Riding the Tortoise to the Mountains

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Friday, June 8, 2012

My second day was a bit of a manic one. That evening I was getting on the Green Tortoise Bus to start my Northern Pioneer 9 day tour, and I had loads to sort out before then. So I had to do some last minute shopping, and bookings as well as sorting out my bag. Then my aunt dropped me off in San Francisco, and I said 'See you in 9 days!', before going and hanging out in the Chinatown library for a couple of hours whilst waiting for bus. I wasn't sure what to expect of the Tortoise. I hadn't found many reviews on their trips, and didn't really know how they worked. I had heard they were a bit of a hippy bus, that the food wasn't great, but also that it was amazing, but never any detail why. So I was slightly dubious, but looking forward to it nonetheless. At 6.30pm I trudged down with my bags to the bus stop, and saw two other people with big backpacks standing around, so I knew I was in the right place. I went over, and yes, they were waiting for the bus too. We started chatting, and found it funny that we were at the Church of Scientology. Soon after, a huge green bus rolled up, and as we went round the corner to follow it, we found loads of other people waiting to get on too. Our drivers jumped out and introduced themselves as Jimmy and Lukas, and then the loading process began. Once everyone had checked in and our bags were loaded, we got settled in on the bus. 

 Now, the Green Tortoise buses aren't like normal buses. There are no individual seats. At the back is a large sleeping platform with foam mats where you can nap in the day and stretch out. Then in the middle there are two tables with seats on either side. And at the front there are benches with foam mats on either side, with a little aisle in the middle. This is all because the bus transforms into a sleeper coach, and that was where we were spending our first night. There are even bunks as well. So after driving over the Bay Bridge and out of San Francisco, we had an introductary talk by our drivers, before stopping to get ready for our first night drive. We got into our pyjamas, and brushed our teeth, while the drivers turned the bus into night mode. When we got back, we gave up our day bags to be stowed away, chose our spots to sleep for the night, and got settled. A few of us stayed up at the front to chat and socialise, and have a few beers. Hmm, we never made that mistake again! Being desperate for the toilet and trying to sleep is not a good combination. Luckily we made lots of toilet stops in the night, so it wasn't too bad. 

 I didn't sleep too well on my first night drive, just because it was a bit of a weird sensation, very different from just napping in the car. You're lying flat out, tucked up in your sleeping bag,  but you're mobing along on this bus. And of course, we all woke up at when the sun started streaming through the windows of the bus. As we cleared our bleary eyes, we found we were on an empty road surrounded by snow capped mountains! We had arrived in the Lamoille Canyon, in the Ruby Mountains, Nevada. A cool start to the trip. We parked up, and stepped off the bus into the freezing cold! It was the first cold I'd experienced since being in Chile, and it was not nice! We quickly got our bags out and put on all the layers we had! Then it was time make breakfast. I hadn't been expecting much, but the drivers put on an awesome spread. We had fresh fruit, and then bagels which we toasted, with whatever you wanted on them; salmon and cream cheese, nutella, peanut butter and jam, whatever! We also had loads of tea and coffee and hot chocolate to choose from, and everyone was clasping their mugs for dear life just so they could feel their hands! However, washing up with freezing cold water was not fun. I really regretted forgetting my alpaca gloves...

 After our tasty breakfast, we cleared up, and then got dressed, before driving to the end of the road to do our first hike. With everyone wrapped up warm and in hiking gear, our drivers pointed us in the right direction and off we went! They had warned us we might reach the snow level if we got high enough, but after about 10 minutes of walking, we were hiking on snow! It was a really beautiful place, with the mountains surrounding us covered in snow. We even had a bit of fun, and a couple of our group who didn't mind getting their bums went went sliding down the snow! The hiking got quite difficult at points, as were walking across steep slopes covered in slippery snow. I desperately didn't want to fall and slip down the hillside! But we went carefully, and everyone was fine. Being the big loser that I am, it actually reminded me of a place in the game Red Dead Redemption (my brother will understand). As we walking, the blue skies started turning a dark grey, and then suddenly, it started to snow! It was really quite surreal, I don't think I've ever been hiking in snow before! But that made it extra special. 

 After a while, our time was up, so we made our way back to the bus, as the snow got heavier and the wind got stronger. We jumped back on the bus, pumped up the heating, and got warm! We then drove out of the Ruby Mountains, and made our way to a special Green Tortoise spot. A farmer out in the sticks in Nevada had a river running through his property, and at one spot a hot pool had formed. He lets the Green Tortoise come and use it for free, which is nice. So we all walked down to the hot pools. and jumped in, and warmed our bones. I've seen many hot pools in my trip, so it wasn't particularly exciting, but it was still lovely, and the area was gorgeous. It was actually a bit too hot, and I ended up getting out and sitting in the cold wind to cool down. After our little dip, we got back on the bus, and that pretty much concluded our first day. We had another night drive to complete, so it the same routine, getting the bus ready and then going to sleep, with a lot less beer this time! 
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