Camping in Canada: sleeping with bears.

My obsession for Canada started when I was a little girl. For unexplained reasons, I dreamt about going there someday. In primary school, my presentations would either be about Canada or Killer Whales, and all my friends would hear; “one day I will move and live in Canada.”
When I turned 18, and received my high school diploma, the day had come: my mum and I would visit Canada. The trip exceeded my expectations. Perhaps not surprising, but I could go on and on about our time there. So much has happened, and so many wonderful people (and bears) have crossed our paths… that’s why I will probably write this story in two parts.

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My mum rented a car in Toronto. We hadn’t brought a tent with us on the plane and had only about 10 minutes before the shops would close, so we rushed to get a small tent and some equipment for cooking. Then, we were ready to hit the road!
After a long drive, we finally arrived at our campsite in Georgian Bay, Ontario. It started to get dark so we decided to quickly set up our tent and then find a place to eat. However, we didn’t realize how big this country actually was, and the space and distance between different places. Although I think that that’s one of the best things about Canada, on our first night as two women at the other side of the world, it wasn’t as great. We initially thought there would be a camp store, but when we found out that there was no shop at all, we decided to just drive around and try to find a restaurant for some food. It wasn’t as simple as that however. We drove and drove, but there was no place to be found. By this time, it was completely dark, and the big roads were rarely lit. We saw one deer after another, and at some point a moose crossed the road right in front of us.
We hadn’t eaten for hours, and the only thing we had in our car was a little bag of peanuts. At some point, we started to fear we would have to go to bed on an empty stomach and find a place to eat in the daylight the next morning. However, we weren’t sure where we were anymore as we had driven for such a long time. It was lovely seeing so many deer, but after a while we became really quite desperate. Hungry, without a place to sleep, in a different country, in the pitch dark…

Thank god, we drove past a little motel. It looked a bit shabby, but we had no other option. My mum quickly texted my brother the name of the motel, so at least someone knew where we were in case something would happen…
The owners of the motel were actually really nice people and they offered us a room. However, it was already late and the restaurant had closed for the night. We asked them a few times if we could please have some food, and after a while it became more like begging. Although they didn’t quite understand what was going on, eventually they brought us sandwiches with ‘plastic’ cheese, which tasted heavenly at that point.

The next day, we went back to our actual campsite. One of the first things we saw were some warning signs stating ‘You are in a bear country, please bear proof your campsite at all times’, and ‘active bear in campground’. I am not the bravest person, so this gave me the chills a little. We asked around about what to do if we would actually encounter a bear. They told us that if we would bear proof our campsite – leave no food outside, and even if it’s still packed, put it away in the car – it wasn’t likely we would encounter any bears. However ‘if it does happen’, they said, ‘make a lot of noise. Use your voice, and anything else you can use such as plates and pans.’ This was good to know, cause I had always thought that you had to be quiet, stay still and look at the ground…
Two days later, we were asleep in our tent, when suddenly we were awakened. “Go away bear!” some deep male voice shouted. “Go bear, go!”. Pans were smashed against each other and made a clattering noise. My mom and I held each other frozen with terror. Right past our tent we heard twigs break…
Once more, we heard “GO!”, with a final hard blow of two lids smashing against each other.
It turned silent…

I am not sure how we managed to sleep that night, but when we woke up the next morning, everything was peaceful and calm again. Squirrels played around our tent and the birds hopped from tree to tree. My mum and I laughed about the previous night, but feared what was still to come. However, not long after, we moved on to the next campsite where we met one of the most wonderful families I have ever had the chance to meet. They had experience with camping and bears for years, and with them, we felt a lot safer. Because of them, we experienced so much more than we could have ever had expected, including actually seeing bears, moose, otters, dears and turtles. About all if this, I will tell you more in a following blog. Coming soon!

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