Monday 27th May 2019
We spent the morning exploring Regina, a real oasis in the middle of the prairies. Regina is the provincial capital of Saskatchewan. Once, it was a hunting ground of the Cree who named it Wascana, which means “Pile of Bones”! It is an elegant, leafy green city with a splendid park and lake right in the centre of Downtown, called Wascana. The lake and park are full of Canadian Geese and their little chicks right now, no bones around!
Later on today, we drove just seventy kilometres to Moose Jaw, where we are now. Spring has arrived at last with sunny days (18 degrees today) but still chilly nights. The forecast is for the temperatures to increase as the week progresses up into the 20s. Hooray! Camping weather at last. We have found a lovely little campground by the Wakamow River in the Wakamow Valley, Moose Jaw. It is a pretty spot and not too far to walk into the town along the river. We heard that it was possible to rent canoes and kayaks but it seems the season hasn’t quite kicked off just yet; the canoe rental place is still all shut up.
One disappointment is that there is a fire ban across the whole of Southern Saskatchewan, due to little rain recently (despite a long cold snowy winter) so we cannot light a fire. Got the wood, got the fire pit on our pitch but cannot light a fire. This is perfectly understandable considering the terrible wild fires in Northern Alberta, but still a disappointment.
This evening in town we went to a shop at 6.15 p.m. (or so we thought) and then saw that its closing time was 6.00 p.m. I asked a shop assistant if they were open (nobody else was in there) to which she replied “Of course! “with a slightly puzzled expression. I said, “Oh well I thought you might not be open because on the door it says you close at 6.00 p.m.” She replied “Yes we do, but it is only 5.15 p.m.” We had crossed another time zone without realising it when we entered Saskatchewan yesterday, about thirty hours ago, which means that we got up an hour earlier than we thought this morning! We are now seven hours behind the UK and eight hours behind Spain.
We have just checked in for
one night but if all goes well and the night temperatures don’t drop too much, we shall stay tomorrow night as well. Chill-out time! Tuesday 28th May 2019
Well as pretty as this campsite was, we didn´t stay another night; we have moved on just 30 kilometres west to another pretty campsite! It wasn´t due to the nightly temperature drop, we were cosy in our little tent, which had the sun on it all evening; the first thing John does before we pitch is get out his compass to check on the evening sun. The problem was noise. We knew that the odd freight train might rumble down the valley, what we didn’t know was that the other side of the river behind the trees was a huge marshalling yard. All night long the trains were shifted and shunted about, ready to send them on their next far-flung journeys across the central plains. It was awful! Such a shame because the site was great, just in the wrong place!
The huge range in temperatures here in the middle of this vast continent takes some getting used to: 28 degrees today and tonight it will be back
down in low single figures. The lack of rain is a concern, it is fast becoming a dust bowl (not very good for the asthma).
We are camped in a place called Besant, a provincial park not far off the Trans-Canada Highway or the Canadian Pacific Railroad but far enough away from them both. We stopped on the way and bought provisions, Thai spicy ready-cooked chicken, a ready-prepared “gourmet” salad, some coleslaw and a couple of bottles of Spanish Rioja, so being unable to light a fire and cook is not a problem. It is a beautiful spot, green, lush, plenty of wildlife but no bears to disturb our slumbers. There are a lot of pretty birds and a chipmunk has just come very close to our picnic table, sat up on his hind legs, looking like a little meercat, to have a good look at us. “Simples!”
There are quite a few other campers around the park, but the pitches are so far apart and interspersed by stands of maple and birch that it is very quiet, secluded and peaceful. From where we are sitting at our table, we can just see the top of a camper
about a hundred metres away, everything else is green! The loos are very basic! We are warned that the water is not drinkable even when boiled but we have plenty of bottled. It is nice here. No WIFI networks available so this blog will be posted at a later date; we are off the radar! Total chill! Wednesday 29th May 2019
I woke up this morning after a good night´s sleep to see a deer frozen and staring at me from just about fifteen metres away as I unzipped the tent. I tried to move slowly but he soon bolted back into the forest. Actually, one can hear the distant traffic on the Trans Canada Highway as well as the trains on the Canadian Pacific but not enough to disturb the beautiful birdsong and the rustling of the maples. Sound carries a long way across the prairies.
The bird-life is diverse and colourful, especially the passerines. One local bird called a Yavapai has a beautiful deep orange/red breast and is the size of a blackbird. Several lived in the maple trees on our campsite; below the trees, chipmunks scurried about foraging for their breakfast.
These little oases in the prairies are remarkable places, as soon as one climbs up back onto the plateau, they are invisible, or the tops of the trees if visible look just like stunted hedges from the highway. Real little gems hidden on the great plains.
Back on Highway 1 we crossed a vast expanse of salt lakes, stretching for about one hundred kilometres each side of the highway. It reminded us of home, the difference being that these salt lakes are much bigger than our local ones in Spain and they don´t have flamingos feeding on them as we do. Our salt lakes are of course sea salt lagoons, built by the Romans and still being used today. These salt lakes, thousands of kilometres from the sea in the centre of this vast country are formed from a mineral salt rock seam just below the surface.
We are now in a town called Swift Current in a very nice hotel with fluffy white bathrobes to wear. Two nights cheap camping paid for it! Just as well, since I haven´t even been able to wash yet today! So, we are online and getting up to date,
then I am going to soak in the tub, go out to look around the town and have dinner.
Tomorrow we think we are heading for another provincial park called Cypress Hills, a ski area in Winter; moose, elk and an area rich in wildlife awaits us as well as campgrounds. Cypress Hills spans across two territories, Saskatchewan and Alberta (where our clocks will need changing back an hour again by the end of the week).
In central Canada they have just two seasons, winter for nine months and summer for three. It seems that the latter has arrived because the temperatures soared to thirty degrees today and it should stay in double figures tonight. Feels like home!
We are enjoying Saskatchewan. Many people say the prairies are boring but they are not. Here and there one can find a little pocket oasis; undulating hills every so often to break up the flat wide vistas, salt lakes and huge skies: the clear skies last night were full of stars. It is big country and it is a beautiful country! “There are no boring parts of Saskatchewan, just boring visitors!” Old
local saying. Anon
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