Saturday, 8 August 2015

Bizarre Place Names? You've Come to the Right Place...

Location: Medicine Hat, AB, Canada
Having made the most of the complimentary breakfast at the motel we left Pincher Creek. With the wind mostly behind us we had a speedy start to the day, but shortly after crossing Highway 3 we hit the gravel road that would take us to the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump. It was hard packed to begin with and with the help of the wind we were still going a good pace. Unfortunately the gravel got a lot deeper and looser and our progress slowed. There wasn't much traffic on the road, but we did have one incident with a deranged old bat of a driver who very nearly rear ended me. I shouted a warning to Tom and we both made it to the side of the road and out of her path, but I do wonder if she was aware of us at all.

All told it was about a 20 mile stretch of gravel road, most of it loose and hard work on a bike and we were thrilled when we made it back on to the asphalt with the wind firmly at our backs. The buffalo jump is a fantastic and interesting site with a uniquely designed building built into the cliff side housing most of the exhibition, though obviously you can also go and see the jump site itself and the kill site on the prairie below.

There is a vast amount of info on the site, but very basically, it was one of many buffalo jumps used by the Aboriginal people here to drive buffalo over the edge of the cliff and enable them to kill many animals at once. The site had been in use for over 6000 years and required much coordination between different groups, but enabled them to devote more time to culture and arts, apparently, whilst providing them with almost all they needed to survive the harsh winters. Interestingly the name Head-Smashed-In refers to a story about this buffalo jump in which a youth wanted to hide on the cliff face and watch the buffalo falling past him, but so many buffalo fell that he was caught in the carnage and they found him with his head smashed in. I'd always guessed it was due to the state of the Buffalo's heads.

It was a fascinating stop for us and we really enjoyed the detour here, so thanks goes to our uni friend, Sarah, for the excellent suggestion. The wind was still at our back for the short ride to Fort Macleod where we'd be camping. After setting up the tent on the upmost luxury of grass we walked to town for some food supplies. It was a sort of Wild West type town, but nice, and now we were out of bear country we enjoyed eating dinner in the tent! The next day it was a short ride to Lethbridge where we'd arranged to stay with a Warm Showers host so arriving around lunch time we decided to picnic in the park and spend a lazy afternoon lying about reading in the sun. It was great. And Tom bought me a 1kg bag of Peanut M&Ms which are my absolute favourite and an amazing 'chocolate bomb' cake for a belated extra birthday treat.

Our hosts, Kim and Tim, lived across from the park and we spent a lovely evening eating burgers and talking cycle touring with them. They had lots of tales of family tours and were thoroughly interesting people. We rode the next morning with Tim on his daily commute across the bike unfriendly city and boy were we glad for a guide! We might still be stuck in Lethbridge now otherwise.  We made it back onto Highway 3 and made good time towards Medicine Hat where we'd arranged another WS host. This stretch of land and road were incredibly flat. We had lunch in Bow Island, the home of Pinto MacBean - the worlds largest pinto bean, and passed through some wonderfully named places like Readymade and Seven Persons, and through some places with dubious claims to fame, like Burdett 'Canada's First Irrigation Pivot'. 

Our host, Doug, welcomed us with a selection of beautifully cold drinks, chips and salsa and the smell of a wonderful curry for dinner. We had a lovely evening being shown around a bit of Medicine Hat, including the old Medalta Pottery and exchanging stories over a delicious dinner. We'd planned a rest day the next day and although we'd intended to head back around the city for some sightseeing I think I was suffering from a bit of dehydration since I was feeling queasy and tired so I went back to bed and Tom pottered on with some bike maintenance and other odd jobs. Two Korean cyclists, Jay and Kyle, arrived that evening and the five of us sat around chatting until it was time for bed.

1 comment:

  1. so glad you enjoyed the detour :) Your blog brings back so many fun memmories for me but also feels like all of us reading are there with you, sharing the adventures :)
    sarah xxx