I wrote this on Sunday

We got up bright and early on Sunday to ensure we would not be late for the ferry.  We said goodbye to the lovely young family next door (Sarah, Deacon, Cody, Logan and Isaiah) and very sweetly, Sarah came over and gave me a kiss and some really beautifully scented sandalwood joss sticks. We managed to pack up and be out of the camps in plenty of time, mainly because we had such a minimal set up.  The ferry over the Georgian Bay is a huge favourite with the locals.  Every time we had mentioned that we were taking the ferry north from Tobermory, everyone had something to say about ‘Chi-Cheemaun (pronounced chee chee mon) and had some advice about how to get on it (George, the lovely realtor even offered us the use of his phone).  It turns out that it is a pretty chunky boat, and the only one quite so good in all the great lakes, but it’s still just a pretty good ferry.  We had booked to get on it and we got there in plenty of time, had a coffee in the local restaurant, feeling very jealous of all those people eating delicious looking breakfasts, while we had already had our muesli and yoghurt.

1 eaten by the ship

The boat trip was remarkably calm because the previous winds had dropped and we were given a commentary about the boat; apparently it is called Chi-Cheemaun (pronounced Ch’ Chimon and it means ‘Big Canoe’.  It was a name arrived at in a competition in the 70s and has really caught the public imagination.

2 islands on Lake Huron

The views from the ferry were not particularly inspiring, despite our narrator’s best efforts.  About 10 000 years ago there were waterfalls more impressive than Niagara (spell check keeps wanting to turn that into Viagra) but they are now all under water.

We drove north over the islands, happy to see a change in the landscape and decided to start looking for a campsite at around 3 pm.  We finally found a nice little place on Lake Apsey, near Espanola. 

3 camping by lake Apsey

They had a place for us (yeh!) and even better we could have electricity (Woo Hoo) so we set up the tent, drank the traditional tent-setting-up-beer and then sat back and enjoyed the sunshine.  It was seriously hot and I spent a lot of time putting my hat on and trying not to go all ‘Rosbif’ as the French say. 

5 Lake Apsey 1

9 apsey lilies

9 lake apsey

We nearly had a lovely view of the lake, but we thought it would not go down too well if we were to push one of the trailers (caravans to us Brits) into the lake out of the way.  I was surprised how few birds there were about and I wondered if they were staying out of the way of the local hunters.

You could see the clouds rolling in and we wondered which of these fronts would win. 

6 weather fronts

We had already built a fire, had a snack (all we needed after the burgers on the boat (wild salmon burger for Janet….AMAZING) and then it started to rain.  We didn’t want to give up, as the campfire was such a companionable thing, but the rain got heavier and heavier and heavier and we realised that our backs were wet, despite the umbrellas. 

8 wet evening

It took a bit of care and planning, but we managed to get all our book readers, iPads and computers safely into the tent, along with us in a fairly dry fashion.  I am currently sitting in the Tentipi, wondering if it will stop long enough at some stage for me to hit the loo block and brush my teeth before bedtime.

I still really love the campfires, however, and I suspect a fire pit is going to be part of our garden design in the future.

This was written on Tuesday

After a pretty wet night, we got out of the tent, wiped down the benches and managed to get halfway through breakfast before the skies opened yet again.  We dashed into the car to drink our tea/coffee and tried to decide if we were going to drive or walk into Espanola to explore.  It looked like it was going to brighten up, so we thought we would walk.  (Note to self, it’s always worth taking your waterproof trousers with you and to change your waterproof for one that actually works when you notice it starts leaking last November).  It was only about two miles or so along the nasty main road into town from the campsite, but, as the skies opened and dumped (what felt like) several days worth of rain on us, the distance seemed way further.  Our trousers got soaked through, my ‘waterproof’ jacket resembled a colander, our shoes began to squelch (why did we leave our spare shoes with camel?)(Tim and I have almost started to play ‘what did we leave behind’ bingo) and the massive great lorries were thundering past, spraying us gently with road water. We didn’t quite say who’s idea was this (we had decided the plan for the day together) but we weren’t exactly singing jolly marching songs.

