Challenge Yourself!

BCS has embraced an Adventure Training Program since David A.G. Cruickshank first took nine boys to Vermont’s Long Trail in 1971-1972. They hiked in the rain of October, the snow of November, the early spring sunshine of April, and then seven of them completed the trail after graduation in the early summer.

Subsequently, the program has grown and expanded to include rock climbing, solo expeditions, river traversing, white-water rafting and other challenges. The purpose is, and has always been, to teach the students about themselves by challenging them to do things they would not otherwise do, so that they discover that their potential is greater than they would otherwise have thought.

Arguably, this is the most important fundamental lesson there is; the Ondaatje Endeavour will teach this.

List of 7 items.

  • ONDAATJE 2015 - Trekking and Kayaking in Thailand

    Leon Cassier
    Kaitlin Corbeil
    Claus Hardt
    Michelle Rasidescu
    Patrick Zhu

    Rand Al Ladade
    Lynn Harding
    Valérie Turcotte

    After months of preparation and training, the 2014-15 Ondaatje Endeavour took off on March 6 for a 16-day adventure of cycling, trekking, and sea kayaking through Thailand. It started with daily cycling excursions on the outskirts of Bangkok, through rice fields, country roads, historical bridges, and underground temples. The next leg brought trekking in northern Thailand. An overnight train then took them to Chiang Mai where they prepared for a journey through the hills, with every trek leading to a new hill tribe that welcomed them into their community. Sleeping in kitchens and tree houses atop cliffs that fell into nothing but jungle, the group experienced many wonders. Their final destination in the city of Krabi, known for its great island spotting, was reached by plane. The group spent two nights on an island inhabited only by park rangers. Days were spent kayaking to nearby islands to snorkel and explore, along with the neighbouring monkeys and iguanas. The trip made an impression; physical and mental limits were surpassed, potential was realized, and everyone learned a lot about themselves and the culture of Thailand. Not one sunrise in the land of smiles will be forgotten.

    ~ Contributed by Kaitlin Corbeil, BCS'17.
  • ONDAATJE 2014 - Backpacking & Kayaking in Scotland

    Rachelle Hadlock
    Jonathan Hopkins
    Rebecca Leblond
    Taylor Merrithew
    Romy Zeitlinger

    Monica Schafer
    Greg Stevenson

    The 2013-14 Ondaatje Endeavour took five top BCS students on adventures set in Scotland’s historic Highland region, by foot through ancient moors and by kayak to remote island beaches off Scotland’s west coast. Physical challenge and adventure were combined with the study of millennia of human history and culture. In travelling the ancient pathways of Scotland’s remote and rugged landscape, the Endeavour reacquainted participants with elements of Canada’s cultural ancestry, the inner strength required to survive in the wild, and the true potential of the human spirit to endure.  Students and chaperones completed a 5-day kayaking expedition in the Inner Hebrides, a 4-day backpacking expedition in the Highlands of Glencoe, a day tour of the Isle of Skye, and a day visit to London to meet the Ondaatje family, all between June 19 – July 2, inclusive of travel to and from Canada. Before leaving, the Ondaatje group completed a thorough fitness and skill development regimen to ensure that they were prepared for the Endeavour, including:
    •             Regular day hikes on local trails and mountains;
    •             Wilderness skill development sessions at BCS;
    •             Two overnight or longer backpacking trips, carrying everything needed to camp in a wilderness location;
    •             One kayak skill development day, including ‘wet exit’ training;
    •             One open-water paddling day on Lake Memphremagog.
    The 2013-14 group created lifelong memories on their Ondaatje Endeavour, learning about their strengths individually and as a group. All five students returned to BCS the next year and took on significant leadership positions in the school. A heartfelt thank you to the Ondaatje family for making this program possible!
  • ONDAATJE 2012 - Trekking and Hiking in Morocco

    Alexander Brodeur
    Joey Chan
    Tao-Jung (Stephen) Liu
    Ryan Harding-Marlin

    Jasmine Chouinard
    Lynn Harding
    The 2012 Ondaatje Team flew out of Dorval on Friday afternoon and landed in Casablanca before taking a domestic flight to Marrakech.  In Marrakech, we headed over to our riad (bed & breakfast), to drop off our pack-sacs and head for a walking tour of the city.  The open market and souks were busy with activities and people looking for bargains.  Our first meal consisted of a traditional Moroccan spread with musicians and dancers.
    The following morning we departed early for the heart of the High Atlas Mountain, where we would be spending the next week hiking and discovering what we were capable of doing, individually and as a team.  We knew that we could expect a minimum of 12 to 16 km of hiking per day, on rugged steep terrain with the sun bearing down on us, and the altitude potentially causing us difficulties.  We were all up for the challenge.

