Just once, late last summer, I went kayaking in Georgian Bay. It was easy cheap. It was safe, it was close to home, and it was wonderful. At the end of the weekend I felt that I would have willingly travelled as far as the dark side of the moon and mortgaged the farm for the experience had I known it was going to be so good. When I spoke about it to friends afterwards, all they got from me was a babble of "Wow", "Gosh", "Wonderful", "Great", "So beautiful". So, after a few months of cold reflection let me try to be more coherent. Kayaking in Georgian Bay: how good is it, really?
Wow, gosh it's wonderful, really great, it's so beautiful. I once spent a solitary half an hour inside the burial chamber of the great pyramid of Cheops. It was completely dark and as quiet as a 3,000 year old tomb can be - it still wasn't as peaceful as Georgian Bay in the mist of an early morning.
I have taken my 40 winks in Presidential Suites of a few of the world's great hotels on beds recently snored upon by heads of state and royalty - none of those pricey dormitories come close to the luxury of sinking into a sleeping bag on nest of dry sphagnum moss under the pines.
I have stood on top of Ayers Rock and surveyed the red heart of the great continent of Australia, I've seen the rooftops of Paris gleaming in the rain, the mighty sweep up Loch Lomond, Venice in the silver light that comes at long angles between storms, and the sunrise from Mount Sinai.
It would be comparing apples and pickled mangoes to say that the view from our campfire was better than those wonders of the world, but at the very least it was every bit as good. Pink granite islands that float weightlessly, rippling water that moves only so that it can sparkle more, and complete landscapes that look as if they were designed and planted by the Group of Seven. When contemplated from the helm of your own kayak these things have no trouble holding their own in the pantheon of the planet's beauty spots.
If it's so good why isn't it famous? The thought "Where are all the other people" went through my head more than once on that weekend. If the islands we paddled among and the shining waters we sliced through were within 2½ hours of Paris, New York or Tokyo they would be pockmarked with outposts of civilization and queues of visitors positioning themselves to admire scenes of splendour which their cultures would certainly have celebrated for centuries. Except for the friends I went with, and a few folks we waved to as we floated by their cottages, there was no one out there. Maybe that was the most amazing thing of the whole experience.
How easy is it, really? If you can fall off a log, you can probably kayak. Bad comparison, kayaking is much safer than falling off logs. The kayak rental place is about a 2½ hour drive from Toronto. We tied the kayaks to the roof, drove another half hour, packed them - that took another half hour because we didn't really know what we were doing - and launched them. Double or single kayaks cost about $30 a day per person to rent, and although basic water skills are required, there is no need to know how to roll your kayak over the way that those adrenaline junkies do when shooting rapids.
Kayaks are safer than canoes because they're covered to prevent swamping and the centre of gravity is below the water line, so tipping a kayak is not an everyday event. Kayaks are twice as efficient as canoes, their streamlined shape glides with barely a disturbance to the surface of the water. Paddling a kayak is also much easier: no J-strokes or switching sides, steering is done with foot pedals connected to a tail rudder.
The part of the Bay we kayaked has two strips of sheltered islands with lots of open space that's perfect for camping and picnics. The little coves are sheltered from the breeze and are inaccessible to any water craft except the shallow draught kayaks. Sometimes you even have to draw up the rudder to get through a tight spot. Because kayaks coast so gently you can get fairly close to birds.
One great weekend of kayaking didn't make me an expert on anything except recitin "Wow", "Gosh", "Wonderful", "Great", "So beautiful" as if it were my new mantra. You don't have to be an expert on anything to have the thrill of silently slicing through Georgian Bay in a kayak. I'll definitely be back on the waters this summer, if only to confirm that they are really as good as my memories.
On second thought, Georgian Bay can't possibly be that nice. If it were it would be more famous and everyone would be there floating around and bumping into each other. Don't believe me, please. My memory must be playing tricks. I will go back and check it out again, but if I were you I wouldn't bother. While I'm on Georgian Bay, maybe you should go to New York. Central Park is probably nice in summer, they have a lake there.