After the splendid two days in and around Manitoulin it’s time to tackle the long ride across the northern shores of Lake Superior. I have been warned by several people that this would be a long stretch, in distance, nearly one thousand miles, as well as in effort, that of staying alert to both wildlife crossing the road and to keep the concentration while so much of the route appears so similar.
I have no fixe plan on where to stay. I get to this point after a while when I travel, I get the feel of the land and realise that “there will be a place to stop at some point when I decide to do so” and I stop making detailed plans. The only thing I am still not completely comfortable with is my sense of fuel consumption and the range the motorbike can go on a tank. For this reason I tend to sweat a bit once I pass the 250 Km mark and tend to refuel shorter of the alleged 400 km full autonomy of the motorbike. For that reason this part of the journey, less populated than anything I’ve done so far, meant frequent stops to filling stations.
Day one was long and yet painless, 375 miles of nice views over the lake and what now has become a standard of the “not sufficient nature to see” syndrome, road side sign spotting. I encounter not one, not two, not three, but five different signs for bible camps. I had heard of their existence but I thought they would be much more of a southern USA, read bible belt, states. There is a part of me that understands why the people of the new world are so much more spiritual than we are in Europe, nature is so magnificent and in part unspoiled out here that it is simple to fall into the trap of thinking that it has been put there in that perfect shape by some higher power. Scientific ignorance and the value of tradition for self relying populations do the rest and, hey pronto, there are spirits everywhere. What I do not understand is how they let themselves be highjacked by the creed for a middle easter divinity rather than absorbing the much more compelling creeds that have been born in the cultures of this land.
A present reminder of the culture is the omnipresent Inuksuit. These piles of rocks are all over this stretch of the Transcanadian Highway. Some are just neatly arranged stone piles, other are even coloured in the ancestral red, black, yellow and white ancestral colours.
After more than seven hours on the saddle it’s time to stop and I just get past the Fishing Moose Lodge when I decide to turn around and stop to camp. The campsite is not much more than a field next to the woods, but the sign says they have a restaurant too and I’m getting hungry so the decision id taken and before I know I’m not just set up for the night but tucking into a splendid and rather good value burger.
The second day was proceeding well, aside from the fact that I saw along the early part of the road three or four places where it might have been nicer to camp. I entertain myself again with some more or less inspired photography until, 50 K from Thunder Bay, I see a sign for a the Amethyst Mine Panorama. I’m making good progress and I am not planning to spend much time in Thunder Bay, whose biggest claim to fame must be to come up on the trajectory map you see when you do a flight to North America that include a section of sub polar route, so I stop to see what it’s all about.
The visit is educative and it’s interesting to come to contact with something like this when you’re the product of a consumeristic urban upbringing that gets to see these things only in their polished and marketed end product form. I have always found quite humbling confronting myself with geology, the thought of something that hold in my hands being possibly one billion year old or more makes me feel very small and insignificant. On the lighter side, with $3 I get to purchase three pieces, one pound in weight, of amethyst I pick myself in the “mine your own” part of the mine, something I would have never done in the weight conscious time of cycle touring.
Day two ends in tragedy. I get to Ignace and find a rather splendid campsite on a lake. I pitch the tent and go for a swim in the lake and then, making use of the good wifi, I catch up with the world. It’s just after ten when the sky gets really dark and I decide to turn in for the night. Not a moment too soon as it starts raining. It’s a proper mid west thunderstorm with thunder and lightning and more rain falling in a minute than in It has fallen in the Atacama in the last 100 years.
I start to get worried when I feel the water mattress effect on the bottom of the tent. My first thought is: “I wish I had my older tent”. Having been through it and survived it with that tent I knew it would not have been a problem. This tent was still untested and, right enough it failed the test. at round about one in the morning I had to abandon ship and, collected all my belonging under the rain, take shelter in the, luckily available, gazebo at the centre of the campground.
The unfortunate thing about the gazebo was that the mosquito mesh was broken so I ended up spending the rest of the night in the company of one thousand blood suckers who prevented me from getting much sleep at all.
The last stretch to Winnipeg, was the shorter of the three days and yet it felt the longest, even a mere 280 miles feel interminable when you have hardly slept.
I still managed to make a couple of stops for pics and to see the Kakabeca Falls, a far cry from Niagara but still. I am now two hours behind Halifax and six hours behind the UK, by the time I get to Vancouver I’ll have passed two more.