Trans-Canada Highway

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

…from Salmon Arm to Pembroke
The few days in Salmon Arm/Sicamous (BC) almost didn’t want to end. Because of the bigger damage to our car we didn’t know for a long time what we wanted to do, what we could do and how to continue. The workshop was able to locate the damage to the injection system and found the spare parts for an identical engine. But the offer immediately took our breath away and the workshop did not want to guarantee us the repair success.

Our foreign nationality, as well as the possible onward journey to Mexico and South America did not make the solution simpler. How can we buy and pay for a new or newer Jeep; how can we legalize the Jeep brought from Europe in Canada and leave it behind?
Sometimes the local dealers were very obliging and helpful, but for our situation they did not have a quick solution either; too many open questions, which seemed almost unsolvable even for the professionals.

Soon my relatives in Ontario/Québec provided me with targeted support. They know the local things and all the paperwork better than we foreigners from Switzerland. I was also assured a place where we could rebuild our camper, i.e. the camping kit, on a new vehicle – a little worry less.

Since our current car was still driving, we turned right in Salmon Arm (BC) and made the long way across Canada to Pembroke (Ontario). We didn’t know whether our jeep would still be able to pass the many passes and gradients at that time. Also the distance is quite long with about 4’000 kilometres. But somehow we had to come to the east. And, if all the ropes were to be torn with a new basic vehicle, we would be on the right way to the harbour in Halifax, where ships regularly depart for Europe and we, including the car, could get on.

Already we joined the longest highway of the world, which leads with more than 7’800 kilometers from east to west, resp. vice versa across Canada. Unfortunately we had to move east on this road and distance ourselves from the backroads; we now needed a road that would take us as fast as possible to our destination, would not show any high gradients and would not put any aggravating obstacles in the way.

Until Revelstoke we could still follow the traffic relatively fast and were, so our impression, no too big obstacle on this heavily frequented main road. But from Revelstoke our jeep didn’t want to drive up in the first ascents to the Rogers-Pass at the desired speed and we sneaked up the steep ramps with about 40 km/h for a while. Powerless the engine howled in front under the hood, while we looked at each other whether this would come well.

The snail’s pace gave us more time for the landscape. It is a pity to roam this wonderful mountain world – even in rain – at high speed. We enjoyed the views into the valley and to the mountain flanks.

From Golden we had the Kickinghorse Pass, which was a bit higher than the Rogers Pass. Thanks to a very slow truck and the double lane for the upward traffic our snail’s pace hardly gets on anyone’s nerves. But we tortured the last one out of our car, even during the ascent there was a strong smell of oil and a few times there were short interruptions. At the top of the pass the relief followed and during the descent the whole situation relaxed again. Now we could turn our attention more to the landscape than to any temperature and other indicators.

Also outside the weather relaxed – the clouds disappeared and the sun laughed from behind the mountain tops.
The long Bow Valley from Lake Louise was a pleasure for us and many places deserved a longer stay. In Banff we slowed down our speedy trip and roamed through this tourist stronghold with all its positive and negative facets, and this in the middle of a national park. With the necessary small money, one can afford and be pampered with everything possible – guaranteed!

Until Calgary we again did not follow the fastest way, but chose the old Highway 1, roamed through a wonderful area and were surprised that there were almost no cars on this road. Although there were a few steep climbs that almost drove the following Canadians into despair, our jeep also managed every hill – even if only at a snail’s pace!

The Rocky’s were already behind us and got smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. But the skyscrapers of the oil metropolis Calgary grew more and more in height. Compared to the first passage it was a lot more pleasant on this Tuesday, and we found the right roads at first go and always turned right.
As soon as the skyscrapers disappeared from the view of the rear-view mirror, we were already standing outside in the wide prairie.

On its whole length the Trans-Canada Highway roams through many wonderful areas, but also x-thousand kilometres of flat prairie. The crossing of the Rocky Mountains was very varied. And the prairie? Many travellers tried to describe these sections in their stories and, as described, yes it was like this: Simply flat!

