Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Regina, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, Manitoba; 566 KM, 9 Hours

I woke up at 6:00 AM excited about the next leg of my journey, although now that I've finished it I'm not sure why. Whereas the first leg of my journey to get to Regina was much longer, it was broken up into three distinct sections: the trip from Grande Prairie to Edmonton, Edmonton to Saskatoon, and then Saskatoon to Regina. This part of the journey was only a small hop of 566 km, but because I was taking the "local bus" through all of the small towns, the trip ended up taking 9 hours, and consisted of basically nothing but Saskatchewan prairies. I shouldn't be too harsh on Saskatchewan though, for after riding through the wheat fields for over ten hours they have grown on me, as has the province itself.

I once considered Saskatchewan the most boring province in Canada (I haven't been to PEI yet), but while there may not be much to "do" or "see" there, that is missing the point. Perhaps because there isn't that much in Saskatchewan by which to get distracted the people are more interested in one another, and as I've mentioned before I noticed a strong sense of community even in Regina, the province's second largest city. (Note: I've since been told that I am wrong about Regina, but in my defence I was staying in "the good area" around the University, so I can only rate what I saw.)

Before I continue on with my journey I would like to commend the Saskatchewan Transit Company (STC) bus station on being a first rate facility, with by far the friendliest staff I've come across in any of my travels on buses in Canada. Furthermore, I enjoyed my ride with the STC bus company - free Wi-Fi on the bus! - and would urge anyone travelling in Saskatchewan to employ its service over the Greyhound's whenever possible. Furthermore, If you're a senior citizen your ticket is only $10, and I believe students ride for about $16. But now back to the trip...

Our bus was scheduled to depart Regina for Winnipeg at 10:30 AM, but we were not allowed to even board the bus until 10:45. At 10:55 AM we finally rolled out of the station with the first scheduled break not until 4:30 PM in Brandon, Manitoba.

Point of interest alert: Shortly after leaving Regina we came to the tiny town of Indian Head, which is where the CBC TV show "Little Mosque on the Prairie" is filmed. Having only watched the show once or twice, I couldn't recognize anything of significance in the town that would have clued me in to its fame. I did, however, notice a grain elevator which I thought I should photograph since Grain Elevator Granny was gone, and had a huge head start on her collection on me.

In fact, I've now taken up the "Grain Elevator Challenge" and will create a blog to showcase my grain elevator pictures, as well as those from any readers who would like to contribute their grain elevator photos to the cause. My efforts have not gone unnoticed either; a rather kind fellow from Newfoundland travelling beside me commented that he should have brought his camera along so that he could document the journey as well.

As I've mentioned before, Saskatchewan is as flat and as yellow as all the jokes make it out to be. And as the bus neared and then crossed into Manitoba it was almost as though the grass instantly started to become a little greener, and the gaps between the trees fewer and smaller in distance. And then, just as we reached the outskirts of Brandon, a small hill appeared and I felt like cheering.

One exceptional point to be made about Manitoba is how low the telephone poles are, especially those alongside the railroad tracks. Without embellishing in any way, I would say that the lines next to the highway are less than half the height of those found anywhere in Alberta.
Petrol Price Update: It's official; Saskatchewan is a province of pinko socialists. The price of regular gasoline was a standard $1.079/L everywhere in the province right up until the border of Manitoba, where it immediately dropped to $1.039/L. A little while later in Brandon it was down to $0.969/L, and even as low as $0.949 in Portage la Prairie. Later however, it creptback up to $0.989 in Winnipeg, but I'm not sure why.

I was hoping to be able to walk to the hostel from the bus depot in Winnipeg, but a new depot had been built at the airport, and so I had to take a bus into town. Despite the questionable judgement of Greyhound for building the terminal at the airport (poor people don't fly, do they?, so why would they need the Greyhound to go to the airport?) I enjoyed the bus ride home and every stop was called out by a fairly low quality digitalised approximation of a woman's voice. This reminds me of my time in Seoul, where not only were the stops called out/displayed on the LED board in the bus, but at major stops a board informed waiting passengers of how long they should wait until their next bus comes. Interestingly enough, the buses themselves are exactly the same kind of buses used in Edmonton, Alberta (I recognize them from my University days).

The neatest part of the trip so far has to be meeting my room-mate for tonight, George. George is a naturalised New Zealand citizen who is basically mirroring my cross-Canada trip, but ending up in Newfoundland. He has also been up to Dawson City, Yukon via Grande Prairie, so he knew about my home town, which is also neat. The most interesting part about George though is that he is rich. He owns 12 bridal stores world-wide, not including 8 more in New Zealand. In a fort-night's time he will be opening another store in London. Despite all of this money, he says he travels in hostels because this is how he can meet real people.

In one of the biggest coincidences since I met a fellow Grande Prairian in a hostel in Scotland, it turns out that George had actually been staying in the Regina hostel with me, in the same room even. However, because he didn't get in until after I had gone to bed, and then left just before I rose in the morning, we didn't know it. We're also travelling in the same direction and in a few nights from now we will both be in the HI-Toronto hostel at the same time. If I see him again, I will make sure to make note of it here.

Now it's time for me to get to bed. Tune in next time for more daring adventures, more funny stories, more petrol prices, more Three Times A Canadian.

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