Once upon a time in Canada

Monday, 16 December 2013

It's three months to the day that I touched down in the UK after an incredible two weeks trekking around in Canada and I'm still yet to make any sort of commitment to reliving it's glory - until now. I had begun to believe that perhaps getting this down on paper would be a bit of a lost cause, that maybe I'd lost a lot of memories in the weeks gone by. But today I threw on my Van City tank top and poured over a few photographs... and there I was, immersed in the beauty of the Rockies once again, breathing the fresh mountain air with a perma-smile on display. It's crazy to think how two weeks can make such a huge difference in your life but this jaunt certainly did and not all for the better, but it's what I've taken away from all of it that counts and it wasn't until very recently that my thoughts went in the direction of being very proud that I had made that journey. I had been led to believe that it was the worst decision I had made in a long time; I am now firm in my belief of how much rubbish that statement bleeds.

But that's a different story altogether. I've got a better one and it starts like this.

From the moment I touched down in Vancouver very late one night at the very end of August, I knew I was about to embark on something life changing. I had yet to experience something quite like this in my whole life and I was completely unprepared for exactly how it would affect me. I think the biggest factor in the enjoyment of my entire trip was the group of people that I spent every single second with. If you weren't quite sure of the backstory, I actually went on my holiday as part of a tour group run by the marvellous Trek America - a trip that I had wanted to book for some time and finally did in a whimsical now-or-never moment at the turn of 2013, at the actual stroke of midnight. Cliché or what?! After months and months of build-up, by the time August rolled around I was totally ready to get on that plane and go-go-go. As I stood in the foyer of an airport hotel at 7am, gingerly kicking at my 33-litre rucksack and looking around for my unknown fellow travel companions, it only then begin to hit me that this was it. I had made it. I was doing the one thing that I had belittled myself over for so long, believing that I was all talk and no trousers. Well I indeed had the trousers on now - or denim shorts and tights, anyway. As members of the group spilled in, we made reserved and polite introductions and small talk until our tour leader made her grand arrival.

Something even beyond the actual group was indeed the tour leader. Personally, while I believe that every Trek America tour leader is of a high standard and completely satisfactory, I feel that we really lucked in with the leader that we got. We had Drea, a you'll-never-believe-it 30something Canadian from Quebec who was so unbelievably passionate about what she did that it made your heart melt. This girl had a brimming brain-bank of knowledge and miscellanea relating to every single yard that we drove, every national park we visited and every activity we undertook. Not only that but she went above and beyond at pretty much all times to ensure that we were getting the most out of our experiences and having the best fun that we could possibly have. We felt blessed because (at the time) we were to be her last ever Trek America tour and she let us know that she was totally stoked with us in return.

Because, you see, it's all a game of luck what you get in your group. Fair play, if you're coming away to do this kind of holiday then you can expect to engage with people that have similar interests to you, but it all boils down to personality. If you click, it's brilliant and if you don't, then it could potentially be a disaster. Very fortunately for us we clicked from the first five minutes and that is no exaggeration. We were 10 in total - a bunch of positive sunnysiders from all over the place (5 Brits, 3 Swiss, a German and an Aussie) who were only too happy to muck in and help at every opportunity. Depending on who you travel with (or probably how much you pay), group trippin' often means that you undertake chores during your travels. "But that's no holiday!" I hear you wail, but realistically this is the only way to keep daily life ticking over. We were divided into small teams of two/three and rotated daily across four duties: cooking, washing, van-cleaning and a night off. But with a group that was so eager to be helpful, in reality none of us really had a night off or stuck vehemently to their assigned chore. What dedication! We also loaded and unloaded the van daily, set up camp (almost) every night at the different stops we made, shopped for groceries whilst sticking to a fairly tight budget and - probably the toughest job of them all - had to make sure the beer chiller (or "Eski" as it affectionately came to be known) was appropriately stocked at all times. Luckily, we were totally up for the job.

Fear not. I am most certainly not finished here; I will be talking more in-depth in posts targeting the group, the activities, the locations and the mischief we all got up to. Stay tuned!

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