After four hours driving on the Trans Canada Highway from Montreal direction, we reached Ottawa.We parked the truck next to the city center and since there was a biking trail next to it, we decided to take the bicycles and discover the city.
The best idea we could have. After 10 minutes ride through a lovely park we were facing the Parliament Hill from a huge bridge that passes over Ottawa River. It looked like a scene from Harry Potter movie, a massive castle rising on top of a hill next to the banks of the generous Ottawa river. The picture was magic and we were amazed.
We were lucky to assist in front of the Parliament to a national parade organized by the Canadian army for the 150 years celebration since Confederation, 150 years since Canada was born as a united country.
The soldiers were dressed in their military uniforms, all accessorized with the typical decorations for such celebration, in a military pace and movement they rallied through the crowds, playing their instruments in a perfect musical rhythm.
The scene of the Parliament Hill, the soldiers dressed with their national uniforms, the banks of Ottawa River seen from the top, the large avenues, the Rideau Canal and its surrounding park created a scene of a harmonious city, where people seemed to have a healthy and happy life.
Breathing through the festive atmosphere of the city, enjoying its scenery and culture we decided to continue our adventure on the Rideau Canal to reach the Lebanese Festival on a 8km bike ride.
The view was special: we watched people stand up paddling, canoeing or some having a glass of white wine on the yachts parked by the bank of the canal. There would be people running and cycling on the alley or others enjoying a drink by the bars of the Rideau Canal.
For a moment we felt citizens of Ottawa city and that felt good and refreshing.
We finally found the Lebanese Festival and we indulged immediately into the fresh Saj with lebnah and cucumber and the much deserved falafel, tabouleh, hummus paired with a glass of white wine. We listened to life music, watched the Lebanese community and families of Ottawa and enjoyed the authentic scenery.
It was almost 10pm and we were ready to return to our camp. 12km riding back were not easy, but it was so much fun! Outside it was already dark and we cycled all the way through the forest, hidden neighborhoods and canals. It felt like kids again, riding through the night, sneaking through neighborhoods and watching how life happens in places unknown to us. It was a discovery at every moment and that was so exciting.
First incident in the parking
The following day we went to Walmart for some groceries shopping and for our first laundry mat experience.
Going to an automatic laundry shop for the first time was cool. Easier than we thought, we had free wireless which saved the time spent to wash and dry the clothes. In the meantime JP had a haircut and everything seemed to fall into place.
Until one moment. While we were inside the truck, arranging our clean clothes in the drawers, out of nowhere we were surprised by a loud bang sound. In a moment we faced a dramatic event when our automatic stairs that were opened in the parking lot were hit, pulled and pushed by a guy’s car.He had no idea what he was doing. We was pushing and pushing, JP was shouting desperate from the car to stop and eventually he did. When he stopped we thought that we have lost our ladder. That would have been a disaster for our trip. Luckily our ladder is made from solid steel and has a strong built set-up. At the end it had just some scratches. What a relief!
The man hitting our ladder came out of the car very apologetic. He was somehow relieved with the fact that he had hit our ladder and not a person as he thought it could be the case when he heart us shouting.
All in all, a very important lesson. Never leave the ladder out even if there is a small chance someone might hit it by mistake.
We decided to leave the place although we were not done with the admin work. We were disturbed with the fact that the trip could have been compromised at its very beginning.
The road to Toronto
We headed towards Toronto without knowing where to camp or having a plan. We were about to draw it on the way. We didn’t take a shower, nor did we drink at least a cup of tea. We just left.
We had to dispose the toilet and refill the water pump. And that was an adventure on its own.
On our way to Toronto we couldn’t find any dump station for hundreds of kilometers. That became frustrating and very soon the tension piled up until it came out. That was our first fight on the road. That was not nice and not a pleasant part of the trip, but it was part of it. We had to learn how to cope with these situations as well.
Eventually after an exhaustive search we found a public toilet next to a dog park in BelleVille where we released the waste. That was a great feeling of a job got done. We thought that was it, however we got some strings attached. We got flees from the dogs that were walking in the park. JP was bitten in a moment and very soon our car got invaded by a small population of flees. When we realized what just happened we were on a flees killing mission and that took us the whole evening.
On top of this, it was getting late and we had to find a place to park overnight. The online applications we were using or the internet didn’t point us in any nearby direction so we were on our own. If before finding a spot on the side road was not an issue, in Ontario it became, being the province with 40% of Canada's population.
