We set off from Melford’s early on Thursday devoid of breakfast but with a gift of frozen fish, freshly picked lettuce and spring onions for our dinner and about 2 kilos of Saskatoon berries. It was only a few km portage across to Lake Manitoba along a range road to a gravel beach. We were so delighted to arrive at our second lake and see easy campsites all around we celebrated with pancakes, syrup and berries – thanks Melford!
With low winds and a glassy lake we made our first crossing avoiding a hefty bay which would have added about 20km. The day was muggy and hot though and we were increasingly aware of distant and then not so distant thunder. As we approached the second headland we were faced with a sky of black, a wall of rain and the sound of the apocalypse. ‘I think we might want to sit this one out!’ Yelled Mike, and we did an abrupt divert to a thin, steep rocky shore. We hauled the boat up a few feet, and then a few more, and then as far as we could as the wind built to storm force and the waves grew to over a metre – all within minutes.
It was too windy to put up the tarp but we found some shelter behind the boat under the trees. We made a cup of tea. Then the wind started to drop and the rain really began – so we put the tarp up and made another cup of tea. Feeling suitably humbled and chastened we set off, keeping maybe a little closer to the shore.
We found an awesome beach camp, made a fire and turned Melfords fish into fishcakes, using the fresh spring onions, instant mash and some bacon bits. Honestly I’m starting to think camp cooking is my culinary forte, and a hungry clientele are definitely the best recipients! We made some more granola for breakfast and a berry bannock too in an effort to use up some of the saskatoons.
The next day dawned a little dreich and uninspiring and after a few slow km and with the wind building again we were anxious about a repeat of Lake Windy. Walking seemed like a more appealing option so we decided to avoid an exposed headland by heading into a bay and portaging across instead. Within minutes of setting out we watched a huge bear stroll across the road a hundred yards ahead and were reminded we ought to have our spray handy… queue a quick scrabble in our bags…
Some of you may have seen our track from Crane River and whilst we’d like to say we are getting fitter and faster we can’t pretend we averaged 56km/hr on the crossing. George stopped by in his truck – he was just heading home to grab something but in 5 minutes time he’d be passing us again heading (wouldn’t you know!) to the beach on the other side of the headland where he was camped with his family. It was too good an offer to refuse!!! So we unpacked the boat and strapped it at an alarming diagonal across the bed of the truck and off we set.
On arriving at the beach we met his wife and foster daughter and were welcomed into their trailer for coffee. In the hour that followed Rose taught us a little of the local history and language (Ojibwe), and some of her cultural lore ranging from medicinal plants to moral stories. We could have listened all day! We left with lavender oil, lightening stones and maybe just a little more wisdom.
We paddled on down the lake passing endless shingle or sandy beaches (some surprised ATV riders waving enthusiastically from one) until I declared I was tired, whereupon there were none. Pushing on a bit further we found a beautiful patch of flat green grass. A lawn, in fact. Mike headed up towards the house and met Andy Thibert – the ranch owner and one of the ATVers from earlier on. He welcomed us to camp on the lawn, brought us a huge stack of wood and invited us up for beers. It was Canada day weekend and this was the 150th anniversary of the commonwealth so there were a whole host of people staying nearby, all of whom were not just friendly but really interested and excited for our trip. I’ve lost count of the number of people who wish they could do something similar. We promise we’re grateful!
Narrowly avoiding losing another meal to dogs (ok, mostly just Angel – who was far from) we ate and headed up for our first cold beers in weeks. Andy’s wife caught us saying we were low on tasty food and swiftly produced a bag full of jars of pickles, chutneys, green tomatoes, beets and rhubarb.
The next morning we were sad to depart, not least because they were having a pig roast and fireworks that evening, but felt we ought to press on whilst the weather allowed. Not before we both had the opportunity to weigh ourselves: this weeks super slimmers are us, achieving 10% body weight each which amounts to 16 kilos!
We got about 10km before the wind put a stop to progress at another big exposed crossing. Once again, all the sandy beaches packed themselves off and we spent an hour hunting in reed beds for somewhere to camp. We found a good spot in the end from which we could watch the wind on the bay, ever hopeful it might drop enough for us to cross. We’d started listening to a Lord of the Rings audiobook on Windy (yep, 2 months married, already run out of things to say to each other) and it’s a good way to while away some otherwise frustrating waits.
We had an early night in anticipation of an early start the next morning (5am!) and then nipped across the bay in a bit of an awkward swell. Heading around the surprisingly named Reykjavik point The Narrows came into view. This time we were overjoyed to hear the forecast for strong southerlies: the perfect excuse to stop for a day at the Narrows lodge which promised bed, bath, beer and beef. What more could we wish for?!
Ice cream: that’s what!
What we learnt:
Dogs are far more likely to take stuff than wild animals (we didn’t lose our dinner in the end but we do seem to have lost our mascot, Humphrey…)
Storms pick up pretty quick!
Rose and George for the perfectly timed lift and kind hospitality
Andy, Dar and the extended family for such good cheer around the fire – we hope you had a great ride out on Saturday
Favourite piece of kit: Mike’s bug shirt, which Cas covets daily…