Being aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is a lot like being on a cruise ship. There’s an overarching emphasis on pampering the travelers. Each train car has legions of people waiting on you hand and foot and pointing out that osprey nest that is coming up around the corner, or the big horn sheep trotting by.
Oh, yeah — there’s also a lot of focus on food and drink.
Every car has its own white tablecloth dining room and kitchen. You get seated with other travelers in your car — so far, we’ve broken bread with a couple from Florida and a couple from Germany — and you order your main course off the menu while they bring you other treats, like the fruit concoction pictured above that we got at breakfast. It was a kind of delicious combination of orange juice and fruit sections, topped with a plump, juicy, tart gooseberry. Not a bad way to start your breakfast!
In addition to the two sit-down meals, you’re also plied with snacks and as many drinks as you can inhale, the better to appreciate the scenery rolling by. It’s a pretty civilized way to travel. Call it truising — or maybe craining.
When I think of Canada, I don’t typically think of desert — but that’s exactly what the terrain turns into as you head east on the Rocky Mountaineer toward Kamloops, the town that is the destination after day one of the trip. The locals call the climate “semi-arid,” but it sure seems to be full “arid” to me. The area looks and feels like New Mexico or Arizona or other parts of the American southwest. It’s hotter, and a lot drier, with brown-hued topography and scattered plants that resemble sagebrush.
It’s a pretty abrupt change from the farmland and piney forest views we saw during the first part of the trip. According to our waiter — who seemed a lot more knowledgeable than your average waiter, by the way — it’s because the high Cascade mountains to the west and the equally high Rockies to the east create a climate condition called a “rain shadow,” in which lower, rain-carrying clouds can’t move past the mountain ranges. Only high-altitude cirrus clouds that aren’t laden with moisture can scrape by.
Tomorrow we’ll move out of this hot zone and up and over the Rockies, but I’ll always remember this amazing taste of New Mexico in the Great White North. Canada is full of surprises!