The Hitchhiker's Guide to Canada Day 23: Andrea

Ben Collins reveals his experience hitchhiking more than 1,000km from Banff, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia

The Pacific Ocean. In many ways I could not believe it and as the warm waters lapped at my legs I felt overwhelmed in pride knowing I had made it here from across a continent using only my thumb. It was a moment of both serenity and reflection...

...Though not wanting to skip too far ahead, my last journal post was written back in Banff, which begs the question how did I make it down to Vancouver? Well that story began two days ago.

With my sign ready and spirits high I left the hostel in Banff feeling pretty good. I had caught up on my sleep, had a few hot meals, done my laundry and was now ready once more to continue the journey West. Reaching the highway though, I had mixed feelings about moving on and whilst I was excited to be headed for Vancouver I was too quite saddened that I was already leaving these incredible mountains, with a small part of me questioning whether I should in fact stick around a little longer.

Given this thought, what happened next was rather odd.

So a car pulled over and recognising that it had an American number plate I figured my chances of getting a long distance ride were pretty good.

Sat inside was a young woman, perhaps in her late twenties or early thirties and introducing herself as Andrea she pulled out a map from the glove box and told me of her plans to head to Vancouver. However, instead of taking the direct route she told me how she planned on taking it easy over a couple of days, camping en route. Almost ironically, the route she set out covered the exact ground that Kilian and I had driven just a few days ago, though from Jasper she planned to head south via an alternative highway that would see her to Vancouver via the popular mountain town of Whistler.

Now like I said, given that moments ago I was questioning my readiness to leave the mountains, the opportunity to see them all over again was at the very least somewhat coincidental.

Nevertheless, I was as she spoke both wary and confused for I could not help but question whether a single woman should really be inviting random men from the side of the highway to go on spontaneous camping trips?

Unfortunately, this question remained rhetorical and unanswered because before having chance to think about it Andrea came out with what I think was the most brilliant set of questions I have been asked on this trip to date. In quick succession I was asked:
"Do you have drugs?" 
"Do you have booze?" 
"Are you going to murder me?"
Whilst taken a back by her questions, I did admire her somewhat frank approach.

Objective 18: To set foot on a glacier - COMPLETED 17th JULY 2012

And so responding with three "No's" that was that and over the next 48hrs Andrea and myself would come to pass over nearly 1,000km of Western Canada, for which there were for me five distinct highlights:

#5: Camping and taking my first ever crap in the woods: Perhaps more of a lowlight than a highlight, it was either way memorable as on both nights we ended up camping in less than suitable locations. The first night was spent between the highway and a high use, heavy goods freight line and the second night was down some trackway that had "death trap" written all over it. Neither were conducive to good sleep.

#4Entering the province of British Columbia (B.C). It doesn't matter where I have been in Canada, B.C has a hugely positive reputation. It is where everybody wants to flock to and have been looking forward to discovering if it is as good as everybody has made it out to be!

#3: Standing beneath Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

#2: Completing one of my travel objectives by setting foot on top of a glacier at the Columbia Icefield, mid way between Banff and Jasper.

#1: Spending nearly half an hour parked up alongside a Black Bear whilst it casually foraged on the roadside (footage to follow shortly)

Above all though it was a pleasure to be with Andrea where over the course of our two days together I got to hear a great deal about the journey she was embarking upon. On a life changing trip herself, Andrea took quite the gamble in doing this trip and whilst she was clearly mid-way through an awkward transition, I left her in Vancouver confident that she was not only on the right track but destined for a very bright future.


Andrea wrote in her blog:

"I trusted my gut picking him up. I can't explain it, I just knew within 20 seconds he would be my travel partner until Vancouver. There is no coincidence that I picked him up on the 17th, spending time so it was even that much more comfortable on my birthday. I spent my 35th birthday with a brilliant, young English bloke-to-be, seeing some of the most beautiful landscape thus far. It was all just meant to be." 

One thing Ben brought back into my life is laughter! I laughed more than I have ever laughed in my life as he swatted 30 something mosquitoes away while he was setting up his tent. Before starting on his trip, he had never experienced (mo' squi toes') before. He didn’t want to kill them because he thought of them as an “animal”. So he was constantly swatting…while his British irritation increased, so did my perception of the humor in the scene.