Firstly – photos now uploaded to last post if you want to take a look…

We left Fort Francis well fed and rested, despite not actually having a full day off. Retracing our steps initially to avoid the lee shore on the south of the lake, we avoided passing into the US and looked for an easy day and a Canadian campsite. As the wind swung from northerly to an easterly headwind in the early evening we found an island big enough to squeeze a tent in, with a large resident pike in the bay which I soon pulled out on the end of a line. With this safely returned (we’ve gone off pike a bit since Lake Manitoba) we set about dinner, whilst watching a large and remarkably inquisitive snapper turtle eye us repeatedly from the lake. We think we were probably on its island. We continued the next day to the end of Rainy Lake, our last large lake until Superior, and headed onto Lake Namakan via Soldiers Portage. On the way we waved good bye to our long serving pee bottle, as it rolled off the boat post-use without the lid on and promptly filled with water, sinking beneath the waves before we could manoeuvre to grab it. It seemed a fitting end, and it was probably about time this bottle was retired anyway…

Namakan lake passed smoothly the next morning and saw us dodging rented house boats though the Namakan Narrows into Sand Point Lake. These monstrosities are hideous and barely faster than our canoe, there’s no way anyone would ever buy one themselves. On this basis we reasoned they were all driven by complete muppets, evidenced by us often seeing both sides of the boat several times as they steered a supposedly straight line past us. With this menace avoided we raced a building storm down the lake and came around a headland to find Sand Point Lodge advertising ice, minnows, gas and confectionary. Turns out they did pizza too, so lunch was sorted. With the storm passed we smugly paddled off an hour later, only to see another one approaching as we rounded the next headland. We dived for the dock of an apparently unoccupied cabin, waved at the occupants of the next one, who promptly waved back and invited us over to sit out the storm, informing us they owned our dock too… So an hour was spend with Chuck his lovely family from the Twin Cities as storm two broke. Looking at the sky again we paddled out, narrowly missed being in the landing zone of an incoming float plane, and got completely, totally and utterly soaked by storm three. Ok weather, you win.

We soon dried out in the evening sun and headed up the Loon River searching for a place to camp, passing the start of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as we went. On the map we’d found a nice looking lake with an island, but were dismayed to find it made completely of reed, with a bear doing widths in the sunshine as we approached. We carried on up to the next portage, hoping it wasn’t too taxing at the end of the day. Well, it wasn’t. In the early 1900’s walleye and ice was taken out by boat from Lac la Croix towards Winnipeg, through two portages at each end of Loon Lake. In 1916 the US companies decided to ease this process by putting in rails and an engine to transport the boats over the land. The engine (and operator, Charlie was keen to point out) having been slightly updated, but the rails remain the same, and made for the most pleasant portage thus far. After a delightful chat with Charlie, whose speech suggests he may have been too close to the engine for too many years, we headed to a campsite he’d pointed out and arrived just as the light faded. 

Charlie and his engine

The next morning saw us at Beatty Portage, the second set of rails, and paddling on to Lac la Croix where we were to collect our permit for Quetico Park. Around lunchtime we arrived at Campbell’s Cabins where we’d been told there was a little shop where we might get a few snacks, and discovered they would also fit us in for lunch. So two cooked lunches in two days…we could get to this “wilderness” experience. After discovering the ranger station closed at 3.30pm and we were not going to make it today we found another terrible private island campspot and dodged yet another storm.

How every portage should be!

The following morning we eventually found the well hidden Quetico ranger station, collected our permit allowing access to the park, and paddled on east looking forward to motorboat free waters.

Lakes Placid

Photos to come – not enough bandwidth!!

Our one night stay in Kenora was extended to two as Mike (finally, frankly) succumbed to the bug I’d had. I nursed him dutifully under the shade of the tarp in between making runs to the campsite shop, town and to check on various items illegally plugged in and charging around the site. Timing perfect as ever, our extra day meant we avoided paddling through another thunderstorm and set off a little fresher with a flat calm lake ahead of us. 

