Tag Archives: canoe

Backpacking India: Munroe Island – Kerala Backwaters

India - Munroe Island - backwater canoe tour
We spent the most relaxing part of our trip so far in the backwaters of Kerala. Many tourists explore the backwaters on luxurious house boats, but we decided to stay in a homestay that had canoe tours. Emily found a place on Munroe Island that had amazing reviews and availability on the days we were interested.

India Kerala Train
Getting to Munroe was an adventure. Only a few non-reservable trains stop at the small, local station. We were a bit nervous about how busy the train would be. Over the Christmas / New Year period, trains are very busy in India and we hadn’t been able to get any reservations. We went to the train station 2 hours early. The train we thought we could catch wasn’t running, but luckily there was another an hour later. We had no problem getting seats. The train started in Ernakulam, so we were able to board 30 minutes early. It only got busy for a few stops in the middle of the run, when some young kids gathered around Emily to watch her play on her iPad.

India - Munroe Island - backwater canoe tour
The homestay was a real family operation. Vijeesh was our host, tour guide, and personal comedian. He obviously loves entertaining foreign guests and was genuine in his desire to improve our experience. His father took us on a canoe tour and his mother and sister took care of the cooking and cleaning. The family started by providing canoe tours 10 years ago and has only recently started offering accommodation. The house we stayed in was only 9 months old, and the effort Vijeesh put in to ensure it lived up to Western standards showed. The room had a nice bathroom, a mosquito net (which we didn’t need), and even spring mattresses (the first we’ve seen in India).

India - Munroe Island - backwater canoe tour
The highlight of our time on Munroe was the canoe tour. We left early in the morning, silently gliding down narrow canals. Our guide pointed out local birds, fruit trees, and tiger prawn farms. We stopped along the way for a cup of Chai and to see how coconut husk fibres are turned into rope.

India - Munroe Island - temple festival

India - Munroe Island - temple festival
While on Munroe, Vijeesh was ready to show us around and be our tour guide. He took us to the local temple festival, where costumed actors reenacted Hindu stories and drummers performed complicated routines. We were lucky to catch this annual festival – seemed like a real draw for locals who all put in money to bring the performers to town. We also spent time walking around on our own, swimming in the river, and I went for another run. The backwaters are definitely more relaxed than the city, which made for enjoyable exploration.

India - Munroe Island - backwater canoe tour
The backwaters are rich in animal and plant life. We saw eagles, hawks, kingfishers, and cranes flying around. Vijeesh pointed out pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves growing. And although few fruits were in season, we saw mango, papaya, pineapple, apple, and coconut trees.

India - Munroe Island - backwater canoe tour

10 Tips for an Algonquin Canoe Trip

Algonquin Canoe Trip
Here is some helpful advice I wish I had when we were planning our Algonquin canoe trip.

  1. Pack like you would for a multi-day, backcountry hiking trip. Keep it light. Lots of small drybags are convenient for loading into a boat, but they’re a pain to carry. We spent almost as much time portaging as paddling. You’ll want most of your gear in as few backpacks as possible. (Christina says: “bring proper shoes for the portages”)
    Portage Fail
  2. The portages and campsites are all well marked with signs visible from a long distance away, but you’ll still need a map. We printed multiple copies of Jeff’s Algonquin Map (cropped to the area we were going) and put them in ziplock bags.
    Smoke Lake to Kootchie Lake
  3. Think about how far you want to travel each day. We were able to cover 10-12 km at a leisurely pace in 4-5 hours, but we never encountered a strong head wind. I know some groups like to cover more ground and will do 20 km in 8 hour days. The shorter days gave us lots of time to relax at the campsites (bring a deck of cards and a book). I found that my exhaustion level at the end of the day was more dependent on the portages than the paddling. Portages under 500 meters were easy and anything over 1 km was tiring. Having lots of little portages was never a bad thing (you get really good and getting gear in and out of the canoes quickly), but the bugs were often worst along the portage trails.
    Beaver Damned
  4. In addition to the usual backcountry camping gear (tent, water filter, etc), I recommend packing a tarp, carabiners, ziplock bags, and lots of rope. A handy way to setup the tarp to prevent water pooling is to tie it low to the ground (waist height) and then use a paddle to prop up the middle.
  5. Learn how to setup a bear bag to keep your food safe overnight. What not to do:
    • Don’t throw all of your rope into the tree. Hang on to one end.
    • Don’t put lots of knots and your carabiner on the rope before throwing it over a branch. It will only get snagged. (There’s a reward for the rope and carabiner I left stuck in the tree on Big Porcupine.)
    • Don’t pull your food bag too close to branches. You want it high enough to be out of the reach of bears but not too easily accessible to chipmunks. We had chipmunks chew holes in 3 dry bags.

