That’s not an entirely made-up headline. It’s a scramble of where we are—as a cool-sounding phrase that reminds me of the Star Trek episode, ”Darmok and Jalad at Tamagra,” where Picard has to learn an alien’s language—that’s all in metaphor—to survive. It’s one of my favorite episodes.
We are indeed on Hecla Island on Lake Winnipeg, and yesterday we visited the town of Gimli. There are so many cultural influences here unfamiliar to me that I feel like I’m at Tamagra.
Another note: We spent the first day here on a roadtrip to pick up a prescription I’ve been chasing since June in California, and we spent the next morning making appointments for our entry into the States where we need to get stuff done that we couldn’t get done in Canada. For right now, the errands of fulltimers have gotten in the way of the joy of fulltiming, but we have several more days here to explore.
Okay, we’re camped at a large provincial park campground (Gull Harbour) at the tip of Hecla Island, a campground much like others in central and eastern Canada. The vibe of the island seems more of a resort destination, though, with a golf course and a large hotel and a marina full of sailboats.
The cultural background of the island is Anishinabe (ceremonial sites here are protected), and the dominant European cultures are Icelandic and Ukrainian. You heard me right. And that’s the case in the entire Interlake Region between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.
More on this cultural mix later; I’m still wrapping my head around it.
There’s also this unusual geography. It’s very very very flat here, both the land above the lake, where it’s marshy, and under the lake, where it’s shallow.
Lake Winnipeg looks to me like a Great Lake in that you can’t see across it, but the deepest point is only 125 feet down. Seriously. Blue Lake, where we stayed last, was small enough that I kayaked the perimeter in about an hour, and it’s twice as deep as Lake Winnipeg.
The water is also very high right now due to an unusually wet spring and summer (boy, do we know that). I took the above photos while walking along the public pier as the lake washed across it.
And this is the beach, with tons of signs to it, its own bathroom and parking lot. So you’d expect it to be a big deal.
Clearly, there is no beach right now.
So, that’s what I know about Hecla Island so far: resort vibe, mixed heritage, flat and marshy. More to come.
We had to drive for that errand, and it was once again along these loooooong, straight roads that lead from one small town far far away to another. We passed a giant golfball, a giant moose statue, the rink where a famous (for here) hockey player grew up, and that was it. We saw a sign for a farmer’s market and a sign for 25 flavors of soft-serve ice cream plus free wifi, but neither sign pointed to where these goodies could be found.
So we went where we knew would be interesting: farther down the lake to the largest port, the town of Gimli. With a name like that, we just had to check it out.
We ate a terrible touristy lunch but with a view of the harbor and a huge variety of boats, including a research vessel for the lake.
This is not the research vessel, unless you’re doing research about cool jet boats from the 1950s.
Gimli was developed (post-natives) mainly by two brothers who had enormous families, and their families are still active in running the island. We saw a coast guard office there, a yacht club, and a Royal Canadian policeman politely escorting an elderly person back to the assisted living building. Seems pretty low-key.
Except for the huge Icelandic and Ukrainian references everywhere: student-painted murals along the dock, lots of these stone boat outlines in reference to ancient Viking burial grounds, and this HUGE statue of a Viking warrior at the town park.
There is a lot to learn from the town, but we only had the afternoon, so I had to look up the name online:
Gimli is an Icelandic variant form of Gimlé, a place in Nordic mythology, where the righteous survivors of Ragnarök are foretold to live. It is […] described as the most beautiful place on Earth […].”Wikipedia
Seems to me we saw a sign referencing a guy named something like Gimlius Gimliusbjorg, but I can’t find hide nor hair of it now. I’ll just imagine Gimli the dwarf, because I think he would have enjoyed my beer-battered fish and french fries with gravy more than I did.
Sorry for the wishy washy place facts—we are in a wishy-washy state of mind right now, both of us. Tracy’s tired from driving all these long stretches across Canada, and we’re both figuring out where and when we’ll get stuff done in the Midwest, as well as the most important visiting of friends and family. The reservations and plans we sketched in about reentering the States about nine months ago are now needing to be tweaked, and it seems like as soon as we wrangle some long form we’ve had to fill out online, cell service blinks out. We have time though, and here we have a whole lot of space to figure it all out.