When people think of Ireland, they might think of Guinness, music or even Leprechauns, but did you know that Ireland has a King?
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Travel Articles
An Unusual Way to Travel

How do I get to Vancouver? That was the question on my mind as I sat in the Backpacker's hostel in Las Vegas. I could take the Greyhound bus, but I wanted to do something different. I had tried the Auto Driveaway company but they had nothing going that way. As I pondered this problem, an Australian lady handed me a brochure for the Green Tortoise bus service. Of course! I thought. I had totally forgotten about them. I took it the previous year from San Francisco to LA. This would certainly be different, and there was a service from LA to Seattle the next night. From there I could hop on a bus to Vancouver. So I phoned the number and booked a place. In fact it was around the same price as the Greyhound.

The next day I caught the shuttle bus to LA. I stood, along with a couple of friends, at the roadside in Santa Monica waiting for our tortoise to arrive. The Green Tortoise is not your average bus service. It's a tour company for the more adventurous traveller. Normally it runs long length tours across the States and through all the national parks. The longest tour is about 28 days and goes all the way to Alaska. What is unique about the Green Tortoise is that there are no seats. Instead you sleep on foam mattresses spread over a raised floor. Up where the luggage racks should be are two rows of bunk beds. The bus is always full of people from all walks of life, and due to the way that everyone is sat together, you get to make many new friends. For the first night my friend and I commandeered two of the top bunks. We slept head to head, partly so we could talk, but also because I'm sure that she wouldn't have wanted my smelly feet in her face, and vice versa.

After picking up some more people we headed off for the first part of the trip, overnight to San Francisco. We arrived early in the morning and had eleven hours to kill before heading off again. I collected the things I needed and left the rest on the bus. The Green Tortoise company also has a couple of hostels: one in Seattle and the other in San Francisco. For two dollars they allow you to take a shower and use the hostel facilities for the day. So, showered and refreshed, I set out for the Golden Gate park with Austin, one of the guys from the bus. My two friends had left the bus and were staying in the city.

At 8.00 p.m. we headed off for the second part of the journey. We would arrive in Seattle twenty-four hours later. As I got on, the driver told me that they would be stopping the next morning at some remote place in Oregon for breakfast. It was in a site that was owned by the company and along with cooking facilities, there was a sauna alongside a creek. A small charge was made for the breakfast and it was optional. I figured that I might as well go for it. I didn't fancy being sat there after a long night, looking longingly at other people's food and hoping for scraps just because I had been too tight to pay the small charge. This time I stayed down below in the social section. When everyone was awake we sat in a big circle, and at night we would all sleep like sardines in a tin. It might not sound all that comfortable, but let me tell you it's better than sleeping in a normal bus.

When I awoke, we were at our breakfast place. The temperature had dropped since San Francisco. The sky was also thick with ominous looking cloud. It seemed the further north I went, the worse the weather became. The driver said that there would be some time before breakfast was ready, and we could go take a sauna and have a swim in the creek. Somehow the latter wasn't all that appealing to me, and the sauna sounded nice but getting out afterwards didn't. Instead, I decided to take a look around. I found my way out of the clearing and onto the main road. It was a very beautiful, but desolate area. The creek ran parallel to the small country road and it made quite a refreshing change from the congested five lane carriageways that I had mostly seen in America. It was very peaceful, indeed. I was wandering along the road, listened contentedly to the sound of the river flowing and the birds singing, when I suddenly had a thought. This is where Grizzly Bears are found, isn't it? I remembered reading about areas like this in the guidebook. It warned you to be careful of bears and other such dangerous animals. It also explained what you should do if you encounter a bear. Apparently, you must stand your ground, stand tall and act threatening. It's as simple as that. Well I'm sorry, but I don't think so. When faced with a large Grizzly Bear that could rip your face off with one swipe of its paw, I'm hardly about to say: "Yeah, come and try it, if you think you're hard enough!" I'd more than likely turn and run for my life.

With that thought in mind, I returned to the others and had breakfast. After another day of travelling we arrived in Seattle and checked into the hostel there. The trip had been fun and I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of adventure. I had arrived in Seattle with a whole new bunch of friends and the realisation that I had actually been able to sleep on a bus for two nights running.

Visit the Green Tortoise website

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