    We met up with our mule team and drivers on the Oukaimeden grasslands and soon were off on our life-time journey.  We hiked for approximately 6 hours the first day, while Joey rode the mule for the entire trip (basketball injury prior to the trip).  We spent the night in a very tiny Berber village of about 3 houses.  The dinner was super and the accommodation was modest yet good.

    Our second day of hiking, included a very early start, as well as passing though many villages along the Anemane valley.  The villages along the way included:  Imsker, Arg, Amssakrou, Ikis and Tamguist.  At some point along the trail, we reached an altitude of 2200m.

    By the time the third day came along, we crossed the Tamatert pass (2279m) and entered the valley of Imlil.  From here, we broke into two teams.  Joey, Ryan and Lynn explored the village, and got to see how things were made, while Alex, Stephen and Jasmine went for an additional hike to the waterfalls.  Both groups were happy with their discoveries. 

    The longest & toughest days were about to begin...  The climb was steep, the sun was extremely hot and the altitude was starting to take a toll on some members of the team.  Through persistence and team work – everyone succeeded.  We had a snowball fight at the edge of one of the trails, before heading back down, then up yet another mountain.  Along the journey, we were able to visit a school, which was working on math at the time (to the delight of Mrs. Harding), and I got to use the First Aid training I had to help out a young boy that had a severe cut on his upper arm that had begun to fester.

    We were fortunate to spend time in the valley of Assif N’Ouarzane, (part of the Toubkal range) before saying good-bye to the team of mule drivers.
    PHASE 2 of our JOURNEY:
    We returned to Marrakesh, by mini-van and got to spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening visiting Marrakesh, specifically, the ancient fortified city of Medina.  We saw many monuments, an old traditional style University, Jamaa El Dna square which is now classified as a UNESCO world heritage site, the tombs of ancient royalty facing Mecca and many more off the beaten path sites.

    Our next phase included a lot of travel by 4x4.  We left the city for the Dades Valley, Tinerhir, and Erfoud.  We saw a sand castle in the middle of an almond tree field, Kasbah (another UNESCO world heritage site), we walked the length of the Dades gorge, visited the Tinehir Oasis and its famous palm grove and walked the fields of the local farmers/berber.

    We were very fortunate to spend an afternoon and evening at a luxury half-board, where we played 18 holes of mini-putt, ping-pong, jumped on the training equipment and spent some time in the indoor pool and spa.

    On day 11, we headed to the dunes of Erg Chebbi, after visiting local markets, and picking up souvenirs.  We got to 4x4 race in and around the dunes, until we got stuck.  We dug out each of the two vehicles, emptied our shoes of sand, and learned how to wrap a turbin.

    We met with our caravan of dromedary(camels) and guides and zigzagged through the dunes till we got to our camp, “tent city.”   We arrived just before sunset, and were treated to the most spectacular sight.  Mint tea, followed by a delicious Berber dinner of stew and breads, music and dancing rounded out a terrific day.

    Early the next morning, Alex, Jas and Lynn got up early to see the sunrise.  Unlike the three of us, who delayed till the last possible moment to get up.  Our trip back thru the dunes was unforgettable.
    PHASE 3 of our JOURNEY:
    We soon headed towards Marrakech, via the Tizi N’tichka pass on our way to the white city of Essaouira with its blue doors and shutters on the Atlantic Ocean.  Our trip was winding down, but we savoured our fresh fish & seafood lunch, shopped on the side streets, buried Alex in the sand, visited the fortified city that used to stop pirates from attacking in its glorious years.