Every place by Ontario Lake was either private property, a national park where they have designated places for campers or a serviced camp site where you have to pay 30$/night. None of these solutions would work for us. Firstly we can’t afford spending every night for camping sites for one year, second the car is prepared for wild camping, is fully independent and we don’t necessary need an electricity plug or water pump. If you do not arrive in time to an established camp site, the best spots are taken by the first comers and on top of this you have other 20 campers next to you, door to door. It’s just not appealing for us. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we can find a wild camping.
At some point we were zig-zagging on the coast, up and down through the same rail road, up to a point JP pointed out a place on the map we decided to follow. It was a boat landing site in a conservation area. It looked like the perfect spot: empty, with lake view, quiet, in the nature and only for us. Perfect! until we saw the sign: no camping. How disappointing!
What is interesting to learn is that in Canada camping with an RV or a camper is such a popular thing to do, almost every other house we pass by has a motorhome parked in the backyard, or most of the campsites we pass by are full of camp vans. Therefore the local administrations are designing special signs for “No Camping” areas and everything is organized to camp in special arranged sites.
After we talked with some teenagers passing by and asked their advise where to park, we really thought we will probably have to drive 2 more hours until the next big city with a Walmart.
We got in the car, I picked up some chips and a banana and we were ready to extend the agony. After 500m the spot was just in front of us. A perfect parking place next to the beach and no sign for no camping. Awesome!! The night is saved!! We can eat, drink, relax and sleep now.
Searching for my ancestors trails in Hamilton
We woke up early with a beautiful view of the Ontario Lake. It looked great for a run. It was that type of morning we like: we exercised, prepared the meal for the road-trip, the oatmeal with fruits for breakfast, black tea, got a good shower, organized the car and got ready for the big day that would take us to Toronto and than to Hamilton.
On our way to Hamilton we passed through Toronto. We decided not to stop, but we had a very nice overview to the city from the car. The road took us through the middle of it and it looked very similar with what we’ve seen before in Dubai, Shanghai or Singapore: big and developed city, lots of skyscrapers, huge hokey arenas, built up infrastructure, bridges and highways. It was lovely passing through.
I was excited to get to Hamilton. You might wonder why. Well, this is the place where my grand-grand-grandpa immigrated and lived for 38 years of his life. We grew up with the story told by my grandma and aunts that if we ever go to Hamilton we can find my grand-grand-grandpa’s name engraved in the stone of the Romanian Orthodox Church following the donation he made to built the new church.
The grandpa of my grandma worked and lived in Hamilton for most of his life. He came from a Hungarian family from Transylvania, Romania. He left his wife and children home to came to work in the new land of opportunities in order to provide them a decent living back in Romania. Hamilton was the place where the steel and railway industries were booming .
After 38 years, old and retired he returned to his much missed homeland and family. Unfortunately soon after his arrival he passed away. I always wondered how did he find life back home in Romania without electricity, basic infrastructure, commuting with the bull carriage in the village where he came from after he lived in one of the most industrialized towns at that time. A story I am intrigued to discover.
Well, I found the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian House in Hamilton. I was so curious of what I am about to discover. I was lucky to find the priest in the church and I could see the plaque with the name of my grand-grand-grandpa, Csiki George engraved. That was an amazing and wonderful feeling. I felt so lucky and privileged to be there. It was like going back in time and meeting my ancestors that once stepped and walked on the same streets.
The priest was so kind and welcoming and gave me the 100 years anniversary booklet of the Romanian Orthodox Church and invited us for the Sunday religious ceremony. I felt very happy that we were immediately embraced by the Romanian community from Hamilton and I couldn’t wait to tell my family about the experience: that I found the church and the memorial plaque our family was mentioning for generations. I was trying to imagine where he would walk or where he would drink his tea, the park he would pass through in the weekends or the bay he would cross by on his way back from work. We were in the neighborhood of the church and I couldn’t stop wondering how was his life there, what were his worries, his happy moments, how was his day to day life.
That night we parked in the nearest park and we went to have a drink in the city to celebrate this special day. I felt as we would pass through a familiar neighborhood, very welcoming and casual place. We stopped in a nice restaurant by the main street, had some beer and red wine together with the traditional Poutine. The restaurant was imitating the looks of a place from the 40s at least to say, the times when a big wave of immigrants arrived to Canada. It had a special charm and my mind was just wondering if he ever stopped or drank his coffee in this place.
Next day at the Sunday religious ceremony, the wife of Father Lucian Puscariu, Ms. Ioana Puscariu welcomed and invited us right away to meet one of the oldest members of the church. I told them the story and to my surprise two of the ladies remembered him.
