Grand Rapids to Thompson/Thompson to Churchill
We woke up after a decent night’s sleep at about 8am happy that we were leaving this miserable, empty town. Much to our dismay, the hot water stank of egg and the shower mat was soaking wet and cold (urgh)! I was also walked in on by another camper due to the lack of locks on the doors – fortunately, I saved my dignity and had a towel on at the time! We felt a little cleaner than smelling of fire but not quite as clean as we would’ve liked. And finally it was time to leave for bigger and better things (yay)!
Our 1st stop was Pisew Falls which is Cree for Lynx as it is the habitat for the Lynx (we didn’t see any unfortunately). It had a long boardwalk with a couple of nice viewing spots for the enormous gushing waterfall! We then headed onto our 2nd stop which I didn’t realise was also a provincial park (you have to pay to park), so we just took a few photos of the lake and surrounding landscapes and then carried on our way to Thompson.
We arrived into Thompson at about 2pm and filled our bellies with food at Tim Horton’s where the trainee staff got completely confused about what we were ordering due to her limited English and the machine being broken – it got sorted out in the end thankfully with some help from someone else! Whilst we were eating we overheard some guys talking about a man who had been walking in Churchill (Polar Bear land) and instead of running away when he came across a Polar Bear he decided it would be a great idea to stop and take a picture (bearing in mind he was not inside anything at the time) and of course the inevitable happened and the Polar Bear attacked him.
We thought it might be worth investing in a phone sim card in case anything happened on the rest of our travels, however, much to our dismay, due to Canada being so big and all it wouldn’t have worked with pay and go. Sim’s here only work locally unless you get a pay monthly deal but then you have to have a permanent address and credit check etc and it’s all a bit complicated so we didn’t bother.
We then spent forever trying to find the campsite where we could safely park our car whilst we were away in Churchill because the Lonely Planet guide got the address completely wrong which meant we ended up knocking on someone’s door and confusing a poor lady! Anyway, we found it in the end after going back to Tim Horton’s for internet. We arrived there to find the owners weren’t in and then spent the next hour together with a young girl living in the house trying to contact them so that we could get a lift to the station. Fortunately, they had just been loading planes down near the river and were back in perfect time for us to pay and get to the station.
Exchanging our paper reservations for tickets took ages as well as the there was only 1 ticket lady and she wasn’t there for most of the time we were waiting! Just before we boarded our 16-hour train, there was a massive thud behind us and we turned around to find an older guy on the floor not moving. After a minute we noticed blood and he began shaking – it was pretty scary to see, no one really knew what to do, I thought he must be having some sort of seizure or something. A fair few people gathered to help and the ambulance arrived within about 10 minutes – beats any ambulance in the UK that’s for sure!
The train timetable was pretty easy to understand in the station. One train to Churchill every Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 5pm and one train to Winnipeg every Monday, Thursday & Friday at 2pm. The train itself was actually pretty spacious, good leg room and reclining chairs which could be seen as either a bad thing when someone in front put theirs back or good if you can recline. As we’d booked the cheapest ticket there were no sleeper carriages for us but all said, as people got off the train and less people got on we managed to nab a 4 seater area and turned them into beds.
The train initially seemed to go forwards and then went backwards and then forwards, it was all very confusing but we trusted that it was going in the right direction! And to make it more fun it was a real tootie train. As soon as we saw others eating take away on the train, we immediately thought we’d made a big mistake and that we weren’t going to be having any dinner, however, much to our delight there was a call for dinner not too long after. The dinner was incredible and actually pretty cheap which was wonderful news for us – I had parmesan chicken and Tim had a pot roast, followed by apple pie and it only cost us $16 each! The waitress told us about how her brother went to Liverpool Uni because he loves the Beatles, but she hasn’t seen or heard many things from him other than pictures of him partying on Facebook!
We initially thought the train was direct to Churchill, but turns out it stopped quite a lot, meaning people got home at silly hours of the early morning. We spent a good many hours next to this young girl who was already being too loud, who then invited another lady to sit with her as she didn’t have a seat. They then proceeded to chat a lot, drink a lot (which you’re not allowed to do unless in the dining cart) and then exchange drugs meanwhile not making it very discreet at all! The young girl then starts telling this woman her whole life story and about how she used to be a drug addict and all this weird stuff – not really sure why you would share that with a stranger or speak loud enough for the entire carriage to hear!
The train eventually got a lot quieter once all the kids had stopped running up and down the aisle; playing hide & seek behind our chairs and had gone to sleep. We managed to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from our window too – it was only a small green slither moving around but it was still pretty awesome!