     Overall, the trip, the team, the chaperones, the guides, the people we met and especially the Ondaatje Foundation, made this trip, a worthwhile challenging experience that will never be forgotten. Thanks everyone.

    Contributed by Ryan Harding-Marlin, BCS'13.
  • ONDAATJE 2010 - Scuba diving in Belize

    Nicolas Charlton
    Sarrah Ewing
    Jessica Ross-Howkins
    Arron Morrow

    Christian Daigle
    Kirby Nadeau

    Sea kayaking in Belize. Put yourself in our shoes. Open ocean and nothing on the horizon except a tiny island. That’s your destination. This seems like a daunting task but it is one that four students, Sarrah E., Jessica R.-H., Nicolas C. and myself, and chaperons, Mr. Daigle and Mr. Nadeau, tackled for two weeks.We departed BCS on the 18th of March, heading south of the boarder to catch our flight from Manchester with our final destination being Belize City. We arrived to the sweltering heat of Belize on the 19th and headed further south to the city of Dangriga. Over the next couple of days we purchased food, packed our bags and headed out 40 miles off the coast to Glover’s Reef. With three days at Glover’s we were taught skills and tips for our upcoming journey and experienced some of the most breathtaking coral reef to be explored in Belize.
    On the fifth day the independent portion of our trip began. We were dropped of at our starting point Coco Plum Island and left to fend for ourselves. We set up tent and cooked supper and headed off to bed to be well rested for our first day on the open sea. The sun rose and the experience began. A seven kilometre paddle lay ahead, but we were ready. We headed out in our double kayaks ready to face whatever the sea could throw our way. After navigating through the Tobacco Range we came to our first destination, Tobacco Caye. We arrived, unpacked and began to explore the island. Over the next two days we snorkelled the reef surrounding the island, went fishing with the locals, enjoyed a day paddle around the island, or took a breather on the beach. Once again we cooked all meals, whether it was a stir fry with coleslaw or hamburgers with potatoes, we never went hungry! Once our seventh day came around, it was time for our next paddle, this time to Southwater Caye. This trip was a little longer than the first, just over eight kilometres, but well worth it! We saw stingrays and other aquatic animals and paddled along side some beautiful coral reef. With only one night at Southwater, we headed directly for the ocean to get some snorkelling in before supper. The next morning we woke up early, ready for another eight kilometre paddle. This time we cut directly across the open sea again to head for Billy Hawk. On this leg of the journey we decided to hop out of the kayaks and drift snorkel to experience some of the deeper waters. As we pulled into the island just before supper, we set up tent and headed straight for the food. We were lucky enough not to have to cook at Billy Hawk, but instead got to experience some of the local cooking of Belize. After doing day paddles to snorkelling spots for two days, we headed back to Coco Plum for our last night. This part of the trip was the longest, over eleven kilometres of open water, and of course, the windiest day of them all. With a head wind of up to 20 nautical miles and swells up to ten feet, it was undoubtedly the most difficult leg of the journey. It is safe to say we were not upset to see land after the stormy sea. Spending our last night by ourselves in the exact same spot in which we started was like being at home again. The next day the boat came to pick us up and we were off to the jungle!   Our first night in the jungle we spent at a lodge just by the Big Falls River. Sufficed to say, it was quite the treat to take the first hot, fresh water shower of the trip! At the lodge we also met up with our guides, Dave, Greg, and Pedro. After getting to know them over supper, we headed off to bed for a well deserved sleep. We awoke early to go birding and to take a peaceful tube ride down the Big Falls River. After we packed up the van and were on the road again. Our next stop was Pedro’s home town of San Teresa where we were given the opportunity to have lunch with the locals and learn more about their culture. After lunch we headed deep into the jungle to begin the river portion of the trip. We paddled down the Moho River, navigating our way through rapids and over 15 foot waterfalls, all just to able to make it to camp each night! The wildlife in the jungle was outstanding! There were iguanas, snakes, tarantulas, and local animals such as the toucan and the tyra. After surviving the jungle for three days, we were fortunate enough to see a local Easter celebration that only occurs every five years or so. It was named the Deer Dance and it represented the Mayan people coming together with nature. Once the celebration was over, we headed back to Dangriga to catch a flight to Belize City to spend our last night there.   It is hard to describe how this trip felt. It was eye opening, amazing, awe striking, thrilling, exhilarating, a once in a lifetime opportunity, incredible! Yet there seems to be only one word that truly captures the experience, and that is, Ondaatje!
  • ONDAATJE 2009 - Horseback riding in Argentina

