Camping was.. unbelievably good.
As it turns out the cabin we managed to hire was the quaintest most adorable little wooden cottage that ever happened.
And it was well and truly out in the winlderness, surrounded by tall green trees, admist the mud and dander and just uphill of its own, flawless fresh water lake.
This post is going to be a long one. .
Day 1 (Friday)
I woke up at 5.40am and got Bria and Brittany out of bed so we could drag ourselves down the road to Ryans house to watch the Australian Football.. Not a sport which I have ever watched before, and not any teams I can say I had previously heard of… But I had spent Wednesday night listening to him talk about how his favorite team was competing for a place in the finals and .. Well I was inspired by his passion and decided to force the girls into supporting him with me.
It was a hard morning. ..
But Ryans flat (which he shares with 3 strangers just 1 block down from us) is really nice, and he had paid to stream the game live, so we all made ourselves comfortable in his room and … honestly were stirred awake by the excitement of the close proximity of our trip any way!
Unfortunately by half time it was quite obvious his team were not cut out for the finals… which actually turned out to work in our favor.. As in his heart broken state, Ryan actually ended up making us all eggs on toast and coffee for breakfast! (Score!)
And while Brittany managed to fall back into a nap for the games second half, I finally figured out the rules just as the game drew to a close, with a shameful loss on Ryans side.
But! We had a massive day to prepare for! So I wrote Ryan a long list of details (he was driving one of two rental cars up later in the day for the people who had Friday class) and us girls set off for home to pack and prepare!
As was probably inevitable.. The early group of us (who didn’t have Friday class, and we’re collecting an early car to drive up during the daylight) ended up running a little late..
We threw minimum clothing and supplies into what ever bags we could find, ran to the liquor store for 4 liters of vodka.. and some cider.. and then me, Brittany and Miriam (an exchange student from Barcelona) ATTEMPTED to collect the rental van.
By a long shot, organizing a rental vehicle was the hardest and most stressful part of this trip.. During the booking process we were actually turned away by several companies who wouldn’t accept exchange student drivers. . Because, as we didn’t own a car of our own in Toronto, we didn’t have the necessary, compulsory insurance for our age group..
But nevertheless we did eventually find one rental group who would trust us (Hertz) and had booked 1 mini van and 1 standard car through them to get us all up there.
However even after the whole booking debacle, the dilemmas persisted. . As we struggled to find the actual pick – up location…
Running up and down Bloor street, acutely aware of the fact that we were running 30 minutes behind for collection and a little afraid our car might be given away.. a police officer finally offered some help (as we were walking past him for the second time within a few minutes).
We found out we were actually in exactly the right place, but the car yard we were looking for as an obvious landmark.. was actually inside a parking building.. in a mall… across the road.
Buuuut in opening our mouths the now customary conversation about our nationality had to be undergone.. and it just so happened that the officer was about to embark on a trip to Barcelona, which he NEEDED to quiz Miriam about…
Simultaneously a security officer who was working with the police man, found it necessary to thoroughly question me on how it was that I was wearing only a singlet, on what I suppose to most people was a chilly day…
I cannot express how tiresome it is that people constantly doubt my ability to dress myself…
This conversation was all too long and tedious for me.
BUT alas we eventually arrived at Hertz to collect our van! Albeit 1 hour late..
Insurance, roadside, under aged drivers fee and several details later and we were in the parking building searching for our van!
Which turned out not to be some cheap Toyota wreck… But rather …
A brand new Chrysler mini van!
Now. .. Brittany was the nominated driver for the trip because we found out on arrival that rental payments could be made by credit card only, and who ever paid for the rental had to also be the driver… This was phase 3 of the rental shenanigans… Because Miriam was our intended nominee..
But Brittany turned out to be MORE than competent and I can comfortably say we were in safe hands throughout the duration of the trip.
The hard part… was getting out of the parking building.
Those things are damn tight even when your driving a small 4 door and know what side of the road you should be on.. But in a giant, brand new, rented mini van, probably worth more than anything any of us had driven before,and driving on the other side of the lane.. it was nerve wrecking.
Emerging out onto the open road outside (scratch free) was a massive relief!
Even if we were now in the middle of the city and the trip was only just beginning.
Admittedly.. we should have done some at least brief research on the road rules before we got in the car.. But, like I said… we were running late.
So anyway, right turns were easy (you dont really have any give way concerns.. and can actually turn right on a red light at any time) but left turns, meant cutting through traffic.. Both vehicle and pedestrian traffic.. of which pedestrian definitely offers fewer gaps.
So, on our first attempt we found ourselves stranded in the middle of a pedestrian crossing and half way into the lane of oncoming vehicles… And no one showed any sympathy.
We just had to sit there like the clueless tourists we were, while angry pedestrians walked around us..
However, second time lucky! And we made it back to Neill Wycik without any further left turns (the rental place was very conveniently close to home).
Of course there was no where (legal) to park around our residence, so we pulled into a back alley and left Brittany in the car, while the remaining 6 of us ran wildly up and down between our apartment and the car, collecting belongings and food supplies to last 11 people for 3 days.
And by 2pm we were on the road!
The journey lasted about 3 hours and we actually made it out there without error, thanks to the very effective GPS in our van.