We still made it to the brewing company…

‘Lake of the Woods’ and this next section of the trip had always held a certain magic for us – on the map it certainly looked like a paddlers paradise, and people kept saying how wild and wonderful it was. Spoilt as we have been with wilderness, it actually felt incredibly busy leaving Kenora amidst the wake of motorboats, sea-doos, houseboats and even a great big cruiser. In spite of the business we had a lovely paddle in easy conditions, although navigation is understandably more challenging: we’d bought 16 detailed maps in Winnipeg to get us through to Lake Superior and I could no longer rely on the iPad. After a possibly slightly unnerving refresher on using a compass Mike put himself in my hands… it went well until I got tired and nearly threw the map and compass overboard, at which point we decided to camp. 

The weather was fantastic again the next day and the lake much quieter as we got further from Kenora. Dodging between islands and sneaking through tiny channels – this was what we’d hoped for; surprising a couple having a skinny dip from their pontoon, not so much, but when lunchtime came we threw caution and clothes to the wind and went for a swim too. This we had also hoped for – with stints between showers stretching up to 18 (18!) days, a swim and refresh is a total delight for us and, presumably, everyone we encounter. 

We came to our portage off Lake of the Woods in sweltering heat. Arriving at ‘Vic and Dots camp’ we headed inside to ask if we could tow our boat through to the highway and to just double check if they didn’t sell cold drinks or ice cream… they didn’t, but they gave us a cold can and, worried we might melt into the tarmac, offered us a lift over the (trans canada) highway to our put-in on Kakagi lake – we couldn’t refuse! 

From Lake of the Woods we knew there was a tangle of lakes and portages to get us through to the Quetico Provincial park – so many we hadn’t even committed their names to memory for our recitation of the route. We prepared ourselves for a tough couple of days – the first of which had no fewer than 7 portages: some quick heaves over beaver dams, some slightly longer trails through the forest, and one an almost completely lost kilometre of winding rocky paths and fallen trees. This last one called for the canoe to be completely emptied and carried on Mike’s head – something we had both looked forward to and dreaded in equal measure. We walked the route through to check it existed and was passable: it was, intermittently marked with ribbons tied in the trees, but it wasn’t passable with the boat, so we made a return trip carrying the heavier bags and armed with secateurs (genius!) to clear the way. We headed back to the boat to gather the remains of our kit and have our first trial of traditional canoe portaging. Struggling to get the 100L bag back on my shoulders Mike somehow managed to disappear off along the trail. Scurrying to catch up, whilst checking each ditch he might have fallen into, I eventually caught up with him in time to see the canoe stop abruptly, surge forward again, bounce back off some unseen obstacle and then slowly, gracefully, collapse to the ground. In a fit of giggles. Whether from the heat or the exertion of carrying our own body weights in kit, or the ridiculousness situation, we were both in hysterics for some time before the canoe squeaked breathlessly: ‘please can you get me out?!’. Proper voyageurs, us… 

Portage trails were sometimes challenging 
Anyway, we will now never forget Kakagi: lake of the crystal clear water, evening swim and incredible sunset camp spot; Osipasinni where we ate blueberries on the portage and Mike picked me a lily; Sandhill which wasn’t sandy at all, and Schistose with its perfectly placed tiny island at the end of a hard day of portages – bathed in the evening sun, with a fire pit which must have been there since the fur trade, with loon ducks making their eery, funny calls all around us and even enough time for a circumnavigation swim before dinner. The best few days of the trip so far: if the top of the Winnipeg river was Jurassic park, this area was the land that time forgot. 

“Circumnavigation Island”

The next day we were due several more portages but to our delight high water levels made several of the low dams easily passable by canoe (maybe not so much by the fishing boats that followed us…). Through Pipestone Lake, Loonhaunt, a couple more small dams to haul the boat over and some ‘rapids’ which turned out to be nothing of the sort, we had another stunning day and arrived at the last dam before Rainy lake and our last big portage before Fort Frances. 

