So my initial impression of Winnipeg was "lacklustre". But i found enough to keep me occupied for 4 days, but my final impression of the city upon leaving was still "underwhelming".
So i walked around Downtown - it's a small city so there aren't many high rises and skyscrapers. I've only been in massive cities for the last month so this was quite a contrast. There aren't that many shiny new buildings at all, although a fair amount of construction work is in progress. The architecture is decidedly 70's blocky stuff.
There wasn't any area with a real vibe or buzz about it, just a perplexing number of natives begging for beer money.
So desperate for something to do, i checked the event listings and found a hip hop gig. It was pretty good.
It started late so i tagged along with some students for a beer and found out about the big buzz in town - that they have an NHL ice hockey team back for the first time in 15 years. They bought out the team from Atlanta, since their own team was previously bought out by Phoenix Arizona. Crazy.
They also told me about the gangs of winnipeg. Apparently the controlling Hells Angels are having some trouble with the invading far eastern triads cutting in on the drug trade. I read that 10% of the population in Canada smokes weed so i guess its big business even in a sleepy place like this. Later in the evening saw a group of about 8 japanese sports cars and wheelie-ing motorbikes cruising the streets, fast and the furious style. Or maybe i'm reading too much into things.
Oh the pedestrian crossing drive me nuts here! They constantly beep, i'm not sure how that helps blind people, even though the tone changes - because of the grid layout theres always crossings going in two different directions, one safe and one covered in traffic. oh dear.
So i checked out the art gallery, which was arranged in the unusual manner of having 15th century european baroque religious oil paintings hanging mixed up with canadian modern art. It did have a nice gallery of black and white photography though.
The roller derby championship was fun, two teams of 10 girls/women on an oval track, trying to overtake each other / barge each other off the track.
After that i went to see some local jazz and blues bands.
350 moving planet day, this is a global event, probably a hundred people turned out here to walk, cycle and skateboard through town, and enjoy some free music afterwards, including a native drum circle and some angry singing grannies. Nice vibe. Nice sunny day also!
Also nearby i stumbled upon a skate park where a bmx tricks competition was underway, which was pretty impressive.
Finally i went to the Manitoba museum, which was an incredibly comprehensive run through the history of the province from every perspective (geology, dinosaurs, natives, european settlement, wildlife, planetarium) The planetarium was less trippy than i hoped. I prefer staring at the real sky even if i don't know what i'm looking at. I should get a star map. Oh and apparently it's possible to see the northern lights 200 days of the year here. I shall try and get into the countryside sometime away from the light pollution...
no clouds! that's what has been confusing me about the sky all week
apparently winnipeg holds the world record for the shortest ski-lift. (it's very very very flat)
I'm waiting to board the train to leave Winnipeg.
On Saturday I took part in 350.org 's moving planet day of parades to highlight the need to move beyond fossil fuels. Then in the Manitoba museum there was thus exhibit about the catastrophic extinction events throughout history...
More positive stuff and pics to follow when I get proper internet in Edmonton.ton...
So when i checked into the YHA for my last night in Toronto, this old guy waiting to get clean towels overheard: said "p-i-n-c-h-i-n... i bought my house of a guy with that name.." (in Winnipeg). Crazy coincidence, or are we more common than i thought???!
Not meaning to turn this trip into a Pinchin family tree search, but i seem to be in a rich vien of form.
I catch the train. It's so much better than a bus. No potholes. Seating with enough space to stretch MY legs out, and folds out into a decent sleeping surface.
And waking up this morning to mists over endless trees, lakes and rivers. And the occasional logging operation. The train keeps stopping to pick up or drop off guys from the work gangs.
So in the bits hemmed in by trees i'm watching inspiring travelling films such as "Into the Wild" (a guy gives up all his possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska to live on his own i the wilderness - wasn't expecting that ending though) and Tony Hawks' "Round Ireland with a Fridge", which needs no other explanation.
It's all about the journey - the things you see, the people you meet. It's definitely easier to relax and enjoy these things when you don't have the pressure of time limits though! I know i don't have time pressure now exactly, but i still have a schedule. But in the future?
No wifi on the train which is kind of relaxing, but it does have power so i won't have to engage my brain so far as to read a book yet. 20 hours to go till Winnipeg.
And it keeps stopping to let ridiculously long frieght trains go past. The last one took 3 minutes, so assuming 20mph that makes it a mile long. I guess that isn't surprising.
I watch a New Zealand film called "Boy" - One of those nice NZ films with lots of everyday happenings and dark humour. I watch "Inglorious Basterds". I watch "Fast and the Furious 5". I watch "Source Code" - this one turned out to be about a bomb on a train so maybe not the best choice!
Trying to sleep in a number of bizarre and amusing positions. Still better than a bus though, until we hit suburbia and the train starts blaring its whistle every 10 seconds!
7am (not. actually 6am cos we crossed a time zone), the train races across the dark morning, whistle straining, the rising sun it's adversary; yet to peak its first limbs of hazy light over the horizon.
lights dotted about betray increasing settlement replacing the endless trees and rivers
the whistle sounds again, like the anguished cry of an athelete bursting with exertion as the metal snake slips smoothly by cars on the adjacent highway. Mixed metaphors much?
And then we arrive in Winnipeg, an hour early, so early that the station staff haven't turned up for work yet and we have to wait on the train.
The hostel is a 2km walk. Yay!
These posts are getting long when i have too much time on my hands, might have to implement a thing where the front page only displays the first 5 lines.... and you click through to read the rest.