We drove further west on highway 17 that showed us sights of forest-covered hills and cut up rocks that looked sliced open to let the highway pass through. These scars in the landscape always make me think about how much work it must have taken to actually make highways like this, 17 happen. On our left, we saw the last of the great lakes disappear in the distance when we started to get closer to our next destination, Thunderbay.
Ironically the weather turned on us while we drove into town and we had to laugh when thunder sounded while we looked for a spot to park. We were lucky to arrive in Thunderbay when we did because that weekend there was a festival called Buskerfest. A busker is somebody that entertains the people on the street for money. This festival had several different busker styles from belly dancing to Japanese drums to rap artists and everything in between. There was also some good street food around so we had some sweet potato fries and smoothies on our way back to the van.
Leaving Thunderbay behind we really started to get into the heart of Canada although we were still in Ontario we were soon to say goodbye to this vast province. We were not out of the province of thousands lakes yet and we turned off the highway to find a spot on a lake for the last time. The railroad followed along the side of the highway forever so we had to cross is to follow down a dry gravel dirt road. We had to follow it for a good while to get to the lake, while de road got bumpier and bumpier we wondered if maybe we passed the spot that we tried to find. After what seemed a hundred bends in the road we finally saw an opening in the trees that gave space to a grass spot right at the lake.
We parked the van with the slider towards the lake and I started looking for some firewood. I loved this spot, far away from everything and right at the water, these are the spots I imagined us sleeping in every night traveling through Canada. When the fire was going nicely I got into the water that was calm and flat like a mirror, from the water the van looked so cool behind the smoke from the fire and with Desy and Paco just moving about.
While we were all set to go to sleep out of nowhere a car drove up to the spot and out came about 5 young French people. They were crossing Canada in a rush and asked if we wouldn’t mind sharing the spot. With the feeling of being far away from everything and everybody fading, of course, we shared the spot. Quickly they pitched several tents by the moonlight and the lights of their headlamps. In the morning after a small chat, they left as quickly as they arrived. We also packed up early because today would be a long driving day.
Highway 17 was ending for us when we got onto the Trans Canadian highway number 1. Kenora was the last town we saw in Ontario before we crossed into Manitoba. It had been so long since we crossed a province border and we were a bit excited to see Manitoba. We knew we were not going to spend as much time in Manitoba as we did in Ontario, and we better not, otherwise we would take ages crossing Canada. Shortly after following the highway into Manitoba we slowly rolled down the road that took us to a small marina. Behind the marina, there was a small beach that allowed overnight parking. We parked next to an older German couple who were crossing the Americas in a 4×4 Iveco that used to serve the Italian Army. We swam for a little while before the sky turned black and a big rain created a beautiful rainbow over the water.
The next town on the map was Winnepeg and we would be there in a heartbeat because it was only 60 kilometers of just highway driving away. Right next to the highway in the distance, a big sign started to appear, and when we got closer we noticed it was this huge sign indicating the exact middle of Canada. As we passed it we were immediately looking for a dirt road leading back to the sign, in other more scenic highways we would have passed it but Manitoba was not the most exiting driving province up till that point.
Soon after we arrived in Winnepeg we walked by the river and saw a marketplace but we did not get that inspired by the city and left shortly after. Driving out of town on Highway 1 for the first time we noticed that the surroundings were slowly changing to the widespread fields that everybody talked about. Not sure if these were already considered prairies we drove up to a town called Portage la Prairie and we decided that must be the start of the real fields we were expecting for so long. That night we slept in town next to what seemed to be an old river that was transformed into a pond.
The next morning we told each other that we better do as everybody told us and get enough supplies to make it through all these miles and miles of crops dancing in the wind as far as the eyes can see. We were told that there would not be a lot of stores to stock up after this so with more food and water than we ever had we drove out of town.
Right after the town, we started to look forward to arriving at the west of Canada, the Canada you see in all the brochures and on social media. We started to dream about the blue lakes in between the high mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. To get to the west we had to choose between 2 highways that would lead us through central Canada, Highway 1; the more southern option that would arrive in the more southern part of the west, or highway 16; that would lead us more north to drop in at the north of the big parks. 16 was the more favorable for us since we planned to see the northern parks first in order to slowly drop down southwest to Vancouver and eventually the US.