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Reports

Thursday, 26 June 2003
Espanola --> Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada

My next place to stay was in Sault Ste Marie, a small town divided by the American border at the North Channel (the link between Lake Superior and Lake Huron). It would be a long ride to hitchhike, so therefore my Espanola hostess Dr. Cathy Priddle rescheduled an emergency surgery to later this afternoon and drop me half way in Blind River.


From Blind River I hitchhiked to Sault Sainte Marie and not very unsuccessful either.

Thank God for a cloudy day, if this day would have been like the last week, I would have been eaten by my much-adored mosquitoes. Everytime when it almost started to rain and I worried about getting on a jacket, I got a ride.

First just 15 kilometres up the road by a local man, then a longer haul by a couple that moved from Toronto to here because they had to escape that rushed life and eventually a young man with a van took me along for that last equip and dropped me off in Sault Saint Marie.

Sault Ste. Marie, or more popular the SOO, sits opposite the Michigan state town with the same name and sees constant two-way traffic of tourist keen to see how the other lot lives (see the border webcam).

The Soo is northern Ontario's oldest community, originally settled by Ojibwa fishing parties who gathered here beside what was then – before the river was canalised – a set of rapids.

The French called these Ojibwa Saulteux – "people of the falls" – and the Jesuit missionaries who followed added the Christian sobriquet to give the town the current name.

For as far as I saw with my own eyes, the Soo is too industrial to be pretty, so Soo rustles up a reasonable range of attraction and motels, but its real appeal is not as interesting as the ride to the city.

I arrived in Soo at 4 PM, the right time, because my hostess here had to work until 4. It was Beth Major who picked me up at the Tim Horton's on the main road with one of her two daughters Amyna (11, the 8-year-old Henna was at a birthday party today).

Beth works as an anthropology teacher at the local college and follows a study of massage therapy herself. "I work and I take care of the kids," she told me, "next to that I don't have any more time left, but I like it."

Once married "a long time ago," but never officially divorced from her husband who now lives in Southern Ontario. "It costs too much to get officially divorced, so why bother," she said.

For dinner she had to do some grocery shopping and we ended up in a superstore with a power failure. I have never wandered through a dark superstore before and it was a pleasure. No bothering good-mood music or sales announcements through the intercom… boy - I could not even see the ridiculous fourty-five variations of corn flakes. This was great!

Beth rents a small brick house in a former veteran housing community, so every house almost looked the same. "I actually hate the fact that there are not many trees around here, it's too clean. I like trees!"

Tomorrow I would be on the road again to a town far up north from here and I told Beth I would simply hitchhike to get there. "You can't hitchhike to there," she said about the Canadian Highway 1, "you'd be stuck for days!"

To help me from a possible troubled day of hitchhiking she bought me a $75-ticket at the Greyhound bus terminal to get me on tomorrow's bus. Oh mi God! I was very thankful to her!

At her home she connected me with her high-speed internet connection so I could do some updates, while Amyna had some neighbouring friends over and were playing in the living room. Meanwhile Beth was preparing pizza for tonight's dinner.

During dinner Amyna was very interested in me as a world traveller and asked me all kinds of questions that typical 11-year-old ask. She was fascinated by the number of countries I have been to, but I had to tell her that a handful of countries in Europe are nothing in compared with the size of Canada. "Canada is very big!"

After dinner, later this evening, Beth took me along for a walk along the downtown waterfront boardwalk, offering me a view on the United States (looking not that pretty from here, I must say – hehe) followed by a tour along the locks of Soo while drinking coffee from the Tim Horton's take-away.

Where those fast rapids used to be are now some of the world's best architectural locks. The grand sliding emergency locks even inspired the Dutch (huh, now what?! There goes my pride!) to built a big dam near the North Sea to protect the Dutch polders in case of a storm flood.

For the rest of the night Beth and I settled to rent a video at the local Blockbusters. We ended up watching the Mexican cult movie 'Y Tu Mama Tambien' ("And your mother too" - view trailer). It was a great, supurb, and inspiring coming-of-age tale of two young guys who convince this beautiful adult lady to come along for a visit to a beach that does not exists. And what happens during that fascinating road trip, I can't describe on this website, but it was full of good dialogues and cliché coming-of-age-humour. See it as the Mexican version of American Pie, only better and more cultural.

That was Soo for today, got to catch that bus tomorrow morning!

Good night Sault Saint Marie!

Ramon.