Almost three weeks ago, Mummy took one look at my face and asked me out right:
“Why on earth did you book a camping trip anyway?!”
“I have no idea”, I groaned.
I never have been a fan of getting dressed while lying down, or of being in a semi-permanent state of “damp and soggy”, or of having a short hike in the pitch black to use the loo in the middle of the night. So, I can’t say I was overly excited about the prospect of camping through the Rocky Mountains, but boy was there an adventure waiting.
You sure know you’re camping in Canada when:
- You realise Canadians are truly wonderful people. They offer excellent customer service and they frequently stop to help a neighbour/foreigner out. They’re often keen to strike up a conversation, but can’t seem to tell the difference between and Aussie and an English accent. Despite assurances that I was definitely English, several Canadians defiantly told me that I’m “the best Australian” they’ve ever met.
- You realise that “Canadian English” is not the same as “English English”. When sourcing camping supplies I discovered that “jumper” actually means a jumpsuit and a “wash bag” means absolutely nothing at all. It will be met by an open mouth and a vacant facial expression. I also tried to source some ear plugs and asked a male assistant at the pharmacy for help. He promptly led me to the tampons. I paused for a moment to consider the use of tampons as ear plugs. He must have registered my apprehension as he chose that moment to disclose that he was in fact a trainee pharmacist.
- You teach Canadians the meaning of the word “palaver”, and explain how it applies to almost every aspect of camping.
- Camping turns out to be really cold. Despite it being the height of summer, every time you enter civilisation you stop to buy yet more winter clothes.
- You wear your fleece all day and all night, only removing it for a quick shower every now and again. Your camp mates nickname you: “DaFleece”.
- Headwear is IN. Whether it’s stetsons, touques (beanies) or baseball caps, never be without.
- An “easy” or “flat” hike involves stairs. A “moderate” hike involves scaling mountains, but don’t worry, “you won’t need any equipment”.
- Canoe is a genuine mode of transport. Turns out canoeing is v exhausting, so I recommend making friends with the nearest dishy canoe instructor and hope that they won’t mind paddling for you…
- You somehow find yourself celebrating your birthday in the wilderness with no toilets, showers or running water, with only a glacial lake for washing.
- Your behaviour is significantly modified in an attempt to avoid an unwanted encounter with a bear, elk, wolf or any other animal who might spoil the party. “Bear Aware” involves storing all food and toiletries miles from your tent (a palaver), singing when you bush pee, and straining dishwater after dinner (only to be left with something that resembles vomit).
- You forget to look behind you when you bush pee. There always seemed to be a rogue hiker higher up the mountain, to whom I accidentally bared my latest tan lines. I hope I never have to look them in the eye again.
- You come out of the toilet with a sudden panic that you’ve forgotten to flush. Relief follows as you remember that it was a pit toilet and that’s why you’re still breathing through clenched teeth.
- A nightclub has a mechanical bull instead of a dancefloor. The bull is constantly ridden by Tits McGee, a carefree woman dressed in denim hot pants and a lumberjack shirt that appears to be missing key buttons. Her seductive bull riding skills were exceptional and put the drunken male attempts to shame. She rested only to take the stage and sing Country songs on the karaoke.
- Every museum talks about railways. The trains are the longest I’ve ever seen. God help you if you get stuck at a level crossing, you’ll be there forever.
- A “short” drive is 300km. But don’t worry, you’ll never tire of watching bears or elk crossing the road and bald eagles flying over head. The road signs might keep you entertained too: “Beware: Fish Crossing” or “Road Closed Due to Toad Migration”.
- Place names are fairly self-explanatory: Big Hill, Long Road, Emerald Lake, Kicking Horse Pass, Coldwater or Whistler (named after “whistling” marmots who live there).
- “Mussels Inspection” is a genuine thing on waterways. Cue a bus load of people hanging their biceps out the windows as they drive past…
- You never bore of the awesome scenery. Icefields parkway is rated the world’s most scenic highway, and its epic. Glaciers, mountains, rivers, eagles soaring. Everything. Just remember to stay focused on the road.
So I survived the two-week camping trip that felt like a lifetime. While I absolutely loved the hiking, the scenery and the animals (at a distance), I think next time I might stay in one of those cute log cabins I spotted at the campsites. Hopefully that way I might be able to remove my fleece from time to time…