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A selfie - Date unknown Nikki Bayley.
10 April 2017
Winnipeg to Vancouver by Train Through a Blizzard


Western Canada - Try as you might, you can never plan for Mother Nature.
 
We'd not anticipated so much snow so late in the year.
 
Boarding VIA Rail's "Canadian" train in Winnipeg, on the way home to Vancouver, bundled up against an icy cold snap, I'd been dreaming of seeing the snow capped Rocky Mountains soaring high against a bluebird sky.
 
No such luck.
 
A combination of unseasonably harsh weather and bad luck running up against goods train delays had us running almost twelve hours late.
 
Instead of passing through the Rockies in blazing daylight, we trundled through them under cover of darkness.
 
But instead of that one wonderful iconic Canadian view, I got to soak up a whole world I never knew existed.
 
The snow flurries were dumping powder hard, the tops of fence posts poked hopefully through deep drifts like early spring daffodils.
 
The late afternoon sun strobed through slender birch trees, its golden light blanketing the crisp frozen landscape in an apricot glow.
 
I sat and stared, wrapped in a blanket with a hot chocolate in my hand, safe and warm in the glass domed Observation Car as, blizzarding now, flurries of fine powder whited-out the windows as the sun filtered through.
 
It was a curious sensation, like being enveloped in pinky-gold steam.
 
Then the blizzard would pass and the frozen world of Canada in winter would be revealed.
 
Tree trunks shiny with the sunlight, perfect untouched drifts carved into smooth curves by the wind, the entrance to an isolated ranch turned into a monochrome snow scene guarded by two spindly trees glowing copper, for all the world like an olde-time retouched photo.
 
A dainty caramel-coloured deer picking its way through the trees, our eyes met as she looked up and stared, before nimbly bouncing off into the forest.
 
The more slender trees leaned a little, all buffeted by the wind, a Group of Seven painting come to life.
 
And as always when confronted with the frozen inexorable majesty of the deep snow and brutal Canadian winter, just a dizzying sense of awe at the strength and resilience of the first peoples who lived here without Canada Goose parkas, houses, double glazing, and hot drinking chocolate.
 
I sat up through the night, hoping perhaps to see something of the mountains, or maybe even the Northern Lights, but instead I saw silent ghost trees arrow-straight like totems planted in the ground standing witness to the might, and the height, and the wonder, of the mountains that I could not see.
 
Teasing now, the moon rode behind scudding clouds, the snow dappled pearly grey, and still the mountains stayed hidden.
 
Sure, you can't plan for Mother Nature, but on this most magical of train journeys, you can always expect to be amazed by the secrets that she chooses to share with you.
 
Nikki Bayley.

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