Paddling the Mae Taeng, Part 1: A Voyageur and His Wives

Today’s post will focus on da paddlers. Next post will talk details – river, camping, gear, surprises etc. for anyone who wants to do a similar trip.

Last Sunday, T-bone gathered his two wives, David and Ruth, and headed to the Mae Tang river. No, Todd does not actually endorse polygamous behaviour, but his favourite historical paddling heroes, the Voyageurs, sure did. Every time T-bone gets near a river, he starts dreaming of being a Voyageur, and this trip was no different. For the uninitiated, the Voyageurs were a hearty group of French-Canadians who routinely paddled across Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries to collect beaver pelts from First Nations communities. They played an important role in founding Canada, and are at least partially responsible for the fact that an overgrown swamp rodent is our national animal. They also had multiple wives – city wives and country wives. City wives were the official/legal wives, and they were fine for doing city/wifely things, but when you’re on the river for months on end, you need a husky broad on location who can skin beavers/lug your boats/maybe sew you a coonskin cap or something. The concept of a country wife was just too darned convenient for us to pass up, so we nominated David for the role.

Todd cannot believe his good fortune

The highly delineated roles of a Voyageur and his wives really worked well for our team. The tasks weren’t always traditional, but they got done with a certain je ne sais quoi that just wreaked of French-Canadian history.

Voyageur Todd: Fishing, Bannock-making, Navigating, Looking Visionary/Noble

Voyageur Todd did his best to fill those large francophone shoes by fishing and making bannock.

Sadly, he never caught anything. Perhaps this was because every man, woman, dog, child, and monk seemed to be out dredging the river with nets and spears at all times.

How can fish not want to be caught by such kindly folks?

Fortunately, his bannock making experiments were more successful. A nice hunk of beaver fat would undoubtedly have cranked up the flavour, but the Voyageur did pretty well with vegetable oil.He was also very good at gathering fire wood in his  birchbark canoe kayak.And navigating rivers. His navigation may not have saved me from flipping my boat, but it did provide some pontificating-full photos.


Country Wife David: Jumping off stuff, hauling wood/water/tents/boats/everything, being perpetually perky, and offering the best facial expressions a photographer could hope for


Poses like this cannot be taught 

David had a knack for simultaneously making photogenic expressions while being ready to launch himself off the ground and haul stuff around the campsite. The perfect Country Wife.

The Voyageur doesn’t even realize what’s lurking behind him…

Mere words are inadequate.

David also enjoyed hauling boats and assorted schtuff on bizarre portage routes that he and the Voyageur dreamed up.

I won’t reveal the body of water that they decided to portage into, but let’s just say that it rhymed with “Irritation Locale”

City Wife Ruth: petting animals, conducting cooking experiments, growing algae colonies in my hair, sniffing out beverage/bladder stops

The little cow that tried to eat my arm. I think he liked the flavour of whitener-enhanced sunscreen.

I like to pet dogs, but even I drew the line at this one.

I conducted a variety of culinary experiments that ranged from successful to highly dubious and borderline poisonous. Fortunately, the Voyageur and Country Wife were a willing test audience.

I knew that banana flowers were edible. Unfortunately, I forgot which part.

Fortunately, some of the recipes worked out well, so I could hold onto a bit of City Wife cred.

Roasting eggplant, red pepper, and garlic in the coals. The hair/algae colony is only on day 4 at this point.

Sister wives can be friends!

The trip wasn’t quite full of enough hardship/misery/beaver fat to make Todd’s Voyageur dreams come true, but at least he nailed the wife bit, and got to bellow his favourite paddling song whenever the urge hit.

Next up: The River!

Forts, Folks, and deFormed Cows in Jaipur

Magically, as soon as we left the polluted hole otherwise known as Jodhpur, our spirits revived almost immediately. Almost, because we first had to endure an eleven hour bus journey. Our hotel owner booked us on what can only be termed the “milk run,” and must have pocketed the change. The bus picked up and/or dropped off every man, woman, and child in Eastern Rajasthan.

Fortunately, Jaipur was a different story. Like Jodhpur, it had a cool fort:


The Amber Fort, located just outside the city.

It also offered some fun human/bovine/ puppet encounters. Tourist season is in full force, and massive swarms of Indian tourists were everywhere. There is a fun trend in India called “get your photo taken with a foreigner,” and everywhere we went, we were asked to pose. My favourite was when men wanted their photo taken with Todd, and insisted on holding his hand in the picture.

Our new adopted family Some adorable kids at our hotel who had never seen white people up close, and requested a photo.

We also bumped into a young philosopher named Dinesh, who wanted to sell us a puppet. When we told him we weren’t interested, he settled for a conversation about the meaning of life. We chatted for awhile while I drank multiple lassis from a street vendor. When we had to leave, he gave us one of his puppets as a gift. I promised to write about him on my blog.

There may have been some secret hand holding in this photo. Not sure.

Speaking of puppets, we were also treated to a puppet show by a few young doofuses at our hotel. It included a Michael Jackson puppet with amazing dance moves who sang a Frere Jacques/Macarena medley. For this rare privilege, they allowed us to pay as much as we wished. Todd paid them more than I wished.


And finally, this fun li’l cow. Its body was a normal size, but it had dwarf legs. I may have laughed really hard and followed it for a block. What a gem.


I left Jaipur unscathed, and with my bruised love for India mended.