Last night we managed to stay up until 1.30 English time – goodness knows how as I can count the times I’ve been up after midnight in the last year on one thumb. We have however failed to crack the jet lag and at 4.30am Canada time I am working on the job we must not mention, trying to earn enough to buy food for the last part of our trip. I may need that sooner than I think. Whilst Best Western is superior (and cheaper) in most ways to the UK equivalents I don’t really rate their breakfast. Chris happily consumes five sausages, in his defence they were quite small. It is nominally ‘free’ however so I suppose one can’t complain. In the process of said breakfast I manage to spread plenty of Primula on my clothes – this was of course an accident. Who knew that Primula was so jolly indelible? Clothes are already an issue as, whilst we have plenty of thermals we have virtually nothing suitable for the current Toronto heat wave, now I have even less.
We have been given a number to ring at 8am, so the Campervan firm know to come and collect us. At 7.59am we are poised phone in hand (it would have been 7.30am if I’d had my way). The number we have appears to be unobtainable. Reception gives us another number which elicits the automated message ‘this office is now closed’. Amidst rising panic (you knew there would be some) and thankful for free wifi, I Google for alternative numbers – these don’t work either. Finally I get the Calgary office who give me yet another unobtainable number. At this point Canadream’s live chat comes online and I get Sarah, who I am nominating for sainthood. A proper number, a proper person on the other end and she will be with us at 11.30 – even better as we had thought we would have to wait until 1.00pm.
We arrive at the depot and meet our van – all 33 foot of it and with only 15,000km on the clock. Amongst other things the arctic settings are explained – it is now 28 degrees. I appreciate that it is likely to get colder but……. We head out of Toronto on road 400. This is really very large, very fast and very very scary and I am not even driving. After ten minutes I open my eyes but it takes best part of an hour for me to prize my finger nails out of the palms of my hands. I am feeling very guilty at putting my travelling companion through this and quite want the next 21 days to pass in a flash so we don’t have to be doing it anymore. Why didn’t we go somewhere stress free, like Scotland? Oh, I forgot, we tried that last year (see July and August 2014 of this blog for all the gory details). Said companion is however unconcerned – well, he is a little concerned about the apparent blind spots in the wing mirrors. This means I sort of have to help with the driving by checking in the right hand wing mirror for approaching traffic on our near side (I think it is our near side – can’t get used to this wrong side off the road thing – flaming Napoleon – historical reference there for some). There are reasons why I don’t drive on motorways.
Road 400 goes a very long way in a very straight northerly direction. Somewhere en route it becomes road 11 and slightly less scary and smaller. So far Canada is actually a bit like a larger version of Scotland but flatter. We need supplies. Retail outlets that we pass allow us to buy canoes, kitchens, cars or wood and to eat numerous MacDonalds but not actually to buy food. After a stop at a wayside fruiterers, that claims to also be a grocers, to acquired something we can drink, we find Walmart in Huntsville. This is our first encounter with Walmart. Not sure if Canadian Walmarts have the same reputation as the ones in the US but basically this is Asda. I am hopeful of being able to buy something cool to wear but of course this is winter and the clothing range reflects this. One thing Walmart do not do is stint on carrier bags and they pack your shopping for you. Thinking Canadians might be ultra environment conscious I had packed assorted carrier bags to use as rubbish bags, in case they weren’t given out here – that was a waste of baggage allowance then. We discover another van issue, it is very temperamental to start, so far we have managed to get it going four times – eventually – long may this continue.
We turn east along road 60 and arrive at Algonquin Trails Camping Resort. This is a very pleasant forested site. Last night our friends came out to say hello at Best Western and warned us that we are in bear country here. That’s fine, I have Googled what to do when encountering a bear. This helpful and deadly earnest advice includes, ‘identify yourself by talking in a normal voice.’ Seriously? ‘Hello bear, I am Janet’? There are also supposed to be chipmunk and moose but I don’t suppose we shall see any. We really aren’t in any place long enough to see much. We take a short walk through the forest and the best we can come up with is a black rabbit.
Now for food, lighting the oven proves to be another challenge. It requires two people, a torch, the flexibity of a contortionist and brute force. We debate whether or not you can microwave pizza. The enormous microwave suggests that you can but we have no idea how long for. Once we crack lighting the oven, lacking anything suitable to cook it on, we place the pizza on a shelf. This dear readers was THE WRONG THING TO DO! Smoke, smoke alarms and strong smells of burning. What we thought was a shelf appears to have been some sort of element, an element that now has a considerable amount of pizza adhering to it. ‘Saving’ money by agreeing we would clean the van ourselves now seems like a bad idea. I can however vouch for the fact that blackened pizza is edible.