Existing Member?

2011 The Nightingale's Oddessy Our exchange year in Canada.

Camp Wanakita CLEE weekend 27/02/2011

CANADA | Thursday, 3 March 2011 | Views [370] | Comments [4]

Hi folks and welcome back.

Let me begin by stating I am totally knackered and I think that that might also apply to the other exchanges and their families that participated in last weekend’s activities.

Once again we were away for an action packed weekend, this time we travelled 3 hours North of Toronto to a YMCA camp called Wanakita. The weekend was kindly organised by members of the Canadian League for Educational Exchange, most of whose members have undertaken exchanges to Australia.

Camp Wanakita is located North East of Barrie which itself is North of Toronto. It is in the Lake Country and is situated on Koshling Lake amongst fir trees. It is a large camp that runs activities all year round, it is what you see and hear about on American sitcoms when they send their kids off to summer camp. It has all the facilities you could possibly need and all equipment is provided. The cabins themselves are designed for 10-12 people with a room set aside for a Camp leader or counsellor, each cabin has its own toilet/shower facilities and is heated making them very cosy apart from the standard camp mattresses, all you need to bring is your own bedding.

Our weekend started on Friday afternoon with the kids and I picking up Mum from school and heading off. I had hoped to arrive sometime between 18:00 and 19:00, but Gertrude Petunia Sprout (otherwise known as GPS) had other ideas and proceeded to take us on back country roads. I am rapidly losing faith in good old Gerty. Most of you know I love driving but some off the gloss wears off when you are driving along roads that have no lights, it is pitch black and you are unable to make out the line markings, add to this the fact that the headlights on high beam are no better than candles, it makes it very challenging anticipating the road ahead. Anyway around 20:15 we arrived at the camp and made our way to our allotted cabin. The kids quickly allocated themselves top bunks, there being plenty to choose from, while Mum and Dad grabbed the counselor's room.

After settling in we made our way to the dining hall. We met up with all the other families, most of them where Australian, with a couple of Swiss, French and Poms thrown in. Some like us had arrived in Canada around Xmas, others, one or two of the Aussies and most of those from the Northern Hemisphere have been here six months already. A lot of us had met already at the welcome conference last month so it was nice to catch up again and the kids quickly renewed friendships and took off together in to a separate room that had activities organised for them. The night was spent socialising and getting introduced to our camp facilitators and the routine for the weekend. The program was designed in such a way that there was always two or three activities on offer at any one time and equipment available for those who just wanted to go off and do their own thing, there was also no pressure on people to join in and those that just wanted to relax, read, socialise or just go for a walk could do so.

Saturday morning up early and out for breakfast. The meals provided us over the weekend where superb, with the kitchen staff going to a lot of trouble to keep us all fed. After breakfast it was an introduction to cross country skiing for all. I have to say cross country skiing is not my thing, I have all the grace and co-ordination of a centipede on roller skates, I did however perfect the technique of braking and have the bruise on my left hip to prove it. Michelle as usual was very graceful on skis and really enjoyed it, even professing her preference for cross country over downhill. Ryan and Tash only managed to stay upright on skis marginally longer than I, but it was a lot of fun all the same.

After the cross country lesson two options were on offer: A guided cross country ski and a high ropes course. Chelle and the kids went off on the ski while I tackled the high ropes. This course was different to others I have done as it wasn't making your way across ropes strung between poles, but a vertical playground, with ladders, tyres, cargo nets etc all connected together vertically so the whole thing sways as you climb it, which makes the thing a lot more difficult. A lot of the men and some of the boys had a go at this, of course with a lot of testosterone around it soon became competitive in a fun way. However it was one of the younger girls who set off first and set the pace. I am sure one or two people were monkeys in disguise, as they were up and down in the blink of an eye. I am happy to say I didn't disgrace myself and while not making it all the way up I reached the 3/4 mark. It was very hot and tiring though ascending in a couple of layers of clothing in minus temperatures.

After the ropes it was back to the dining hall for lunch and meet up with Chelle and the kids, all having enjoyed themselves, Chelle probably more so than the kids. Fortunately it wasn’t until near the end of the trek that someone told Chelle a black bear had been seen in the area a couple of weeks before otherwise she may have thought differently about doing it. Aside from bears there are wolves, moose, beavers and lots of small critters in the area. Unfortunately we didn't see any, though Chelle did come across a tree that a beaver had brought down over night.

After lunch Michelle headed out for a guided snowshoe trek while the kids and I went tobogganing. Arriving at our designated location there was a sign pointing in opposite directions, one way to Little Cardiac Hill, the other to Big Cardiac Hill, was this an omen??? While standing there gazing at this Chelle’s group tramped past us and headed up Big Cardiac, the fools. Thankfully for us we were only tackling the smaller hill, mainly because it was the faster of the two, not having any plateaus on the way down. From all the screaming and giggles it was obvious everyone enjoyed themselves. Most of the loudest screams coming from a little 8 year old I happen to know. Ryan and a mate can possibly take the award for the best stack of the afternoon. They managed to mount the snow bank on the side and then parted company with the toboggan to slide down the slope separately, a bit bruised and the worse for wear. I only had one go, grabbing a mattress and heading off at speed only to blaze a trail into the trees shortly after. Once back on track I rocketed down the slope and promptly lost my helmet which had a broken strap and then proceeded to part company with my bearskin hat which I had underneath. At the end of my run one of the mums commented that it had now become adult tobogganing and that they were worried about what other clothes I was going to shed.

