Thursday, March 31, 2011

The adventurous portage

Another canoeing story as promised. When I was a camp counsellor in training, we had to organize a canoe trip for all counsellors in training. On one of these trips, I had a big portage adventure. We were canoeing away and got to some rapids. I was a little nervous about them. Firstly, I couldn't tell my canoe partner about any rocks or anything to keep away from. I had visions of us being tossed around or ejected from our boats. So, when one of the leaders asked if anyone would like to portage with the food pakcs just in case, I volunteered. My friend also volunteered. The portage path looked wide and easy to manage. There was a sign my friend said which clearly read PORTAGE. So we shouldered the food packs which were quite heavy and set forth. I felt very proud. Portaging was something the fur traders did. It was something the explorers did. And now, here I was portaging. We walked along, laughing and chatting and wondering if any of the others got wet. The path turned and then turned again. This was a good sign I thought and probably meant we were turning back towards the river. And then, my friend let out a series of expletives. "What is it?" "The path just ends," she said, "In the middle of no where. With nothing but rugged bush all around us." So, there we were. We contented ourselves with knowing that we had all of the food. That meant we could survive and that the others would be eager to search for us. We waited for a bit and then we blew our whistles. We heard answering whistles. My friend asked if I knew the direction of the sound. I thought it was straight ahead so we trudged through branches and brambles and thick bush. Now, we were hot and scared and tired and wished we had stayed in the boats. Rapids sounded safe compared to this wilderness. We continued to blow our whistles periodically and so did they. Luckily, we were getting closer. I'll interrupt this story to say that we were both about fifteen and that I was the first blind person to come through this program. Well, after several minutes which felt like hours, we stepped out of forest and my friend let out another series of colourful expletives. We were out of the forest all right. But, now we were standing on the edge of a cliff. Our group was below us. Quite far below. "No problem," I said, "We'll climb down." Sometimes not seeing the terrain ahead has its advantages. We did climb down. It took us quite some time but we were reunited with our group. The next day, there was another chance to portage around some white water. Did I take it? No! The allure of the word portage was no longer with me.

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