Monday, September 13

Back to Basics

Well, back to basics for a little while, anyway. I've been in the Banff National Parks for the last week and a half, and for about half that time, in rustic hostels. That's just a poetic way of saying a hostel with no running water or electricity. Before I left Jasper, I was planning on camping out for a bit, but the combination of rainy and cold weather changed my mind. Doing the rustic thang was a nice way to get back to nature, though not quite as extreme as tenting it. And of course, using an outhouse is always an adventure in it's own right. I won't go into too many details, but suffice to say, people back in the day must have been good at holding their breath.

I actually left Jasper a little earlier than I thought. One of the guys that I was staying with while I was there brought some buddies over. I mentioned the show Trailor Park Boys earlier, and these guys were straight from it. Complete with lots of (really) racist slurs. And yes, they were from the Maritimes. Don't get me wrong, the guy that lives there is both super nice and super cool, but why he hangs out with those guys I do not understand. No doubt I'm too touchy for my own good, but after having to say for the 15th time that I didn't feel like getting plastered with them, I was ready to scream. Again, I know I'm way too touchy for my own good, but I just wasn't feeling comfortable there. So I made my exit as swiftly as possible the next day.

The hostel was a nice way to get my marbles back in order. In order to save a couple of bucks (the price doubled in the 3 years since my last time there), I made a deal with the manager where I chopped wood for two hours a day and stayed free of charge. And believe me when I say that a few hours of swinging an axe is a much more intense workout then you get on any machines. Most of the nights were spent playing cards by candle light, which again made me think of what life was like a hundred years ago. On my last trip out west I spent three weeks straight in these sort of hostels (there are quite a few of them in the parks here), and I've always had good times while I'm at it.

I got a ride a bit farther south with a german guy that was staying at the hostel. We ended up doing a hike together later that day. The trail was very popular (and pretty), and we ended up joining a couple from California that we met in the parking lot. They were extremely nice, and had a really great sense of humor, but every time the husband spoke, I had a hard time to keep a straight face. To understand why, you'd have to have watched a bit of South Park. He was raised in Iowa, and (aside from having a bit of a deeper pitch) he sounded very much like Mr. Hanky the Christman Pooh. Again, very nice guy, but alot of the time I was having a hard time to keep a grin off my face. And seeing as how our hike together lasted for about five hours, I couldn't help but slip up and giggle once or twice. Don't get me wrong, the accent isn't really bad, it's just that I'd never heard it in person before. But if all Americans were as nice as them, the country wouldn't have a bad rep at all.

Afterwards, I got dropped off in Banff, where I've been for almost a week now. To be honest, I'm having the same problem here that I had the first time I went to Jasper. That being, I still want to travel, but part of me wants to stick around. When I first got here, I signed up for a program where I do four hours of cleaning a day and stay at the hostel for free. Not a bad deal when the rate for a bed is $35 a night (the most expensive hostel that I've ever seen). They put me in the staff accomodation for as long as I do this, and as a result, I got to know the people that work here very quickly. They're all very nice, and I've been having a great time here hanging out with all of them. All of this is starting out exactly as things went in Jasper, but the difference is that that time I ended up taking the job offered to me, and staying for 4 months. But no matter how tempting it is, there's no way that I'm going to do the same thing here. If I'm going to settle down anywhere for more than a week or two, it's going to be in Europe. Staying here would be more like rehacking the past.

On a bit of an aside, I was out hiking a few days ago, for what I thought was just a few kilometers. It was getting late, but the hike that I was planning wasn't very far at all, so I didn't expect any problems. At one point, I was passing a lake that was a bit further down the cliff, so I climbed down to walk along the water for a bit before going back up to what I thought was the same path. Needless to say, it wasn't the right one, and ended up being much longer. Before long, I was wandering around the woods with no light what-so-ever. Luckily I managed to stick to a path (I'm not even sure which one it was) by feel more than anything else, and somehow ended up on an old paved road. I managed to flag down a car and got a ride back to town. And yes, for a while there (I was in the dark for about an hour and a half) I was very scared. The reason that I'm mentioning this is that quite a few of you have asked me how in hell I don't get scared out of my wits, given some of the shit that's happened from time to time on this trip. First off, I know that I'm more than just slighted touched in the head to be doing this sort of thing in the first place, but more importantly, yes, sometimes I do get scared. I just don't talk about it much. One other time that I was scared this trip was hitch hiking back from the N.W.T. last month, when I was stuck in the middle of nowhere for seven hours straight, being eaten alive by black flies (which is, incedentally, the main reason that I've been trying to avoid hitch hiking ever since). And yes, I've resolved to more careful in the future.

I was considering going to Calgary after I leave here, but certainly not for the sake of the city itself. Calgary is, now officially, my least favorite city in Canada (I've now been to all of them). I really don't like that place at all. It's the ultimate cowboy town, a mini Texas in every way minus the guns. On top of that, for a city it's size (about one million people), the locals act more like it's a town of ten million. Everyone's in a rush to get nowhere. A mad rush. As well, it's growing faster than any other place in Canada. I heard somewhere that the population grows by 3000 people a month. As a result, it's piss poor planned - urban sprawl at it's best. The reason that I planned on going was that my uncle lives there (it would be rude to be this close without stopping in to say hello), as well as an old friend. However, up until now, I still havn't tracked down said friend, and no offense to my uncle, but I just don't feel up to going there for one reason alone. So I'll likely just catch a bus (yes, a bus) to B.C., probably just across the border to a town called Golden. I'm thinking that I'll leave Wednesday.

On a closing note, I know that this is a long post, but I havn't posted in a while (the whole no-electricity thing), and got a few emails asking where I was. To be honest, due to the lack of comments, I was wondering if anyone was still reading this :) I know the entries are long, but I can type fast, so I usually don't even notice how much I've written. And also, most of the people who complained are freakin' university graduates, for crying out loud! Cripes! When did we all get so lazy? =P


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the no comments thing. Even more trafficked blogs get about 50 or so comments, and only about a handful aren't spam.
What do you want you hear about?

4:58 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mostly, the lack of comments just had me wondering if i was writing to myself and no one else (i knew my friend norm was reading it, but that was it). i've been trying to keep it reasonably easy to read, but if it was only for myself, i might go getting lazy. still, i've heard from a bunch of people who are indeed keeping up on it, so it's all good. but if anyone wants to share some stories, feel free :)

8:30 p.m.  

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