Day 40: Whitefish Falls to Tobermory (97.5 km)
Darkness. Then brilliant white light, the stunning silhouette of the trees. And darkness again.
I’ve never seen a heat storm before. We were standing outside our tents in the dry, warm evening, wearing just our pjs (or what passes for pjs while cycle-touring). The dramatic interplay of light and dark, white and night was awesome. But it was also bed time so I crept back inside my tent to sleep.
Then the storm came overhead. It wasn’t just heat any more. Rain as powerful as bullets fired against the side of my tent, battered by the wind. I felt like I was on a sailing boat: quickly I set to work shutting the hatches of my tent, closing zips, checking my kit bags were sealed and safely inside. There was no need for a head torch – the lightning itself exploded light across the tent. The thunder roared like a line of canons firing into the night sky. Then a booming crack of thunder, right above our damp, tiny tents, exploded like dynamite. Oh no, why did I camp near a tree.
I stuck in my ear plugs and tried to catch some sleep in the midst of the warzone of weather. Nonetheless I was awoken again in the night by the rain lashing on the tent. But in the morning, thankfully, my little green tent had withstood the test of the storm.
In the morning it was calm. My tent was covered in slugs. The trees, the grass, everywhere was all wet so there was nowhere to hang out my tent to dry. I tried as much as I could to flap and shake off the remaining slugs. But sadly and glumly I packed a wet tent.
My knickers and sports bra which I had worn to go swimming in yesterday had been “drying overnight” on Monty. Both were now soaking wet again. I strapped them onto the back of my bike so they could dry off as I cycled along. Off we set on the road south to Manitoulin island. For a moment I was enjoying myself and anticipating the scenic views of the island.
Oh, except then the rain came.
Again it felt like being on a boat, zipping up the flaps of my jacket and trying, in vain, to stay dry as the rain lashed down like pellets. Cycling felt okay to begin with but I soon began to struggle. I was zapped for energy. Usually this problem is fixed by eating a protein bar but on this occasion I was just so, so tired..
Cycling over the swing bridge to Manitoulin island I tried to appreciate the damp views of the rocky coastline. Its a real shame that the weather was so bad as I was looking forward to seeing the island. Jutting out into the north of Lake Huron, Manitoulin is the largest fresh water island in the world. Hay bales lay in the fields, wild grasses intruded into the road, mauve clouds loomed overhead bringing rain, then drizzle, then rain again. And of course there was a headwind. My average speed slipped slower and slower.
I stopped in a lay-by and ate a few mouthfuls of leftover chilli while sheltering in the public washroom. (Why has hanging out in washrooms had to become such a feature of this trip?) I hoped the refuelling would boost my energy but after such a broken night’s sleep I was too tired to push. My eyelids slowly flickered shut. I pushed a few pedal strokes, trying to keep my eyes open. The hills ascended. The wind pushed against me. A dead cat lay on the side of the road. It started raining again. Goose pimples appeared on my skin as the wind blew the cold rain off. My socks and gloves were soaked. My hands had turned to prunes and the skin felt sore as I gripped tightly on the wet handlebars.
Yes, this was the lowest I have felt all summer. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine that I wasn’t here. I tried to imagine to that I was playing Settlers with Seb and Ruth while drinking hot chocolate in our new flat. I tried to imagine that instead of being soaked through in unwashed Lycra I was wearing my soft, warm koala onesie. I opened my eyes: it was still raining.
I stopped to eat M&Ms. My hands felt too numb and weak to open the packet. i tried ripping the corner with my mouth. The packet burst open and a handful of M&Ms fell into the wet gravel. I could have cried. From that spot on I stopped every 8 kilometres to eat a handful of M&Ms. Those chocolate peanuts saved me.
Inch by inch, M&M by M&M, I crawled slowly towards the ferry port. With only a few kilometres to go to South Baymouth (and almost none of my family-sized pack of chocolate peanuts left) it stopped raining and the sun almost came out. I noticed a public beach with a nice, dry spot to sit and a railing. So after laying out my tent to dry on the railing, I lay my exhausted body in the shade of the flapping fly and snoozed.
The quick sleep gave me the energy to cycle to the ferry port. The small town of South Baymouth reminds me of coastal England. Gulls circled over the numerous signs for icecream and fish and chips. Waves rolled and crashes slowly on the grey rocks. The only thing missing was a sunburnt woman wearing an unflattering strappy top and bald man drinking beer.
It was nice that it reminded me of England as today, in the rain, cold, exhaustion etc, I had moments of really wishing I was not so far from home. On the ferry to Tobermory I feel asleep. And probably dreamt of England.