The first part of my trip

I have been sort of blogging as I travelled. I am now home and have access to pics from my camera and reliable internet.

This will have pics and the story of my trip as far as Jasper, Alberta. The pics get larger if you click on them.

I left at 10:20 at night so this was the first pic from the next morning.

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Most of Northern Ontario is trees and lakes. We did make a stop in Hornepayne where I got a shot of the train.

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I was in the third car and there was a dome car right after me where I took this pic as we headed further west.

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After two nights and half a day we arrived in Jasper.

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VIA Coach Train Travel Tips

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Don’t ever, ever expect your train to be on time. It will be a huge bonus if it is. Also don’t blame on-train staff for this. VIA has some weird policies that affect on time probability and make it a rare thing.

If the train is not busy they may allow you to claim a face-to-face group of 4 seats. This is great for sleeping.

If the train is busy and 2 of more are travelling together don’t let them know. Each person should try to get 2 seats. If you sit together at the beginning they may force you to stay together and you will have to try to sleep side by side. This is not easy. It is much easier to lay down if you have 2 seats to yourself.

Even better for sleeping is a berth. VIA sometimes had empty berths and they rent them out at a reasonable price. Ask early if you think you might need one occasionally.

Always tip the kitchen/bar staff. You will get great service either way but they might do a little extra just when you need it if you’re a good tipper.

Take every opportunity to get off the train whenever they let you, no matter how briefly. There is limited room in coach for a stroll.

Don’t bring a blanket, neck pillow and eyeshades. For a mere $10 VIA will sell you a package that includes all of the above plus earplugs. It all comes together in its own cloth bag for easy carrying or attaching to your luggage.

Speaking of luggage, if you can get everything in a carry on or backpack do so. Then you won’t have to wait for luggage at the end of the trip. The weight allowances are very generous.

You may not need it normally but I suggest you bring gravol or something similar. The train can rock, a LOT. Also pain medication like Tylenol or aspirin. They dong carry any on board.

Drink lots of liquids while travelling. It helps keep your insides moving and I also found it very dry on the train.

If your travels cover a long distance, remember to change your timepiece or phone to local time. Departures are in local time and sometimes you may have more than an hour or two off the train. Don’t get caught coming back late or the train might leave without you.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

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I was humbled and shamed after visiting this museum.

I was shamed by Canada’s treatment of natives, for the way we interned Japanese-Canadians and our poor record of accepting refugees from around the world.

Parts of the museum tell the story of our refusal to take German Jews. We were so sure that we were right back then.

I hope that 60 years from now there isn’t a piece of this museum showing how wrong we are being today in our refusal to accept many refugees and the pitiful way we sometimes treat the lucky few who make it to our shores.

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Polar Bears

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I came to Churchill hoping to see a Polar Bear but not sure if it would happen.

Today we took a tour on the Nature First bus and the driver spotted something offshore. We pulled over and we were lucky to see a mother and cub swimming along about a thousand metres out. Too far away for a picture but you could see them plainly through the driver’s binoculars.

I’m heading back to Winnipeg tonight on the train but I really enjoyed Churchill and the people I met and all the things I was lucky enough to see.

Including this old wreck.

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Yesterday

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I had a great day yesterday. 15 of us went out in 2 zodiacs to the Churchill River estuary to look for whales. We weren’t out more than 2 minutes before we saw a few not too far away. We started towards them and before long we were surrounded by a pod of at least 40 belugas feeding. There were several young dark ones and lots of older white males and females. We hung out with them for almost an hour then we headed off to the Fort. As we were leaving 3 white males started following us. Apparently they like to swim right behind the boat in the bubbles from the propeller. It was neat to lean over and see these white masses just a few feet from the back of the boat.

I found out it’s hard to get a good picture of the belugas as they surface and sink pretty rapidly. If you look on the left you might be able to make out a white female and her grey calf. You can really only see their backs as they briefly break the surface.

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Churchill

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I’m finally in Churchill Manitoba. It’s right at the northern limit where taiga turns into tundra. For me the landscape coming into town was eerie.

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It’s not a large town, less than a thousand population. What drew me was that it’s on Hudson Bay. I love large bodies of water.

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Since I’ve spent 8 out of the last 16 nights on a train it’s going to be a treat to spend a couple of nights in a real bed. I’m going to post a couple of more pics of the town.

This is the Anglican Church.

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This is the main drag.

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It’s been a pretty overcast day. I hope to get some better pics tomorrow.

Going north

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I got to Winnipeg a couple of days ago and succumbed to some sort of virus or something. Anyway I didn’t get to the museums I had hoped. I just slept for a day and a half. Today I board the train to Churchill. I hope I’m over the bug or I may have to get back off again. The motion doesn’t help. I am now armed with gravol, Tylenol, and NyQuil so I think I can survive.