    Samantha Ewing
    Emma Drew
    Britany Dupuis
    Yu Jin Kang
    Catherine Sinski-Da Ponte

    Just a day before March break, a group of five students and two teachers travelled to Mendoza, Argentina in order to challenge ourselves mentally and physically by horseback riding over the arid Andes mountain range. When we first stepped out of the Mendoza International Airport, which rather resembled a small train station, the scorching air embraced us and grapevines planted right in front of the airport reassured us that we were in one of the world’s largest wine producing countries.
    The first three days gave us some time to relax and look around the city of Mendoza. As we took a short but memorable tour around Mendoza, we absorbed the Argentinean culture by visiting various museums, historical sites and parks. During the first three days, we got to shop around the marketplace at the park and some boutique stores located a few blocks away from the cozy hostel we stayed in.
    After enjoying our free time in the city, we packed up all the gear (riding boots, chaps, jackets, sleeping bags, etc) we needed for horseback riding and trekking, and we headed to the stable where all the ‘Argentinean’ horses were waiting for us. Unlike the stable we trained at (Ecuire Royale), the stable in Uspallata looked like a small dairy farm. Even though a massive sand storm attacked us the minute we arrived at the farm, we weren’t discouraged. We began to unpack everything from our duffle bags and then re-packed everything into small, white saddle-bags. Three guides, or gauchos as they were referred to, and Clara, a loquacious translator from Buenos Aires, came with us on the trip.
    Surprisingly, thanks to the thick padding we had on our saddles, nobody felt sore after five days on horseback, riding 5 to 8 hours each day, in temperatures that averaged about 35°C. However, everyone on this trip did get very bad sunburns that made our skin peel! Other than that, nobody was injured or got sick. We had an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sleep out in the open (not in tents) in the wilderness where we saw a field mouse, llamas, horses, cows and lizards. Ironically what woke us up were the scintillating rays of the moon shining down upon us in the middle of the night.
    Sadly, after trekking on horseback together for five days, we had to say goodbye to our guides Julio, Chapaline, Alberto, and Clara. Despite the fact that our horseback riding and trekking had come to an end, we still had two additional activities to look forward to when we returned to Mendoza. The next day, we travelled by raft for 15km down the Mendoza River, an adventure which took us less than two hours. Then, on our final day in Uspallata, we hiked up to the park on Mount Aconcagua. Even though it took us more than four hours to climb to the park, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of this spectacular mountain.
    During the trip, we got to give each other nicknames, and here are the following:

    Sammy Ewing a.k.a Chapolina
    Catherine Sinski-Da Ponte a.k.a The Make-Up Machine
    Britany Dupuis a.k.a Giggling Casper
    Emma Drew a.k.a Ms.Super-Bladder
    Yu Jin Kang a.k.a The Ultimate Tanning Salon
  • ONDAATJE 2008 - Cycling and trekking through Peru

    Alex Cunningham
    Dominic Jansen
    Heidi Lee
    Laura Logan-Chesney
    Megumi Sakai
    Jason Yin

    Sean Healey
    Dan Pfliger

    Our trip to Peru was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We, six students and two teachers, from the perspective of cyclists and trekkers, were able to see a country that is vastly different from Canada. It is one thing to be a passenger in a car viewing the country’s scenery, but quite another to bike through little villages acknowledging the people, smelling the smells, and tasting the tastes, which added a completely different dynamic to our experience. The cycling was challenging, riding through deserts, along cliffs, in the rain and hail, from long, steep inclines, to small hills at altitude that had everyone in the group gasping for breath. In total, we managed to cycle 500 km, over half of which was done at over 2500 metres above sea level. We all learned more about our own personal physical and mental limits as well as how to deal with our classmates and team-mates in both joyful and stressful situations, both of which we were able to take away from our time in Peru.

