Manitsover!

Apparently some folk are trying to guess from reading who wrote each post (before it becomes obvious) so I’ll try and keep this as neutral as possible…

We pulled into the Narrows slipway on Canada day weekend and immediately obstructed it – one of us went to investigate the Lodge whilst the other sat on the canoe eating wine gums. 

‘We’ve got a room with a king size bed! AND a double bed. AND a BATH!! Oh, and the restaurant smells soooo good!’

So we speedily unpacked the boat, loaded it onto the trolley and literally ran to our room. 


Our excitement was only slightly curbed by a sign on the wall saying ‘Strictly NO smoking and NO pets. Any evidence or smells resulting from breaking this rule will lead to a $150 cleaning fee’. We hoped they would believe that the smell was just 2 unbelievably grubby humans. 

One of us was despatched to buy some beers before taking up residence in the bath for 2 hours. Then we put on our cleanest clothes and headed to the restaurant, but before we left the room debated: really muddy shoes, sopping wet sandals or bare feet? We opted bare feet. 

‘I’m going to have to ask you to put some shoes on, please’ said the server as he greeted us. ‘For your own safety.’ We explained our predicament and ultimately agreed socks were acceptable, and would definitely enhance our safety. We ate steak and drank wine and chatted to James, our lovely server, and agreed we’d be back for breakfast and almost certainly dinner too the next day. 

The forecast winds arrived and we were thankful for the opportunity to do some laundry and blogging and sleeping and a little resupply stop. We also ate more steak. 

Setting off on Tuesday in good cheer and great weather we paddled to Margaret Bruce beach and camped on the sand under a tree. 


Once again battling head wind and tail swell but also blistering heat we set out hoping to get around Big Point – from where we thought we’d be able to get off the lake in one more day’s paddle. The water was thick with carp and in places we couldn’t put a paddle in without bonking one on the head, which did add interest to the day. But the weather broke us and we started looking for a camp spot 15km short of the point. And looking. And looking. A few Km later one of us may have (briefly) stopped paddling altogether and had a tantrum. ‘Well, we can try and make space here if you’d like?’ Said the other, in an effort to mollify, pointing at 2 square feet of sand in the middle of a reed bed. But then we glimpsed a big sandy stretch ahead of us: 

‘how far is that?’ 

‘2km’ 

‘*~€{} it, we’re going there’. 

So we did. It turned out to be called Hollywood beach, so we stripped off and went for a swim. 


The wind put paid to any plans to progress the next day which was frustrating but meant we got to eat pancakes with the remainder of Darlene’s rhubarb. 


We were also given some fish by an interesting fella in an RV who had plans to build a jackable/floating platform for it and haul it into the middle of the lake to live out his days…!

Rested up and with a good forecast we departed Hollywood beach on Friday not convinced, but hopeful, we might make it to the Assiniboine diversion. And we did!

Thanks go to:

Blair, James and the rest of the team at the narrows for making us (and our boat) very comfortable! And for the washing tablets!

Arnold for letting us camp under his tree.

Randy, for the fish and entertainment!

What we’ve learnt:

Headwind + wine gums = ok

Headwinds – wine gums = tantrum 

Lake Manitoba to the Narrows

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 tragic end of the whisky…

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! 

Thanks to:

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…