‘Pad­dle to the rock. Carry ca­noe. Re­peat’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

it’s a good prepa­ra­tion for a week ca­noe­ing and camp­ing in the lakes.

Our aim: to leave tech­nol­ogy be­hind and pad­dle about Al­go­nquin on gi­ant Kevlar Ev­er­green ca­noes via an ex­pe­ri­ence called portage (from the French verb “to carry”).

It’s lakes not rivers, there are no white­wa­ter rapids, but it in­volves one un­usual chal­lenge. To get from one lake to the next you have to tip the huge ca­noes up­side down and carry them on your shoul­ders.

The ca­noes come with a spe­cially fash­ioned wooden cross­bar – think Bavar­ian milk­maid – and the portage is a one-man job. You’ll need a mate to hold the ca­noe tip up high as you edge back­wards un­der it and the yoke falls across your shoul­ders – but then it’s up to you. Tighten your stom­ach mus­cles, and step up very (very) ten­ta­tively un­til you de­velop a pace. The ef­fect is “man wear­ing ridicu­lously long hat with con­sti­pa­tion”.

Up muddy slopes and along oc­ca­sional deck­ing, it was a chal­lenge to the mind as much as the body. For those of us who toil at key­boards and screens, the half-mile walks from lake to lake, cou­pled with the im­me­di­ate re­turn for the camp­ing equip­ment, of­fered a tiny glimpse of real-world work. My tent and kayak mate, co­me­dian Dave Lewis, packed only flip-flops, shorts and a pon­cho like he was brav­ing a festival in the Home Coun­ties.

Dave and I spent hours talk­ing and laugh­ing with­out ever

A three-day Al­go­nquin Park Ca­noe Trip with Call of the Wild (callofthewild. ca) costs CA$480/£280 per adult and CA$384 per child. The price in­cludes all food, per­mits, equip­ment hire and the ser­vices of a guide.

Al­go­nquin Eco-Lodge (al­go­nquine­colodge.com) charges CA$140 per per­son per night, full-board.

Bri­tish Air­ways (ba.com) flies from Lon­don to Toronto via Chicago with sum­mer fares from £324 re­turn. re­ally see­ing each oth­ers’ faces. I was at the front of the two-man ca­noe, Dave was at the back. It’s cer­tainly a good way to get to know some­one.

To the city dweller there is nothing here. There are no cash ma­chines, phone charg­ers, taxis, tele­vi­sions, iPads, bars or shops. No petrol, no al­co­hol, no ra­dio, no noise. And yet there is ev­ery­thing. There’s peace and tran­quil­lity. There’s thou­sands of years of nat­u­ral his­tory. There’s an in­dus­try that built the Bri­tish Em­pire then dis­ap­peared. There are moose and bears and wolves (some­where). And there’s a clutch of red trees amid the green that look like a jig­saw piece in the wrong puz­zle. Com­ing across a small, clearly man-made weir, we climbed out on to a very small wharf.

“Where we are stand­ing,” our guide Robin an­nounced, “was once Canada’s busiest rail­way sta­tion. A fully loaded en­gine would leave ev­ery seven min­utes; such was the rate of har­vest­ing the logs.”

Af­ter de­feat­ing Napoleon at the start of the 19th cen­tury, the Bri­tish needed to re­build their fleet to al­low them the sea power to build the em­pire. While fight­ing the French in what be­came Canada, they found the Al­go­nquin

James Brown, in­set far right, gets to grips with pad­dling tech­nique, left. Right: a moose and her calf

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