Noah Richler's Northern travel tips


In the summer of 2011, CBC host Shelagh Rogers and five well-known Canadian writers went to Torngat Mountain National Park in remote northern Labrador. The authors were Alissa York, Noah Richler, Rabindranath Maharaj, Joseph Boyden and Sarah Leavitt, and their task was to soak up the spirit of the North and channel their surroundings into a piece of writing. The resulting stories are available as an e-book from House of Anansi Press -- which is on sale now -- and a portion of the e-book's profits will go to PGIs for Literacy.

The entire journey was captured on film for the documentary Northwords, airing on the documentary channel on October 25. Until then, CBC Books will be exploring their experience in more detail.

And be sure to listen to The Next Chapter's award-winning Northwords episode!


We asked Northwords author -- and prolific traveler -- Noah Richler for some words of advice to any northbound travelers. Here are some of his tips:

What to bring?

"The North is an entirely different world snowbound and when it is not. In truth, it is much easier to travel in winter, bugs not an issue and frozen waters -- to the extent that we may still rely on them -- offering easier transit across stretches that in spring, summer and fall need to be crossed by boat of some kind. But in any season, keeping warm and dry is a matter of anticipating with layers that can be removed or put on easily. The bugs are something, as you will see from the film, and can drive the unprepared, quite literally, mad. Bug dope helps, though I've not been so keen ever since, years ago, I picked up a shovel with hands sprayed with whatever was the strong bug juice that I was using and all the paint came off in my hands. I take a net have but never used it. Still, it's light and easy to have about, as is a flashlight, and a good knife."

What to leave behind?

"Nothing. The plants you tread underfoot take infinitely longer to grow than others closer to the equator. Anything left about takes as long to decay. I tend to bring herbs for my Inuit friends. One likes fresh cilantro, in particular."

What words of wisdom do you wish you'd been given before your trip?

"That it might be a bit foolish, as I organized for a few of us to do, to go iceberg-diving and jump into the gentle harboured waters where the berg we picked was a bay favoured by seals and whales (each of which we saw within metres of us) and undoubtedly polar bears, that I am glad we did not encounter underwater. This was the coldest water I have ever jumped into (and I have done so quite a bit) but I am glad that my memory is only about the wild plunges."

Listen to Noah Richler read his story inspired by the trip on the group's final night in the Torngats:

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