    Rope Stuck Bear Cache Rope Retrieval

  6. Campfires are allowed, assuming the forest fire risk isn’t high. Every campsite has a nice fire pit and you can scavenge deadwood. I’d recommend bringing extra paper to help get it lit. We only had a fire on two nights, but it was handy for drying clothing.
    Michael's Pants are on Fire!
  7. Pack lots of toilet paper and keep it dry. No one likes to use leaves. There are box toilets at every campsite and outhouses along some of the portages. They’re rudimentary but better than digging a hole.
    Treasure Chest
  8. For food, I like to eat fresh fruit and vegetables in the first few days, and rely on dehydrated meals at the end of the trip. Cans and bottles are prohibited in the backcountry, even if you plan on packing it out. This is in response to litter problems (likely beer bottles and beer cans). Most of our food was in ziplock bags and plastic containers, but our group did have a few contraband cans of beans. The wardens never checked when they visited our site. I’m guessing the rule is only enforced with troublemakers.
    Camping Dinner
  9. You have to get away from the highway where the lakes have motorized boats before you have a chance of seeing wildlife. We saw two moose on our 3rd day, the midpoint of our trip, on Kirkwood Lake.
  10. Prepare for all kinds of weather. I was amazed by how quickly the weather changed from sunny and warm to a down-pouring thunderstorm. Bathing suits and a rain jacket are a must. A hat helps to keep the sun and rain out of your eyes. I also found biking gloves handy for paddling.
    Algonquin Canoe Trip

Enjoy your trip!

Canoe Tripping in Algonquin Provincial Park

Canoe Tripper
I’ve now completed the quintessential Canadian experience – a 5-day canoe trip through Algonquin Provincial Park. It was my first overnight canoe trip and one hell of an experience. This trip had it all – wildlife, epic portages, constantly changing weather, and great friends who were still fun to be around after 5 days without bathing.

Algonquin Canoe Trip

The hardest part of the trip was the portaging. Carrying all of your gear and a 50 lb canoe is hard work. Some days it felt like we spent more time canoe hiking than paddling. We had two portages of around 1500 meters that were particularly painful. Luckily, the route we took had us descending Devil’s Staircase, a long hill that would have been gruelling to portage up.
Portaging Portage Fail

Before we left, I publicly declared that the trip would only be a success if A) Everyone survived and B) We saw a moose. The mosquitoes took some blood and there were a few cuts and bruises, but I declare victory on both counts.

Most days we started paddling around 10 am and finished around 2 pm. We took frequent breaks to eat and relax. We would often bunch up the canoes and snack on the lakes (blissfully bug free).
Tina Paddling Break Time Algonquin Canoe Trip Algonquin Canoe Trip

I was impressed with the backcountry campsites. They all had large cooking areas, with fire pits and log benches. Often there was a view of the lake and a breeze to keep the bugs down. Away from the site there was space to pitch tents, hang bear bags, and a box toilet. It was nice having time in the campsites to relax, eat, and stretch.
Wizard Swimming Time Group Yoga Relaxing

Most of us packed for the hot, muggy Ontario summers we remembered, but we ended up with a lot of Vancouver weather – cool and drizzly. I would have preferred warmer weather, but the cooler days were good for paddling. We only had one heavy rainstorm. It only lasted for an hour but it soaked everyone and everything and created one messy portage. Luckily the sun came out after and a nice fire helped to dry out our gear.
Michael's Pants are on Fire!

