasn’t, I’d misheard in my dozey slumber, we still had another hour to go. We arrived at Hinton at 4.10am from where Ray was very kindly going to pick us up between 4.30 and 5pm.