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We divided and conquered on chores before we left Winnipeg. I headed for the laundry while Stef "winterised" Morty. Because we will be headed into freezing temperatures, we run the risk of our water tanks freezing up and bursting pipes and the water heater which we want to avoid. All water needs to be emptied out and antifreeze run through the system which means we will no longer have a water supply on board.

In the laundry I got chatting to one of the people who lives here for a few months each year. She was a Dutch farmer who had moved to Canada about twenty years ago with her husband. They have now retired and split their time between here and Mexico. In the space of about ten minutes I got a potted history of her life as well as recommendations of things to go and see in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. She also told me that Winnipeg was the murder capital of the country. Her view was that the First Nations people are the main cause and that the violence is fuelled by drink, drugs and lack of work.

We headed west on the main route 1 highway following the Yellowhead Trail, named after the fur trader who first pushed out along this way, who had blond hair. Just out of town we stopped at an RV centre to buy the antifreeze we needed. Just as well. Although Stef had almost winterised Morty there was another bit we still needed to do - drain the hot water tank - and the screw to do this was hidden away behind a panel we do not look at. A very friendly chap helped us out with the last bits of winterising and sold us the antifreeze we needed.

He also let us have a look inside another motor home. Home and Park, the company that make Morty, have started to use the Dodge Sprinter van as the base of their model. The one we looked at was also a Sprinter van but had been changed by a different company. Longer than Morty it seemed really spacious with a better washroom. The key attraction though was the sofa that stretched across the back of the van. It converts down into a king size bed - luxury!!

Wheat train chugging into the distance on the flat-flat-flat prairies

Our plan for today was to make it to a village called Wasagaming on the edge of the Riding Mountain National Park. The route took us through the prairie with more wide open fields. Our map creates the impression that this area is heavily populated with lots of roads and villages. In practice, the roads are the boundaries to the farms and the villages are often no more than a collection of a few houses. In the summer we would be driving through a sea of wheat but now the fields have been harvested and just a few have bales of hay waiting to be taken into store.

The skies overhead were very grey and dense looking as if they were ready and waiting to release a snow storm but none came. We stopped along the way at a town called Gladstone which reminded me of the Fernheim town we had been to in Northern Paraguay. It had the air of a functional supply centre, where people would come to get their provisions, do their banking, see the doctor before heading off back into the depths of the countryside. The local hotel looked uninviting and down at heel from the outside but it was one of those places that got our curiosity going. If it was later in the day and we were looking for an overnight stop we would have stayed there just to see what it was like.

Following the route 16 we drove through more wide open land with long straight roads stretching ahead of us (the Roman’s would be proud of Canadian road building). With a train coming our way we stopped to have a look. My plans to count the carriages were thwarted firstly by a truck and then by Stef (looking for the perfect photo angle) who both blocked my line of sight. It was a pretty long one and we think it must have been pulling close to two hundred carriages.

We headed up on route 10 towards Wasagaming, a lakeside resort recommended to us by Tourist Information at Winnipeg. The National Park campsite was closed up for the season (as expected) and as we drove through the town itself it looked deserted. It was like one of those old Hollywood films where a fatal bacteria has escaped and towns have that lived in look but no people around to substantiate the view. There were a few trucks around but despite the claims in Lonely Planet that at least one place should be open to stay everything looked shut.

By this time it was starting to get dark and there were the first signs of the snow threatened earlier. We knew we needed to find somewhere to stay pretty quickly and, as the temperature was now below zero we also knew that it would not be a campsite. Back on the main road we passed the Elkhorn Lodge and checked in, conscious that this would be the first of many hotel/motel stays until we are well into British Columbia where the weather will be warmer. It will push our budget but we do not have much option.

It was a night of comfort and luxury. We had a swim in the heated indoor pool (hard life eh!) and then relaxed in the hot tub, first inside and then outside. It is a strange feeling sitting in hot bubbling water looking at the night sky. The only other time I have done this was at the Explorer Lodge in Torres Del Paine in Argentinean Patagonia. It was not long though before I could feel my head getting cold and we retreated back into the warmth.