Monday, October 13, 2014

#Humber2Algonquin: A Gourmet Foodie from India Learns to Cook Over a Canadian Campfire

By: Neerav Gandhi, a Global Business Management student from India

The trip started with a contest through the Humber International Centre and me participating in it. I was very clear that I wanted to something adventurous for my birthday. And you may call it a co-incidence that Humber decided to plan a camping trip around my birthday. I had been on camping trips in India, but they’re all very modern in their approach—for example, we would go camping but stay in hotels instead of tents, and we would have bathrooms instead of thunder boxes. I was surprised to see that some of my friends expected the same.

For me, the trip was a break from all that I was doing: working, volunteering, running my small business, and even using the phone, Internet, messaging and what not. I knew I could celebrate my birthday in peace and tranquility with my love if I was on this trip. I had never been camping before in Canada, so it was my first opportunity, and I was very excited.

In the early morning of August 22, we boarded a cute yellow school bus and headed straight to Algonquin with some students who became amazing friends at the end of it. We reached Algonquin, took our canoes, paddles, life jackets and left to find our campsite in the park. This was my first attempt at canoeing, and after some quick lessons by our lovely instructors Amir, Eric and UV, we were off to using our paper map to look for an empty campsite. We split into groups and the experience that followed was a life-changing one. Amidst nature and complete calmness, we set out to setup our amazing tents, chop wood for our campfire and get our little community ready.

During the first evening, my chef instincts came alive while looking at the food barrels. I decided to cook for all the lovely people around. Keeping in mind the menu planned, we made some fresh baby cucumber and tomato salad and gnocchi in herbed tomato sauce followed by our stuffed banana dessert in the special Dutch oven that was there. The bananas were stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate chips, which turned out to be one of the most innovative desserts I had ever had. We called it a night after a tiring day, making sure to lock up all the aromatic stuff on us (deodorant, toothpaste, perfume, cologne, etc.) in the airtight barrels and keeping it away from the site to avoid midnight interactions with bears.

The next morning was amazing, with the guides deciding to play a game of chasing each other’s canoes and tipping in the lake. It was a lot of fun as the water was calm and cool, making it my first dip in the lake. There was bright sunshine, clear weather and time to take some amazing pictures. Lunch was simple with some hummus, baba ghanoush, pita bread and lots of granola bars. During the early evening, most of us spent time forest-walking with Amir who explained to us its various elements. There were different kinds of trees, creatures, mushrooms, plants and so much flora that we were in awe. The sunset was beautiful to see with deep orange skies and slowly the stars coming into sight with their shining rays. Dinner was a tad exotic with corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, lentil rice and stir-fried vegetables.

A little later, we decided to go canoeing a away from the campsite for stargazing. What I saw was the most amazing sight ever - a clear sky full of stars, full moon, and the hazy Milky Way running across. Shooting stars were spotted every 2 minutes. This was the epitome of calmness, serenity, tranquility and peace. I was breathing and felt so small and humble in this humongous universe.

And then came the best part of the evening – my surprise birthday cake. A few of my friends back at the camping site were busy preparing this special cake covered with nutella, marshmallows, and chocolate chips to blow my mind away. It was so special to me that I couldn’t thank them enough. We sang, while Amir played the guitar. We slept like babies that night.

I wasn’t looking forward to the next morning, as I knew it was time to pack up and leave. But I was taking away from this trip my new best friends, lots of happiness, peace and amazing moments that will live with me forever.

I would like to thank the Humber International Centre—especially MatthewKeefe and Overhang Adventures—for putting on such an amazing trip, which will be remembered forever. Thank you.

Lots of love,

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