To me its the dreaded ‘C word’. Coach touring…
I’ve done a range of organised group tours from fully organised luxury tours, to hop-on hop-off style buses to the 18-35s party tours and a few others in-between. One tour through Kenya was awesome but generally I end up saying I hate touring and would prefer to do it on my own. The simple fact though is they serve a purpose and today was no different I had to get from point A to point B.
The Icefields Parkway running for 230km from Banff to Jasper in Alberta, Canada is considered the most beautiful highway in the world. The continuous stretch of world heritage listed landscape is protected by two national parks and winds its way through numerous stunning valleys, over some jaw dropping passes and past some 25 glaciers (7 of which are visible from the road).
You can hire a car and drive it yourself or for the less cashed up single traveler like me, jump on one of the numerous tours. As I was headed to Jasper a full-day one-way tour from Lake Louise seemed the obvious choice.
This tour was however no different from the others, and it finally dawned on me exactly why I hate this mode of transport. Quite simply it’s the people and the process that I do not like.
I am not a sheep. I do not need to be hearded from sight to sight and told when to eat and when to pee. Perhaps that’s your thing, but not for me.
I dislike that I have only 15-20 minutes to experience each of the wonderful sights along the way yet I’m given 45 minutes for a ‘tea break’ and 90 minutes just to eat my lunch and buy a souvenir.
Sure I got to ride in a snowcoach on a glacier, and for 15 minutes got to stand on ice as thick as the Eiffel Tower is tall. But I’d rather save my $50, avoid the crowds and hike up over the 1.5 km path of the retreated glacier to it’s base.
Of course, touring has some advantages. Its nice to sit back, relax and be told everything I need to know about this place without having to read a single guidebook or brochure. And not to have to navigate bus stations, train stations and road maps to get around, let alone mastering driving on the other side of the road.
Mostly, however I have discovered it’s the people that I dislike so much. Whether they be disrespectful, too busy getting drunk or simply just rude, the thought of being trapped in a confined space with said people for an extended period of time is nothing short of a nightmare if you ask me.
Here are today’s top examples:
1) The 4 American couples travelling together who did nothing but complain about everything. Sure I can listen to a bit of whinging but this took the cake. At one of our stops the woman behind me said to her husband – ‘oh I can’t be bothered to get off the bus again’ you go see and tell me about it’. WHAT?!?! Are you kidding me? What’s the point of traveling if you have no interest in seeing the sights? So then they both stayed on the bus!! ‘It’s just a waterfall’ informs their friends when we return to the bus – Ok yes it is just a waterfall, but walk an extra 200m around the corner and you are rewarded with the wonderful potholes and canyon this waterfall has carved over the years! Big mistake people… you definitely missed out.
2) Then there was the Asian family sitting in front of me who saw more of the scenery through the lens of their video cameras. They were constantly tripping over and shoving people out of the way and I wonder how much they could actually appreciate their surrounds. Ok, so this is a bit rich coming from me since I have my face stuck behind the lens of a camera a lot of the time. But, I also believe in order to capture the true essence of any destination you first need to be able to absorb your surroundings. At times on this tour I was so awed by what lay in front of me I didn’t take a single photo – I knew it couldn’t do it justice anyway. But ok, sure if that’s how you want to experience it go for it, who am I to say not to, but there’s no need to literally shove me out of the way or lean over my seat so far you are practically sitting in my lap to get your prize piece of footage.
There are probably hundreds of examples I could give over the years of why I hate touring and at the end of the day it’s just my opinion. I truly believe that they serve a purpose, but they are simply not for me. And if you do so choose to ‘coach tour’ have a little respect for your fellow passengers – it’ll sure help make everyones experience more enjoyable.