Trek America part III – reporting straight from Holland

It’s been a while since I last posted, and there’s a good reason for that: my memory is terrible and I can barely remember what happened on the Trek America trip to the Canadian Rockies in September – and in what order. But I have a little helper in my blog writing today: Thomas! As you might remember (or know, if you were on the trip), Thomas is the Dutch guy who likes wearing checked shirts. I have since seen his wardrobe and counted them – he has eight. And a pair of checked trousers, but I will be making sure they stay in the wardrobe.

Anyway, another thing you should know about Thomas is that he has an incredible memory. In my last post I got several dates and activities mixed up, and this has upset him greatly, so I am going to be editing it so it’s correct – and writing the following installments of the Trek America trip with his help. So here I am, in Holland, blonde beer in hand and surrounded by lots of confused Dutch people, tapping out the blog with Thomas’s help.

So where did I finish the last post on the Canadian Rockies Trek America trip? Oh yes, not being asked for ID when I bought Bailey’s. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that the Bailey’s didn’t last very long at all – especially when I bought hot chocolate and made it with two parts Bailey’s, one part chocolate powder and one part hot milk. Amazing.

Next on the agenda was Wells Gray – a national park centred around adventure and outdoor activities. We met up with our tour guide, Heather, a South African girl who told us a delightful story about how she once used a pit toilet in Belize and fell in. She decided to go into a lot of detail when she told us this story. I won’t go into it, but let’s just say it involved a lot of maggots.

Anyway, Heather first of all took us to see some upstream salmon trying to fly over rocks. She told us most of them don’t make it and they die. The rest get caught and barbequed in Teriyaki sauce.

As usual in these places, there was a public pit toilet that you could smell from 50 metres away, so we took turns to pee 55 metres away from the pit toilets, in the bushes (I discovered that 50m away from every pit toilet in the country is a tree surrounded by toilet paper and stinking of pee. Hence the 55m). We then got back in the van to drive to our next destination – the canoe centre. The plan was to pair up, get in canoes and paddle across a lake for two and a half hours to a remote piece of land that is inaccessible apart from by boat.

I squeezed the biceps of all the boys to see who the best canoe partner would be. Unfortunately Tristan, outdoor enthusiast and canoe instructor, was taken by Erin. And Grant had already picked Julia. Kenneth was part of a couple. The only boy left was Thomas. So I was stuck with him and his zig zag canoeing skills. We were soon being called a married couple by the rest of the group, as we bickered the whole way. Him saying I wasn’t doing anything, and me saying his steering was terrible. We had the booze cooler though – and thinking that was a good thing to be carrying was the only thing we agreed on. We needed it.

Being a competitive group, we raced most of the way and got there much quicker than Heather had expected us to. I think they base their timings on the elderly and infirm.

Arriving at our campsite, which consisted of a couple of benches, a fire pit and – oh joy – a pit toilet, felt like we were in a scene from Lost. There was nowhere to run from the bears here.

The first half hour was spent wrestling each other – literally – for the flattest, softest spot to pitch our tents. Tristan had the best spot, cos he’s good at that sort of thing, and Thomas and Grant nicked our spot because we were too slow at pitching the tent. In the end we found what seemed like a great spot – which turned out to be on a slope, and I spent the night wriggling up the tent from the corner. I also managed to put the cap of my water bottle on wrong and woke up in the morning to jokes that I’d peed the tent. The funny thing is that the same evening, we’d played ‘I have never’ and discovered that three people in the group had had experience of a partner peeing in the bed. Lovely.

Talking of that evening, it was possibly the most drunken and eventful of them all. We found out a lot (too much) about everybody, and with more alcohol came more sordid details. It was just as two of the group started to strip off to go skinnydipping in the freezing cold lake that I decided to slink off to bed.

The next morning the rest of the group was too hungover to get out of bed, so Kathryn and I went for a wander in the woods. It didn’t last very long – too much talk of bears and thoughts of breakfast.

We left straight after breakfast – another canoe trip across the lake. Back in the van, we warmed up and started driving to Wells Gray Ranch, where we were promised steak and beers. On the way we stopped at a waterfall, next to which we cooked hotdogs – with onions and everything. I must admit I barely glanced at the waterfall – the lure of hot dogs far too enticing.

When we got to the ranch, we were given the choice of a free upgrade to a cabin. Sounds luxurious and romantic, doesn’t it? The room had 10 beds, no lights and lots of cobwebs. But it was one degree warmer than the tents, and it had rectangles of foam covered in plastic, which was better than lying on the hard ground with just a skimpy yoga mat.

That night was filled with the promised steak and beer, plus hot chocolate, a warm bar and most importantly, wifi. I quickly shot off an email to my mum. Didn’t want her thinking I was lying dead in a ditch. Again.