Finally, the rain eased off as we came across a coffee shop (of course) and we went in to try and dry off and thaw out.  Due to the air conditioning it was actually colder inside, but the chilli and hot drinks really helped.  Having dried out a tad we went off to explore the town but there was absolutely nothing worth seeing there.  There was the most ugly bar I have ever seen, and the only reason we could think that it still existed, was that there was nothing else worth visiting. 

17 Espanola Dive

The other bar we passed had this in its window

10 friendly bar

which said a lot about the town.  We walked around a few back streets that looked a bit more welcoming and we really fancied this bit of kit

13 cool toy

but we couldn’t work out how to take it home with us.

This seemed to be the industrial heart of the town

17 Espanola

Local hydro electric plant

Local hydro electric plant

and I wondered what it must be like to be a young person living here.

I was quite nostalgic to see a school with so many lost balls (I wonder if the caretaker was quite as grumpy there as some I have taught at)

12 lost balls

As we walked back, having more or less dried out, the rain just got harder and harder and we were totally soaked once more.  We sat in the car with the heating on and I wrung out my socks and tipped out my shoes.  When the rain finally eased off we went out to cook an early supper and to try and light a campfire.  The food was fine, but our wood was damp, so it was smoking so much we expected a visit from the local First Nation tribe (that’s what Canadians call Amerindians, which seems to show a respectful attitude and is a whole heap better than the British “Red Indians”)

Just then our neighbour in the huge, great, posh rig next door turned up and came over for a chat. 

14 Magic Mike

He looked with sympathy at our sad, little, damp fire

7 smoking fire

and then went back to get some magic wood (AKA dry, fifty year old wood) which he chopped up and threw on our fire and soon had it blazing.  Mike then came back waving beer about and insisted on giving us some. (Can’t complain about that)  He was a really interesting chap and after we got embarrassed by him standing out in the rain in his shorts and short sleeved shirt, while we huddled around our fire with full waterproofs on (luckily I had a spare waterproof top that I keep in the tent and which actually worked at keeping the water out) we let ourselves be persuaded to go and shelter under his awning. 

17 magic Mikes big rig

He lives a few hours away and comes to Espanola for his work, four days a week, leaving his family behind.  He works for Hydro1, the electricity company and he has to be out and about all year round, in all weathers, right down to minus 40 degrees Celsius.  At those temperatures, diesel turns to gel and lorries often break down; he has to add ‘antigel’ just to keep his Volkswagen running.  We found out that the working day can be REALLY long in Canada (up to 14 hours) and he doesn’t get overtime until he has worked more than 12 hours.  

18 nice next door ladies

We also got chatting to these friendly ladies, who had driven right across Canada from the west to visit relatives and were about to drive back again.  They were lovely and even offered to make us coffee as we were enduring our first (exceptionally) wet strike of the trip.

The journey west to Sault Sainte Marie (pronounced Soo Sainte Marie) would have been delightful, but for the incessant rain,

18 heading west

24 Heading west 4

15 Heading west

Tim laughing at how cheap fuel is in Canada

Tim laughing at how cheap fuel is in Canada

but  we eventually reached the end of Lake Huron and crossed from the Canadian side of town into the American half over the international bridge (honest, this is what this wasteland/ cute bridge is called). 

27 into the usa 1

25 into the USA 2

25 Into the USA 3

The American border bloke didn’t quite fall out of his seat laughing at the idea of us shipping a BRITISH car over to the states only to have it break down, but is was a close thing.  He let us through,  despite our three onions, two pints of milk, two half bottles of wine and two cans of beer.  Interestingly enough, he did not ask us about weapons, so the new chopper Tim bought himself (it wasn’t as bike as Mike’s one) (oops, I wasn’t meant to make that joke) got through without any trouble, at all.

We found a very pleasant campsite, right on the Saint Mary river and we can see the huge great ships passing very close by as they aim for the locks that allow them to bypass the rapids that connect lake Huron to Lake Superior. 

20 Soo St Marie

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