First off let me apologise for a failure to produce an update in a timely fashion. Natrually I have a great excuse; we were really busy! No, seriously, I had a catastrophic IT failure and my original laptop is no more, having passed on to silicon heaven. This was made more difficult by the lack of an Apple outlet in the south of the Province of Yukon (Marketing opportunity there) and we had to wait several weeks to get into a largish town before being able to remedy the issue. A lot of travelling has been undertaken and would be the subject of a vast blog that would no doubt bore everyone. Therefore this scribble intends to bridge the gap, inlcude some of the route, and, in a similar trait of the London buses, another will be undoubtedly be along shortly.
We are on route to Thunder Bay there was a sign advertising the longest foot suspension bridge in Canada. Knowing how much we both like heights (Not) we took a detour from the highway to have a look. We arrived in a non-descript car park, entered reception and paid the due toll to encounter said bridge. Unusually the reception also had us sign a disclaimer. That should have been a sign. A further sign should have been heeded as we walked in a designated direction to the, as yet unseen, bridge. As we turned a corner we bumped into, nearly literally, two middle aged, middle weight, ladies who were coming down a hill gasping for breath! “How far ‘til the end” one called out, “Just around the bend” I replied with an oncoming sense of foreboding. The path quickly steepened and continued for about half a mile before we came, huffing and puffing, to a small hut and the first, shorter, lower suspension bridge. Mandy was not overly impressed, it was long, wobbly and far, far above the canyon floor. Not showing any fear, but being terrified, led the way on to the bridge. I had a plan, I held onto the side, closed my eyes and just walked. Mandy clearly hadn’t thought of this as she squealed at every little sway of the timber underfoot. Amplified by our joint movement across the chasm.
We made it the other side and were confronted by two arrows. Down or second bridge. Mandy was ready to head back down but money had changed hands and we had committed to completing the mission, so right it was and another shorter trek up hill to the longer, higher and even more wobbly bridge.
I ploughed straight into it and was halfway across before I realised I was alone. Mandy had elected to stay on the solid ground until I had cleared the bridge as she believed it would move less with just her on it, not a bad call. I did stop in the middle to take stock of the fantastic view and even managed a couple of one handed shots with the phone. This bridge was 600 feet long and on the other side there was an option of taking a zip wire all the way down the valley and back towards the start! Erm, no thanks. We both opted for the pleasant, if long, stroll back to the car park. It broke up the day nicely if not the most relaxing of pastimes.
Thunder Bay. Now that is a name brings to my mind excitement and fast cars for some reason. Not really the case when we rolled into a fairly normal and spread out town in the rain. This was not helped by the fact that we had to undertake some pretty laborious tasks. Visit speedy glass (The windscreen is not repairable), get a new aerial (For music in the truck, our off-roading/camping had forcibly removed the current from the roof one leaving a hole for water to pour onto my clothes in the wardrobe!), repair hole in roof, get some laundry done and shop for food, beer and some fruit based alcohol for Mandy (Pink Gin!). We stayed in the Walmart car park that evening (Free WIFI). We had a look around the following day and a stroll down by the marina. There is a nice view of the Sleeping Giant, a peninsula (and National Park) into the bay that has the appearance of a giant man lying on his back in a relaxed position, just stargazing. (Note to self, should try that).
We left Thunder Bay and made tracks along Highway 17 that runs along the many lakes in the area and offers some picturesque views. A short distance out we came to Fort William, a historical site that dates from 1816 and relates to the early fur trade across Canada and the battles between the two dominant companies. http://fwhp.ca/. It’s a strange place as the whole venue is in the 1816 character throughout and the staff/actors maintain the illusion as they go about their daily business. This business culminates in a gun battle in the afternoon where muskets and cannon are used to squash a rebellion. All very theatrical, but only very small numbers of the army turned out, which was handy because the attackers only numbered four, otherwise it could have been a massacre!