It was a great trip for unwinding and reconnecting with nature. Each day was focused on getting to the next campsite, setting up shelter, and eating enough calories. Hard, physical work but blissfully simple.
Algonquin Sunset

Our route covered over 50 km, including 14 lakes and 11 portages. The longest portage was 1640 meters; the shortest only 60 meters.
5 Day Canoe Route via Smoke Lake
Day 1: 10 km / 3:30 hours (Smoke Lake to Tanamakoon)
Day 2: 8 km / 2:20 hours (Tanamakoon to Head)
Day 3: 11 km / 4:15 hours (Head to Kirkwood)
Day 4: 12.5 km / 5:30 hours (Kirkwood to Big Porcupine)
Day 5: 13 km / 3:15 hours (Big Porcupine to Smoke)
Note: Times include breaks for eating and swimming. We took lots of breaks except on Day 5 when we rushed to get back so some people could make it to Toronto for dinner.

More pictures on Flickr.

Paddling the Harrison River

Morning Canoe Trip
Lured by the chance to canoe with spawning salmon, Emily, Christina, Rhea, and I made our way up to Harrison early on Saturday morning for a day-long canoe trip with Ridge Wilderness. Unfortunately our timing was a bit mixed. We avoided the rain, but also avoided most of the salmon.

It took us about 4 1/2 hours to paddle the Harrison River from Harrison Hot Springs to Kilby, with an hour stop for lunch. There was a heavy mist for the first hour, but it slowly burned off leaving us with a gorgeous sunny afternoon. The wind was strong, but luckily it was a tailwind that blew us swiftly down the river.

Sadly, we saw more dead salmon than live ones as we paddled downstream. We just missed the spawning pink salmon (as evidenced by the many dead fish washed up along the shore) and were too early for the sockeye run. There were still a few sockeye in the river jumping around our canoe, which was cool. Our lunch spot was particularly popular with jumping salmon, and we were well entertained while we ate our sandwiches. However, I was hoping to see thousands of salmon surrounding our canoe – a sight likely to greet paddlers heading down the Harrison in the next few weeks.

Even with the less salmon than hoped, we all had a great time paddling. Our guides (Gareth and Beth) were fun and knowledgeable – teaching us about the local Chehalis First Nation, salmon, and canoe-lore. The paddling was a great workout and my shoulders were sore on Sunday, but not as much as my ass. I definitely recommend bringing something padded to sit on, the benches are hard.

I want to go back in October when the salmon are running in larger numbers.
Kilby Provincial Park
Harrison River Canoes Snail Hauling Canoes to the River Dead Salmon Canoe Launch Blue Paddling Babes Paddler Emily Paddler Tina Ridge Wilderness Canoe Misty Morning Paddle Paddling the Harrison Canoe in the Mist Morning Canoe Trip Ancient Indigenous Art Pictographs and petrographs Entering the Bay Lunch Landing Lunch Watching Salmon Jump Jumping Salmon Heron Dead Salmon Canoe Landing

Moving into Anni Friesinger’s Old Room in the Olympic Village

Since we announced we were moving into the Olympic Village, a lot of people have asked me “do you know which athlete lived in your unit during the Olympics?” I sure do. Sexy German speed skater Anni Friesinger was the former occupant of our suite.

How do I know? I did some sleuthing and discovered that 122 Walter Hardwick was occupied by Team Germany during the Olympics. Most of the German medal winners were staying up at Whistler, but the hockey team, speed skaters, figure skaters, and curlers were all in Vancouver.
Team Germany Has Arrived at Vancouver 2010 Olympic Village South and Is Expected to Win Most of the Medals

Now, I have no proof that Anni stayed in our unit, but until I find a name scratched into the wall or a stray hair that I can analyze for DNA, I’m going to just assume our unit was occupied by either Anni Friesinger or Andy Kapp, skip of the German curling team.
Photo by ygx

In all seriousness, I’m a bit surprised that more isn’t done to advertise the Olympic Village as the former home of Olympians. The two towers that were once full of Canadian athletes is now branded Canada House, but otherwise there aren’t any references left to the athletes who once resided in the units. Maybe it’s a privacy issue.

If anyone is trying to determine which athletes may have lived in a specific Olympic Village building, I’ve created this handy guide.
Continue reading Moving into Anni Friesinger’s Old Room in the Olympic Village