Cathy Iuga remembered his name, his face and that he was coming to the church frequently. She said I look alike him :)) That was funny. She showed me where he used to live, it was just across the street of the church. By coincidence we parked right in front of the house the previous day and I had no idea that my grand-grand-grandpa lived in that street for almost 40 years of his life.
We attended the Sunday religious ceremony, a requiem and a wedding in the same time. We had the traditional Romanian cake “coliva” that you can only have for requiem, cake with nuts, and received the holy bread and more than everything we felt embraced in the Romanian-Canadian community right away. I felt familiarity and home.
After the ceremonies were over we headed towards Niagara Falls, which were only 70 km away from Hamilton.
When we arrived to the Niagara Falls we were in shock from two different perspectives. It was such a built up touristic place full of people, with a lot of neon advertising, casinos, game centers but the waterfalls were absolutely amazing, a nature show.
We witnessed one of the most amazing natural beauties we ever seen.Niagara Falls need no description. They are just stunning, powerful, a nature miracle and we were blessed to see them.
In the afternoon we returned to Hamilton where we were welcomed by Mr.Puscariu and his wife for bbq. They received us with the typical Romanian hospitality I grew up with. We had a delicious pork soup, followed by state of art bbq of chicken, pork sausages and grilled portobello mushrooms filled with cheese and ham. As side dish we had baby potatoes and green salad, the desert was perfect: fresh fleshy cherries and a typical Romanian cake made out of wheat. All these paired with the traditional Romanian plumb brandy as a starter, than beer and wine.
We felt so lucky to have such a treat and we enjoyed it to its fullest. We had great discussions about meaning and spirituality. It was really a blessing to have this experience. We learnt a lot and we were so grateful for the encounter. I felt for the first time in a while closer to the questions and answers I was looking for.
Ioana and Lucian Puscariu couldn’t leave us sleep in the truck and they invited us to stay overnight in their home. It was great to sleep in a bedroom and have a bathroom in close proximity. We are appreciating so much now the simple things we took for granted before.Thank you Lucian and Ioana Puscariu!
On the road to Thunder Bay
After a great breakfast prepared by Lucian and Ioana, a lovely espresso, a great chat and lots of blessings we pursued in our next adventure towards Sudbury.
Everything was going fine until we stopped in a gas station and observed there was an oil leakage from the rear differential. Panic!
We started to read the truck manual and research what the problem might be, wrote to Iveco representation back in Romania and waited for answers. We understood that the breather might be blocked and it might be pushing out through the pinion seal.
Since there is no service center for Iveco in the whole Canada and US we started to look for alternatives. Eventually we discovered that John Deere, a specialized company in construction equipment and trucks has the same type of seals we might need. So we started to search for the next John Deere dealership towards Sudbury.
When we arrived to the service center, the truck attracted a lot of attention and we were very well received. The people were very curious about it, where are we coming from, what’s our story. Our truck is really a unique vehicle in this land. First of all they don’t recognize the Iveco brand since they don’t have any Iveco representations in Canada nor US. The living cell and the design with the giraffes and Africa really confuses them. We had people asking if we are part of a zoo, or if this is a rescue animal truck that travels to save the animals in Canada :))) or if we are a food truck… really… we got it all.
In less than 2 hours the breather was cleaned and rearranged. We were happy it didn’t cost us too much and the people were very accommodating, we got John Deere hats and free coffee 🙂 Yeyyy!
At Vic’s in Sault Ste. Marie
It seemed that our problem was partially fixed. The leakage continued while we advanced on the road for another 300km. It was not as bad as before, but this made JP uncomfortable.
We were advised to change the seals at the next service center which would have the right tool, Northshore Tractor next to Sault Ste. Marie.
We reached the place in the evening and stopped there to take a look if the leaking was still ongoing. We realized is still going on. The service center was closed. Out of no where a car stops next to us. The guy in the truck addresses us:
“What the heck is this? Where are you coming from?”
He was so surprised and curious, stopped his car, ended up his phone call conversation and approached us as we were some sort of aliens that landed on his territory.
I started to laugh and to chat with him. Very soon we found out that he is the owner of the dealership and the tractor service center, that he owns all the land we could see around, that he has a diary farm, a B&B and who knows what more. He was such a casual and cool guy, you wouldn’t say he owned the whole place.
He invited us to stay overnight at his bed and breakfast and we were very happy he did since it was already evening and we were supposed to start finding a place for the night.
We parked in a large camp field and next to one of his farm houses. You could hear the horses in the back of the fields, watch a beautiful sunset coming down the hey fields and a peaceful country side atmosphere was surrounding us.
