Thursday, 3 April 2008

36 hours on a bus

The plains roll on and on. Travelling east from Calgary the gently rolling fields, bleached pale with cold, have changed in appearance once; earlier they were covered in snow, but now the grasses are a dry and blasted yellow.
We have passed through Alberta to Saskatchewan, though it was difficult to know when, as the province border was unmarked. I shift constantly in my stiff, upright seat and wedge empty drink containers into upholstered crevices.
It is as if the stumpy farmland of Morrinsville were plucked of trees, scorched by drought, and stretched for a thousand kilometres. It is punctuated occasionally with dusty towns, disappointing oases with bunker-style sheds and grimy, deathless filling stations.
Snow huddles in clumps, populating troughs of tundra. Melted but unevaporated water pools in low ground. It is covered in ice and in dust, and not even the wind will touch it.
One highway heads east, another west, and between the road and railway tracks run power poles barely three metres tall.

My busmates are similarly spent. Opposite me is a welder with too few teeth who found himself engaged, and tells me fabrications of high-school sporting glory. Behind is a tattooed teen who emanates body odour and deodorant in waves. He is opposite an ancient man with a disbelieving death-gaze, and a boy working on a training mustache. His girfriend has almost translucent skin and arms so thin you could wrap them in your thumb and forefinger.

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