The last portage was a good track so we put the canoe on the trolley, harnessed ourselves to the painters and set off. We camped on another well placed island and watched thunderstorms roll down the lake. Another morning of paddling saw us arrive into Fort Frances for our resupply – aiming for Pithers Point park and campground we were somewhat distracted by a big hotel with a boat pontoon and tables outside almost declaring food was available… 

Bertha mixing it with the big boats

Thanks go to: 

Robert, for the lift!

Every lovely person at La place rendez-vous!

The amazing guys in customs, Fort Frances, for their patience and help.

Mike’s new favourite piece of kit: factor 60 suncream

Onwards and Upwards

Lamprey Falls

We awoke at Lamprey Falls campsite to a stunning, still morning. So did the mossies, so we didn’t linger too long. This section of paddling is through one of Manitoba’s provincial parks, where wild camping is discouraged. Fortunately, the semi-organised campsites provided by the government are pretty darn good, equipped with picnic tables, fire pits and toilets, which proved useful as Cas had seemingly picked up a bug at some point. She soldiered on, and we got back in the boat though aware that the luxury of a toilet of sorts might be quite pleasant later. We were forced to put the tent up shortly after arriving on Eaglenest Lake as a storm tore through, and got back on the water after a break of a couple of hours. We didn’t mind a shorter, broken day however, as the paddle from Lamprey to LaVasseur Island was quite stunning. Minimal moving water allowed us to really enjoy the paddling, and we pulled in to a stunning beach around mid-afternoon. We don’t think we’ve given ourselves too many easy days, so were happy to kick back for a few hours in the afternoon sun.

We were now within striking distance of Ontario, our fourth province. We enjoyed a reasonably easy paddle to the border against a bit of occasional fast water, and stopped for coffee whilst another storm brewed. Refreshed, we headed on towards Boundary Island, where we encountered an un-named set of falls guarding the way. After two failed attempts at scaling these, and about to resort to lining, we had a look at the third potential line and decided to give it a go. Having let one fishing boat through we had another look, to see another boat hurtling downstream towards us. We tried to tuck back in and he slowed rapidly on seeing us, but that simply had the effect of mixing an even larger wake with quite a punchyeddy-line, with white water splashing into Cas’s cockpit and over the spray deck. With no real option but to get out of the churning water, we paddled like fury out into the middle of the flow and literally inched our way up the falls. It was without doubt our most difficult upstream section and possibly our sketchiest moment to date thanks to the poorly timed boat. With no clear sight of us he can’t be blamed, but racing through on the plane would have produced far less wake, something many boat owners don’t seem to grasp.

Congratulating ourselves and our boat we continued on as yet another storm gathered momentum. When the thunder cracked right behind us we decided it was time for tea, and took another break before heading on up to our last dam (which we hadn’t realised was there until the day before). Whitedog Dam is the final portage before reaching the top of the Winnipeg River, and the portage site provided an adequate campsite for the night. The threatened third storm of the day amounted to little, and we both had the best sleep we’d had in days. We set out the next morning thinking we might reach Kenora, but ongoing strong currents in this high water year made progress slow. We set out on to Sand Lake, which we think must have been named before the dams were all installed, and gradually adjusted to the increase in boat traffic we were seeing. Most islands have a cottage, and many of these are now occupied for the summer so we resigned ourselves to no longer being in the wilderness. We passed through the small town of Minaki, complete with float planes and an on-the-water gas station, and found a stunning island peninsular for the night where Mike picked up his second leach. The bemused looks on the faces of most of the boats that went by suggested wild camping is not so common in these parts.

Basically says “Don’t launch here”. It was fine. 

