Now for Part II of our first Canadian mini-trip! Make sure you read Part I here first.
The next morning we woke up attesting to the old cliché of life in the country; we had both slept better than we had in weeks. The silence enveloping our Air Bnb had seemed so peacefully alien to the sirens and constant noise of buses we are used to in Toronto.
We floated down to an incredible breakfast and took our coffees out on the jetty one last time.
The weather was shaping up to be in a much nicer mood than the previous day which was lucky as we had a day of hiking and outdoor pursuits lined up.
We reluctantly waved goodbye to one of our favourite Air Bnbs to date and headed further into the wilderness.
Canada is quite famously spoilt for choice when it comes to wilderness. Trying to settle on a single area to visit proved to be too much for us and our indecisive tendencies. The world-famous Algonquin National Park was just a little too far north for our short trip so we set our sights on Central Ontario’s second largest Provincial Park, The Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands.
After a short 40 minute drive north we arrived. We put on our hiking boots, packed our bag and ventured off to finally get a taste of that great, vast Canadian wilderness.
All of 200 metres into the trail we started running back to the shelter of our car in a swarm of mosquitoes and a whole menagerie of flying insects. Despite countless warnings from customers at work we hadn’t bought ourselves any bug spray, a rudimentary item for any trip outdoors.
Defeated at the first hurdle we bundled back into the car and started driving in the hope of finding a more amiable alternative, scratching our newly acquired bites with fervour.
Although it’s probably not the most environmentally friendly or adventurous way to see the outdoors there’s something about just driving through vast nothingness that seems to put us both at ease. After living in our car for months on end in Australia, sitting up top together and cruising through the countryside feels like our natural state.
After a short drive we arrived in Gravenhurst, the gateway town to the Muskoka region. It being shoulder season and a Monday afternoon, the cafes and restaurants by the lakeside were eerily quiet but it was easy to see that it would be awash with tourists within a matter of weeks. The lake is peppered with hotels, boardwalks, restaurants and shops. The calm before the storm.
With time running short we opted for a short 4KM hike near the town of Bracebridge to Wilson’s Falls.
We doused ourselves in our newly purchased bug spray and headed out in the balmy, late afternoon sunshine. As we descended the beginning of the trail down into dense pine forest it finally felt like we had arrived in Canada.
We followed the calm waters of the Muskoka River north until we reached a hairpin turn in the river’s course and were greeted with the sound of cascading water. The falls themselves are mildly impressive. The water barrels over a series of smalls drops before rounding the tight corner and continuing on its journey south. But with the surrounding forest, and brilliant blue skies it provided us with that perfect moment we had been searching for. Some respite from the city and some promise of outdoor adventures ahead.
Feeling nourished by our brief encounter with Canada’s great outdoors but thirsty for something other than water we made a quick stop off at the Muskoka Brewery en route back to the city.
Like the rest of the western world, Canada is in the midst of a craft beer frenzy and from the few we’ve sampled in our short time over here, Muskoka Brewery beers have consistently delivered some of the best. We sampled the whole collection and sat out in the early evening sun, soaking up those last few moments of rural serenity. After a few more tasters and an obligatory t-shirt purchase we hit the highway and made our way back to Toronto.
Spending our first weekend outside the city limits always seems to mark a significant milestone for us on our travels. It gives us a small taster of the adventures that lie ahead and the places we have left to explore. But it also does a job at making the city feel like home. Returning to the familiar skyline and the familiar streets cements the feeling of belonging in what before was a strange new place.