13.05.2011 - 13.05.2011
Entry 16 Fri 13th May
Today’s plan was a walk across the brightly named Rainbow Bridge to Canada and on to the Greyhound station for a several hour journey to a small town near Detroit where I would get picked up by my cousin's friend. All planned at the very last minute of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The night before I had hastily Googled the route from the hostel to the Canadian bus station and I was confident I could walk it. As you can maybe already tell from how I’m phrasing this; it wasn’t as easy as I had presumed.
I knew the first part of the journey to the bridge because I’d already done it. I walked from the hostel to said bridge and across it. The next portion was aided by a few notes I had expertly created in a draft text message on my phone, consisting of a few street names that I should turn on. I had no means to print any decent directions so these basic self-made instructions had to do. Sure I could have maybe gotten some paper and made some half decent directions and notes but where’s the fun in that? In the bright-lit room with Sensible and Smart that’s where.
This blog entry has been majorly delayed as I’ve been busy (having the time of my life) but I also think in part because I didn’t want to have to revisit this journey. I’ve been hurt deep. I needed some time before I could reimagine and retell possibly the worst walk of my life.
A few things contributed to make this walk horrific. Let me now tell you them, undoubtedly to your amusement.
This day was HOT. I mean really hot. One of the hottest days I’d encountered on my trip so far and I’d already had some great weather. Another big factor was because my backpack was so tightly packed I had to wear my bulkiest, heaviest and therefore warmest clothes just so I could zip the bag up. And thirdly, the entire second half of the walk was uphill.
My chosen outfit consisted of my hiking boots, black heavy combat pants, t-shirt, jumper, and of course my trusty hat. 20KG backpack on my back, 6KG daypack on my front and…and, why did I do this…a carrier bag around my wrist full of sweets and crisps (I was craving them the night before and I didn’t finish them but I couldn't bear to leave them behind). So I was fully clothed for winter and majorly compressed in between large heavy luggage. I looked like a melting Oreo.
I’d like to point out that I didn’t know how hot it was before I set off. I woke up and got ready according to the best bag fit. The weather had been crap here so I had no reason to think otherwise. I realised it was hot as soon as I left but I didn’t think I would have any trouble and so continued on not too concerned for my health and wellbeing. (You can see how much it hurts me to tell this story and why I’ve put it off)
The first part to the bridge was okay, it was hot but I was doing okay. I turned right after the bridge and began walking into the unknown except for a few street names on my phone. The street started to get steeper, and steeper. I’m sweating just retelling this story; my body remembers it and is stressed at the thought of it. I just smartly removed the pillow from behind me so I won’t be sleeping with my face on a back-sweat-filled pillow later tonight.
Anyway I started to struggle; all four straps were starting to pull down on my shoulders now after about 30 minutes and I started to hope I was close to my main turn to the bus station. I passed uphill street after uphill street and still did not see the street name I was looking for. Journeys always seem so much longer when you don’t know where you’re going. After around 30 minutes of uphill walking I was starting to get weary; everywhere was sweating. My hat had created a furnace within it from the hot sweat off my head. I’m glad my hat has holes in it or I probably would have passed out; at least some heat could escape. The fact that I had two big heavy bags compressed onto me made me even hotter, body heat and sweat couldn’t really escape the same way. I started to think I had to stop somewhere to rest. Then I got the usual male self-conscience messages of ‘Stop?! What if you were in the army? You’ve only been walking 45 minutes!’’ Yeah. Et cetera..
I carried on for another 10 minutes or so before I had to say screw you to my inner drill sergeant and I collapsed on to a stone wall at the bottom of a garden. The feeling as the weight of the backpack disappeared from my back on to the wall was incredible. I took off the front bag but left the big pack on as it would require too much effort to take off and put back on again. I despairingly looked ahead up the street and cursed my carrier bag full of snacks for a few minutes before gearing back up and heading off UP the street.
I had to stop one more time before the street finally levelled off. I would admit if I was totally unfit (I was moderately fit) but this was annoyingly hard work. The bags, the heat, the uphill walk, no water (Just freaking crisps!) All contributed to an effing hard walk. I was worried that I had missed my turn or if i was on the wrong street so I asked someone in their garden who thankfully told me my intended street was indeed further along. To cut the rest short I walked another 15 minutes or so and turned left and the bus station was only another 5 minutes away. I walked in and went straight to the counter to get my ticket. I was still early, even though it had taken me about an hour and a half; I had set off in plenty of time because the Greyhound website said you need to pick your ticket up at least an hour before departure. So I was still 30 minutes or so early.
I now had a dilemma – horribly sweaty and a long bus journey ahead, versus a full backpack and not long before departure. I had to get changed; I’d confront the backpack situation once I was changed. I went to the toilets just stripped off. Sweat was visible right through to my outer grey jumper. A massive dark patch on my chest (I never sweat there normally – the daypack compressed on to me did the job though) and my back was basically just a black jumper. So I stripped off, washed in the sink and dug out a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. It felt like I’d been born again. I put my sweaty clothes and boots in the carrier bag as they had no chance of fitting in my backpack.
Hellish walk over, it was time for a nice relaxing bus journey. On we all get an I have two seats to myself woop. Oh great, someone has a baby with them. It’s just a ticking time bomb until it starts to fit out and scream & cry and be more unwanted than a virgin loving terrorist. Of course it did indeed start to scream not long in to the journey. I was prepared for this and I had my laptop open so I popped in my earphones and put some music on instantly. Shortly after I could see person after person popping in earphones, it was funny - after like five minutes the entire bus had earphones on listening to music to avoid hearing the crying baby. I could still hear the muffled sounds of the baby under the music. I know it sounds harsh but if the bus had a vote to throw it out of the window, I think I would have been the man to step up and perform the task. For the good of the bus.
I’d hate to be the parent of a crying baby in public because they must know that everyone now hates them and their baby and is considering how to oust them. Evolution and natural selection did a great job overall; sure I’m thankful for consciousness and eyesight etc. but screaming babies when they don’t even need anything? Really? Come on.
Another bus goer of note was a half a man. No legs whatsoever, nothing from the waist down it seemed. I was already sat down when he got on the bus; he caught my attention when I saw him out of the corner of my eye dragging himself by his hands along the bus floor to his seat to which he climbed up on to. It kind of shocked me to see a half man come out of nowhere dragging himself along the floor. I didn’t know if I’d missed a bomb go off or what. He had a big smile on his face so I relaxed again and enjoyed the ride.
The journey was pretty uneventful. I saw a drive-thru beer store which I thought pretty hilarious. I arrived at my destination, a small Canadian town near the border and was greeted by one of my cousin’s friends who had been given a description of me to look out for. ‘A backpacker in a hat’ I imagine. We drove through to America after a few security questions at the border and headed to a bar/restaurant in Detroit for some food with the guy’s wife and my cousin. We had a nice meal – far too much food for me, I could only manage like half of it. Luckily as with everywhere in America, I could take away my food in a nice box to have later. I went back to my cousin Sarah’s and crashed out after a long tiring day.