    When we were not biking we passed the time playing cards, dodging giant bees, hanging out in hot springs, and hanging out with our awesome guide Saul. Healey kept us entertained with prodding comments and eating the local wildlife, while Heidi’s often hard demeanour softened considerably when she realized that even she was not immune to the effects of traveller’s diarrhea. Jason made the discovery that ice cream would not boost ones IQ, no matter how much he ate; while Nico made great friends with some of Peru’s more prickly inhabitants - the cacti. While our time together in Peru was enjoyable many of us did fall ill at one point or another. Megumi sampled several IV drips throughout our trip, while Laura, Jason, and Nico all tried to console her by sharing a similar gastrointestinal health concern.
    With this experience, we returned to Canada with a very different view of the world. We have witnessed and experienced desserts, remote islands with unique animal life, the world-famous Nazca Lines; seen the deepest canyon in the world, the Colca Canyon; been on the world’s highest elevated lake, Lake Titicaca, trudged along Machu Picchu and even climbed the incredibly difficult and lesser-known adjacent Wayna Picchu. In addition to our trip, the many foods that we tasted were extraordinary. Over our seventeen days we didn’t have a bad meal in spite of the very inexpensive cost; and we managed to give our taste buds new experiences such as guinea pig and alpaca.

    We traveled by bus, plane, train, taxi, bike-taxi, water taxi, trekking, and of course cycling. The beauty and wonder of Peru left us in awe, and the company of our teammates and the tour guides always managed to keep us smiling and inspired. All in all, this was truly a memorable and well-spent March break.
  • ONDAATJE 2007 - Scuba diving in Honduras

    Marie-Pierre Bertrand
    Alison Henderson
    Eric Milic
    Ryan Rodriguez

    My world dissolves into blue and green as I break the surface of the water. Below I can make out a distorted view of bright red and orange – shades that I have never seen anywhere else. Then slowly, as I descend deeper, little schools of silver and purple fish and miraculous coral come into focus and I am transported into the magical world I have been dreaming about for months. My first breath, I remember, was amazing - breathing in a world filled with all of these miraculous strangers.

    While submerged in this Caribbean fantasy, we were very lucky to see leatherback sea turtles, octopuses, amazing sponges and corals and even a whale shark, while learning a lot about these creatures and their environment. But the most important lesson we learned during this Ondaatje Endeavour was teamwork. Nobody can dive alone; it was the buddy system alone that taught us some of life’s most valuable lessons. In this sense, this expedition has been one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences for me. I began the expedition knowing very little about scuba diving. I now have a profound sense of what it is like to work towards a common goal with a group of people and, in the process, develop meaningful friendships. I have learned that it is impossible to succeed if the team does not work together. My dive buddy was MP. Before each dive we had to do a buddy-check, and during each dive we had to make sure the other was okay. If there were any problems we had to be there for them no matter what. We also had to make sure we were in close proximity of our buddies at all times.

    During the Ondaatje Endeavour we did not only learn about teamwork and the ocean environment, we also learned a lot about the Caribbean Honduran culture. We had the chance to work alongside both locals of Utila and people from around the world. We ate local food and we even went into town for some of the island’s most exciting festivals. While it seems incomprehensible that two weeks could make such a profound difference in one’s life, I now believe it can. I did not just come away from my stay in Utila as a better scuba-diver - I feel I emerged as a team-mate, ready and willing to take the invaluable experiences of scuba-diving and apply them to my life.

