I arrived at the train station 2 hours before our eventual delayed departure. I have to admit to considerable trepidation: I normally travel independently and as a reserved Englishman was terrified as to whether I would fit into an already established group of North Americans. My one consolation was that my Britishness could provide an explanation for others' perception of eccentricity on my part. My lack of self confidence would, I hoped, be attributed to a national stereotype of the English.
On boarding the train it was immediately apparent that the atmosphere would be considerably more laid back than the business trips I had made by train in the UK. The conductor knew the legendary Colette by name from a previous year, when I can only imagine the way in which his long established routine was shattered by the Great Bear Group. Colette is clearly the life and soul of the party; an intelligent and thoughtful Californian with a great sense of humour and real joie de vivre. It was obvious that the eight varied individuals who boarded in Winnipeg would made this 43 hour ride seem short.
My nervousness had dissipated somewhat by mid afternoon when I realised what a unique and potentially life changing adventure this was destined to be, regardless of the wildlife viewing experiences. Contrary to my expectations, I was to enjoy a decent night's sleep, helped by the very drinkable red wine in the restaurant car (already know as the bar). Heather, Colette's friend from LA, had made an effort to make me feel welcome from the outset and clearly had creative talents, sitting sketching in her notebook and engaging in conversation. She too worked in the music industry, and I felt that this trip must have represented a real discontinuity with her sophisticated, urban existence. She told me that she had not been bear viewing before, and I was convinced that it would be a revelation for her.
|Relaxing on the train|
|Typically deserted station stop in the night.|