Camping at the Rouge
Sep 2012 18

This update’s been long over due. I was away for the NewsTrain Toronto workshop. Interesting enough, while the news industry in Canada is facing the same problems ive witness in South Asia, the overall trends in North America paint a different story. Some other day though.

Rouge Park is next to Toronto’s largest wetland the Rouge River which got its name from the red river bank clay painting the steam red, or ‘Rouge’ in French. Much like how my hand looked after I offered it to the territorial mosquitos when I wandered off into the dense growth away from my camp site without the repellent. An ominous moment caused by an amature oversight, but lets begin at the beginning.

RailpathAfter my first trip with the BikeHost program, I was looking forward to spend more time exploring the Canadian wilderness, and that too on a bike. I had never been a huge biking/camping person primarily because we the closest to getting any time by myself was having tea with my students at the university cafeteria.

In retrospect, I had always enjoyed nature and was lucky enough to have a day-job as a News Producers before I got into teaching. That meant I travelled a lot to shoot for my news and documentaries. Canada offered a different landscape than my past travels. And with no submission deadline to work on, I felt I could take in the beauty of the outdoors and really unwind. Last month I saw an opportunity to volunteer for the BikeHost camping trip and I jumped on it. I was encouraged to volunteer after my stint with TCF‘s Playing for Keeps’ Neighborhood Games initiative and I was looking forward to be a part of a team again.

On the morning of the trip, a few of us gathered at the Kennedy subway station. I met with Hashim and his kids who told me he was a medical professional from Afghanistan and that it was his first camping trip, much like mine!  He’d been here with his family for just over a year and his kids sounded as enthusiastic as he did. I spent some time talking to them about their school here in Toronto. We left for the park in a bit and I got an opportunity to speak to Kristin Schwartz, CultureLink’s Newcomer Cycling Outreach Co-ordinator in detail about the program and how it paved the way for me to appreciate biking again. My last significant experience biking in Pakistan was probably in 1995-96 so we ended up talking about how cycling is in different countries. And how organized and aware even an ordinary bike enthusiast is here.

I feel an important aspect of moving to another country and being part of these programs is to develop a cognition of the changes one goes through and if possible, document it. Maybe even compartmentalize it to understand it better. We talked about my involvement as a a greenie and the difficulty I faced in getting my peers more involved. I could imagine why it is difficult and it is not lack of opportunities, it is fear. Of the unknown, as I found out when I bumped into someone at the local library. I told him, we don’t get what we want in life, we only get what we work for. Didn’t work.

When we got to the Glen Rouge Campground, I was mesmerized by the beauty of this place. The air was crisp, moist. A faint sound of the river flowing around the site, RVs with tents, children traipsing around it all.  A single overnight camping trip is certainly not enough, I thought to myself. We started working on organizing the tents, the mobile kitchen setup and marking the sites before the rest of the gang showed up. After a brief chat about housekeeping, we started preparing the dinner – thai curry with rice- which turned out really nice, a wonderful job by the food team led by Aurelia.  Since it was a potluck, the dinner table looked really diverse ! Bread, rice, meats and vegetables.

By Simon Lin

By Simon Lin

I managed to get some shots of the trail nearby before I lost the light.  Again pure, clean crisp air. Gigantic mushrooms! I had to hurry back though as there were just too many insects. One can easily swallow a few if they’re not careful. There was a short talk about David Suzuki Foundation’s ‘Camping in the Rouge’ initiative followed by Fabiola’s very popular Zumba classes.

By Simon Lin

Somewhere before that – I know Im all over the place – I had a very long bike ride. Long since Nishit our Bike lead raised two fingers when I asked him how long a bike ride are we talking about. Im like ok, so a couple of kilometers is not very long and would not pose remind me how horrible a health regime Ive kept for a while now. Turns out I was wrong on several accounts. It never occurred to me that it was not two kms, and that is why he was smiling! Turns out we rode for over 12 kms all the way to Rouge Beach and back. I really struggled for the first five minutes, and then I enjoyed it throughout. Had borrowed the bike from Emily and a chat with Deborah during the ride about lack of interest in conservation. We made a few small stops to marvel at the view on our way back from the beach.

Towards the night, we started the bonfire where I experienced my first marshmallows.  After burning half a dozen, my Deb came to my rescue and proceeded to roast one infront of me. I tried a few times and finally got it right. My mind raced as I started concocting desi desserts that would do wonders if mated with marshmallows … I have a nice pair of food goggles you see.  And then I found out about s’mores, I practiced and shared a few with Bruce before the dancing/memory games started. I might need to attend a few more camping trips before I have the courage to volunteer for this game. The best sport throughout the preparations and during trip was Yamour who I saw actively participate in pitching tents, cooking and cleaning. He retired early and a few of us gathered around the fire talking about politics and culture.

I didn’t go for the bike ride in the morning and stayed back to review some pictures I had taken. Wanted to catch up with Hashim  as well and get a feel of how he liked the experience. We left early after morning scrambled eggs and beans breakfast. Had to walk all the way back to the nearest bus stop but I was fun all around. Cant wait for the next trip, Im going to try and make marshmallow halva …

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