Traveling Solo But Never Alone

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swamiTraveling solo it seems you are never alone. Boiling around a corner and onto a straight stretch east of Rock Creek my line wavers at a surreal scene. On this lonely stretch of the Crowsnest Highway set against a verdant backdrop of rolling Okanagan ranchlands lush with unseasonable rain and shot through with rocky outcroppings, a man striding along in a monk’s orange flowing robes transforms the scene into a surrealist painting.

Pulling over at a rest stop I snap a few photos of the surrounds, wondering if I need to work up a cover story to talk with what I take to be a either a man of some faith or some medication. As it turns out no excuse is needed.

Bhaktimarga Swami, “but you can just call me Swami for short”, is a Hare Krishna monk who has about in much in common with the airport-chanting variant as I do with Madonna. He is quiet, plain spoken, introspective and crossing Canada by foot for his third time. It is a pilgrimage for Swami, formerly Jon Peter Vis, but also an escape. “I work with a lot of people in my day to day roll, this is a break.”

I comment that I’m not sure I’d consider a stroll of this length, some 7,800kms, a break and Swami calmly admits that he’s had to split this walk into two three-month segments. “I just couldn’t take the full six months away.”

Swami isn’t the only traveler of interest out here. Back in Osoyoos two ladies in a fourtwo Smart Car with temporary Arizona permits ask me for directions to the Nighthawk Border crossing. “I bought it and loved it! Then we wondered how far we could go in it. There’s enough space behind the seats for a weeks worth of clothes so we just do laundry on the way.” We compare fuel consumption and sadly the Smart car trumps the VFR hands down, but this ride has seen me putting the Sport back in Sport-touring and throttle usage has not been light. Practicalities aside I can’t help but admire these ladies’ “Let’s see what’s out there” sense of travel.

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