Regular visitors to this blog log will have noticed a singular absence of new material during the last month. While I have not been exactly prolific with posts on this web log, the last stretch compares with the drought that plagues Australia. You many have wondered if I went into the bush on a walkabout or joined George B. in the witless protection program.

The truth is more prosaic. A semester break offered us the opportunity to return to North America, to my wife’s ancestral home in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. The house itself is over two hundred years old and, like any geriatric critter, demands attention. The timing of our trip allowed my wife to attend a conference in Brussels (where she is now) and enabled us to reschedule a canoe trip we had planned, paid for, put on hold two years ago.

If you have never downloaded Google Earth, now is the time. Plug in Bonaventure, Quebec. You will slowly zero in on a small town at the bottom of a large land mass that thrusts out into the Atlantic below the St. Lawrence river. This is the Gaspe Peninsula. It looks like a lobster claw. Its mountains, the Chic Chocs, are the end of the ancient Appalachian range. The Bonaventure, a clear, rocky river that starts at a lake in the mountains, emerges one hundred twenty-six kilometres (seventy-five miles) later in the Bay of Chaleurs.

Friends of ours had done this river with their five-year old son so we were not expecting any hair-raising difficulties. We had not reckoned on two things: their idea of easy and our notion of the word do not share any commonality; the river is not the same body of water in June and July.

Entirely by chance, we were paired up with an orthopedic surgeon and his partner, a cardiac nurse. Considering our frailties, we could not have asked for better company. My wife still has hardware in her ankle from a horrendous break; I have a stent in my heart.

Early on, we joked about how our flask of cognac would come in handy to anesthetize whoever needed surgery. Our French Canadian guide was in his early twenties. He had no idea that he was dealing with clients who actually worried about breaking bones and having heart attacks. We were mouths to feed, paddlers with no purpose other than one– to be led down the rocky river to the sea.

C’est le fun! For some reason that I don’t really understand, the French have no word for what they so obviously enjoy. Humping heavily loaded canoes through log jams in freezing cold water. Ducking quickly to avoid decapitation from overhanging branches. Overturning into icy water twice the same day. Not to mention setting up camp on a hillside when our nurse gets hypothermia and can go no further.

There were glorious moments. Intense shades of green that reminded me of a time before I looked through 3-D glasses. Rapids that made me feel like a kid again. Tree-covered mountains that brought me back to the Buddha. An excuse to eat absolutely everything because we were burning so many calories. Stars brighter than Christmas lights.

And, at the end of the day, we made it back in one piece. We dropped in on Eric and Clare on the way home just to be sure we had misunderstood them correctly. It was July, they said. We started further down, avoiding the worst log jam. And we were almost all pretty good paddlers. It is the pretty good paddler part that we had failed to understand.

Were we up for a real adventure? Eric was leaving July 1 for Europe. Sailing with a couple friends across the Atlantic ocean in his sailboat. We drove down to see the vessel. It was up on a trailer, looking reasonably large from the outside, very small inside. We tried to imagine living on the lurching ocean in 35 feet of fiberglass for three weeks. Couldn’t do it.

Hey, c’est le fun. I’ll keep you posted.