Saturday 26th June 2010.
Was woken this morning at 0500 with the rumble of thunder and pattering of rain on the tent. At 0700 was woken again with the sound of softballs coming over the wall and landing around us. The skies are big in Saskatoon and things seem to fall out of them, but first I will tell you how we got here.
We ended up spending 4 nights at the Pukaskwa National Park and what a beautiful place it was. Walking along trails over the headlands and beaches covered with trees washed up on the shore either because their roots have been undermined by water, or they were products of logging; tree trunks cut to 8ft lengths which used to be transported by river, often fell in to the lake, as a result there must be thousands of them which have been floating around for decades, and just get washed up. It was a ghostly sight which looked like a mass of bleached dinosaur bones, smoothed by gentle pumicing of the water, and randomly piled on top of one another. We thought we would become beach dwellers for a while, and on coming upon a small dwelling, just a few feet from the mesmeric lapping of waves, and styled from the flotsam and jetsam, of the beach, instantly fell in love with it and moved in. Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out!
It was great to be able to stretch our legs and give our poor behinds a rest from sitting for long hours on the bike. The weather was great, rained at night and the days were sunny but not too hot. Experienced our first 'Lake Superior storm' which can come up very quickly, with thunder, lightning and torrential ran but they don't seem to last that long. The camp hosts Lucy and Frank Spence were very helpful and let us use their satellite internet connection, which enabled us to do some work on the blog. If you want to know what it's like to live full time in a RV you could check out their blog at http://flspence.blogspot.com/ for an insight. The camp sites so far provide a picnic table and fire pit, logs so we can light a fire, and cook over a naked flame, and bagged ice,and keep fresh foods cool. The picnic table is brill 'cos we don't have to scrabble around on the floor coking etc. Although there is ample wood in the parks, it is illegal to forage for it, you have to buy a small bundle which lasts about a night for around $7-8. So far we haven't really bothered apart from at our first camp site where wood was free, and Sioux Narrows where we treated ourselves. The ice is a good idea, but we have no means of storage so have to put up with melted sweaty cheese, limp warm lettuce and milk powder (it's hard on the road). The money raised by selling wood or ice, goes to wards the 'friends of the park' who volunteer to keep it running. So it is a worthwhile cause.
Buying food is tricky all round not least because of storage on the bike, and keeping it fresh, but also because everything in the supermarkets is 'supersized'. It is virtually impossible to buy small anything; a small fresh orange juice, or a single small let alone plain yoghurt (they like things sweet here), a small slice of cheese, a small bag of lettuce (aka almost any UK supermarket which charges a small fortune for a few leaves), a small packet of tofu; indeed anything that is not prepared to feed a small army during a long siege. Some places sell pieces of fresh veg which is great, but whatever we buy, there is just too much. Nevertheless we wade our way through it determined not to waste anything, and in the hope that any mouldy bits (which usually appear after a day or so in this heat) strengthen our immunity. On top of that my 1 ring wonders, are more a triumph of simplicity over largesse. I sense that I have to learn to let go of my inner foodie on this trip and see meals as a means to and end and not an end in itself.
David here. Not really too sure what our relationship with the blog and in fact even our travels are at present. We drive all day, not really stopping much because they isn't much to stop for in this part of the world. Camp, cook and move on next day to get to somewhere we are going to stop for a while. But we don't get round to doing the blog and then it builds up to be a manmouth task. We have a week to catch up with now, sitting in the shade of the tent in the overflow site of the Gordon Howe Campsite in Saskatoon and it feels a pressure rather than a joy. It's something I really want to do, keep a journal of our travels and to share it with those that are interested is an added bonus, but how we are doing it isn't proving to be easy. Spent 2 hours at Starbucks in Winnipeg downloading the photos of the last entry, but that was a joy as we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes on the camp site.
We seem to be rushing our travels too. We have been gone 7 weeks and I feel very tied never quite recharging when we stop. We both thought it would be great to go to the BMWOA rally in Redmond on the 15th July but that seems to be driving us on in an unconscious way that isn't letting us rest. Why are we travelling? Is it just to cross Canada and then head south? The experience has been amazing. Being in the vast spaces has been a real pleasure but it is now time to re-valuate as I feel rather burnt out by it all. Travellers talk about the people that makes travelling worthwhile, and we have met some very kind and helpful ones on our journey so far, but the interactions seem quite superficial. Maybe that is the Psychotherapist bit of me that I haven't been able to let go yet. Just some thoughts.
We left Pukaskwa and carried on the 17 Trans Canadian highway towards Thunder Bay . We stopped at Terrace Bay to see a rather dissappointing waterfall
before travelling onto Rossport for some lunch. The local hot spot for eating offered Lake Trout as the special which we both feel upon eagerly, but it turned out to be fried in batter which seemed to have destroyed what flavour it might have had.
The Terry Fox Scenic Lookout was our next stop. He inspired Canada and rightly so with his strength and determination. He ran 26 miles a day (a marathon) on a wooden leg from St John's in Newfoundland until he was unable to carry on due to his cancer in Thunder Bay. We camped that night at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park and after another '1 ring wonder' and a walk to the falls we slept well and uneventfully.
Dawn broke long before we were awake, but once up and packed we traversed a time Zone and gained an hour on our way along the 11 towards Fort Frances . Stopped in Atikokan for some lunch materials. At the shop we met someone from South Shield who wanted to tell us what it was like to live in England and the shop assistant who had just come back from spending 3 weeks with a friend in Tyneside. We introduced them to each other as they had only lived in the same town for the last 40 years. As with Wawa mining was a major sorce of wealth for these small towns, but no longer. They all have a feel of having seen better days,taking up a large footprint on the earth because they can, and most things looking unfinished. Having filled up with petrol at around a dollar a litre and a coffee at a dollar fifty for about half that quantity we set off to Fort Frances which is the smelliest town we have yet come across with a big wood paper factory. Most of the other paper factories we have come across have been closed so I suppose having employment in the town was worth the smell.