After 235km of some of the most beautiful landscapes we have paddled through so far we finally arrived the next day at Keewatin and took the boat out of the river that has been such a great surprise, and joy. The portage here is short, into a purpose-cut channel that links to Lake of the Woods. This area has been one that we have both been looking forward to, as the myriad of islands and channels should prove to be paddling heaven. As long as the speed boats stay clear. Within minutes of arriving here we looked to our left to see a large sightseeing boat, the size of small ferry, bearing down on us. Feeling very small we carefully traced our way around the islands, surprising a small turtle who was sunbathing in the reeds. We think he now has an additional pink stripe adorning his shell, and a tale to tell his friends. Yes, we ran over a turtle.

Cas had to reign it in a bit on LOTW

We arrived at Anicinabe Park campsite in the afternoon with a forecast of increasing wind the next day. Needing to do a small resupply, and finding that Kenora is the home of the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, this seemed like a good place for a break.

Are we nearly there yet??

A couple of days ago we crossed the provincial line into Ontario and after a quick mileage review realised we’re over halfway! (for distance at least – this next bit will be slower…). 

Here’s a round up of how we wound up in the middle of Canada:

  • Distance covered: 2900km (give or take a wiggle…)
  • Days since departure: 68
  • Paddled/portaged: 60 
  • Weather bound: 6
  • Days off off: 2 (he’s a task master…)
  • Provinces crossed: 3; remaining: 2
  • Favourite campsite: Bear camp, Alberta

Worst mosquito bite location: 

  • Cas: between toes
  • Mike: scrotum

Tick tally: Mike 2; Cas 2

Leech tally: Mike 2; Cas 1

    Halftime favourite piece of kit: 

    • Mike: water filter;
    • Cas: carbon paddle (a few mm shorter than when we bought it…)

    Nervous moments we thought we’d broken the boat: many

    Repairs to boat: 2 (superficial, luckily)

    Stow-aways: 2 (one mouse, one toad)

    Hitchhikers: 1 

    Useless trivets lost overboard: 1

    Useless trivets needed to reset the stove when it broke: 1

    Cameras destroyed due to stupidity: 1

    Times we almost fell in: 1 (yesterday)

    • Fuel used: 3L white gas, 2 small camping gas 
    • Wine gums consumed: 3.5kg (slightly alarming)
    • Whisky consumed: 3 bottles, all excellent

    Best piece of advice: burn birch bark for smoke to get rid of mozzies!

    Worst piece of advice: 

    • ‘Awful cramped: you should get another canoe and tow it behind you with your kit in it!’

     Closely followed by: 

    • ‘You should run a noodle [floatation device used by children and in aquarobics classes] down either side – improve your stability!’

    What we have learnt: this life suits us!

    What we are yet to learn: we have to confess we’re still not 100 percent clear what poison ivy and poison oak are…

    Weddings missed: 2 (and 2 more to go…)
    Friends and family missed: many 

    We love you guys!! Xxx

    Dam it all!

    We departed our rock with mixed feelings: excitement to see the terrain start to change and embark on the next section of our journey mingled with apprehension at the thought of another big industrial river which we would be paddling upstream no less, and multiple portages around dams. Well. 

    Day one on the Winnipeg we reached: Pine falls which we ‘lined’ the boat up; Powerview dam which we portaged; Silver falls which we paddled up; Mud falls which we slightly ungracefully slid and slipped the boat up, and finally Great Falls dam which we again portaged. We didn’t know or care how far we’d paddled because we were loving every minute: the river is stunning with great slabs of grey and pink granite overhung with pines and cedars; sometimes wide and lake-like, sometimes high and fast. 

