When I was at Thameside Primary School in Caversham in Berkshire, I directed the children’s performance of “The Song of Hiawatha”, so I know a lot of the poem by heart and ever since arriving on Manitoulin Island, the words have been reverberating in my head. Longfellow, who wrote the poem in 1855, was writing about Lake Superior (which we haven’t got to yet): “By the shores of Gitche Gumee, by the Shining Big Sea Water”
However, the Great Spirit of the Ojibwe people (Hiawatha’s people) lives on Manitoulin on Lake Huron. Manitoulin is named after the Great Spirit, Gitche Manitou,
and his people, the Ojibwe First Nation are most important on this island. Before major construction or development, which is strictly controlled, the chiefs hold a pow-wow and consult Gitche Manitou
and other lesser spirits. How brilliant is that!
We left Tobermory yesterday and the Great Spirit gave us fair weather for our two-hour crossing. The cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment run from Niagara Falls to Tobermory. From here, at the tip of “The Bruce” the Niagara Escarpment cliff plunges below the waves of Georgian Bay in Lake Huron, which is
part of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, The Great Lakes of North America. “Gitche Manitou the Mighty, he the Master of Life descending” “From his foot prints flowed a river, leaped into the light of morning, O’er the precipice flowing downward”
Apart from the delicious Georgian Bay Whitefish, there are huge carp here as well as Lake Trout that grow to a metre long and live for about fifteen years. Our son Dan would love
the fishing here! Once on the ferry, it is really hard to remember that one is crossing a lake not the sea. It is such a huge body of water!
The Chi-Cheemaun Ferry brought us safely to Manitoulin. It was bitterly cold up on deck so after taking some photos we found the bar for the rest of the voyage! We passed islands still with snow on them, so decided then and there to look for an alternative to a campsite! Actually, there are no tourists here yet, think we are the only ones. This island really is the back of beyond and it has been hard to find places to eat
or even to buy take-away food. We are in a great little B and B with lovely hosts, Becky and Patrick, who left Toronto twenty years ago to find the peace. They found it. We are right on Lake Kagawong, one of many lakes on this amazing island. Up the road are the gushing Bridal Veil Falls, snow ploughs are still on the front of everyone’s tractors and we are the only guests! Driving the roads today we felt at times that everyone else on earth had been spirited away leaving us all alone!
Tomorrow we are going to visit the Ojibwe Cultural Centre which was closed today, at M’Chigeeng a First Nation Concession. After this we want to hike up the “Cup and Saucer” Trail to the highest point on the island for the views (not actually high only 351 metres, it is quite a flat island). Hope the trail isn’t too steep!
Manitoulin is so
unusual, with really large freshwater lakes, on an island which is itself an island on a lake; pretty amazing! On this magical island, birds of prey glide on the thermals and red dear roam wild, we have seen several
John waiting to see if they close the bow doors!
Have they heard of the "Spirit of Free Enterprise"?
already but have yet to get a photo before they bolted away! John ran over a fat snake today on the road! Not sure what sort of snake! Yes, Manitoulin really is food for the soul!
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