God our protector
keep us in mind,
always give strength
to your people.
For if we could be with you
one day in time,
it is better than a thousand
This is the prayer that they sing at Manitoba Pioneer Camp every day before they go out on the water. We needed it today!
On Sunday, we drove from Winnipeg to the Pioneer Camp, which is actually in Ontario despite being called the Manitoba Pioneer Camp. We spent the night, and had some fantastic food, and were just settling in when we left on Monday afternoon for our three night canoe trip.
We had to split into two groups, because thirty-two is a lot for a canoe trip. It makes it kind of awkward now, though, because we spent three nights getting to know each other really well, and now we have two very seperate experiences. It kept slipping our minds that there were sixteen other people in our group.
It is extremely rewarding to discover that you are stronger than you thought. Working through the sore muscles until you don’t even have to focus on the repetitive movement of paddling feels great. I was so tired at the end of every day, but it felt great. We paddled for hours every day for four days, and most of my remaining soreness is from the portage on the first two days. Canoe tripping I loved. Portage? Never again. Very painful.
Two of the greatest human inventions ever created are hot water taps and showers. When you haven’t been clean for four days, and you’ve been living in hiking boots and wearing four layers of sweaters, even a lukewarm shower is fabulous. We were all so excited to take a shower and sleep on a mattress. Also being warm.
The food you can cook over a campfire is way more varied than I thought it could be. We ate stir fry, and chili, and hashbrowns and farmer’s sausage. I was very impressed.
Now you’ve had that basic overview of the canoe trip. Fun anecdotes up next.
On the night of the seventeenth, some of the boys decided to make a fire chimney in the campfire, so they used birchbark rounds and filled them with twigs, and set them on the fire. They would go up in flames so fast and so warm that we had to step away from the fire: not a common occurence. At one point it was higher than six feet and the guide made them break it down in fear of forest fires.
Tuesday morning while breakfast was cooking some people were crayfish hunting. They caught about eight or nine, and after breakfast we cooked them and everyone tried some. After that, they were dead set on catching a fish for supper, and they had a line dragging behind one of the boats, but they were unfortunately unsuccessful.
Monday night was perfectly clear, so after our evening devo we went out away from the fire to look up at the stars. We could see the Milky Way. It was amazing: at home we never see that many stars. It makes you feel so small.
I discovered that I cannot steer a canoe. After a very short stint in the stern, I moved back up to the bow, and it worked much better that way.
Wednesday and today were quite windy, but today far more so. We went out onto the open water and we could see the waves as they built up, coming towards us. Every time we went over a wave it would splash into the boat. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. To be kneeling in the bow of the canoe when going over waves like that- it feels powerful. I would love to do it again.
And at the end of the day, we would all sit around the campfire, as you do, as close as you can possibly get to the warmth, and share dessert and talk. We would discuss the devo topic, or last night we did sacred circle. Everyone has a spoon, and you pass around the communal dessert and after you answer the question, you take a bite of dessert and pass it on. On writing it down, it sounds very unhygenic, but it was a great bonding experience and not as weird as you would think to eat no-bake cheesecake out of the communal pot lid, or to hear about people’s worst dates while eating chocolate and oatmeal ‘moose poops’ out of a ziplock bag.
Canoe tripping was wonderful, and I would go again, but I’m looking forward to the real start of this course. Orientation starts tomorrow, and then after Sunday, we’ll be moving to a different camp and getting started on instruction.
I don’t know when you’ll hear from me next, but if this beginning week is any indication, I’m sure I’ll have lots to share!
Also, for more about what’s going on and stories from others, Outtatown South Africa has its own blog at outtatownsa14.wordpress.com. A couple of us will be looking after that blog and hopefully it will have stories from a variety of people, so come check it out!
Addition: I am aware you aren’t receiving this on the 18th. That’s when I wrote it.