    We were fairly shattered when we got to the other side of Great falls dam and decided to just camp right there in the car park. Minutes after we’d pitched the tent Dan and Shayna arrived to go for a swim in a nearby flooded quarry. We were too tired and hungry to investigate but on hearing of our trip Dan said ‘We have a market garden – I’ll be back in half an hour with fresh stuff for you guys!’. And he was with, to my utter delight, bags full of freshly picked salad and vegetables, and to Mike’s unbridled joy a pack of homemade venison smokies (sausages!). We seriously considered a second dinner…

    Day 2 on the Winnipeg dawned fair and bright and we made an early start, not really knowing how tough the current may be nor how tricky the portages. Within minutes we were watching an otter and her 3 pups playing in the eddies just metres in front of the boat. They scurried over a headland and then back out into the middle of the very current we were struggling against. It set us up for the day ahead – another dam to portage and Lac du Bonnet to cross. We were now in prime cottaging (totally legitimate phrase, stop snickering at home) country and it was easy to see why. We made a stop in Lac du Bonnet town for some emergency supplies (read: ice cream) and by great good fortune met up with Bev and Rolly – Wayne’s sister and brother in law. Once again they invited us to stay and once again we decided regretfully to push on, but not before Bev had given us a huge blueberry cheesecake. ‘We can’t possibly eat it all!’ We cried: ‘It’ll go bad in the heat and be wasted!’ It turned out we could, it didn’t and it wasn’t… 

    Day 3 started with a portage up Seven Sisters dam via a steep track. Mike had warned me that in this area there are stone sculptures or what appear to be piles of rocks which we should leave untouched as they could be aboriginal. Imagine my delight when he kicked over a little stone man we had been carefully avoiding on the slipway… (I estimate the slipway concrete was poured in the 70s so I’m thinking he didn’t wreck too much history…). We paddled on towards Pinawa and into island hopping territory through some fairly fast water (easy ‘drop and pool’ everyone said! ‘Virtually no flow’…) sadly receiving an invitation to meet the mayor too late. Through Margaret lake, Dorothy lake and onto Nutimik lake the headwind picked up but we were determinedly aiming for a provincial park near Sturgeon falls – the next portage. Barring the wind it was a fairly glorious evening and plenty of folks were out on their decks and pontoons drinking sundowners (I may have suggested paddling closer on the off chance of an invitation up for gin but Mike will take a direct line). Arriving at the park I headed up to find the office and see what else could be had there. I returned frazzled an hour later: suffice it to say, these parks aren’t really geared up for people arriving in anything other than a car. It was going to be quite a hike with the boat to any pitches so instead we paddled on around the headland and camped on a beach right next to the falls. 

    Day 4 started with a short portage around  Sturgeon falls and a brisk paddle to Slave falls hydro dam. We hadn’t managed to find much online about this portage since early 2000s and we hoped the track had improved since then. After a bit of searching we found the marker and after a steep narrow section through the woods the trail became a wide grassy track up to the ‘high side’. Phew. We left a small token taped to the marker for our friends and comrades-in-boats Mike and David who have been utterly beset by winds and storms on lake Winnipeg. We hope it’s still there when they arrive!

    The next hurdle was 8 foot falls which we reckoned we’d need to portage (it’s all in the name…) and immediately afterwards Pointe du Bois dam. We got closer and closer to where the falls were marked on the map and the water got faster and faster but no obvious get-out, nor actual ‘falls’ could be seen so we carried on. Paddling our socks off we suddenly arrived just below the dam so apparently had come up 8 foot falls! This portage was supposed to be clearly signed so we carried on until we dared not go any closer. We ended up hauling the boat through someone’s garden and found the road. Turning back a short way up we saw the portage signs – clearly marked if you were heading downstream!! It was quite a walk to the high side but greatly improved by the presence of many wild raspberries. We had lunch on the boat pontoon and chatted to some locals – apparently the wild blueberries out ripe too, in abundance! The dam sign said flow rates were currently high which could be good or bad depending on their effect on the rapids ahead, but for now we were essentially on a lake and we had a fine paddle up to Lamprey falls where we made an early camp. We even had time for a quick dip before dinner which will come as a relief to anyone who has met us recently. 

    Wind and Wheels

    It’s a shame, but we have both rather regarded this section of the journey – down the Red, on to Lake Winnipeg and round to the Winnipeg River – as simply a transition, filling the gap between the lakes of Manitoba and the onward journey into the Canadian Shield. This is unfair, on a river and lake so steeped in history and controversy.

