When we were leaving Ontario and entering the province of Manitoba, the landscape immediately changed dramatically. Manitoba is also called the granary of Canada and it immediately becomes clear why. The forests disappear and make way for flat farmland that stretches far beyond the horizon. For a Dutch person this is a familiar image. For a moment we felt at home again.
We steered further west and shortly before Winnipeg we passed Canada’s halfway point, the midpoint between the east and west coast. Winnipeg is the cultural and economic heart of the province of Manitoba. The city now has more than 700,000 residents of which, unfortunately, plenty are homeless. The proportion of the indigenous population here is high. Winnipeg is a poor city and that was noticeable for us when we drove into the city in search of the “Canadian Museum for Human Rights”. The “splendor” of Downtown soon ends after one gets past the first block. The roads are bad and the atmosphere feels a bit dodgy. Near the center, some cars are parked with broken windows and flat tires, and modern, new constructed houses are interspersed with wooden variants that could use a new coat of paint.
We had been tipped off earlier that we should definitely visit the impressive “Canadian Museum for Human Rights”. In the imposing building that opened its doors in 2014, it is explained what our human rights mean and how we have dealt with them in the past. With examples such as the Armenian genocide, the Second World War, the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, but certainly also what happened on Canadian soil with the First Nations, we both came to the conclusion that unfortunately we do not learn from our history and there will probably always be another “human rights problem” in the broadest sense of the word in the future.
In between, we ate a “Wienerpeg” hot dog in “The Forks” building where, between 1740 and 1880, merchandise from Europe was transshipped from the train to horse and carriage, but which has now been modernly renovated as a food court and where small boutique shops try to sell their wares.
After this brief stop, we left Winnipeg on the west side again and instead of taking the highway, we took the parallel secondary road right through the prairie landscape. Our next stop was the Spruce Woods Provincial Park. We wanted to check out the sand dunes landscape here. Sand dunes…since we started our trip in Nova Scotia we looked at the same (beautiful) picture every day, forest and lakes. Straight roads surrounded by farmland we now have in the prairies in the province of Manitoba and that gets a bit boring at a certain point. The sand dunes indeed gave us a changing picture. These dunes are naturally formed and are overgrown with some greenery here and there. It started to get pretty warm around noon, so we took a quick dip in the water at the parks nearby beach before driving further north.
We headed to the Riding Mountain National Park. A park that borders directly on the prairies to the south and thus immediately marks the start of the boreal forest that extends into the northern half of the province. By now we are familiar with the fact that the quality of the asphalt in Canada leaves much to be desired. Until the town of Wasagaming we were shaken up quite a bit. With some ‘delay’ we arrived in Wasagaming where, shortly before our arrival, we saw a black bear walking in the field. We had heard before that Riding Mountain NP offers good chances of spotting wildlife and that was a good start.
Where the route to this was empty and boring, Wasagaming was bustling. We had clearly arrived in a tourist town and this was for a good reason, we found out at the Visitor Center. With a large crystal-clear lake good for swimming and other water sports, and a National Park filled with wildlife just around the corner. The sun was about to set and this was the time to head into the park in search of the animals and just after we left the village behind, the first black bear already popped up at the edge of the road. What luck!
About halfway along the 60-kilometer highway that goes straight through the park, we had planned our dinner at Moon Lake and wanted to spend the night at the nearby campground. Before we got to our spot we drove a little further into the park where we spotted several moose and a bear. When we returned to the simple Moon Lake campground I made a few more pictures of the lake and was about to walk back to the campground when suddenly, 50 meters away, a bear jumped into my path and ran away from me. With a heart rate of 200, I called out kind words as I slowly walked backwards. I was glad to be back at the car, but afterwards also happy with the experience!
We have raised the mosquito problem many times and don’t really want to repeat it every time. However, the number of mosquitoes that accompanied us here in Riding was phenomenal. Because of all the photographing of wildlife during sunset, also the time when the mosquitoes are most active, the car window often went down…Unfortunately, we did not count how many mosquitoes we had to kill. More than 30 in any case. The last mosquito that bothered us had to die at 3 a.m., so we didn’t get much sleep that night.
The next morning we called off our morning walk after 300 meters. The number of mosquitoes was just too much! We tried a shorter hike more near Wasagaming. Same amount of mosquitoes. Armed with mosquito nets over our heads, we persevered, wondering how the Canadian fellow tourist in shorts and sleeves could keep this up! In any case, it drives us crazy! After a cool down in Clear Lake we made our way out. Back to the prairies. Back to a life without mosquitoes.