Last night I arrived to Sandy Lake First Nations reserve, located in the north of Ontario -- 1,462 kilometres north of Toronto to be exact.

Getting here was a bit of a trek, though an easy one. First a flight to Thunder Bay, followed by an overnight stay in Sioux Lookout and then another short flight to Sandy Lake.

Though I was in no way naïve about what would await me when I got here, I was still quite taken aback to see just how different living conditions could be within the same province.

A recent rainstorm made the dirt roads bumpy and hard to manage throughout the 17 square-mile area. In fact, Rosie, an incredibly kind and warm woman who gave me a lift from the airport, got stuck in the driveway of our rustic dwelling. She had to call a friend with a pick-up truck to come and tow her jeep from the mud pit, which he did.

I’ve only been here a short time but I can tell how close-knit this community is and how proud they are of what they do have.

On the way home, Rosie let me listen to a CD of her father singing which was quite beautiful. She gave me a tour of the reserve which included a brand new high school, a few churches, an outdoor stage and a radio station, pointing out which home belonged to her friends, her family and prominent locals. At one point, we drove up a small hill and stopped for a moment to take in the breathtaking natural scenery – a large lake surrounded by islands of dense forest, lush with tall evergreens. There are bears here and moose. There’s also a good view of the Northern Lights, she assured me.

But like any place, with the great comes the questionable. Many homes here have boarded up windows and what looks like abandoned vehicles on their front lawns. Food prices are exorbitantly high, particularly anything that is remotely healthy. There is a cluster of seemingly well-maintained, newish homes that are reserved for the teachers and police officers (many of whom are white) that work in the community.

This is one of the bigger reserves in Ontario. According to the 2011 Census, there are 1,861 people living in Sandy Lake, however, according to the community’s official website, there are 2,650 people living here, including registered band members and non band members.

Today I hope to meet with the Chief and the band council – the local government heading the reserve and more people who work and live in the community.

First impressions are always tough to stand on. I’m looking forward to the lasting impression Sandy Lake will make.