    After spending a stormy night next to the perimeter highway we headed downstream. The wind was still up as we left the boat launch, and still in our faces for the first half of the day. Cas later admitted this was her most miserable day of the trip so far. Our first hurdle, other than simply moving forwards on what was virtually still water, was a dam at Lockport. We knew this has a lock, but didn’t know if the boat would be allowed through it. After several hours battling the wind, considering walking along the road adjacent to the river, and turning the air blue, we crawled into the entrance to the lock. I went off to find someone to talk to whilst Cas searched for moral support… Eventually I found the operators, and rather than being shown a portage route as we were expecting I was asked to sign a book of craft entries, and paddle right on in to the lock! Holding a rope, we dropped 18 feet before the gates opened at the other end and we saw numerous fishermen looking on bewildered as we paddled our little boat out of the huge lock. 

    We felt very small…

    The rest of the day was better. The wind fell and we were able to enjoy the paddling once again, spurred on by a couple of chaps fishing from their garden who, on hearing us say we were heading to Quebec, promptly gave us a bag of beers for the end of the day! Thank you guys! We eventually wound our way into Selkirk, a few kilometres short of the lake, where we were lucky to get into the camp site as the fair was setting up (but sadly not yet open).

    Gift of beer!!!

    The following day we finally reached Lake Winnipeg which, thankfully, was flat calm. Any sort of wind can turn this place into a maelstrom, but the settled weather allowed us to get a good distance round the bottom corner before camping at the stunning Patricia Beach Provincial Park. The following day the weather broke. Getting on the water shortly after 6am we hoped to get up to the resort town of Grand Marais before the wind picked up. We did not. We managed 7km before heading for shore and taking to the trail as the lake turned into a churning mass of white water. But the sight of a canoe being wheeled along the road does draw attention, and so we were invited to have lunch with Laila and Stuart, who generously fed us tea, toast and bacon whilst the wind continued to build outside. Cas was delighted to swap a book at the community library (set up by Laila) before we continued on to the campsite at Grand Beach.

    Enjoying the sun at Patricia Beach

    Laila and Stuart

    With the weather forecast still very unsettled and wind speeds variable for the next few days we had a tough choice to make – did we try and paddle a couple of hours at a time for the next 4 days to get around the point to the river, around 70km away? Or did we stick to the road and portage 25km along the highway to Fort Alexander and the start of the river, taking a rest day first at Grand Beach? We decided on the latter and took a day off to prepare. We were sad not to see more of this beautiful but unforgiving lake, but felt our journey must continue. We were also acutely aware of our friends, Mike and David who we met on the highway back in Alberta. They were north of us, coming down the lake, but had been held up by the winds for many days and were narrowly missed by a tornado. We had to take every opportunity to keep moving.

    Grand Beach

    The lovely Wayne

    Very generously, Wayne drove up from Winnipeg to see us, bringing a picnic lunch of meat and fresh veg, and two hip flasks of Scotch! A better treat we could not have had, and we had a lovely afternoon chatting and relaxing before he had to head back to the city. A meal in the Station House Restaurant (thank you Audrey and Olive) prepared us for the long march. At 8am we left the campsite, heading for a series of tracks that linked to the highway. These turned out to be mostly sand, which is pretty miserable when towing a 150kg cargo, and we were grateful to reach the tarmac. 25 hot kilometres later we reached the lake again and paddled a few kilometres to a lovely outcrop of rock at which we camped. Rock!!! Proper rock, above the waterline, not just lining the river bed. Being from a country with cliffs and contours we were pretty over the moon to see this. We went to bed happy with our portage decision, and excited about the change in the landscape and what that might herald for the days ahead.

    All things bite and beautiful!

