5. Saskatoon

Marilyn had a doctor’s appointment, not a GP but the orthopaedic surgeon, she has a painful knee. The clinic she needed to attend was 3.5 hours away in Saskatoon! This is normal, an 8 hour trip if you include the waiting time. That would be like us going to London to see our local specialist and we complain about some services being located 10 miles away in Halifax! She wanted some company on the journey  so we volunteered to go with her if no-one else specifically wanted to go. They didn’t. In the end, Bruce came as well anyway but they seemed keen to show us the countryside in the surrounding area. After all the mountains and hills of Alberta and BC the scenery was much less impressive although perhaps equally diverse in its own understated way.

IMAG1862IMAG1821-1We had been due to set off between 9-9.30 so considered that there was no rush. We were just getting out of bed at 7.45 when there was a brusque knock on the cabin door. We were leaving at 8.30 instead. I opened the curtain, wondering what we would be met with both in terms of the weather but also creatures. We had a lovely red cow outside the other day and now we had Phantom, the llama. You cannot get particularly close to either of them usually but the glass pane apparently gave her a huge degree of security or confidence. In fact, she wouldn’t leave.

We set off in a car that the granddaughter had been using, with the obligatory cracked windshield. I can’t say that the landscape was particularly varied or inspiring as the photos have illustrated. There are a few undulations, not quite rolling hills but definitely some river valleys. There is a lot of water around this province, more so in the north, but even in this area there are many lakes. Hence the local town being Meadow Lake with Lune and Green the neighbours.

One attractive aspect of the long journey was the opportunity to spend time with Marilyn who, having lived around these parts for many years, is a fount of all sorts of local knowledge. She is part Metis and worked among the bands and tribes before retiring to the ranch and has hosted workaway people for many years so has a wealth of tales and anecdotes. We learnt about the Cajun culture in Louisiana originating from Canadian Indians who had been pushed off their lands and migrated down the coast to the Gulf of Mexico where they had to inhabit the swamplands as the high ground was already occupied.

Bruce told us about the ice roads north of here which were only really passable for 4-8 weeks a year as the ice had to become 2 meters thick to be considered safe for the big trucks. There is a strict speed limit on these roads as a bow-type wave is created underneath the ice and if the timing isn’t spot-on when the far shore is reached the water will swell, ice shelf will crack and the lorry plunge in to the water before reaching the safety of land.

The power cables run along side the road and Marilyn pointed out a nest balanced precariously on one of the poles. A little further on, beside the pylon was a tall pole with a nest perched on the high platform. This had been a similar situation but the nest was at risk of falling off so an alternative perch was provided.

IMAG1850We rolled into town/city in time for lunch and then had to do a quick exit from the restaurant as the time had flown by. It would have been awful to come all this way and then miss the appointment. On a previous occasion she had trekked in early as the appointment had been at 9.30, only to find that it was the following day! No such difficulty this time so after she had finished we took the opportunity to go to a cash and carry to stock up on the reasonably priced items which weren’t available (at that price) nearer home. Feeding 13 people at every meal does require a huge amount of produce. With both Roger and I pushing oversized trolleys we became a little concerned that we weren’t going to be able to fit everything into the car boot. In the end Marilyn and I sat with 54 toilet rolls between us whilst Roger took the driving seat as Bruce suffers from undiagnosed narcolepsy!!

We took a different route home so that we could be shown an alternative view of the surrounding countryside, not that we noticed much difference. We made a pit stop near Blaine and got eaten alive by mossies whilst we just stood outside the car to consume our drinks. The sun was going down but not yet setting so just the time that the little b******* are out in force. We had been travelling a good half an hour but had over an hour still to go when a rather worrying noise developed, we had a flat tyre. We also had a boot crammed full of shopping and it was getting dark.

IMAG1852We pulled off the road and emptied the boot to retrieve the spare, a doughnut, narrow temporary tyre. This was going to have to get the four of us (and Bruce is not petite!) and a tonne of shopping back home. Whilst Bruce and Roger knew what they were doing Marilyn did comment that it was surprising no-one stopped to offer help, common in these parts. I crossed the road and wound my way up a parallel lane away from the the dirt road which lead to a First Nation convenience store to relive myself of the drink I had not long consumed and on return there was another car parked up with ours. An Indian guy had stopped to help (take over, very efficiently) despite the fact that he was on his way back from the hospital with his wife and young son who had had an allergic reaction to antibiotics. I’m surprised she allowed him to stop in the circumstances.

IMAG1851The sun was setting as we reloaded the boot, a little more tricky as the flat tyre took up considerably more space than the doughnut but we managed to squeeze everything in. We resumed our journey, slowly now with the temporary tyre and in the dark and were soon rewarded by the Northern Lights, at least I think they were. The windows were rather dirty and with the lights from the dashboard it wasn’t all that easy to tell which were inside and which were out. So, despite the temperature dropping to 3 degrees, I had to open the window to be sure of seeing the real ones.

We rolled into the yard about 11pm, Marilyn said to leave the unloading until the morning, just get the frozen stuff in, which was at the bottom, actually in the spare tyre well! Everyone else had gone to bed apart from Paul who was waiting for his cigarettes which he’d ordered when we rang to say we would be late back!! The lights were still dancing around when we collapsed into bed and again when we were both up at 2am for a bathroom call. At this time they took on an amazing shape, looking like an angel’s wing from a piece of classical art, there was a definite arched top line with the fronds splaying out underneath, just stunning. (but I’m afraid my camera can’t cope with the exposure as it is just my phone)

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