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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
the Green Tortoise website