Satellite radio also provided us with sing along music the whole way, and our only stop was to unlock the gate of the property at the bottom of the drive.
So 1 combination and a key turn later, and we arrived at our camp for the weekend!
And we literally squeeled with delight about it!
A small wooden lodge had been built in a clearing with a view over the lake (down a wooden staircase) to one side and surrounded by the woods on the 3 others.
An outdoor fire pit surrounded by wooden deck chairs sat looking out over the lake beside the house and a screened porch was nestled into its corner.
The place was perfect.
And we immediately set about exploring.
We hastily unpacked the car, moved the necessary food items into the fridge, checked the propane tank was on, shifted 2 of the outhouse mattresses into the main house (communal sleeping is always best), lit a fire in the indoor fireplace (thanks to me and Bria’s girl guide savvy) and set out the ingredients for dinner (burgers) before running down to the lake.
A christening swim was deemed necessary.. and Miriam wasted little time in stripping off and leading us all in a liberating swim, inspired by our complete privacy and the general lack of male company.
The water… was absolutely freaking freezing! And although I can’t be specific about the temperature.. the outdoors air would have been sitting around a balmy 15°C or so.
Probably quite reasonably, the 2 South Korean girls who came with us just watched in bemused excitement as the crazy Europeans exposed themselves to a cold I have scince found out they thought we were immune to.
So we must have pulled off the shock of the cold quite well (although I specifically remember cussing fluently as I surfaced) despite the fact that most of us only enjoyed a very quick dip.
However, Brittany and Steph actually committed to swimming over to the other side of the lake, where there was a rope swing!
But after about 10 minutes of swinging we all heard the unforgettable and echoing SMACK of a belly flop. ..
What seemed like several seconds later, Brittany resurfaced with a moan, and the game was over.
From a height of 4 or so meters she had hit the water perfectly with the flat of her stomach… and… An impressive bruise erupted over night.
So after some drip drying (of course I forgot to pack a towel in the rush out the door) we headed back up to the house, high on life, with the feeling of our wild instincts flooding back into our blood streams; those we were born with, but learn to hide in civilized life.
…. At around 8 pm the second car still hadn’t arrived, and despite some gentle drinking, a hot fire and an extremely calm and satisfied ambiance within the cottage after such a cold swim.. we were slowly begining to gain worry for the whereabouts of the missing 4 members. .. Especially seeing as I had texted both Ryan and Mike several times scince we arrived and had not recieved a response. ..
So we decided we should try to call them, to make sure the right hand driving hadn’t got the best of them…
1st attempt…No answer from Mikes cellphone..
I have to admit my heart skipped a few beats at this point.
BUT 2nd attempt… and thank goodness!!! An answer on Ryans!
And within mere minutes they had arrived.
And everyone was starving from a hard days sitting on their butts in a car… So dinner number 1 was almost literally inhaled – chicken burgers (despite some severe questioning as to the actual chicken content of the patties..)with tomato sauce, lettuce and real tomato.
Far too many of our weekend supplies were also consumed later in a drunken feeding frenzy (fortunately we bought 8 or so bags of chips).
But of coursr, to celebrate our general survival and as realization dawned that this was also the 1 month point of our exchange, drinks were cracked open and we generally bantered all night long in front of the fire, and into the early hours of the morning.
We even attempted several board games which had no doubt been left behind over the years by several previous guests, but found the language barrier too much of an obstical in many of them… and ended up with some weird “Group Therapy” board game, which was obviously designed way back in the day when females were still earning their rights, as a lot of the cards were directed at him or he.
The game also seemed … suspiciously intimate and liberating.. With instructions like “choose one member of the group to lie on the floor. All other members of the group must cradle him” and “stare into the eyes of the person next to you for 1 minute. Describe what you feel”…or how about “all members of the group close their eyes and call out one thing they feel most uncomfortable talking about” and the real hint giver… “take off as many clothes as you feel comfortable with”… Most of the cards were just laughed at and dismissed.
And inevitably, sometime after complete darkness had fallen, we all decided we simply MUST get down to the pier to star gaze on the lake.
The walk down involved several damp and winding wooden stairs, with absolutely no lighting… it is actually amazing how dark it is in the real world when you are away from city lights.
So while some of us went for the slide till you feel the drop off method, I held a very small touch directly over my head and yelled “RADIUS, GET IN THE RADIUS!” the whole way down, so that about.. 4 of us could actually see.
Then.. the last 5 meters was across a makeshift wooden bridge which floats on the lake… and is just a little bit warped by the wet…
this meant as you reached one end.. the other was just slightly twisted into the water…
However I am quite surprised to be able to say. . There were no casualties.
So we all lay on the floating pier and admired a brilliantly speckled night sky, free from city pollution. This was particularly amazing for the South Korean girls who had never been so far from a city and never seen such a beautiful night sky.
We New Zealanders and Australians found it very odd not to be able to find the generic southern cross and pot constellations… But we’re not any lesser impressed by it. And we even spotted a few shooting stars!
Then bedtime was a random scramble onto one of only 7 mattresses (a collection of doubles and singles).In which, I scored a thin, single mattress on the floor.. which had me turning over every hour throughout the night to relieved the numbness of which ever side of my body I was most lying on…
But! I have no complaints or regrets!
Stay tuned for day 2….