A Capital Sprint
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A Capital Sprint

A Capital Sprint

Aug 24, 2022
The beginnings of Ottawa’s skyline dominate the far distance. Beneath the highrises, the beginnings of the Deschenes rapids turn the river to whitewater. Before it all, Kai Nani.

I have sprinted here, hoping to take advantage of the weather, my good fortune, and the current. I took this picture moments before starting the carry around the rapids. Like the rest of the portages on or near Ontario Power Generation  (OPG) land, there is nothing to indicate a portage or any other safe take-out for that matter.


Curious about the lack of signage, given that the bike path that snakes along the river bank is only a few meters away. Once on the path, there are signs for leashing and picking up after your pet, for cyclists to yield to pedestrians, to walk on the right, to not swim, to put garbage in cans and recyclables in blue bins. There are signs forbidding motorized vehicles, fires, and camping. Basically, there are signs enough to fill a barn. Nothing, however, to indicate that here might be a good place to get off the river and save your life. Like I said, curious.


This is the unadvertised and I suppose relatively unknown portage around Chaudierre Falls Generating Station. To get here, I paddled right up to the dam aiming for a spot where I could see a pedestrian/bike path. Plenty of signs warning me of a dam and danger, but no indication of a take out. The dam and spillway are, of course, beyond obvious and signing them is like putting a sign on your face that says here is your nose. My apologies for belaboring a point but I simply can’t get over the lunacy.


Look carefully at the background and you can make out the Parliament buildings.


And finally, the seat of government:



I had high hopes for this moment. Of carrying a broader, more profound understanding of the roles that indigenous peoples played in literally putting Canada on the map. Of the indispensable and absolutely necessary roles they played in the successes of all of Canada’s early explorers, cartographers, and geographers, both great and small. The foundation of their successes lay at the feet of indigenous peoples: Those people who acted as guides, protectors, political emissaries, interpreters, and partners. Equals in every sense of the word. The road to reconciliation I believe lies along the path of contribution. The contribution First Nation peoples made in creating this great country is clearly evident every time you pick up a map of Canada.


Plagued by recent riots and unrest, Ottawa seemed distant even as I paddled underneath her skirts. The cranes towering over the Parliament buildings are a sign of the times, of a nation rebuilding, struggling with her past, her present, and an uncertain future.


Like a good many Ontarians, I retreated to Quebec. Kai Nani found a berth in a marina in Hull, barely downstream and in plain sight of Parliament. I sat on the grass, drinking gazeuse, and marvelled at it all and then, just as quickly, none of it. It all disappeared, save the river that had carried me here.


Tourists going for boat tours on the river pointed and stared at the canoe while glancing side-long at me sitting nearby. Tatters  for clothing and deeply tanned, I clearly did not belong to the city. Barely registering above a minor curiosity, I have rarely felt so out of place at a place I couldn’t wait to get to. I wondered aloud, whispering softly, my lips barely moving lest I alarm those staring seen to now start talking to myself, how many other Canadians feel so far removed from the nation’s capital while standing in her shadow.