There’s also the opportunity to take part in axe throwing and the health and safety fairies would have had seizure if they saw the setup! Mandy had a go and I made sure I was a long distance away, unlike the very foolish member of staff who I could hear shouting, face towards the target, not this way! Still nobody was badly injured, but we won’t be going back.
We left Fort William the following morning and headed to another local tourist attraction at Kakabeka Falls. https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/kakabekafalls, not quite on the scale of Niagara but pretty impressive, none the less. Again, we managed to get a picture of the falls with the truck in the background. (I didn’t see any weight limits on the bridge and nobody shouted at us).
From there we had identified an IOverlander spot that promised to be secluded, peaceful and wild camping right next to a lake and not far from the main road. We got there in good time and found a spot, that seemed to be far from civilisation, right on the secluded lake, and settled in, at one with nature. We had not been there long when I heard a commotion from the lake behind some bushes behind the truck. Investigating I met a guy in a quad type buggy circumnavigating the shore of the lake with six, 12 year old, young ladies on board, as you do. He stopped for a chat and it turns out they had a camp literally a five minute walk from where we were (far from civilisation!). Aaron, the guy, asked over for a beer later and why not.
We ate and headed over to their “camp”. This turned out to be an area where he had a huge trailer (Caravan) permanently parked, with a timber constructed conservatory and porch. An outside seating area and giant fire pit. This overlooked the lake where his boat was moored at the end of a small pier, where the log fired sauna was also located. Close by was a timber cabin where the girls were staying, of course! Don’t do things by half.
We had a great night with Aaron and his wife, Dawn, sitting, chatting and drinking around the fire with some homemade Blueberry Pie. After a couple of heavy days sightseeing it was a great to do some relaxing. Many thanks guys.
Heading towards Manitoba and the city of Winnipeg we came across another photo opportunity at the “Centre of Canada” marker board, next to the highway and just outside the city limits. Halfway across and it’s taken us about five weeks. You could do that in a fifth of that time, flat out, or equally in quadruple it, there is so much to see.
Winnipeg was a great looking city and we opted for the “close to the action” overnight spot of a car park opposite the museum in Downtown. The is close to an area known as The Forks https://www.theforks.com/ a public area that dates back to a historic meeting point for the trading of furs etc. Nowadays it hosts festivals, has historic walks, bars and restaurants. It has a great atmosphere and we highly recommend it for a visit. Coincidently they also had a rib festival that was taking place opposite where we had parked. It had to be done. Effectively there are three companies that slow cook pork ribs in their own ‘special sauces’ and the public vote on who is best. It was fantastic food and accompanied by some live music and great atmosphere. Equally great the following day was the Winnipeg are wrestling competition. The whole family could join in, and did, ranging from young teens to the more (take it very seriously) men. Some of the ladies taking part had been national champions! Mandy tried to put me forward but the old injury was playing up yet again and I retreated to a viewing area with a beer, a lot more sensible.
The only downside to Winnipeg was the train line next to the car park. These freight trains rumbled throughout the night. They were not many in number, however each was about 3km long and travelled at about 15km/h taking an endless time to pass, clanging and breaking immediately alongside the truck. This was Friday and Saturday night! Why couldn’t the drivers just go to the Rib Fest like everyone else!
Sunday and we were off again through the heartland of Canada and the prairies. The roads all levelled out and the higher ground fell away to reveal miles and miles, and miles of agriculture. It was flat except for the numerous grain storage facilities that stood next to rail heads and loaded freight trains so they could, in turn, travels to Winnipeg and keep everyone awake. A conspiracy some might say. The highway became monotonous as the miles were devoured beneath our wheels (Which were all behaving very well now!) We had endless, scholarly, conversations relating to such things as the similarity in appearance of Trump and Boris and whether they used the same hair dye, balanced with intellectual games to bide our time. Turns out the letter ‘T’ can stand for Train, Truck, Trailer, Tarmac, Tree and Telegraph Pole, all of which there is a never-ending quantity along the roadside. We were headed for the province of Saskatchewan and the town of Saskatoon on our route west.
