Our departure day started early after the power returned at 5am. After lying awake for half an hour thinking of the mountain of washing in the basement and the bulging dishwasher I got up and set them both going then returned to bed. Half an hour later, even more wide awake, I conceded and got up to get started on the day. Armed with several consecutive cups of coffee I tried to get up to date with this blog as so much had happened in the last few days, in between running down to the basement to rotate washing loads. Little did I know about the drama unfolding at the front of the property next door.
5 washing loads later, 3 of Gaylene’s and 2 of our own, we had packed up the odds and ends which had migrated to the loghouse in our 3 night stay, a surprisingly large amount. We were unsure if it was safe to return Gaylene’s washing in case she gave us more jobs to do! However, we were going back to pack in the cabin where Kate would be out but her cats would be in therefore, couldn’t take Sammy. Tentatively knocking on the front door, Gaylene answered with the phone in her hand (but not connected?) She was very grateful for the washing and took Sammy in along with his bed (his feed and bowls were to go to the cabin as that’s where he’ll be staying! with the cats! his dad was a cat eater!! don’t think I mentioned that he had a penchant for feline flavour!). Gaylene enquired what we were going to do now and we were genuinely able to answer that we still needed to finish our washing and pack so that seemed to be enough to deter any further instructions apart from asking Roger to turn off the sprinklers which were merrily soaking the sodden grass in the middle of the day as the clock hadn’t been reset, nor them turned off. It also transpired that she had suggested to Kate that we could do the evening feed as Kate wouldn’t be around, taking us to the bus station as Gaylene would be out when we left! We declined as we were actually in clean clothes, one of the few occasions in the past 2 months, and also, there still wasn’t any feed as she hadn’t picked it up!
By 4pm we were more or less ready, having enjoyed a farewell cup of tea with Johanna, still without power and water. Kate returned from prepping for her other job at the library and we were able to have a chat before setting off. We didn’t want the information to be pure titillation but felt that if she knew a few of the issues she may be faced with that forewarned would be forearmed in order to maximise the chances of the following 4 months being good for both her and Gaylene. It would have been helpful if someone had been able to give us some pointers when we had arrived. I was able to advise Kate that blowing the rest of the debris from the yard and drives and raking clear the pens and paddocks was a 5 man or 2 week job (and that the blower would be pointless, wheelbarrow and shovel more appropriate). Gaylene thinks Kate can do it in a day! its a $5m property! Well spend the money on the number of staff it requires for upkeep! Or realise that everyone knows there has been a massive storm and there will be after-effects, although perhaps not the Chinese according to Johanna who knows them from working for a Chinese company and living in Hong Kong. I’ll be interested to hear how that one evolves!
We left in good time as we apparently should be at the Greyhound bus depot an hour before departure although there is no check-in. On arrival at 5.45 it was already closed! Fortunately a very kind and friendly lady was still working in the freight depot on the other side of the building and sorted us out with luggage labels. This was particularly useful as this journey requires 5 different buses over the 26 hours but our bags would go straight through. With time to spare we opted for a final Tim Horton’s coffee with Kate before she dropped us back and picked up the Italian boys who should be returning from their trip to Vancouver but with no communication and large parts of the city still without power no-one really knew where they were. They arrived exactly on time as arranged, albeit on a different and much cheaper bus than suggested to them! With fond farewells and contact details to keep in touch (and support Kate) they set off back to the ranch and we embarked on our journey from Langley BC to the next chapter in our Canadian adventure.
It didn’t start well as the bus driver didn’t like our tickets! They must be printed out, even if they have been booked electronically. We had seen people be turned away from the bus for exactly that reason on our incoming journey. We had been asking Gaylene to print ours since Thursday! By Sunday morning with no tickets, no power and no Gaylene I had messaged her at her parents, in the middle of all her messages about the horses’ water, to ask if she could perhaps print them there before returning to the ranch where there was no power. She didn’t reply to that. We voiced our concerns to Kate who kindly offered to get them printed at the library when she was in later that day, which was just as well as Gaylene hadn’t been ‘able’ to open the file on the e-mail. Unfortunately, on the basis of saving paper Kate had printed them double sided but the driver has to take each ticket for each journey and this guy realised that our next ticket was on the back of the first. In the circumstances, half a million people losing power and 60,000 still without, it was surprising that anyone had printed tickets at all. He took pity on us and scribbled the details on another sheet.
The first leg was a 1 hour trip to Chilliwack where we changed for a 3 hour journey to Kamloops. The latter coach was plunged into darkness from the outset, it felt like ‘lights out at 8pm’ apart from the soft glows of all the smart phones but inadequate if you wanted to read an actual book! I’m sure Greyhound should look at their supporting literacy policy! I tried to eat some of the rather delicious small and very blackcurrenty grapes from Gaylene’s vine but in the darkness managed to drop one down my front and was unable to locate it. I assumed it must have ended up on the floor but I subsequently found it in Saskatchewan inside the side of my vest top.
We are doubling back on our inward journey and then continuing beyond our landing point of Edmonton. So despite the massive extent of this country we are in familiar territory. It was midnight when we embarked on this stage and I quickly fell into an uncomfortable slumber. There is a decent amount of leg room and the seats do recline a bit but it is difficult to get a heavy head supported on sleepy muscles but I did manage about 6 hours of very welcome but interrupted sleep. I woke as the sun was rising over a snow topped Jasper, perfect timing. It seems to have been such a short time since we visited and there has been nothing but drought and a heatwave in the intervening period but the change was quite explicit, perhaps the snow had just come down over the weekend as it looked fairly fresh.
Our next comfort stop was Hinton, where Ray had picked us up on our arrival in Canada 3 months ago, almost to the day. It felt very strange to be in such a familiar place. We kept our eyes peeled for him in case he was picking up or dropping off some other workawayers but to no avail. I’d sent a message to Bailey to let her know our movements just on the very remote chance that she may be in the area (only an hour and a half away!). It would have been such a shame to miss her just from not knowing where each other were. We have already missed Roger’s cousin Kate who had visited Vancouver and Whistler the week after we’d been there but she didn’t know where, in Canada, we were and we didn’t know she had been here until she returned home to New Zealand. As it is, Bailey is driving to a job in Manitoba, the state beyond Saskatchewan, fairly soon but we’d already booked the tickets before we found that out.
As we headed away from Hinton we were looking forward to being able to see the scenery as we’d missed it previously when it was dark and we had slept most of the way to our 4am arrival. We now saw trees, trees trees and more trees! We should have guessed. As we approached Edmonton they did disperse and contours flattened, a taste of what was to come. Another significant feature was the 20% drop in petrol prices about 50p a litre! Alberta is the oil state of Canada afterall.
We continued to head east, into another time zone and towards an ever flattening landscape, as we’d been warned. The towns became more intermittent as did any kind of building. There was little evidence of water erosion, no river valleys if there were no hills. It was like looking out onto an endless Vale of York with considerably less evidence of habitation. The land seemed to be predominantly grain and hay production, even the grass verges had been baled and left. This was a little surprising as in BC we were led to believe there was a shortage, increasing the prices. Perhaps country folk aint so stupid! We changed buses at North Battleford and headed north to Meadow Lake in our first bus which wasn’t bursting at the seams, just ferrel toddlers and drunken parents at the back! The sun setting on our left over the lakes and slight undulations gave us our introductory backdrop to the area. This could be the chapter of skies and sunsets, if I can get any photos to upload at all!