Michael’s write up of biking Manitoba during our cycle tour across Canada in the Summer of 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up of biking Manitoba.
Manitobans had a lot to live up to after the super friendly Saskatchewan locals made us feel welcome in the prairies. The border sign and their license plates say ‘friendly Manitoba’ so I think they’re up for the challenge!
We parted ways with our German cycling buddies Jacque and Luisa in Deleau and rolled into the small town of Hartney. Our first dealings with a local was at a gas station that only accepted pre paid gas cards (which we didn’t have) when we tried to fill our camping stove without success until the kind farmer paid the 80c with his card to let us fill up! Not exactly a huge amount, but a pretty kind gesture and it made cooking dinner slightly easier with fuel!
First impressions of Hartney were that it was a borderline ghost town, but after visiting the local supermarket and chatting with the cashier we were told it was actually the town festival that night and we should stick around for beers, fireworks and general shenanigans. It didn’t take much convincing (they mentioned beer) and we decided to call it a day and check out how they party in Manitoba!
Biking Manitoba… Friendly Manitoba!
It wasn’t quite on the scale that we’d been led to believe but it was still a fun night where we met half the population of the town and had drinks bought for us the whole evening before watching a surprisingly kick ass fireworks display. We were even invited to a wedding, had several offers of places to stay and given contacts for our onwards journey.
Unfortunately the night got a bit shitter after the party when we returned to the municipal campsite next to the public swimming pool which had basically been transformed into the underage kids after party. We had a swarm of smashed teenagers sitting meters from our tent cranking shit music, drinking and shouting until 4 am before ripping down the fence around the swimming pool to jump on the diving board. It sounded like we’d set up our tent in the middle of the shittest blue light disco ever held.
The police eventually came and the kids dispersed…only to come back again briefly to finish the beers and discuss how hardcore they were for vandalizing a fence.
Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep so the next day was a slightly crappy time on the bikes, and when we eventually decided to call it a day in Belmont didn’t really feel like staying at the town’s campsite….it was also their the town festival and the campsite was in the same park. Never fear though, friendly locals to the rescue! A lovely old lady called Irene invited us back to her place to camp in her ridiculously big back yard where we sipped fireball and hot chocolate and scoffed down a massive plate of banana bread courtesy of Irene’s wicked baking skills and slept like fluffy little lambs.
Awesome campsites… a plus of biking Manitoba!
One of the best parts about biking Manitoba was never having to worry about where we would be sleeping that night because there was always a town roughly every 20 Kms with a municipal campsite for a measly 10 bucks a night! Felt odd for us getting to shower that regularly and being able to set up the tent without fear of having the cops called on us or having a farmer shoot us in the butthole with a 12 gauge for sleeping on his land.
Saved by a couchsurfer!
We had a couchsurfer lined up near Morris and had planned on riding down the unpaved gravel rode to his farm until my newly purchased EVO front low-rider rack decided to be a metallic prick and snap in two making it a bit hard for me to carry all my crap along a bumpy road without having an accident and potentially injuring my precious face. Our couchsurfing host Jordan kindly offered to drive out and pick us up and it just so happened that his father had an aluminum welder and his neighbor was a blacksmith! Well that’s handy isn’t it!
Over the next couple of nights at Jordan’s place we heard all about the Mennonites and Hutterites.
We even got a chance to visit a Hutterite colony and see how they lived which was a pretty cool experience. They were pretty much self-sufficient growing and making nearly everything they needed to survive and spoke a German dialect and wore traditional clothing. They did drink beer though and baked some mighty fine bread so it seemed like a pretty rad life and one I could probably put up with.
Everyone in the colony was very friendly and welcoming to us even though they are generally suspicious of outsiders and even gave us a parting gift of a jar of honey from their own beehives, a fresh loaf of home baked bread and 3 dozen eggs. Yes, 3 dozen eggs. We were on a protein high for weeks.
Turns out as well as having a Hutterite hook up, Jordan also had his pilot’s license and half owned a light plane with his father so we were off the bikes and into an airplane! It was a very random couchsurfing experience but it gave us a different view of Manitoba and from the sky confirmed what we had suspected; it was a fucking flat place and the roads were dead straight as far as the eye can see.
We were nearly out of the prairies!!!
At times it seemed that they stretched on forever but we were finally rolling to the end of theses flat friendly lands! To give us a proper send off they decided to give us one last tornado experience in the town of Vita where we stupidly set up outside a local school under a rickety old wooden storage area.
The rain and wind started up not long after we hopped in the tent and soon sounded like a freight train approaching our flimsy little home to mount us in our sleeping bags. At the time we thought it would be smart setting up somewhere under cover to shelter from the rain, but soon realized it was not the wisest choice as it seriously sounded like the whole aging wooden structure was trying its best to rip away from the earth and fly off into the night.
Luckily no debris flew off the shelter and sliced us in two and we weren’t crushed in our sleep, but we did learn a valuable lesson about where not to set up a tent in a storm. Later we heard from locals that a tornado did indeed touch down in some fields not too far from the school so were pretty lucky really.
We could see trees! Lots of trees!
That was a dead give away that our time in the prairies was at an end. We spent one last night camping near the U.S.A border in a weird town called Middleboro In a local park where we had some kids stand outside our tent while we were in it discussing if they should ‘tackle’ the tent. Happily they decided not to and I wasn’t forced to use my mad knife fighting skills to defend our home and the next day we zipped to the U.S.A border to enter Trump country! So we have come to the end of biking Manitoba and the Canadian Prairies.
Goodbye Manitoba, your license plates are correct you friendly little minx!