It’s noon and I’m sitting in a Subway ‘Restaurant’ in Riviere du Loup. It’s hard to describe how I feel right now. My eyes feel like they’ve been exfoliated. My head weighs a ton. My limbs ache. And my train doesn’t leave for Moncton until midnight.
As usual I left my travel plans until the last minute. I’m a procrastinator, particularly when it comes to change. When I asked Felix and Jan what word they would use to sum up their personalities Jan (the Leo) chose ‘Confused’ and Felix (the Virgo) opted for ‘Indecisive’. Apparently much of their journey so far can be summarized as
Jan: “What do you want to do?”
Felix: “I don’t know. Where are we?”
Jan: “I don’t know” (and repeat)
but as a result they’ve been meeting some fascinating people and having amazing experiences.
It’s not a bad description of my own journey, just kind of bouncing from place to place, not having any kind of clear plan beyond crossing Canada over 6 months and spending most of my time on farms. I thought that this would be a learning experience, but my goodness I had NO idea what a learning experience it would be. I will never look down on roaming travelers again. We may not appear to be doing anything useful, but the experiences we have are incredible. I feel so much more prepared for my new life than if I had just tried walking straight into it.
So back to the present. When I looked up the bus schedule on Lucies ‘Oh-my-God-poke-me-in-the-eye-slow’ internet it kept coming up with an error message so I tried calling Greyhound, then Acadian Lines. The very nice man told me that the bus came through Riviere du Loup at 4. Fabulous I thought, I’ll arrive at 10 and just hang out for a few hours. But then he clarified that it was 4am not pm. Urgh! I asked if any other buses went through but was told that no, the one bus a day was scheduled for the most ridiculous time in the world (that’s for you Jan).
So I tried plan B. The train. I went on the VIA rail website and instantly regretted it. I knew that I wanted to travel from Riviere du Loup but I wasn’t sure if the trains made any stops between Quebec and Fredericton. The VIA rail website is heavy on pictures, loads at a prehistoric pace, and heaven forbid you try to click on any of the links.
After 30 minutes of getting precisely nowhere I decided to just call them. Luckily Lucie had no need of my help during the morning because I was on hold for nearly 45 minutes. During which time I had the pleasure of listening to 30 second snippets of Bach interspersed with a recording of a friendly man helpfully telling me that VIA rail has a website and why don’t I check it out, because you can find all the information you need there. Grrr….
Finally I got to speak to a person who, as with all of my VIA rail telephone experiences, had the strongest French accent in the world (and again), could only just understand me and was, quite frankly, patronizing. Sorry buddy, but I don’t know where your bloody train stops because your sodding website sucks. Grrr, encore! Anyway, the final outcome of my conversation with him was that the train only went to Fredericton or Moncton and went through Riviere du Loup at Midnight. Then he told me that there was one discounted seat left (which may or may not have been true) and I just caved in and bought it. I was out of options and at least my train journey experiences have been positive so far. After all the crazy journeys I’ve made so far, hanging out in Riviere du Loup in subzero temperatures for over 12 hours didn’t sound that unbearable.
I’d just finished paying for my ticket when Lucie et Les Gars came in for lunch. I casually asked her what time we would be leaving tomorrow morning and she, equally casually, replied ‘4am’. I sat there mouthing expletives to Felix and Jan, which Lucie politely informed me she could see reflected in the window.
So, after we loaded up the truck ready for the journey today, I went straight to bed.
Actually that didn’t happen at all. That’s what a sensible person would have done. Instead I opened a bottle of beer, packed my bags to the sound of Elastica and Terrorvision (getting myself psyched for returning to the Maritimes), opened a second bottle of beer and played the piano better than I’ve done in a long time (I also speak better French when I’m drunk). Jan played his guitar with me and I got to enjoy, for one last time on this journey, the joy of making beautiful music with a cute young guy:-)
We wrapped up around 10pm at which point I went off to bed.
Oh no, that didn’t happen either. Alex and the guys had got out the ‘Gangsters’ game and Danieve and I just somehow ended up playing it too. Until after Midnight. About half way though my eyelids were dropping and I could hardly focus on the game but I rationalised with myself ‘I’m going to feel like shit tomorrow anyway’. Somehow I managed to win again (I’d told Felix earlier that I always win, but the poor boy didn’t believe me) and at that point I did head for the bedroom.
After hugging Alex who has the best sense of humour for a 16 year old (after our initial awkwardness, I’ve grown to love the little guy), and Jan who looked confused, and Felix who looked indecisive.
So there I was, tucked up in bed, wondering if it was possible for me to function on 3 hours sleep, when all hell broke loose in the room next door. Shaggy had, once again, moved into Felix’s bed and was snarling angrily at them when they tried to move her. I had shown Felix a couple of days ago that the best way to deal with a sleeping Pollox was just to grab him by the collar and drag him down the corridor. Shaggy on the other hand is a she-dog and you don’t argue with she-dogs, because you will not win. I tried tempting her, unsuccessfully, with meat, but then Alex turned up, picked her up in his arms and walked off with her. My hero:-)
I woke at 3am to the sound of my alarm and muttered expletives internally. Lucie, Danieve, Celine (Lucie’s Mom) and I had breakfast together and then we piled into the freezing car with a load of chicken in the trailer behind. They were heading to Gaspe for their biggest market of the year. I was heading back to the Maritimes.
I always feel a sense of loss just before I leave a farm. I will truly miss Lucie’s warmth and wisdom, Alex’s biting wit, Guillaume’s sweet nature, Danieve’s perpetual enthusiasm, Christian’s fascinating perspective and affection, Pollox’s constant adoration, Pirate’s energy, Shaggy’s protectiveness, Jan’s raw talent and humour and as for Felix, he may be far too young for me, but I’m an absolute sucker for musicians and I’ll readily admit to fancying the pants off him anyway.
For every place in the world there is a word that sums up its essence. I believe that Quebec’s word is ‘liberated’ and, for this week at least, my word was one and the same.
p.s. after 4 hours in a Tim Hortens I conceded that it was physically impossible for me to stay keep myself awake until Midnight, so I decided to treat myself to a warm bed and a hot shower at an Auberge. I still feel like death warmed up, but at least I don’t smell bad.