Trip to Lac Brochet (by winter road) March 24 to 29, 2000

Picture 1. Frederick, Roddy, Keith and me at official sign post

Mar.24/Fri.
Arrived in Thompson at 7:00 am. by bus. Was to head to South Indian Lake but the water was too high because of an early thaw that spring. Stayed at William Dumas’ home for the night.

Mar.25/Sat.
Was introduced to Frederick Soucy and his wife, Sophie, who are from Lac Brochet. Frederick was taking his Toyota truck with supplies and leaving tomorrow with two other fellows who would be driving a cargo van. Heading to Lac Brochet they wanted to know if I wished to go. It was estimated the trip would take just over 14 hours. I had some apprehension but agreed. This would be my first trip on a winter road and much of the driving would be done at night. We would not be traveling over ice, however, as this was a ‘permanent’ winter road just carved out of the bush. Unfortunately being so new it had not had much use.

Mar.26/Sun.
Frederick picked me up and we drove to the house of the mechanic who had worked on the suspension system of his Toyota. We had no idea how important this work would become. Leaving at 5:30 pm. we decided to stay the night at Lynn Lake which was on the way. We wanted to leave on the winter road (on the outskirts of Lynn Lake) when it was fairly cold hoping there would be less water to contend with.

Mar.27/Mon.
We had breakfast and I bought some cigarettes for the elders. Our 2 vehicle caravan left at 11:00 am. It was an overcast day which was good but we knew we had a long drive ahead of us.
A little while later we arrived at the official sign that stated you are now on the winter road.
Between the two of us Frederick did all the driving while I was in charge of entertainment. This was provided by the 20 cassette tapes we bought along. I decided to keep them on the dash board as we were extremely cramped in the cab. They did provide some humor as well because I determined after several hours we could measure the severity of the bumps by how many cassettes flew off the dashboard.
We hit countless potholes, rocks and ice blocks and lost several tapes each time but at 5:27 pm we hit an incredible pothole and 5 tapes flew off, 3 hitting the roof and 2 flying horizontally. We thought that pothole had almost ripped the truck apart! We pulled over and watched to see if Roddy and Keith would make it through in the cargo van. They did but the van was twisted and gyrated all the while making obscene noises in protest. We asked how they felt afterwards. Roddy replied that he and Keith bounced so high they hit their heads on the roof of the cab. Now they thought they will start to wear their seat belts. Frederick and I looked at one another and burst out laughing.

Picture 2 & 3 Winter road

The road took an incredible toll upon our vehicles. We knew they would be in very different condition from when we left Lynn Lake.

Picture 4. Our 2 vehicle caravan
Picture 5. Winter road

I continued to photograph throughout the journey and on into the night. We had to stop several times to let convoys of semi-trailers pass. I found out that this road had been ‘officially’ completed 3 weeks ago but it was still extremely rough in places. It looked as if huge caterpillars had ripped a hole through the bush and called it a road which is essentially what they had done.
We were quite exhausted by this time. We had brought some sandwiches and fortunately a good supply of drinking water. At 10:35 pm. we met a trucker heading south. He rolled down his window and we asked him how much farther we still had to go. He said, "44 kilometers but it will seem like 144." When asked how many more water holes (these are huge pot holes filled with water) he replied, "a couple left and they are bad!" That did not brighten our spirits one bit because we had found by this time that truck drivers rarely over state when describing road conditions. We were frustrated because we knew that last 44 km. would take several hours at the very slow pace we were going. I did not think the road could get any worse than it had been but, indeed, it did!

Mar.28/Tues.
We drove over a little hill and there in the distance was a blanket of lights in the darkness. Frederick said, "We made it. That’s Lac Brochet." It was 1:10 am. We felt a huge load had just been lifted off our backs. That last 44 km. had taken just over 2 1/2 hours to complete. I put the camera on auto and took a picture of 4 very tired but happy campers.

Picture. 6 Outskirts of Lac Brochet

I looked at my watch and noticed that the trip had taken 14 hours from Lynn Lake. Driving into town I saw some kids were still up playing in the streets. That day Fred and Sophie introduced me to several elders in the community. Few spoke English. I found that Dumaurier is the preferred brand of cigarette. The place to be is the Northern Store at 1:00 pm. when it opens. Met one particular fellow, Pierre, whom I noticed always out walking. Eventually I produced a drawing of Pierre O’Tennadzahe.

Picture 7. Pierre O’Tennadzahe
Picture 8. Town of Lac Brochet

I wandered the town and took several photographs of the northern community.


Mar. 29/Wed.
I flew out on Skyward Aviation to Thompson. While waiting for the plane to arrive I met a fellow who had come on the same road a day later than we had. I asked his opinion on its condition because I had no previous experience to compare it to. He said that he had been on winter roads for the past 6 years to many communities in the north and that this particular road was the absolute worst one he had ever been on. In fact he had gotten motion sickness 4 times and had the driver pull over so he could vomit. He was also astounded that we were able to complete the trip in our 2 wheel drive truck.
It would be two years later when I would tackle that road again, this time to Tadoule Lake.

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