Travel Channel’s Latest Show Profiles Canadian Family’s Mega-Trek

Text & photos by Bruce Kirkby.

On May 7, 2014, we woke our boys (Bodi, 3 and Taj, 7) before dawn, leading them groggily downstairs in fuzzy pyjamas. A half carton of milk and a box of cereal were all that remained in a kitchen prepared for renters. After a hurried breakfast together, my wife Christine pressed their feet into tiny hiking boots. Then we stepped out the back door… and just kept going.

 

A 77,000 ton container ship carried across the Pacific, from Vancouver to Busan, South Korea. The seventeen day journey was surprisingly comfortable. Here, the ship lies at anchor outside Nahodka Russia, awaiting refuelling. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.
A 77,000-ton container ship carried us across the Pacific, from Vancouver to Busan, South Korea. The 17-day journey was surprisingly comfortable. Here, the ship lies at anchor outside Nahodka, Russia, awaiting refuelling. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.

 

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Launching canoes in the nearby headwaters of the Columbia River, we paddled northwards for five days, until reaching the Trans-Canadian railway, where we left the boats behind and flagged a train to the coast. From there, a 77,000-ton container ship carried us across the Pacific. A swirl of bullet-trains, tuk-tuks, riverboats, taxis, and ferries bore us onwards – through Korea, into China, over Tibet, down to the jungles of Nepal – before spitting us out onto the baking plains of India.

 

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Christine, Taj, and Bodi crest a ridge on the 10-day trek over the Himalaya Range, leading in to the forgotten Kingdom of Zanskar in northern India, near the borders with Pakistan, China and Tibet. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.

 

Upon reaching the Himalayan foothills, we loaded our duffel bags onto donkeys and set out to cross the great range by foot. Ninety-six days after leaving home, we arrived at a Buddhist monastery: a warren of whitewashed buildings plastered across rocky cliffs. The four of us would live here, sharing an 8’ x 8’ earthen room with a senior lama, until the winter snows flew.

 

 

A crew from Travel Channel followed us halfway around the world – producers, camera operators, sound technicians – and the nine-episode series they created, Big Crazy Family Adventure, premieres later this month on Travel Channel (US) and DTour (Canada).

 

Ladakh is a sere, desiccated lands, lying the rainshadow of the Himalaya, yet a co-operative agrarian society has thrived here in isolation for millennia, growing barely and raising livestock using glacial meltwater. Here, our small party sets off across the spine Zanskar range. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.
Ladakh is a sere, desiccated land, lying the rainshadow of the Himalaya, yet a co-operative agrarian society has thrived here in isolation for millennia, growing barley and raising livestock using glacial meltwater. Here, our small party sets off across the spine Zanskar range. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.

 

Bodi holds a baby gharial (as the world's largest crocodile, adults can grow to more than 7m in length) raised in a breeding center in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.
Bodi holds a baby gharial (as the world’s largest crocodile, adults can grow to more than 7m in length) raised in a breeding center in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. BRUCE KIRKBY PHOTO.

Bruce Kirkby is a MEC Ambassador.

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