Words by Dalene Heck / Photos by Pete Heck
We considered two options as we fit ourselves into the kayaks attached to the small dock and pushed off onto the still water of the Lachine Canal.
We could go left and make our way towards the ‘burbs, to savour some quiet and chase the faint hope of a beaver sighting among the reeds. Or, we could turn right to submit ourselves towards the heart of Canada’s second biggest city, and all the buzz and whir that goes with it.
We started with a right turn.
Now that’s a first, I thought to myself, reflecting on sights that I’m not used to seeing while embarking on one of my favourite outdoor activities. Under shallow bridges, bright paint decorated those of the cement posts which were visible above the water. Graffiti has few limits, it seems.
Everywhere, construction. Even when we couldn’t see it in the neighbourhoods above us, we could hear it. The gentle sound of paddles scooping the water, that sound which (for me) bests the sound of a child’s laughter, was overwhelmed by consistent hammering.
Paths wind around the canal’s edge overhead and enthusiasts raced or rode upon them. Racing joggers I won against, cyclists, I did not. Cement trucks barreled by and I knew I’d lose that race too.
Wait, why was I racing?
A left turn, please.
We made our way back towards the kayak shop and beyond. While we never lost sight of the city views that surrounded us, the distinct buzz faded.
I could hear my own paddling. I could skim reeds along the edge and search for the elusive beaver, appreciating the song of river birds all the while.
I came upon a fisherman seated and hidden among a clump of trees. Not seeing him until the last second, I was likely close enough to be scaring off his potential dinner. I lifted my paddle to minimize disruption and glided by solely on the power of the canal. We made eye contact and exchanged the old Canadian tradition of raising our hands and slightly dipping our heads – each of us wordlessly apologizing for our existence even though we both had every right to be where we were at that moment.
Pete and I paused at the lock which ended our sojourn. We played around with camera angles, and just sat still to enjoy the near silence.
In the peace of the great outdoors, skimming over a still water’s surface is where I am most content. While I do wholly appreciate a good day in a vibrant city filled with cultural taste-testing and other such experiences, it appears that my two loves of city and kayaking may not be the best mix.
But the important history of the Lachine Canal is enough on it’s own to inspire this excursion, and it did offer another viewpoint of the city that few see.
And for next time, we know. Just turn left.
H2O Adventures offers several options for rental including kayaks, canoes, and electric powered boats.
We happily visited Montréal as guests of Tourism Montréal. All opinions, as always, are our own.