Day 15: Winnipeg, MB to Riding Mountain National Park, MB (August 18, 2017)
Thursday August 24, 2017 (Canada)
Our car has been warning us that car service is imminently due. Every time we start it up, we hear a few dings and then, after a short pause, comes an additional, panic-inducing "dong". Service in 100km. So I woke up at 7:30am to start calling around town and trying to arrange an oil change. I looked up Google reviews of local mechanics to see who was well-reviewed. I was going about this with precision. But then everybody was full. So we forgot about it. Until about 15 minutes into our drive out of Winnipeg when we happened across a lovely establishment by the name "The World's 'Best' 10 Minute Oil Change"! How fortuitous!
And now a short digression on business naming practices. Why this establishment felt that they needed to place the word 'best' in quotes is unclear and unsettling, but we ignored that fact and hopped in line, because darnit, we needed fresh oil! We picked up some Egg McMuffins and scarfed them in the car while we waited for the earlybirds to finish ahead of us. When our moment arrived, everything seemed to go swimmingly and we continued out the back of the garage! Now we've got another 16,000km before the next service, so that should definitely get us in to Victoria!
We decided our route to Riding Mountain should take us through Gimli, Manitoba. It's not the most direct route, but we've been wanting to visit there ever since we went to Iceland. We had a tour guide who, upon learning we were from Canada, told us of a place in our own country with the highest population of Icelanders outside of Iceland. Whaaat? A magical place called Gimli. The translation of the word is something like "the place protected from fire", and when you're that close to Winterpeg, you probably don't have to worry about fire all that much. Or volcanoes.
In the late 1800s thousands of migrants arrived from Iceland to Gimli in a deal with the Canadian government to form New Iceland. They were given a large tract of land on the western shores of Lake Winnipeg. They arrived with whatever they could carry from home. They were escaping many years of horrible winters, volcanic eruptions, and massive crop failures back home. It was unclear when they landed whether they were any better off!
Within short order a strong community formed and more Icelanders streamed in to settle. After several years, there was a large religious schism that took place where a majority of the population of the area decided to move south to follow their leader to the southern US. But a bunch stuck around and kept toiling away in little old Gimli! We visited the museum, and obviously our favourite part was trying on ridiculous viking costumes that are entirely unrelated to the Icelandic migration to Gimli. But so much fun.
From Gimli we continued north to The Narrows, which is a small community that resides at a (not surprisingly) narrow portion of Lake Manitoba. There's a short bridge across, and suddenly you're on the western side of the lake. That was easy!
We continued onward to Riding Mountain National Park and arrived just in time for a nice sunset walk along Clear Lake. The town on the lake is named Wasagaming, which translates to… Clear Lake. It's all very confusing. There are cottages and houses built along the lake, but there's a public access trail and several docks that anybody can wander out to. The park itself was bustling, and definitely had less of a "wilderness" feel than we would have liked, but we had a nice night of camping and got ready to drive to Saskatchewan the next morning! Our second border crossing is coming up!