It was evident that we were heading away from the populated south of the country and into the more rural areas. The population had that outdoorsy appearance and every other vehicle was a five-litre truck. In Saskatoon we again utilised a Walmart to get our heads down. It’s very common thing in Canada to use this chain and there are frequently other camper vans and trailers overnighting. They have very large car parks and as long as you don’t park in the store entrance everyone is happy. On this occasion, right next door to the Walmart was a very heroic, manly, outdoors store. I had to visit.
It was like ‘Go Outdoors’ on steroids and had everything you could possibly want for outdoor living. This included a large variety of hunting weapons for every occasion. Rifles, shotguns, pistols, cross bows, archery sets (Proper Rambo style) and down to fishing gear. Not to mention a selection of knives and machete’s that even Bear Grylls has yet to add his moniker to. The store provided some stuffed victims in case you never actually got to see them because of the noise you were making humping around all of the gear.
Whilst in Saskatoon we received an email from a guy who had come across our blog. Alex lived on our route about halfway between our location and Edmonton, out next stop. He was a similarly sad individual who had invested in a truck the same as ours and with the same intentions, a kindred spirit of the highest order, undoubtedly. He had a place we could park up and would we like to come over. That sounded an outstanding idea, as long as he wasn’t the type to shop at “outdoor world”, above, and just require some slower moving targets.
As it turned out Alex was a great fellow and lived on a farm that extended to nearly 20,000 acres. Now we were truly in the middle of nowhere and a lovely environment. It was quite late and an old friend of Alex had arranged to cook us some supper close by. We travelled over by truck, because ‘close by’ means about five miles away, and arrived at another homestead that was occupied by another great chap, Robbi.
Robbi was another rustic type of guy who lived alone and looked after the livestock on the farm, amoungst other things. He was well travelled and had an great input on most things, it was looking to be a good night. Newly arrived I was a bit anxious on making the right impression, we sat at a farm table where a feast of stew and vegetables was laid out. Being polite I was passing the pork stew to out host when I hit the table tipping the contents of the bowl all over the table and onto Robbi’s clothing/floor. Mortified does not quite sum it up. We had just met the guy and there I was throwing his food around. I apologised profusely but Robbi (and Alex) just took it in their stride and the meal continued. Well, at least the ice was broken and the food tasted great. Some local brew was also very good.
We stayed with Alex a couple of nights and the following evening we returned the favour of cooking for all. In reality I think I suggested it and then got out of the way whilst Mandy actually did all of the work. I disappeared to have a look at Alex’s truck, which is in build. We planned to have some interesting conversations, compare ideas and discuss the options of using a different/upgraded gearbox to the standard fitting. Mandy wanted to be there but said she was far too busy boiling some water for potatoes. Absolute committment that girl!
Just before we left Alex found time to take us out on the farm with quad bikes. A couple of hours hurtling along trails and through pasture, how much fun can you have. Mandy, sat on the rear of my vehicle, was enjoying it to until Alex took us around some wooded tracks he was building to race with his friends. The shouts of delight from the rear started to change and put an end to that little caper.
It was a great couple of days and many thanks to Alex, Robbi and the guys on the farm. http://www.ajcmedia.ca/ (Alex blog address).
On our way to Edmonton, but first a short stop at a Ukranian village. https://ukrainianvillage.ca/ This venue shows the history of the Ukrainian immigrants to Canada at the begining of the last century. Not unlike Fort William, where everybody remains in character throughout, but they were not shooting each other here. An interesting stop and they had a lovingly restored Model A Ford vehicle in which we managed to secure a ride. It was all over too quickily and the shopping mall at Edmonton, beckoned to Mandy, an expedition to which I had already promised to include.
So off we went.