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A really big country...

By Jackie Beedie

Greetings readers, this week from Canada. I am in the charming little town of Bobcaygeon which is about 80km North East from Toronto. We are visiting old friends from Bahrain who recently retired to a lovely lakeside house here. Bobcaygeon is in the middle of the Kawartha lake system. Our friends lived in Amwaj and so they are well used to living by the water. Like Amwaj they can moor a boat outside their house, however unlike Amwaj they can get on it and sail for weeks up and down the lake system visiting a different town each night. This is the sort of thing I am hoping for when I retire but since I come from the UK and not Canada I am probably going to have to settle for the Norfolk Broads. The only minor flaw is that Canada has very strong environment policies and so rules governing use of the lakes and waterways are quite strict.

If you are caught in contravention of these laws they have the power to not only suspend your boat licence but also, your driving licence. One of the more bizarre rules is that passengers can only consume alcohol on a boat if it has a working toilet!

When we arrived in Canada we first went to Niagara Falls. The falls themselves are every bit as spectacular as you imagine and a trip on the boat into the spray at the bottom was very refreshing. The thing I was not prepared for was the fact that they are in the middle of a city, go and look up Niagara Falls images on google and you will see what I mean. They are the border between USA and Canada and on the Canadian side Niagara Falls city runs alongside. Like all western tourist attractions, the city has been destroyed by vulgar touristic kitsch. The main street down to the falls has all the waxworks, Ripleys, arcades, fast food joints and shops selling tasteless tatt that you would associate with British seaside towns such as Blackpool and Great Yarmouth. My wife has been to Victoria Falls and Iguazu Falls and tells me that they are surrounded only by lovely nature, such a pity that crass commercialisation has ruined the place.

But the big thing about Canada the really big thing is just how awesomely big it is. With a land area of 9 million square kilometres and a population of 35 million it has a density of just under four persons per sqkm however if you were to move the whole world’s population to Canada it would still have a density of less than half that of Bahrain. Of course, this does not tell the full story, the bulk of the population lives in a 50 mile wide belt along the north shores of the Great Lakes and the vast majority of the country is left to the bears and moose. It still suffers from the modern affliction of the traffic jam, On Saturday afternoon as we were driving from Niagara Falls to Toronto for almost the whole of the 90km journey the opposite carriageway was jammed with cars presumably all trying to get to the falls to buy a kiss me quick hat.

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