Churchill via Thompson to Saskatoon
Unfortunately, we had a day spare to hang around Churchill, which may sound like fun but really isn’t. We were kicked out of our hotel at 10am with our bags etc, with nowhere to go and visit because we’d seen everything there was to see EXCEPT polar bears. It was a pretty miserable day sitting around, walking in the freezing cold wind and hoping a polar bear might walk along the beach. Much to our dismay the car hire place had no cheap cars left to hire, so the possibility of seeing a polar bear at all was very slim. Finally, the train station opened and we could board our train back to Thompson. It was a journey full of disappointment, tears and rude staff who accused us of going in the wrong carriage (even though she’d told us to) and made worse by the fact that they weren’t serving dinner and we had nothing to eat. The highlight of the journey was seeing a Husky at one of the stops which actually wasn’t really a stop at all but more of a crossing at a road that had a group of people waiting very close to the railway tracks. The husky was running around in the snow (yes it surprised us too!) and loving it and proceeded to run home behind its owner’s truck.
We arrived in Thompson at about 11am and got picked up and taken back to our car. We set off pretty much straight away, aiming to be in Saskatoon by night bearing in mind it was 963km away. The journey started fine since the snow storm had swept across Manitoba and Saskatchewan whilst we were in Churchill and the roads had already been cleared. However, we ran into some trouble when crossing the border. The only sign that we had crossed into Saskatchewan was the dramatic decrease in the quality of the road surface – switching from smooth tarmac to bumpy, icy and snowy dirt tracks. It was a nightmare come true, driving at 20kmh with no radio because we were out of range and into increasing darkness on awful ice covered slush and potholes. To say I was scared would be an understatement, I was terrified, as was Tim and this certainly didn’t help my anxiety.
The snow started falling to make things even more difficult, but I managed to keep my cool to help Tim keep positive. I told him he had to keep driving no matter what because I was not sleeping in the car in the middle of the forest and those conditions. We had no way of contacting anyone and had nothing for heating if we had no petrol and were snowed in our car. Fortunately, we managed to flag down one of the 2 cars that we happened to pass to ask how the roads were up ahead and were reassured by the couple that the tarmac was only 2km up the road and it was no problem to drive on except to look out for a moose on the loose. Finally, we could breath and believe that we might not die of cold despite the temperature being below 0 degrees. We started passing more and more cars which was great and before long we had found civilization again (yay)! The downside was the fact that we still had 250miles to go til we reached Saskatoon with less bumpy roads but at least it was paved.
The surrounding land reminded me of Holland with vast flat prairies and pretty little houses covered in snow. We discovered that having our main beam on the car made it worse with the snow falling so we weren’t driving at much speed. It was crazy to see people driving at normal speed in those conditions, but I guess the Canadians are used to it after all! England would have had a melt down at the sight of all the snow. We saw a stout causally crossing the road as were nearing Saskatoon, as well as a fox and a deer. Unfortunately, the deer wasn’t very clever and decided to run across the road right in front of us, clipping the front right of our car. Tim tried to slow down but we didn’t have enough time. Luckily for us, the deer ran away into the bushes which can only be a good sign. We were quite shaken and found a Tim Horton’s to have a drink and ask a local what we should do. The guy behind the counter didn’t seem too concerned but also didn’t have a clue what you’d do in our situation. We continued onto our campsite which was really nice and modern. A little steep charging you $2 for a 4-minute shower though when you’re already paying a fair amount of money! It was a good distance from Town so that was good at least. We decided to sleep in the back of the care again to see if we might get a better sleep, but it was a long restless night freezing our toes off in -4 degrees.