Cochrane to Hearst (via polar bears)

We had a much better sleep, the TV snorer of the previous night has gone and with only two other guests in evidence, there was silence all night long.

We left just after 9 am and headed for the Polar Bear Habitat just a 5 minute drive away. We were surprised that the motel owner had no idea of its location and had to Google it. We used our Satnav.

After paying the entrance fee (Sue disappointed on no reduction for age) we made our way outside to check out the inhabitants of the three enclosures. There was one other couple visiting, we saw them leaving the first enclosure as we arrived but they appeared reluctant to chat so we left them to their own devices.

The centre has three polar bears, all three magnificent specimens, huge and though cuddly looking, you wouldn’t want to. Each has its own enclosure and access to water, two of them a concrete swimming pool and the other a large natural lake. One of the bear kindly obliged us by taking a swim, seemingly to enjoy the photo opportunity. You can observe them underwater through glass windows set into the side of the pool. We took some great photos.

Next, we observed them outside in their enclosures. Disappointingly we noted that they were exhibiting signs of captivity, pacing backwards and forwards and rhythmically swinging their heads from side to side on the same spot. They seem well treated and their enclosures look ideal but I guess nothing is a substitute for freedom. One of the bears was a rescue bear and the other two were from other centres. Later on we watched a video of them enjoying the snow in winter and they were clearly relaxed and felt at home. I guess captivity in summer heat isn’t very pleasant if you are a polar bear.

The place had a Heritage Village within it and though it wasn’t yet open for the season we had a wander down its Main Street. We could enter some of the buildings but we figured that during ‘the season’ the stores and houses would be occupied in a re-enactment of those past times. Even so, we found it fascinating.

We had lunch at a Harvey’s in the town before hitting HWY 11 towards our next stop, Hearst (pop. 5500).

Our journey to Hearst was a quiet joy, pretty little villages, often next to a river with a bridge. The place names were most often in French and as we found when we arrived at our destination, so was the language spoken by its inhabitants. Around an hour from Hearst we came across some road works which delayed our journey considerably. They were resurfacing the road and just up in front of us there was a rather nasty accident. We suppose that a juggernaut had shunted a car, the damage to the car looked considerable as we eventually passed. It was awhile before an ambulance came to attend to the injured.

After check-in at the motel we had a walk around the town and confirmed that this was a bastion of French culture. We were surprised to find that all the shops apart from those that sold food were shut and we noticed that they didn’t open on Saturdays or Sundays. How do they do business? Passing the cinema we noticed that it was showing ‘The Avengers’ so keen to reminisce and wallow in seventies nostalgia we bought tickets to see Steed and Mrs Peel later that evening.

Returning to the hotel we decided to visit a lake situated outside the town next to a small airport. It took only 10 minutes to drive there, but it was worth it. There is a lovely beach there of which a few of the town’s people were taking advantage of. It was a gorgeously hot day and we were surprised that there wasn’t even more taking to the cooling waters. We certainly did, with a little refreshing paddle in the crystal clear water.

We returned to the motel via circuitous route, changed and then found a nearby restaurant and ate. It was while we were dining that the thought occurred to us that the film might be in French, particularly as when we took our seats in the auditorium the trailer for the local hospital was all in French. Would the film be subtitled or would we have to figure out what was being said by the actions alone? In the event we needn’t have worried the film was in English. However, neither Steed nor Emma made an appearance; they had been substituted by Thor, Loki and a dozen other super heroes from the Marvel comic. Oooooops, wrong ‘Avengers’. The action was fast and furious, the story line vague and the believability was nil. We sat through it (we didn’t know the French for “Can we have our money back, s’il vous plait?”) until the bitter end, though I am not quite sure that it did have an ending!

Walking back to our room and bed we discussed what actually happened in the film and why such creditable actors should get involved in such nonsense. We couldn’t find an answer. I blame the French.

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