Manitoulin Island

Leaving the Bruce Peninsula we had to take a ferry to Manitoulin Island. The ferry wasn’t cheap, but because of taking the ferry we would see some nice places that we would not see when driving around to the other side of the lake. And because this ferry ride was a bit of a shortcut we would save some money on diesel. We parked in line to get onto the ferry, in line were some amazing vans, a VW T2 or bay window Westfalia and a good looking 80s Chevy van. Waiting to get on the ferry we chatted with loads of people including a retired couple that were on their way home with a car full of VW parts to get their Vanagon Westfalia fixed up. We drove onto the ferry and walked our way to the only deck where we were allowed to take Paco. The same couple came to talk to us on the deck that we met waiting in line, they showed us pictures of their van and we talked about our adventures on the road. The sun had set when we arrived at Manitoulin island, we got back into the van and drove of the ferry.

We didn’t plan where to sleep after arriving on the other side, so we just started driving. Real soon we saw we would not find a place to sleep in the next kilometres so we turned around to find a spot close to the ferry landing. The town was not big at all, just a couple blocks but there were “no overnight parking” signs everywhere. We do not want to drive at night, specially not in an area where there is a lot of wildlife so we decided to push our luck and park in the little harbour next to the toilets. Nobody bothered us that night and we were happy that we slept right there because the next morning we noticed that the toilet building not only had toilets but also hot showers and laundry machines. We drove onto Manitoulin island with clean clothes and clean bodies, this was a good start!

We were told that Manitoulin Island is the biggest freshwater island in the world and it is actually the extension of the before visited Bruce Peninsula. Like the Bruce Peninsula this island is also beautifully shaped by erosion, these shapes of the island have been woven into several native stories that have been passed on by generations. We would learn about these stories at the beginning of hikes that we did where they were written down on the info signs at the beginning of the hikes. Before going on any hike we wanted to see a famous waterfall called the Kawagong bridal veil falls, named like this because of the resemblance to a bridal veil, and because of the ability to walk and “hide” behind the water. We didn’t plan to drive all the way to the falls that same day but all the spots that we found to sleep were posted with no overnight signs and therefore we ended up rather later at the falls. Because of it being later in the day the parking lot at the falls had some empty spots and we decided to sleep right there and go see the falls the next morning.

After breakfast the next morning we allowed the sun to get op higher before descending down from the stairs toward the pool underneath the falls. These falls had captured our imagination for a while because from the pictures we thought it almost looked like a Mexican cenote and we couldn’t wait to swim there. We walked the metal stairs down when we saw the first glimpse of the falls, at a little platform we could see the white water plummeting into the round pool that the rushing water had created over the years. When we got to the water Paco made sure all the pebbles were rescued out of the water and we started walking. Standing there in the middle of the pool the beauty of the place was striking, the water seemed to slide off the overhanging rock and turn from crystal clear glass into white rushing foam falling down into the pool surrounded by green, almost tropical like. We almost never have places like this for ourselves but there were barely people at these falls and we could do exactly what we wanted. We swam under the falls, walked around, looked for crayfish, played with Paco, and just enjoyed this amazing place before climbing the stairs back up to the van.

After we dried off we drove a couple of minutes to get into the little harbour town, the town was similar to the towns we saw on the coast of the Georgian Bay. All these towns had a stunning view over the water surrounded by towering rocks, a little harbour, a church a couple of stores and a community area. We walked the town for a while before we set off to our first hike on the island called “The cup and saucer” this hike was supposed to have some amazing views. The drive to this hike took us across the interior of the island that is mainly forest and farmlands dotted with hay bales.

The info sign at the hike told the native story about this area that talked about a strong native chief that had to run from another tribe all the way from the Bruce Peninsula. Running from the other clan he picked up a canoe to paddle to the island as we did on the ferry. Running over the island he had to sit down his grandma that he had been carrying on his shoulder, not possible to carry her any further. A bit behind on the island the clan caught up with him so he dropped his bow and arrow to run faster. A rock in the middle of a lake was symbol for his grandma that is still waiting to be picked up by her grandson and the mountains we were about to hike were his bow and arrow that he had left behind. These days we were on hikes that were about 10 Kilometre, this hike was a bit shorter but had some steep climbs. The heavily wooded rocks had some rocks pointing out of the cliffs that looked like natural diving boards, one of these diving boards has a 270 degree view and made us feel almost like we were flying. Stepping to the edge of the rock felt unnatural and it took some time before we convinced ourselves that we really wanted to be at the tip. The feeling and the view from this spot were amazing, and were a real good destination to hike to, a real treat waiting at the end of a hike, but of course we had to hike back to the van.

On the way back we choose to take the more adventurous route, that meant climbing through cracks in the rock, crawling through tight spaces and walking on steep declining rock faces. All of this was fun to do, and because it forced us to move slow it was not really dangerous. When we got back on the normal trail we had to go down some wooden steps, similar steps we had walked up and down dozens of times but somehow this time I slipped. I remember clearly thinking about how to hold the rail firmly , not even finishing this thought I tumbled down the steps. I normally carry Paco up and down these kind of steps as I also did this time and while tumbling down I saw Paco hitting several steps. When I regained my foothold and got back on my feet Paco was already wagging his tail like nothing happened. After seeing that Paco was ok I noticed that I bruised my lower arm and that my hip had took a big hit. We got back to the van relieved that nobody was seriously injured because most of the hikes we do have some elements of danger in it, but this time it could have been bad.

It was starting to get late when we got back on the road looking for a place to sleep. We didn’t plan a place to sleep but while driving we saw a couple of small roads next to the lake, the roads were right beside the main road that took us back to the mainland so it seemed to be perfect. We turned off the main road to get onto the smaller gravel road that led toward the lake and turned to run parallel to the lake shore at 30 meters away from the water. These little roads turned out to be access roads to all the lake side lots where people build their houses, parked their RV or trailers. We were a bit bummed out when we noticed this road would only lead to private properties. One lot turned out to be empty, and after exploring the space by foot it looked like it was used more often by travellers because of the several fire pits. The side had tall grass and 5 meters away from the water there was a cluster of trees, half way between the trees and the water that grass gave way to a pebble beach with rocks that seemed to have all the colours in the world.

While we were making camp one of our neighbours came by for a chat, and he told us it was just fine if we would stay for the night. We thought that nobody would bother us at this place, but it is always nice to have a local come tell us that we are indeed OK. While the sun sank in between the islands at the horizon in the distance the sky turned orange when we went for a swim in the clear water. The three of us love spots like this, close to the water, in between nature and out of sight from roads and people. It is spots like this that give us the feeling that we are really out there and doing it, living the dream. The next morning we sat at the water’s edge while eating our breakfast. Soon after we finished our breakfast we backed up out of our grass overgrown driveway to get back on the road. Shortly after we would really be on our way west to cross Canada, alongside of the Great Lake into the open midlands.


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