    Ticks, horse flies, deer flies, bulldogs, leeches, black fly, no-see-ums…all these things are trying gamely to suck us dry of our A-positive whilst we are here. Most with some success, I have to say. But none are more trying than the mosquitoes. These have become larger and more numerous the farther inland we have come, but the ones of the southernmost end of Lake Manitoba are, so far, the worst.

    After a warm night’s rest at the local fishing spot, disturbed only by some friendly Russians wanting to take us fishing and the largest mosquitos we have seen thus far, we set out up the Assiniboine diversion. This waterway, built in 1967, provides an overspill for water coming down the Assiniboine River system that would otherwise flood Winnipeg. Instead it raises the level in Lake Manitoba. There are mixed feelings about this arrangement, as in 2011 it caused a significant flood, destroying both land and homes, and some folk still feel pretty bitter about it.

    The diversion is pretty much straight south for 25km, before turning southeast to the river. It is shallow, silty, stuffed full of more large carp, and we thought would be an easy day out. Wrong. It has three dams to control the flow (not one, as I had thought…) which proved pretty gruelling to get around, or over. Dragging the boat up a spillway in 30 degree heat was a challenge. But at least the diversion had water in, as we have subsequently learnt that is by no means guaranteed. Nevertheless, we were glad to finally get to the top it and see the river itself, spending the night in a small park before heading downstream the next morning. The Assiniboine is a slow but interesting, meandering river that winds its way through farmland on its way to join the Red River in Winnipeg. Dodging sandbars proved the main entertainment, along with studying the map to work out by exactly how much we (…!?) had underestimated the distance and watching Cas’s surprise when a fish very nearly jumped into the boat. After 11 hours of paddling, and realising that we were still around 5 hours short of the campsite we thought we might make, we came across a beautifully kept river frontage with convenient small pontoon, and I was dispatched to see if the owners were friendly…

    Indeed they were. We had landed at the home of Ken and Dianne Tranborg, who after some initial surprise at seeing a slightly unkempt ginger-bearded Englishman standing at the door were more than happy for us to put the tent up by the river. Moreover, they came down to share some stories of past travellers (we were not the first to think this looked like a great camp spot) and invited us up for a beer. We had a truly lovely evening with them, after which they offered to take us in to town for our resupply the next morning, saving a huge amount of time and hassle trying to do this from the boat. They really could not have done more for us and we can’t thank them enough. Having dropped the boat’s waterline by a few inches we said goodbye later in the afternoon, trying very hard not to accept their offer of another night with them. Once again, we have been blown away by the kindness of people we have met on this trip.

    Our dock

    Our hosts

    After a hard evening paddle to a campsite 40km downstream, a meal of steak after our supply stop followed by ice cream (!), and another day paddling into a headwind for 6 hours (for once we were glad of the meanders!), we finally arrived at The Forks in Winnipeg. This site is of great significance in the history of the Voyageurs and the fur trade, with the route up the Assiniboine heading west, north going towards Lake Winnipeg and Lake of the Woods (our path) and south up the Red River eventually linking with the Mississippi in the US. We were met there by Wayne, the brother in law of our friend Frenchie from Nipawin, who came down to see us pass through. After a lovely hour chatting, sadly turning down his offer of a place to stay and recharge (we later regretted refusing such generous hospitality), we set off into the headwind again down the Red River towards Lake Winnipeg. We managed a couple of hours into the wind and rain before finding a camp next to a boat launch on the edge of town and collapsing into the tent. 

    Someone knew we were coming…

    In the last week we have both, for the first time, been feeling the pressure of time. There are so many places we’d love to spend longer at and sights we would love to see, but we are not even halfway yet and still have a lot of paddling to do if we are to reach Quebec before the end of October.
    Thanks to: 

    • Ken and Dianne, for being such stars!
    • Wayne for coming and meeting us at The Forks and offering a place to stay.

    What we’ve learnt: 

    • After two years of planning and studying routes and maps, you can still be surprised that someone dumped several thousand tonnes of concrete in your way.