Passing through quickly we headed up the 71 to Sioux Narrows Provincial Park . We wanted to go paddling while in the lakes and were told that we could rent a canoe at the park. We had looked at various outfitters, they are people that will equip you for a trip into the back country ,supply everything from canoe to a plane to get you into the middle of no where, but they had seem rather expensive for just a day trip. Nothing too adventurous for us the first time out. Our luck was in and Bev the manager furnished us with a fine aluminium example that only leaked slightly . We were also given life jackets and an emergency pack containing a bailer, whistle with rope, light but no batteries to power it and paddles. We had a beautiful pitch down by the 'Lake of the Woods', and the next morning we rose with excitement for our paddling adventure. We followed the shore line going west towards the village of Sioux Narrows. Our dragon boat training we had in Montreal was paying off. Jill paddled hard at the front and I was able to take it easy at the back all done in perfect time. Got some provisions, had the most expensive sweetened french fries ever and met Bob at the liquor store while buying Coors light (fizzy piss so Jill says). Have to go back some day as Bob has offered us a ride in his boat. We paddled back into the lake and beached on a small island for lunch. Things started to look a bit gray and before long it was raining. Undeterred we stroked off at full speed back to the camp to take shelter and rest after so much activity. Later once the rain had passed we ventured out again and explored eastward. A great day was had on the inky black waters of the 'Lake of the Woods', with more contact with the wild life.
The next day we travelled on through Kenora having rejoined the 17 into Manitoba. Not wanting to go in a straight line on a dual carriageway we decided to take the 44 to the north of Winnipeg where we were going to stay in the Birds Hill Provincial Park . The first thing we noticed on arrival was the mosquitoes, the second thing the mosquitoes and the third thing, well yes the mosquitoes. There were millions. Donning our bee keepers nets that we had brought for occasions like this, we placed the tent in the dries place we could find. Just after we had finished pitching the wind got up and before long it was thundering and lightening like only seems to happen over here. Huge drops of rain were bouncing off the ground with an occasional stronger ping on the tent roof. Rain gave way to Hail the biggest being about 1” in dia and all the others not being much smaller. We were getting a bit concerned as the water level was rising around and under the tent. Getting dressed up in our waterproof biking stuff, ready to put on our crash helmet to prevent brain damage we stoically hung in there until it all stopped as quickly as it had started. Venturing out into a white landscape we came across, yes you guessed it, even more mosquitoes. A truly unpleasant experience. 2 things learnt from this . 1; Mosquitoes can bite through clothes and 2; Deet ,even 100% , doesn't work 100%.Jill looks like she has chicken pox poor thing.
The trouble with getting on a bit and camping is that quite often you have to get up in the middle of the night to get rid of what your body refused to let go of when it should have just before you tucked yourself up for the night. This can be an inconvenience at the best of times but when faced with a low drone just the other side of the mosquitoes net, it can bring you out in a cold sweat at the thoughts of what might happen to those more vulnerable parts.
The next day, fighting off even more mosquitoes (the word had got around and distant relations had been invited to the feast) we sped off on Nancy to spend some time in Winnipeg, well Starbucks actually as mentioned earlier.
We couldn't face going back to cook so we had a very pleasant Chinese before a walk around the 'Forks' area of Winnipeg. The next day, with far less mosquitoes blurring ones vision, we bid a hasty retreat towards Saskatchewan.Canada is having one of it wettest summers on record and the Trans Canadian Highway around Medicine Hat had been washed away so we decided to go the northern route to via Saskatoon. The change in landscape from the rocky outcrops of Northern Ontario to the flat planes of Manitoba and Saskatchewan is very marked and happens quite quickly. One minute you are riding on a nice windey road the next there isn't a bend for the next 30 miles. The drive along the 16 'Yellowhead route was very uneventful and we pulled into Russell 16kms short of the boarder as dark thunder clouds were forming. Having checked out the local motels and found them rather expensive, we drove around town looking for a B&B and were taken to the 'Boulton Manor' where we procured lodgings for the night with DIY breakfast thrown in.
We had some damp problems with the ground sheet of the tent. It wasn't leaking but clothes felt damp if left on the ground overnight. We brought some silicon spray and while at 'Boulton Manor' managed to use their porch to spray the inside and outside of the groundsheet. Seems to have worked. We have been through some intense rain and the top is holding out well so we are now ready for anything. Watched a bit of the Denmark vs Japan football match on television. Couple of good goals by Japan but I don't really understand 'football fever'. Wont mention the mosquitoes.
Carried on the 16 the next day. Stopped at the Tourist information at the border and for some reason rang up a camp sight to book a place in Saskatoon. We were told that they were flooded out. Rang another and they were full, third time lucky, they had space in there overflow lot so booked a place. From empty camp sites, this was one of the busiest weekends in Saskatoon as there is a Jazz festival on for the week and 4000 Jehovah's Witnesses were in town for a convention. It's strange how things happen and I don't know why we rang looking for a site but glad we did.
The drive was uneventful, listening to Agatha Christie on the ipod, with straight roads and the sky opening out all around you. There seem to be layers of clouds here that look very different to England. Why the sky should look bigger I have no idea but it does.
We Arrived at the Gordon Howe camp ground at around 1800 and set up camp, ate another '1 ring wonder' and fell into sleep to be woken in the morning by thunder and softballs!
Bye for now.