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Gear manufacturers have realised that lots of women like the outdoors and they're different shapes from men. Here's what's out there, and where you can buy it.

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A selection of travel resources especially for women who love to travel. Includes a list of online communities if you do it yourself, or companies if you need a little help.

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Listed here are some links to resources from all over the world that cater to women who love surfing.

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Extended walks are great for the mind and spirit and lots of women love to take part in them. Check out these resources and get inspired to go on a walking adventure.

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Skiing, snowboarding, backcountry, polar expeditions - all done in the snow and all done by lots of amazing women.  Check out these resources to find out more...

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White water, surfing, sea kayaking, sprint racing, marathon racing, multisport, fishing...is there anything you can't do from a kayak? Explore these resources!

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A list of resources for all sorts of cycling - mountain biking, road biking, touring, racing, recreation and commuting - all specific to women.

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Women can (and have) achieved incredible things in climbing. Listed in this section are a collection of climbing and moutaineering resources that are useful and inspiring for all climbers.

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A list of organisations that cater exclusively to women, or run trips exclusively for women. A great way to find a women-specific adventure in your area.

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Looking for resources to help you plan programs, companies and organisations that cater for women or organisations you can join? Look no further...

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'The North'

Snow on branchesI remember reading once that about 95% of Canada’s population lives within an hour of the US/Canada border.  If you have a look at a map of Canada you’ll see that the vast majority of the country is wilderness, and despite the fact that the Canadians don’t like the Americans all that much, most of the roads and all the major population centres are right down in the south of the country.

And fair enough too!  Sioux Lookout, which is quite far north by Canadian standards but by no means as far north as you can get, lies at 52° North.  To give all you Australians out there a rough indication of how far north this is, Hobart is at 42° South.  Sioux Lookout, which remember is north but not that north, gets around 8 months of winter every year.  In my igSnow on treesnorance of this fact and my observations of the weather in southern Ontario (where the snow was fast disappearing, the lakes melting and spring flowers in bloom), I did a little worrying that Dave wouldn’t get to experience all the fun snow activities.  In short, I needn’t have worried.  There’s currently (in March) over four feet of ice on the lake and it won’t melt until late April or May (the local paper has a tipping competition where people guess exactly when it will go).  This ice started forming in about October and you can easily drive a truck around on it.  In January the temperature tends to plunge into the minus 30°C and minus 40°C range - my aunt Kim was remarking that she got a bit sick of her 5.30am walks when it had been minus 37°C or colder for 6 weeks in a row earlier this year.

Waving and ski tips in snowThe point I’m trying to make is that the winter in Sioux Lookout is long and cold - make that very long and very cold - and it’s still not all that far north by Canadian standards.  The people of the town refer to the region north of Sioux Lookout simply as ‘The North’.  For example you might hear someone say ‘a lot of people from ‘The North’ came down for a hockey tournament last weekend’ or ‘there are people stranded here because they can’t get back to ‘The North’, or ‘I’m planning a trip to ‘The North’ next week’.  By the end of my stay in Sioux Lookout ‘The North’ had taken on a sort of mystical aura - a place where things are done completely differently, a whole different world.

The people who live in ‘The North’ are a lot of small First Nations communities that you can only reach by car when the lakes are frozen and you can drive across the ice, or by plane.   From all accounts it is a vast area filled with lakes, trees and wild animals.  ‘The North’ also gets visited by people who go ‘huntnenfishen’ on the lakes and in the wilderness, and the people who dig out mines or chop down trees or dam rivers or do whatever makes economic sense at the time.
Sunrise and ski tracks
While I was sitting in the 5th Avenue (Nightly Dancing and Entertainment) - read the last blog entry for details - I met a teacher who was stuck in Sioux Lookout because a truck had got bogged on the ice road that led to her community and all the flights were cancelled due to the freezing rain.  Her way of life was pretty fascinating and very different from my teaching life in Brisbane.  In summer or whenever the ice melts, there’s no way to get to the community except by plane which apparently costs a fortune.  It was the end of a school holiday in Ontario, and this lady had left the community to visit her children in Toronto.  She was heading back to the community to resume school for Monday - or that was the plan, until the problems with the freezing rain and blocked ice road.  She said, in the typical resigned and relaxed manner of people who live in very remote places, that she would probably be stuck in Sioux Lookout for at least 3 days now because the crummy weather was supposed to continue.  I asked if she had a place to stay, and she had (maybe) with an old friend in the town, but that she couldn’t get in touch with him.  While we were sitting there she found a fellow teacher at the school where she worked, tried to hook up a ride in a car but failed, then ingratiated herself with an old First Nations lady just in case she needed a place to stay.

Snowy trees
The First Nations communities are plagued with all sorts of problems.  I don’t feel particularly qualified to write about it but I’ll do my best by sharing the little fragments I picked up while I was in Sioux Lookout.  Because it’s a long way and winter is often the only time you can drive there, it’s incredibly expensive to get anything up there.  Even when you can drive, the trucks have to travel at 10km/hour across the ice, because the weight of them creates a wave of water ahead which might crack if the truck goes too fast (this despite, remember, that the ice is over 4 feet thick). This means that everything (fuel, food, vehicles, etc) costs a lot of money.  As far as I can make out, the people get a large amount of money from the Canadian government and tend to spend it on big trucks or other transportation, alcohol, junk food and trips into towns like Sioux Lookout.  There are even some homeless people in Sioux Lookout, if you can believe it.  Apparently the trick is to do something bad in around October so that you get thrown in jail, then get released in around March/April when the weather is warming up.

The people tend to have bad diets and there are a lot of problems with obesity and related illnesses such as early onset diabetes.  This might have something to do with the ‘starvation gene’ that might mean that the people have a tendency to put on weight when food is available, in order to store the calories and last out the long winters.  With a high calorie diet all year round, this gene is no longer very useful and this might be the cause of some of the obesity GO! Girls Outdoors in snowproblems.  There are other health problems too - Jon is an anaesthetist and sees the 2-3 year old children coming in for dental work, for which they get put to sleep.  He said the birth rate is around 400 per year and they treat around 400 children per year, 10% of whom need their entire set of teeth replaced.  The communities are dry (no alcohol) but people sneak alcohol in and sell it at exorbitant prices. 

The teacher I met in the 5th Avenue said that the young people either stay in the community and do very little, or get out if they can and become doctors and teachers and lawyers and so on.  Some of these people go back, like this teacher was doing, to try and improve the situation in the communities.  There are many, many people doing things like this -my aunt is currently doing work in ‘The North’ helping the people with their finances.  While we were in Sioux Lookout it was Race Relations Week, an initiative of the very active Sioux Lookout Anti Racism Committee. 

Iced up trees
So even though there are people out there doing amazing things to help out ‘The North’, the First Nations people suffer the same sort of problems that so many native people experience when the Europeans move in.  I’m sure I’ve hardly done justice to the issues in this article, but after being in Sioux Lookout for a short while, it’s obvious to see that it’s an important issue for many of the people there and I wanted to write about that.   For a part of the world that is truly the ‘great outdoors’, and after spending a lot of time singing the praises of what the ‘great outdoors’ can do for people in a positive way, and coming from a place where we have so much and take so much for granted, it’s very sad to see people suffering out there.


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