My aunt showed up at my house a little after 3 a.m. I had barely woken up. I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and reminding myself that this is reality.
I threw my camera and my miniature red composition book into the black Cambridge batchel knock-off I’d gotten at Primark in London for 9 pounds. I turned around to pack the bottle of Clément Punch Coco that I’d brought back with me from Martinique to give to my other aunt we were visiting up north.
Naturally, while getting into the car, the bottle slipped out of my bag and smashed on the ground, spilling cream-coloured liquid onto the street and sending the sweet smell of coconut rum punch into the air. Two months of waiting – #fail.
My aunt picked up the pieces of the bottle, leaving me to do the same with my spirit.
We drove north along the Trans-Canada Highway that connects all ten provinces. A couple hours later, the sun started to rise. The pink and orange hues highlighted the character of the Canadian Shield: birch trees turned to spruce trees, streams to rivers, and jet-black crows perched on the rock formations on either side of the highway.
We passed places with names like Moon River and saw farms with rolled up bales of hay that reminded me of Weetabix. A deer sprinted across the road. Finally, we crossed the bridge and onto the island.
Manitoulin Island lies in Lake Huron, and is the largest freshwater island on Earth. It’s also home to Treasure Island, which is the largest island in a lake on an island in a lake in the world. Say that three times fast.
There are six Anishinaabe reserves and Ojibwe is one of the languages commonly spoken there. My aunt’s neighbours fish and hunt, and occasionally trade fish for her Jamaican curry spice!
We had breakfast and then made our way to Bridal Veil falls. This plunge class waterfall flows over a limestone formation from the Kagawong River and into Lake Huron. Fish were swimming, as were visitors – at least until a snake made its way into the water! People clambered out of the water while others chased the snake for photos. I, on the other hand, stayed away…no one was sure if it bites or not!
My two aunts and I walked down the river on path lined with poison ivy and orange lilies. We arrived in Kagawong, a whimsical little village on Mudge Bay beach. I know, I said ‘whimsical’, but it really is! There were about 5 shops a one-room heritage museum. One of the shops was a vintage candy store and the other a really great chocolatier.
We made off with four pieces of chocolate and a peanut butter bar from artisan Manitoulin Chocolate Works – yum!
We then drove over to 10 Mile Point Lookout, in Sheguiandah, where you can often see Georgian Bay and parts of mainland Ontario. Tawny hawks flew by in the distance.
Highlight of the day: Noble Alpaca Farm
I’ve never seen an alpaca before in real life, and this place had just over 100! We walked around and pet the animals, which are essentially small llamas (one of the owners told me so!).
The alpacas had just been shaved, so some of them had awesome 90s boy band haircuts. Cute!
Even though Manitoulin Island is a five-hour drive from Toronto, it’s definitely still possible (and worth it!) to do a day trip to see some of this very cool and unique place in Ontario.