waiting for gearbox triology, part 1

After our last break-down we had another gearbox installed and drove out of the city with mixed emotions. To cheer each other up a bit we decided to go eat our Latin food on our way out of the city. After some nice food and some strange Latin drinks we got back on the road. The second setback with the gearbox forced us to spend more time in Ontario than we thought we would. About a 4 hour drive north from Toronto there is a famous provincial park called Algonquin. Earlier in our trip we decided we would not go to that park because it was too far out of our direction, but the new situation gave us plenty of time to go and explore.

Leaving the city at 18:00 is not the best idea right before a holiday weekend. It seems that almost everybody in Toronto has a cottage north of the city and the streets were full of cars driven by people that couldn’t wait to get away from the city. We knew we were not going all the way to the park that night but we found a parking spot about half way. The spot was marked on our travel app as a lakeside spot that had free parking, but when we got there it seemed it had just been renovated with new asphalt and new parking meters charging $3 a hour. The lake itself was heavily crowded and we moved on to our next option, a parking lot of a casino. We arrived at the casino a bit late and the sun started to set. The parking lot was a huge slate of boiling asphalt full of big rig RV’s and trailers. I never knew that casinos were a big deal like this but the parking was endless and it was especially for people that stay overnight. We drove our little van in between the big RV’s for a hot night because the asphalt would radiate heat way after the sun had sunk behind the horizon.

We woke up after a sweaty night noticing the parking was about empty while we drove out of the parking. The casino was the only option for a much needed toilet in the morning , but we felt a bit strange walking in the all sweaty and sticky just to go use their toilet. Desy went first and came walking out smiling, there was air-conditioning inside!

Our next destination was a logging road deep in the woods next to a lake, we were excited to get there because it seemed to be a bit excluded. We turned onto the gravel road into the woods and rocked up and down the winding road deeper into the woods. The spot that we meant to stay at was taken, and the people told us that in this holiday weekend it would be hard to find a spot. Back onto the bumpy road we went and drove by another spot right at the lake but it was takeng by about 8 people that seemed to be just a bit younger than us. Passing by them looking for the next spot we realised that we were driving the muddy bumpy road for about 45 minutes and decided that was enough. We turned around and asked the group if we could stay at the spot with them. We were accepted right away and had a really nice night swimming, playing games, and shared some campfire time. We drank some fancy beer that was given to us by Alex and Marty a couple of weeks before and fell asleep happy.

By this time we knew a thing or two about all the bugs in Canada, but we were to be surprised by another creature that we didn’t know of yet. That night we fought off mosquitos like any other night but were woken up around 3:30 by an itchy weird pinch all over our bodies. When it’s hot and sweaty and we have to kill a lot of flies before going to sleep our minds sometimes tricks us and we feel all paranoid about bugs and mosquitos but this was different. I asked Desy: are you feeling this? Dozens of little bites all over our bodies were freaking us out and we didn’t know what was happening. Slapping every spot we felt a bite while rolling and complaining the night took forever and we couldn’t wait for the first light so we could get out of this doomed forest. When the sunlight finally pierced through we got the hell out of there, but the road got worse and gravel turned in to bigger boulders. Sometimes the road got so steep that we had to gear down to first gear until we got to a part of the road that seemed undoable for the van. We took a bit of distance and revved up in 1th gear to take on the challenge. Half way through some bigger boulders made me stall the engine and we started rolling back, we had to make a plan. We set out a course trying to avoid the worst of it and tried again, about 75% up the hill we were stopped again but kept the engine running. The gearbox we were using was not ours, so who cared? One foot on the break I stepped on the throttle and let the clutch come up. Boulders were shooting to the back and the side while slowly we crawled from left to right crawling to the top of the hill. All of this happened while it was boiling hot and we could not open the windows because of all the flies trying to eat and eventually kill us. We made it over the hill, and from that point on the road got better until we finally got back onto some real tarmac that would take us right into Algonquin Provincial Park.

We started driving again and we really started to get back into lake country. Behind every curve in the road there was another stunning lake, some covered in lilies other wide open water surrounded by pine trees. We passed through a town called Dorset when we drove by a boat lounge at the end of a grass field that had several picnic tables surrounded by wide pine trees. Right at the start of this field there was a swimming area with a platform to dive from. We were still about 25 kilometres away from the park but this spot looked too good to pass up on so we turned around and parked  right at the water. As soon as we were parked there several people came and talked to us. A group of rock climbers hang around, people walking their dogs and many people just going for a swim in this hot Canadian summer. We walked the town, had ice-cream and felt right at home. A bath every morning and evening, fresh toilets and drinking water around the corner, and friendly people. we stayed for another night before leaving to the park the next day.

We arrived in the park early after a short drive and got into the visitors centre. The rules are clear, if you get off the highway leading through the park you need to pay a fee. For the Canadian National Parks we bought an annual pass but there are also Provincial Parks and forests, an these require a separate fee. We asked the rangers if we could pass through the park finding out the stuff we wanted to see and do and then pay for the next day to go into the park, and they were OK with this. We were excited to see the wildlife of the park, when we asked the rangers where to see moose they told us that they were everywhere and our best shot was to drive the highway at dusk or dawn.

After using the toilets and taking some water we drove through the park. The highway is a well maintained road with a maximum speed 90 and led us in about 60 kilometres through the park. The road crosses the park at the south and from the road you can get to all the hikes, museums, and the companies renting and selling outdoor stuff. All the hikes we checked out had brochures that we took to decide what trails to hike the next day. Half way through the park we stopped at a lake to have lunch and spent some time at the water.

While passing through the park we were looking everywhere for wildlife, but we did not find any, at some point we saw a traffic jam in the distance and knew something must have been going on there. Sure enough there was a cow moose in the water about 30 meters away from the road. It was amazing to finally see a moose, we looked forward to this moment since we started the trip and there we were; watching the moose from the top of the van. Somehow it felt a bit strange that we were just there in a big line of cars watching nature, it felt a bit unnatural. With so many people stopping it was only a matter of time until somebody started walking up to the moose triggering its return to the bush. As quick as the moose disappeared so did the traffic jam and we moved on.

Still overwhelmed by the moose we drove out of the east gate of the park. There was an old road  mentioned online that used to be the main road through the park before the new highway and it said that you could park at some places along the road. We turned right onto the gravel old road passing some patches of trees before passing a lake appeared on the right side. There was just a little flat area next to the road behind some pine trees that was just big enough for the van and that was where we set up camp. The sun was slowly crawling closer to the horizon when I decided I should catch some fish that I saw rushing away when Paco jumped in the water the first time when we got there. It turned out that I don’t know enough about fishing to catch fish that look so easy to catch by the untrained fisherman eye. We cooked our fishless dinner while the sun sank behind the pine trees turning the sky orange. The lake was so calm that it was one big mirror showing the reflection of the trees and the orange sky. There were much worse spots in the world to wait for a gearbox rebuild than this amazing spot.

We had breakfast at the lake the next day before we drove back into the park. The rules where still the same, we officially could not get into the park but we drove to the info centre. The info centres of the parks are really cool often they show the animals living in the park and there is a lot to learn about the history and about the animals. We stopped at several scenic lookouts and spots near the highway, had lunch in at the lake and we decided to go back to Dorset on the other side of the park again to spent the night. We felt like we saw enough of the park and started thinking about where to go next  when we arrived back at our spot in Dorset. It was still really warm, every day it got warmer than 30 degrees and being back at the lake was nice.



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