4am and the bus doesn’t turn up. There’s a drunk old man talking to me and showing me photos of his daughter from his wallet. I stand warily by the Beast, my suitcase, until he falls asleep and silence reigns.
An hour later, I’m on the bus and en route to the airport. I bid farewell to Montreal and hello to cowboy mad Calgary.
A strange city, with a mixture of weirdos, madmen, homeless and business people running about the place. I encountered one man who, at first, seemed sane before he started making words up, shaming me on not knowing said fabrications and lecturing me on UK politics.
I spent one night there. It was more than enough.
In order to escape, I had to experience Calgary’s Greyhound bus station. It was the most depressing and loneliest place I have encountered on Earth.
I was subjected to a security search for the first time before a bus ride and the driver thought he was the bee’s knees in the humour department, scaring me by saying my ticket was invalid and that the bus was heading east to Montreal. Ha…ha…no.
After a mercifully short journey, I arrived in Banff. There was no denying that I was in the Rockies. Mountains dwarfed the quaint town, with glacial blue rivers gushing by rich forests that were home to grizzly bears and elk.
Stunned by how much nature I was surrounded by (I’m a city girl born and bred), I made my way to the Samesun hostel where I had an interview. Lucky for me and my lack of hospitality experience, they were desperate for people and I got the front desk position. Easy as pie. I moved into the pit that was staff accommodation and set off to explore the rest of the town.
I quickly realised I wasn’t be prepared for life in the mountains. I have never hiked, let alone up a mountain, and consider it glorified walking. My current wardrobe consisted of acid pink jeans, a Marilyn Monroe top and platform trainers punctured with so many holes that I could feel every bump I went over.
I couldn’t knock it, until I tried it, however, so I ventured up Sulphur Mountain and yes, it was a lovely view of Banff at the top, but getting there was tedious at best. Particularly after making the acquaintance of a Wall Street banker on the way up.
A lovely view
To my surprise, I greatly misjudged my social skills, since on the way down I met a father/son duo who invited me to a whole weekend of hiking. Yay.
That being said, they took me to Johnston Canyon and Moriane Lake. We walked dreamlike trails, with streams bubbling to the side, moss covered tree trunks and tiny flowers dotting colour everywhere.
This was my first weekend in Banff and turned out to be one of many, since I spent three months there.
I don’t regret a single day. How could I? They were filled with beers in the park, seeing nocturnal elk while coming home drunk, karaoke, river floats, watching shooting stars, disc-golfing and all the other odd episodes that come with living in a hostel in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.
And I’m sure you’re all wetting yourselves wanting to know how I survived living in a hostel for so long. Basically, your banter game needs to be strong, as personal space doesn’t exist, and any fondness of hygiene needs to be surrendered and forsaken.
Within this pit of living conditions, I made fantastic friends and I find, from what I’ve experienced, travel friendships to be modern day tragedies. You are with someone solidly for a day, a week, a month or longer. It is fast, intense and immensely fun. Time is limited and so you throw yourself in, knowing there are no hidden agendas. Yet it’s over just as suddenly as it began, leaving you with this raging hangover over someone you’ve just met and may never see again, but you still miss them like mad.
Fortunately, I postponed a full friendship hangover when I left Banff, leaving with two great gals to begin an epic road trip through Canada and the States, with a pit stop in Mexico.