I apparently didn’t take too many photos the past few days. Not that it was boring or anything like that, it was just still the same old Ontario landscape. I guess there are only so many pictures you can take of lakes, trees and rocks. After a late departure in Thunder Bay I still made it about a hundred kilometers. I stealth camped close to the Central Time Zone picnic area that night. There were literally a few hundred mosquitos buzzing around my tent, from inside it sounded like it was raining, but it was just the mosquitos flying against my tent. I’m one of the lucky ones when it comes to bugs because I don’t really get any reactions to their bites. But when there are so many of them it’s obviously annoying. I have a Deet spray but at this point I’m still too stubborn to use it as I still prefer some short-term annoyance over long-term skin cancer.
The next day it was time for my third flat of the trip and my second bear encounter. Yes, a bear. At dinner. Around six I spotted a perfect wild camping spot next to the road on what used to be the highway before they upgraded it to the current highway. There are lots of these kinds of places where you’ll see a stretch of old road running next to or crossing the current road. I went down this apocalyptic looking road for about 400 meters to have dinner next to a small lake. After this I was planning to clean myself a bit and get some cool pictures of the cracked up road before heading back closer to the highway to put up my tent. But as I finished my second bagel – with Nutella, the first one was cucumber & cheese – something black and furry appeared in the distance… The bear must have been interested in one of the ingredients of my meal because it really seem to be impressed by my shouting and bear bell ringing. As the bear was stopped down a bit on it’s path towards me and still quite far away I quickly packed my stuff and headed back to the highway. Once back there I decided to combine my adrenaline rush with some beats in my ears and bike another 40 kilometers to a campground in Ignace. Don’t ask me how paying 30 dollar for a campground without bear boxes that’s filled with careless RV campers is actually supposed to be safer. I’m not too scared and I don’t want to be labeled as one-of-those-Europeans-who-is-obsessed-by-bears, “Look, he’s even carrying a bear spray on his bicycle!” But it is a thing, right? Better to be safe than sorry!
I actually met a European-who-isn’t-affraid-of-bears-at-all the following day as he keeps his food and trash in his tent. When I went over one of the typical gravel bumps on the side of the road that they use to close off the entrance to old quarries, I immediately saw a tent and a guy making preparations for a campfire. Florent from Marseille, France happily shared this perfect quarry camping spot. Just like me he has a one year workholiday visa for Canada and he’s been traveling through Canada and the US on his motorbike for the past three months. He’s heading for Vancouver as well, but he’ll most probably get there a bit earlier than me :). Thanks for sharing that campfire!
The next day I made it a goal to make it to Manitoba. I’ve been cycling in Canada for 41 days now, 21 cycling days were spent in Ontario. It was truly gorgeous but I was really looking forward to something else. After more than 1500 kilometer on Highway 17 I left the Trans-Canada Highway as soon as it changed into the four-lane Highway 1 in Manitoba. Highway 44 or “Historic Hwy 1” brought me to West Hawk Lake and the next day to Lockport. I still stand by what I said earlier about the trucks on the Trans-Canada not being too bad – share the road, no? But it was such a pleasure to finally be on a road without any trucks and even barely any traffic in the beginning. As Lockport was only 30 kilometers away from Winnipeg I decided to head down there after all for a well deserved rest day. And here I am, in another great coffee shop in another big Canadian city.
Lots of people along the way said not too nice things about Winnipeg but I actually really like it so far. It probably sounds weird, but I prefer cities where not everything is perfect, or where at least they don’t pretend that it is. Problems are embedded within the concept of a big city, and they’re there to be solved. I think I prefer Winnipeg over Toronto, the marketeers haven’t taken over yet here. Next stop: Saskatoon. In the middle of the Prairies. Long bright ‘n sunny days. Wind battles. Something else!