I think that Manitoba should be renamed to Mosquitotoba!! The little critters are so evil there!! On our first night there I got bitten on each butt cheek through my track pants and through my undies!!! How rude is that. They will just bite through almost anything so you have to layer up on heavy clothing and on mosquito repellant. Not such a nice thing to do when you are out in the 30+ sunshine.
Aside from the mosquitos the first and main this you notice about Manitoba is it’s so flat. Basically as soon as you cross the boarder from Ontario to Manitoba it just flattens out into those ever talked about prairies. When we were in Newfoundland someone had told us… “wait until you get to the prairies… you can watch your dog run away from a month”. A month is a slight exaggeration, maybe just three days.
Despite the flatness there is a special charm to the country side, the wide open fields and the amazing skies. When the sky is blue and the sun is shining down on a few giant marshmallows in the sky surrounded by a few wisps it is truly beautiful to watch. Watching the sky in the prairies is like watching the sky in HD. Each little detail is just so much better. We even had a few fantastically clear nights where we could see mars, jupiter, saturn and the milky way all with the naked eye.
Our first week in Manitoba was spent helping our friend’s dad just outside of Winnipeg. He was getting his house ready to sell and asked if we could help him out doing some gardening and getting things looking beautiful. We were more than happy to help so we spent the week weeding and cleaning up the gardens. For the most part the weather was hot and sunny so we enjoyed spending the time outside… in our bug jackets.
While we were there we didn’t just work, we had some deliciously epic meals, watched a selection of great films, made the most of having a shower whenever we wanted and just enjoyed hanging out with Denis and his two adorable Dachshunds Poppy and Ollie. They were quite the characters and were just super cute!
When we finally did leave our little home we went and spent the day in Winnipeg, having lunch at Stella’s on Sherbrook as it came recommended to us by both Sean and Danis. It was yummy, everything was very fresh and flavourful. After lunch we continued to have a little look around the city including going past the human rights museum. As it was a Monday it was not open but we still wanted to see the building regardless and it is a pretty cool building.
We travelled for the afternoon up to Gimli in New Iceland. After having lived in Iceland for two years this was a stop we couldn’t miss on the trip. Gimli is the biggest town in New Iceland which is the area the Icelandic settlers were given in the late 1800’s when they first arrived in Manitoba. It was interesting to see how they had retained their history and culture and also what other cultures had come in to influence the area.
When in Gimli we went to the New Iceland Heritage Museum, this taught us a lot about the area. As we were leaving it was also the time that the building was closing, we were walking out as a nice man Ross was also walking out at the end of his shift. He said Hello and asked if we were hanging around. As usual we never have any plans so our answer was we didn’t know so he asked if we wanted to come up to look out at the top of the building. Yes… and it had a fairly awesome view over the town! Ross was actually the building manager there and after talking with him for awhile about the area and also our travels he invited us to come and stay with him and his wife Cherly. It was perfect as otherwise we had no idea where we were going to stay.
We followed Ross just out of town back to his house where they had a nice big driveway which was perfect for us to park up at, a beautiful from lawn which went straight down onto their own private part of the beach. It was perfect and beautiful! They were also dog sitting for their son who had a beautiful mix breed rescue puppy. It was an interesting game trying to guess what he was, unfortunately no one actually knew so it was a lot of guessing.
We ended up staying with Ross and Cherly for two nights and on the second night the had a BBQ with some of their friends who lived nearby. It was awesome meeting them all and they were all such lovely people. The best part was one one of the women was from NZ and though she had lived in Canada for about 30 years she still had more of an accent than I did. It was good fun. We went down onto the beach after dinner to enjoy the perfect sunset over the very calm Lake Winnipeg.
On some of the beaches in Gimli there is a special type of stone ‘lucky stone’ which naturally has a hole in it. It is not exactly sure what caused it but it is cool, you can walk alone the beach finding little special stones as you go. Or as I call them, Holey Stones. I found a few awesome ones and one which fit perfectly on my chain to become a necklace.
On the full day we spent there we borrowed their Kayaks and went out exploring on the lake in the morning and then went for a drive along the coast of New Iceland seeing all the settlements and laughing at all the Icelandic names of places which we recognised.
After felling a bit more back at home from being in New Iceland we decided it was time to head off, our destination for the day was Riding Mountain National Park, This is quite a big national park in the more central area Manitoba. To get there we drove through the Narrows which was a beautiful drive, especially as the sun was shining for the day.
The drive took a few hours longer than we anticipated and we arrived in the later afternoon. We looked for somewhere to stay, but unfortunately in Manitoba it is just not so easy for free camping we didn’t see many good spots anywhere so we found a nice cheap campground inside the national park. We stayed out at the Lake Audy Campground. It was a beautiful spot overlooking Lake Audy.
The view was not the best part though, to get to the campground you drive through the Bison enclosure. Unfortunately on the way in the Bison were all hiding from the sun in the trees so we didn’t see them but on the road side coming in we did see a young black bear playing and three deer.
We found ourselves a nice camp spot and got all settled in just at the same time a big thunderstorm was settling in. We had planned to do a hike around the lake but we went 100 meters and saw just how black the sky was racing toward us. So we went and sat in the car in the shelter instead. After the first big downpour of the storm as evening was approaching we decided to go out and drive through the Bison enclosure to see if they were out in the fields…. they were.
In the older days hundreds and thousands of Bison used to roam free across Manitoba and all of the parries but due to a lot of hunting there are very few left. It was really awesome to see them in what is still a tiny part of their natural habitat.
After driving around the enclosure a few times we went back and found a bit under shelter where we could cook up our dinner. It was pouring down so we were happy to be able to cook under shelter or we would have gone hungry. We then went back to out campsite and had a wonderful sleep listening to the storm pass over during the night.
The next day it was still raining and heavily overcast all day so there was no hope of getting any hiking done. We headed out of the national park and up to the little town of Dauphin. Dauphin is a very rural town and there is not much reason to go there, hence why everyone we spoke to while we were there just asked us… “what are you doing here??”. However we were there for a good reason, the RCMP musical ride. This is where a select group of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police perform a show on horseback to music. They do this to raise money for towns and charities and raise awareness of everything that they do.
The stables were open for viewing all day so we went in to have a look around at the horses and also to talk to some of the mounties. It was super fun and interesting to talk to the mounties and learn about them as we had no idea really anything about who they were or what they did. They are basically a special elite police force over most of the country. Like the Canadian version of the FBI in some ways.
We found the walmart and sorted out a nice spot to sleep then went and got some dinner before heading back to the show ground to watch the musical ride. Fortunately the rain began to clear up about half an hour before the show was to start. The performance went for about an hour where the 30+ riders were out showing off their skills. Most of the formations and things that the perform are all things that the riders in the old days would do for fun as they were goofing around on their horses so we get to see a show or goofing traditions :). It was good fun!
After the show we went to have a good sleep then the next day we were heading out of manitoba into Saskatchewan.