Searching For the Essence of Adventure
It’s 5:30 a.m. somewhere in Greenland . . . where exactly, I’m not sure.
With the first rays of light, the silhouettes of massive, jagged mountains surrounding our ship begin to appear.
As the sun rises, the gentle waves change from black to a deep sparkling blue, and the mountains transform into wondrous snow-capped structures with bases ground smooth from a millennia of glacial movement.
At that moment, standing on the deck, I wonder if this was what the spirit of adventure feels like.
I have never had the itch to explore the natural world.
Instead, I have followed concrete roads, and rarely strayed far from modern civilization.
Any hiking was always on safely paved pathways that saw regular human traffic - I’ve never owned hiking boots.
How does one prepare for an Adventure Canada voyage to remote communities and national parks barely touched by modern day visitors? I was very much at loss.
Instead of visiting massive cities, we would visit small communities, where expedition guests would often double the local population.
We would also stop in national parks that had as little as 600 visitors annually, and witness the consequences of some of our nation’s darker moments in history.
Having celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, Adventure Canada continues to offer a range of expeditions, both on ship and on land, exploring remote reaches of the world.
My trip began with a chartered flight from Toronto to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland; the only settlement in the country with an airport large enough to land larger airplanes.
During the span of two weeks, we would sail aboard the Ocean Endeavour down the western coast of Greenland, stopping to see glaciers and small communities, before traveling across the Davis Straight back into Canada to explore northern Quebec and the coast of Labrador.
Many of the stops would be far from modern civilization, but would reveal evidence of human habitation dating back as far as 8,000 years. Throughout the trip, I would hike across squishy arctic tundra, climb rocks millions of years old, and even jump into frigid waters in the Torngat Mountains National Park.
With each stop and every new sight, I often found myself incapable of describing the wonder I felt.
Life aboard the Ocean Endeavour is far different from any other cruise.
Family run, Adventure Canada has never been a company that’s in it for the money.
Instead, its focus is to educate guests on the culture, history, and difficulties communities and wildlife face in the area.
The staff is made up of people from the local communities and parks we visited, family members, as well as professionals who specialize in various topics from geography to music to archeology.
Instead of alcohol-fueled dance parties, educational lectures were given on board by the staff, (and in some cases by guests) which often covered upcoming stops, truly enriching our experience.
Adventure Canada works with the communities it visits to prepare cultural experiences that benefit both parties.
Locals in these communities are often as excited to meet the expedition-goers as the guests are to meet them.
Even though some populations are as small as 300, doors are open for guests to experience first-hand life in the community and, in some cases, to witness the struggles the people face.
At one stop we were invited to join a baptismal ceremony for a young local in Kangaamiut, where food and drink were openly shared.
Through similar experiences I learned how the Indigenous Greenlandic Inuit people hunt and fleece seals and how to carve and polish antlers. We also learned about environmental issues affecting these communities caused by corporations in the south. My eyes were opened to a whole new world and way of life that I never imagined I would be able to experience.
When not visiting communities, the Ocean Endeavour made stops in national parks including the gorgeous Torngat Mountains National Park and the Wonderstrands in Cape Porcupine.
Due to the unpredictable nature of expedition travel, some planned stops are canceled because of bad weather. A highly-anticipated stop at Hebron was cancelled due to extreme winds but further down the coast of Labrador we stopped for a hike around Indian Harbour.
We also enjoyed an opportunity to explore an abandoned whaling factory.
With each stop we found ourselves in awe with how colourful the North is as well as the abundant wildlife.
When we weren’t peeking through our binoculars at bears and sea birds, we would catch glimpses of lemmings racing by, or in one instance, we enjoyed playing with a little brown weasel who was as excited about his new friends as we were with him.
Each night, I returned to my cabin exhausted from the day’s adventures but truly excited for what the next day would bring.
During the two weeks, I had the opportunity to befriend a diverse group of incredible people. From welcoming 16 people into an eight-person hot tub to ensure everyone warmed up after a dip in freezing waters, to hunting down the crew members holding out during a peppermint tea crisis, the people onboard were really what made this trip into a life-changing experience.
We all boarded as strangers, but left as family.
Adieu to the well-paved paths of the world.
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