Mid afternoon it was time to head down to the lake and for Chelle to fulfil one of her dreams, ice skating on a frozen lake. Just out from the shoreline an ice rink had been prepared and those who had brought ice skates could have a go. Tash is becoming quite good at skating and mum was out there giving her lessons and also lessons to one of the teenage girls that was with us. Ryan was content to race along chasing the other boys and is getting more confident. Once again I felt it safer for everyone involved if I just stood to the side and took photos. Toward the end a light snow started to fall, so back to the main hall to warm up and have dinner, a couple of beers and some wine.

Saturday evening’s activities were: a guided walk to a camp fire and roasting marshmallows for the young ones and a game of broomball for the adults, Ryan and a couple of the other boys snuck in with the adults and came and played broomball. For those who have never heard of it, broomball is similar to ice hockey, except you do not wear skates and you use a stick with what looks like a small plastic broom on the end and instead of a puck you use a miniature soccer ball, like I said similar. We played on a flooded basketball court and as far as I could tell there are no rules except get it in the opposing team’s goal, luckily we were issued helmets with face guards. Michelle perfected a great technique of blocking the ball, basically it entails falling over in front of it, if that fails fall over in front of an opposing player or just generally fall over, she even made me look good. One of the three goals by our team was mine:-P

With the snow falling heavier it was back to the dining hall for a sing song, some light entertainment and a few drinks. The Aussies all joining together in a couple of rousing choruses of Waltzing Matilda and Give me a home among the Gum Trees. After a couple of drinks and a long day it was off to an early..ish bed for most.

Sunday, up early and pack the cars, as there was a school group arriving later in the day and we needed to be ready to clear out. After breakfast we all went our own ways for the first activities.

Tash: Had a quiet start by staying inside with her new found friends and doing craft activities,

Ryan: Headed down to the lake for a game of ice hockey,

Chelle: Went for another guided cross country ski and

I went ice fishing.

Ice fishing, hmmm... Here’s a sport that’s not going to catch on in Australia Lol. To be truthful I’m not sure why it’s so popular here. It basically entails heading out onto a frozen stretch of water cutting a six inch hole through the ice with an auger, drop a line attached to a two foot rod through the ice and sit there jigging the line up and down in the hope that a fish that is not trying to expend much energy by moving, is going to come by and take the bait. I think the attraction of ice fishing if you are on your own, is the peace and solitude. Or if with someone else the companionship, or maybe for those with a heated ice hut and all the amenities, it may be the six pack they take with them. Leaving the ice fishing hole I headed back to the shore where I watched Ryan play ice hockey. It seemed he had forgotten he has wobbly legs and was skating well, that or having a stick to prop him up was helping, either way he was giving as good as he got.

Mid morning it was time for the last activities of the weekend, Ryan went off to play broomball with the kids, Chelle and Tash headed off to the toboggan run, where Tash once again scared off all the wildlife for miles around and I went and don some snow shoes and headed out across the lake which was covered in the 15cm of snow we had had the night before. I had a pair of traditional snow shoes, so got to appreciate what it must have been like for the early pioneers traipsing through the snow, it gets tiring after a while.

Lunch time and our last meal before departing, names and addresses were passed around with invites to come and visit. Hopefully we will be catching up with most people in May for a weekend that has been organised in Ottawa. Also later in the year in Fall another weekend is being organised back at Wanakita, so hopefully we will be able to see the colours of Autumn in all their glory.

Highlights of the weekend:

For Tash: Making good friends, generally having fun and getting to eat rocks on Saturday night that crackled and popped in her mouth and tasted a bit like peppermint (Lifesavers, but don’t tell her).

Ryan: Too many activities to mention, but I think broomball and ice hockey were a hit.

Chelle: I think she really enjoyed the cross country skiing and the chance to fulfil a dream of skating on a frozen lake and

For me: Standing alone in the middle of a frozen lake and just being able to turn 360º and see islands with fir trees covered in snow, something I would never have dreamed of doing.





  S & R Ryan Mar 3, 2011 8:35 AM


I got exhausted all over again reading your terrific story! Nice one Ken!

It was such an action packed weekend wasn't it? We can't wait to go again in Autumn.

Hey, you guys are only just up the road "a county mile" we should get together for a meal or something every now and again - you guys interested?

  austeachers Mar 8, 2011 12:18 PM


It sounds just like a fairy tale/ I also dream of skating on a frozen lake. The view of fir trees covered in snow sounds also magical. I am sure living in the snow is not magical for those used to it but for us in the land of oz it sounds great.

  Jenny Richardson Mar 9, 2011 8:52 PM


Awesome story Ken....

  Mel Mar 22, 2011 9:11 PM

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About cheken

Where I've been

Photo Galleries

My trip journals



Travel Answers about Canada

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.