Next day we woke up very early and we were welcomed with breakfast in the farm house. It was wonderful! A beautiful refurbished 100 years old house that belonged to the grandpa of Vic. Everything was made of wood, beautiful parlor, stone decorations, large and lighted kitchen, big dining and living rooms, cosy fire place. It looked like a typical generous farm house that wealthy landlords would owe a decade ago.I generally see this in the American movies.
After a great conversation with the administrator of the place, Kim and lots of good coffee with fried eggs, butter toast, ham and gem we were ready to go to the truck service center and check the matter of the differential seals.
To our disappointment, it was leaking again, which meant the problem was not solved, which meant more time spent at the service and more costs.
Joe, the most experienced mechanic took a look at it and luckily it was a leakage not from the pinion seal, but from the defrock hydraulics which could be fixed easily.
In the meantime Vic, the owner stopped by, Tom his brother was there as well.
It was fascinated to know this family and their history.
All started with their grandparent that moved to Canada from England and settled here in a vast territory 30 km away of Sault Ste. Marie, a fertile land, great for agriculture and cattle. The grandpa of Vic and Tom had 15 children in total and their life was about the family, the farm, cattle, the diary farm and agriculture.
Seems that Vic and Tom continued the tradition and after 100 years they each have nine, respectively seven kids and God knows how many tens of grandkids.
Grandpa Vic prepared his heritage for generations to come: besides the businesses he developed on the land he inherited, the diary farm and the tractor sales and service center, he built in 10 years a huge mansion, all done from massive wood and rock.
The house has everything: a ball room, a haircut and spa saloon, an Irish bar shipped from Ireland, wine cellar with security entrance, a theater play, a bunker in case of war and plenty of rooms for all the seven children and eight grandchildren he has. It was by far the most beautiful wood work we ever seen.
I can only imagine how Christmas is at Vic’s house.
Vic was nice enough to show us as well his diary farm, the cattle and his office. It was quite impressive: plenty of healthy and fat looking cows, a built up facility, nursery for the baby cows. Was interesting to learn that the baby cows would get the cow milk from the milk machine through the chip inserted in their ear. On top of this the cows are listening to music every day, they have fans to blow them air in the summertime and automatic food delivery too :))
That was quite something to see. A baby cow growing up with a milk machine.
Vic was very happy to show us around and we enjoyed the ride. We had a great insight about the local culture, the people’s lives from the countryside in this area of Canada, their heritage and history. It was fascinating.
Icing on the cake he didn’t want to charge us for the service. His best engineer Joe, fixed everything and didn’t charge us none. You can’t ask more from life. We got it all and we are very grateful.
We headed now towards Thunder Bay. It was an 8h drive we are looking at that day.
Thunder Bay and its AC thunder
Continuing our journey further west, it became hotter and hotter outside. We didn’t reach too far and JP realized the AC of the car is not working. There is one thing about JP: when he has a problem he needs to fix it and he needs to do it right away. So, here we were in Thunder Bay town, looking for another truck service center to fix our AC.
We went to a couple of places that wouldn’t take the job because it was already 3pm on a Friday afternoon.
After various searches we eventually ended up in a truck service center, who’s mechanic was kind enough to check what was going on. Although at some point was a group of mechanics trying to identify what the issue was, even put it on the test, they still couldn’t find out what was going on.
JP was quite disappointed, but he kept himself calm realizing that there is not much to do about it.
We lost time, we lost mileage we needed to cover, but at least we tried. It was about 5:30pm when we decided to continue driving towards Manitoba, passing the 1000 lakes area. The road was a nature festival or lakes with green vegetation, hills and pine trees.
On our way we stopped to Kakabeka Falls and that image saved the day. It was just wonderful! Although we saw Niagara Falls which were supreme, these ones were just amazing! The nature here is generous and abundant.
Everything is bigger, larger, higher, denser and this waterfall was another spectacular show of water falling about 30m down the river with a strength and debit that would lift your energy in a second. The river continues flowing downstream making its way through the mountain cliffs leaving an image of a wild and pure nature scenery.
Picturesque night in Ignace, Ontario
Luckily before the sunset we found a place to stay over night in a small town called Ignace. It was between two properties by a lake out of the thousands of lakes you can find here. There was no sign of no parking overnight, so we dared. It was wonderful. We were two meters from the water, we had wild ducks in front of our window, kids playing in the water by sunset, a boy kayaking through the lake, a boat passing through the light of the sunset and a general peacefulness we were looking for.
We cooked that night grilled chicken and cabbage salad, drank a glass of white wine for a friday night and we slept looking up the window that opens on top of our bed at the sky full of stars.