Sunday, 1 July 2012

Ontario - Part 2: Being Canadian

Having no ticket between Toronto and Ottawa, I was planning to hitchhike all the way, but having no idea where to start hitching, I went by bus as far as Kingston.

For a while, Kingston was the capital of Canada, until Queen Victoria decreed that it was too close to the US border and thus too vulnerable to attack. Wandering around the centre of Kingston, one really feels that one could be in a small town in England or Wales.

My accommodation in Kingston was a camper van. The owner of the van was Andrew, and his parents kindly showed me all around the town, and around the river basin. From here, the first flight of locks starts the Rideau canal that joins Kingston and Ottawa over the hills and through a series of lakes.

 Andrew's parents also have a cottage near a Provincial Park north of the city, and were kind enough to take me there for a day, to experience what being Canadian in the summertime is really all about. 

Being on an island in a lake, their cottage is only accessible by canoe, and we spent a beautiful day there canoeing around, repairing the outhouse which had got hit by a falling tree, and swimming amongst sunfish and watersnakes in the balmy waters of the lake, in between sessions sitting cooking in the home-built wood-fired sauna.

Canoeing across Otter Lake

The following day, I had arranged to go and visit Bruce, a friend of my mum's, who lives in the Lanark area of Rural Ontario. Bruce had agreed to come and pick me up in Kingston. I knew which shop we had arranged to meet outside, so waited there at the pre-arranged time. It was only after 45 minutes wait that I realized I was waiting at the wrong branch of the right shop, on the right street, but at the wrong intersection. By the time I got to the right place, Bruce had already given up on me. So it came to pass that I reverted to Plan A and hitchhiked out of Kingston. Three rides in as many hours got me as far as the home of my third lift-giver, which was a luxurious trailer in a park on the side of a long and beautiful lake.

The trailer park is apparently rather looked down upon in Canadian and American culture as not such an ideal living situation. But this place was idyllic!

 Trees, water, beautiful sunshine... what more could one possibly want‽

After a swim in the lake, I contacted Bruce and found that I was not too far from his home, so we arranged that he would pick me up nearby. 

I stayed with Bruce for 3 days, exploring the surrounding countryside by various means of transport. The area was originally settled by Scots, as is reflected in the local names of places and rivers. Many of the local inhabitants are descendants of the original settlers. The land is farmland but being very stony, is apparently very difficult to farm.It makes for good cycling country, though.

Note the well-built wooden fence, of which there are many in the area.


We also enjoyed fresh vegetables from Bruce's highly productive garden that needed a lot of watering given the lack of rainfall.

On my last full day with Bruce, we went with a friend of his for a kayaking expedition along the Mississippi river (this is not the American Mississippi, but a much smaller local river).

We went up along the Clyde river, a tributary of the Mississippi and found the way blocked by a beaver dam. Never mind, though - we continued in the Canadian way by ramming the dam and heaving ourselves and our kayaks over it into the upper stretch of water, and did the same going back downstream:

Having experienced kayaking over a beaver dam, I began to feel like a Real Canadian! 

The final stage of my Canadianization was Canada Day, for which I chose to be in Ottawa, the capital city. 

I set out in the morning, adorned myself with Canadian Flags, and walked into the city along the northern end of the Rideau Canal.

  I started to pass more and more people dressed in red and white, and was glad I had dressed for the occasion.

No comments: