On Saturday, I set off with a full busload of people bound for Rat Portage, currently known as Kenora, where I cruised Lake of the Woods aboard the M.S. Kenora. The breathtaking scenery and the made-to-order weather would make it into a fabulous day.
I had done this tour two years earlier, but I was so awestruck by what I had seen that, as soon as I got back that day, I knew I had to go again. The pictures that follow cannot possibly do justice to the landscape.
That said, I was fully prepared with four sets of fully-charged batteries and 40 GB worth of storage on my SD cards. I would fill up nearly every byte with HD-quality video of the drive there and back. Time-lapse video will soon be appearing on canhighways.com.
Our bus came early and our tour guide, Rob, came out to meet us, along with our driver, Jack. I’ve had Jack on many trips, but, despite being a veteran of these tours, it was a first for Rob. He usually does the longer trips, which explains why I haven’t had him before.
On the way to Falcon Lake, our first stop, Rob entertained us with the first of a number of jokes while I was watching the highway through the viewfinder on my camera.
He told us about a skydiver who was having trouble with his parachute after jumping out of an airplane. On his way down, the skydiver spotted someone going up. He asked, “Do you know anything about parachutes?” The other guy replied, “No, do you know anything about gas barbeques?”
On the way back from Rat Portage, he told us a couple of Scottish jokes.
One was about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman and how they give donations to their church. The Englishman and Irishman each drew circles around themselves and tossed some coins in the air. They gave whatever landed outside the circle to the church and kept the rest for themselves. The Scotsman didn’t bother with the circle and instead just tossed the coins in the air. What the Good Lord didn’t need, He sent back and the Scotsman kept it for himself.
The other was about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman each drinking a cup of tea when a fly flew into each cup. The Englishman and Irishman each carefully plucked out the fly in their respective cups, while the Scotsmanplucked out the fly in his cup and wrung it out so as not to waste a drop of tea.
The quality and taste of the jokes is left for the reader as an exercise, but Rob’s experience made the trip go a lot better. He made an effort to engage as many passengers as he could, he was very organized and he did not make it glaringly obvious that he had not been on this specific tour before.
That level of experience has been sorely lacking in my tours of late. For one reader in particular, I think that your former employer misses you more than they realize.
Once we got to Falcon Lake, I spent some time around the lake.
I also briefly walked around town.
On my way, I passed by a semi-trailer from Moncton. Message sent. Message received. You may understand. You may not.
Want some “spagetti” and meatballs?
After the 45-minute break, we were back on the bus headed east, crossing the frontier from the SPRM into Ontario and Rat Portage.
On our way through Rat Portage, we passed the roundabout at Rupert Road, which is a constant thorn in the side of bus drivers like Jack and semi-trailer drivers who have to make deliveries in town. It was designed far too narrow for even a skilled driver like Jack to avoid having to go up on the curb to get through it.
Perhaps fittingly, the highway that heads north from this reviled roundabout used to bear the number 666. In 1985, amid protests from church groups, MTO renumbered the highway to 658.
Interestingly, the current MTO minister is Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg and Manitoba’s most polarizing and controversial political figure since Louis Riel.
We stopped near the Blue Heron gift shop and many of the passengers went there while I set off for a brief tour of the town.
For those of you who weren’t aware, both Manitoba and Ontario once laid claim to the area and the issue was not settled until a ruling from the Privy Council in 1884. There are those in Northwestern Ontario who understandably feel disenfranchised from the Toronto-based regime, but if they think that life under the rule of the SPRM’s heavy-handed government would be better, I would only advise to be careful what you wish for.
Kenora City Hall, currently undergoing a facelift.
Traffic in downtown Kenora. Most of it was coming from cars with plates from the SPRM.
Two of the murals.
Need any “mocassins”?
The “historic” Kenricia Hotel.
Ye Olde Line Up at Ye Olde Chip Truck.
Before getting back on the bus, I stumbled upon this sight:
Abandoned pants with an empty bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. Any connection between the two is again left for the reader as an exercise.
On our way to the boat, we came across a family of deer crossing the road.
Sadly, one of the adult deer was limping badly.
We arrived at the dock and waited to board.
Our group was allowed to board early and we were served a half-decent meal.
After eating, I went up to the top deck and took many pictures.
A married couple lives on one of the islands, while the mother-in-law lives on the adjacent island. According to the ship’s captain, they do have phone service on these island villas, courtesy of underground cables.
The captain also gave us a lot of interesting information on the area and the boat itself. The boat was built in Riverton and spent its early years cruising up and down Lake Winnipeg. It was later purchased by interests in Kenora and hauled there in two pieces where, today, it takes tourists like me around Lake of the Woods.
Interestingly, the captain bore a strong facial resemblance to the actor who played “Rostov” in the Chuck Norris movie, “Invasion U.S.A.” I kept waiting for the captain to break into Russian and for Norris’s character, “Hunter,” to make an appearance.
Many fisherpeople and boaters waved to us.
Yes, that’s a bald eagle.
Adjacent to this house is a tennis court overlooking the lake:
A dish head:
The painted rock at the Devil’s Gap:
The Devil’s Gap Marina:
The luxury yacht Grace Anne II:
Disembarking from the boat.
From Rat Portage, we headed west and returned to the SPRM, where we made a brief stop in West Hawk Lake.
While many of the passengers patronized the Nite Hawk Cafe, I walked through the town.
The West Hawk Cafe:
The West Wok:
What are you doing here?
After the brief stop, we were back on the bus and a couple of hours later, we returned safely to Winnipeg. For anyone who has not had this experience, it is something that I would strongly recommend.