Yes, it was “flatter than flat”! The slightly hilly landscape went over more and more into infinite vastness. Forests or single trees became less and less, but huge areas of pasture land, where thousands of cattle stomped after their fodder.

If there were no sign in the middle of this plain, one would hardly notice the change of province from Alberta to Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan, at least along the southern border, is – to be honest – boringly flat. Few settlements stand along the road and probably offer some work in agriculture or its settled areas.

Where maybe a few houses were placed at a crossroads a little more than a hundred years ago, there is today the capital Regina and it still gives the impression as if the city had just been placed in the area.
We kept asking ourselves what drove the people here once and what they would do after work. Maybe we experienced this province just wrong and from the look of a passing car on the highway.

But shortly before reaching the provincial border Saskatchewan-Manitoba, we discovered stars again in the night and – as a coronation – the full moon. For a long time we saw neither stars nor moon. In the north it was the almost endless days, which robbed any view on the celestial bodies, later it was the permanent clouds and the evening rain.

Towards Manitoba a change of scenery followed. The grain fields became smaller, but there were more forest areas, groups of trees and many water and marsh areas. The landscape changed from ultra-flat to slightly wavy and we had to torture our jeep again over countless gradients.

Agriculture plays an important role in Manitoba as well as in western Saskatchewan and even in the provincial capitals you can buy tractors and combine harvesters. But both provinces are also strong in oil and gas production and Saskatchewan is one of the larger potash and uranium suppliers in the world. This is perhaps the reason why we have always come across people from all over the world.

After Winnipeg the highway follows a few kilometres through agricultural land, before it became hilly again.
Our car had to fight its way up again and was often at the top of the convoy. We didn’t want to know what the following drivers thought about this sneak at the top; at least they honked their horns quite often.

But for the eye it became more and more beautiful; here actually the Canadian granite shield begins, which stretches up to the polar sea and Hudson Bay. Everywhere the naked rock appears. Where it has earth, there is a luxuriant plant growth and thousands of lakes – big and small – that invite to stay. What begins in Manitoba continues in Ontario with even greater intensity. Behind every bend there is a new lake, after every elevation and change of direction the landscape also changes.
Somebody should say that the Trans-Canada Highway is boring!

In Thunder Bay we first had to look for the “Lake Superior”; the whole city is very far away and is not directly near the water. Only in the eastern part the view to the lake became clear near the harbour and the sunshine spoiled us with wonderful colour intensity.

In Nipigon we turned off and followed the river of the same name and Lake Helen northwards. While today we can follow the water comfortably on the highway, the indigenous peoples used this waterway already several centuries before the arrival of the first Europeans and developed so large parts of today’s western Ontario.

Our highway soon turned east again and hundreds of kilometres of tarred roads followed through the vast forests, lined by a few settlements, where there is usually only the most important thing for the surrounding population. We didn’t choose this connection for tourist reasons, but it was the best connection to the east, because the road is not too steep and is a very popular route for truck drivers.

The extensive forests in this area are regarded as the northern Amazon and are one of the largest carbon dioxide reservoirs; but for our pampered eye it was still a bit monotonous and rather a duty than a freestyle. After many hundred kilometres we approached the province Québec and the wide forest areas were followed again by extensive farmland. Also, the many French names cannot deny the former French past, as also the steal of the older buildings as also the churches.

In order to give our trip a little more variety, we made a small turn to Québec at Notre-Dame-du-Nord and felt like we were in a different world. After our long time in the British-English part, the French “Art de vivre” did us good once again. On the few kilometres to Témiscaming we felt like in the middle of France and the wonderful evening light let the whole landscape shine in its best colours.

We left North Bay to the right and followed the Ottawa River on a side road, before it went over the last strong gradients and roaring engine over the heavily trafficked Highway Pembroke towards.

The reception at Kaiser’s in Pembroke as well as in Chapeau was warm and we were looking forward to the unplanned return of the globetrotters.
Yes, we are just in Canada; come in, make yourselves comfortable and what can we do for you!

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