I don’t have long in Edmonton, but that’s because I’m only here to catch the train to Jasper. Originally, I wanted to do the entire trip across the country, but it was going to be too expensive. The Edmonton-Vancouver section is supposedly the best part of the trip, so I compromised and booked that one, with a quick stopover in Jasper for 4 days.
The train leaves at 7:37, and the station is a good 20-minute car ride away. It’s going to be at least $30 with a taxi, but luckily, I still have Uber downloaded, and have a promo code for a free trip up to $20…which is what Uber tells me the trip will cost. So I book the car (with a quick panic when it turns out my card isn’t accepted and have to frantically amend it), and get a free trip to the Edmonton Train station.
The train is predominately sleeper cars, with our ‘comfort class’ coach near the front of the train, and an observation car behind it. There is also a dining car we can go to for brunch about four cars back, but my coach can only head that way when it’s open (between 9:30-12). The coach itself is spacious, two seats on each side that are a decent width, and a very wide aisle. Also, had two plug sockets for each two seats.
In the observation carriage, you have a shop in the bottom, and steps heading up to the observation deck, which hosts about 8 rows of seats – but it’s almost always full for obvious reasons. I get a seat every now and then, but most of the time I pop up and just take a photo at the top of the steps before heading back down.
The train takes about 5 ½ hours, but doesn’t move all that fast, mostly because of the traffic. We have to brake and wait for the giant cargo trains to pass us. One of which had us stopped for almost ten minutes while something the length of a decent sized city passed us into Edmonton. At least this means we can appreciate the scenery while it passes.
At 9:30 I head over to the brunch, and get seated next to another two solo travellers. These two are both from Canada, one heading home while another heads to a family graduation. They were happy to hear about my travels, and gave a few tips on places to see.
As I’m in the budget seat, my food is not inclusive, and I have to pay for lunch. It costs about $12, but the options are pretty nice for a train. There’s a full breakfast, an omelette, and French toast. I get the breakfast, and although most of the plate is the Canadian style hash brown which is more or less grated potato (I MISS the battered potato oval so much), it’s still pretty good.
The last 2 hours on the train are by far the best though, because that’s when we start hitting the mountains. There are snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes and rustic buildings scattered around the countryside. Everyone puts away their phones and tablets and starts keeping eyes on the windows.
When we finally roll into Jasper, we almost topple the train when the driver announces over the tannoy that there’s a black bear on the left-hand side. Don’t see it, but do find a huge hoard of Elk hanging around the entrance of the National Park. They apparently have no fear of humans, and can be found all over Jasper.
I was expecting it to be cold considering Edmonton had been significantly chillier than Toronto, but when I walk out, it’s warm enough that I don’t need my big jacket. It’s pleasantly warm, which is a first for Canada, and means I can have a pleasant walk through the town.
I would have liked to stay in the Jasper Hi-Hostel, but it’s in the park not the town and a real hassle if you can’t drive, so instead, I found an independent guest house hostel in town called World Travellers Fraternity (or WTF if you want a laugh). It’s based in the basement of the owner’s home, and hosts one dorm room, and a private room, in addition to two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living area. Small but homely, I really like it. It’s not even got a reception – just a guarantee that the owners will come down at some point to collect the money, and a whiteboard to write your name on a bed so they know who’s sleeping where.
Once I’m settled in, I go back out to the town to explore. Obviously, it’s a very touristy town, so the prices are hiked way up. There are a few nice souvenir shops though – one has some beautiful necklaces and earrings that I’ll probably pick up at some point, and another shop selling pins that I inevitably buy because I’m a sucker from badges.
When I get back, I get introduced to three of my roommates. Jess and Marie are sharing the private room, while Jenn is in the dorm. The four other people in my room don’t arrive till later (four men from Edmonton taking a weekend break), but we spent a significant chunk of the evening introducing Marie to Cards Against Humanity which we find in the living room – she’d never heard of it and that was just intolerable.
Tomorrow they’re heading out to Maligne Canyon, and invited me along, so I’ll have a chance to get there without forking out cash for a taxi on my own.