Romantic Rhapsody About Canada
Up with the lark we walked through the sleepy town of Wawa. At 9 o’clock we stepped into a Chinese restaurant to have breakfast. The owner, cook and waiter all under the same hat looked just as sleepy as the town. He took a long time to prepare and serve the usual bacon, eggs and toast for the only two customers. We were quite annoyed with the delay and decided to buy our own food for the remainder of the trip, such as ready-made meals in cans, butter, bread, milk, fruit juices, oranges and apples. At a service station I bought gasoline for the camp stove, on which I planned to heat up the chunky soup at any of the roadside rest areas. At a hardware store we picked up basic cooking and eating utensils. By the time we had eaten breakfast and finished our shopping, half the day had already slipped away on us.
Then we were on the road again at times traveling through dense forests often very close to Lake Superior. Unfortunately, fog and low clouds obstructed our view. They were so dense at times that Adolf had to turn on the headlights. At the entrance of a small village, whose name I have forgotten, was a large billboard, which claimed in large letters to hold the record at –72º F for being the coldest place in Canada. On we drove now along the seemingly endless shoreline. The impenetrable blanket of fog prevented us from viewing the lake. At a picnic area we stopped for lunch and unpacked our victuals in the frigid air. When the icy mist briefly lifted, we could hardly believe our eyes. A finger thick coat of ice still covered the Great Lake at a time, when on the same latitude on our planet flowers were already announcing the arrival of spring! We ate our frugal meal of homemade sandwiches not far from the city of Port Arthur, which a few years later amalgamated with Fort William to become today’s city of Thunder Bay. The only noteworthy thing about the drab scenery around these two towns were the huge grain elevator strategically placed near the railroad tracks. They stored the prairie wheat waiting to be shipped as far away as Vancouver and Montreal.
Heading north into the Land of Thousand Lakes, we began to cheer up as the sun finally broke through the clouds. A look at the map of Northwestern Ontario will convince anyone that the description of this boreal region is not an exaggeration. On the contrary, I would call it the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. What incredible mazes of lakes and rivers branching out in all directions, which the native canoeists, early explorers and the dauntless coureurs des bois had to navigate without the aid of any maps!
As if to underline the upbeat mood I was in, I took my harmonica out of my briefcase and played one merry tune after another. I was amazed how many different songs I could string together in a potpourri of folksongs, scout melodies and pop music. Adolf contributed to the sense of camaraderie by cheerfully whistling or singing along, while we were driving into the setting sun.
At Vermillion Bay I would have liked to call it a day. A cozy motel located directly at a lake beckoned us to stay. But our goal was Kenora near the Manitoba border. Also we had just gained over the past three days another hour of daylight in our journey to the Western Provinces. So after a short break we decided to roll on. The sun was almost blinding us. Adolf lowered the visor to protect his eyes from the glare. A few minutes later the fireball nearing the horizon was shooting crimson rays through the forest, flickering and dancing in a kaleidoscopic display of color and motion. At dusk myriads of tiny lakes swept by our left window like precious pearls strung up on invisible threads. In the absolute stillness on their glassy surface black spruce trees mirrored themselves with such clarity that on a photo one would have had problems in telling which were the trees and which were their reflections. Looking at this beautiful monochromatic scenery, I thought, as I often did when I discovered another facet of nature’s beauty, ‘One day, I will take Biene on a road trip to experience all these wonderful places that we are now having to rush through.’