    It would be an understatement to reflect upon those two weeks as an “experience of a lifetime” because it was so significant to all of us. It was an experience that was beyond my expectations and one which I will certainly continue to build upon.
    - Alison Henderson

    “Be prepared to study at night,” Major Tessier said, right before we left the campus. In my mind I honestly thought that he was joking. I was not aware that this trip consisted of over 20 hours of classes, 100 pages of reading and four tests that we had to study for after completing the reading. Ladies and gentlemen…we were stressed! Especially Eric, Ryan, and I because we knew that if we didn’t pass that first Open Water test we wouldn’t be able to dive at all. Luckily, thanks to our astonishing intelligence, we were able to pass our Open Water exam (the basic scuba diving course), as well as the Advanced (wrecks and caves), Whale Shark specialty, Reef diving, Project Aware (which educated us on the different types of fish and corals), Beautiful Oceans (which talked about the corals and the oceans), and our Nitrox (which allowed us to stay under the water for longer periods of time). We were able to come out of Utila as above average divers, knowing almost everything about the coral reefs and fishes. We were even able to relate to the fishes. For example, Ally is like a parrotfish because the parrot fish is born female but changes into male when it wants to. Never did I think that I could learn so much in such a short period of time - not only about coral reefs, but about culture, and about myself.

    - Marie-Pierre Bertrand

    The daily routine was really fun unless you are what we call a “sleepy-head”. We would wake up at 6:00 A.M. to have a quick bite to eat and a tea or coffee. At quarter to seven we were at the equipment check to get our diving equipment, and by 7:30 A.M. we were on the boat, ready to dive.

    At the beginning of our trip we had a few sleep-ins followed by afternoon dives, but the regular routine was two morning dives, lunch, class in the afternoon, dinner, homework, and then to bed by 10:00 P.M. at the latest. Ten o’clock seemed very late to us as we were exhausted from the diving. Many people don’t think diving is that tiring, but the nitrogen has an effect on your body and it tires you out, especially when combined with 3 hours of class each day! After being certified for Open Water diving, we completed our Advanced course. During this time we did four dives a day on some days, along with class and homework.

    Our second week was spent with one of the two biologists on the island, Jules. Jules had us doing two dives a day, a class after lunch, followed by whale-sharking or snorkeling and a long debriefing. After hours in the hot sun on the boat we finally saw a whale-shark and one of us was lucky enough to film it for information on which type of whale-shark it was. After our whale-shark research course, we spent the rest of the trip learning about the coral reef and filling out fish surveys in the afternoons after diving. These fish surveys are sent to scientists to help them find out more about the abundance of the reef in Utila. One of our afternoons consisted of learning about basic coral and how to grow and plant them. We spent the next afternoon planting coral in a reef hospital zone. These corals will grow and will hopefully make the reef much more diverse.
    - Eric Milic

    Throughout the span of our trip, we were able to complete 29 dives, usually doing between 2-4 dives a day, every day. Three of us had never been diving before and had no real idea what to expect. I’ll always remember our first dive, sitting in the sand patches, surrounded by walls of coral and schools of fish. There was an indefinable silence that was both calming and eerie. With time, that silence became one of the most enjoyable parts of every dive. Being suspended in water some 60 feet from the surface with no noise, no hassles, slowly drifting past vast stretches of bright, lively coral, your mind tends to drift away; a nice relief from our hectic lives back at school.

    Though we sometimes dove at the same locations, every dive was unique. We saw fish that varied from less than an inch in size, like the neon goby, to the 20 foot long whale shark. Each dive was a new encounter, often spotting a new species of fish we had yet to see. Thanks to our newly acquired knowledge we were able to see everything we had learned about right before us. Reefs are home to thousands of species of fish and corals, all depending on each other for survival. We were able to see first-hand the huge impact our species has made on such a fragile habitat. Despite seeing lots of healthy corals, the amount of bleached and diseased corals came as a surprise to all of us. Many species that were once in abundance were now nearly impossible to find. It’s no surprise then that scientists expect all of Earth’s reefs to be wiped out completely within the next 60 years. One of the world’s most populated habitats is quickly dying off and showing obvious signs of it. Luckily, there are measures that are being taken in some places to try and prevent this from happening. In Utila, we visited coral hospitals, a sort of emergency care clinic for sick and diseased corals where they are placed in ideal growing conditions for an extended period of time before being re-transplanted back onto the reef. We also visited protected reef zones where found ourselves amongst hundreds of fish and healthy corals. Luckily, since Utila is still very un-discovered by most travellers, there were still large parts of the reef where corals were thriving. And it was easy to see the difference healthy corals made to the rest of the reef.

    Our night dive gave us the opportunity to see many species rarely seen during the day like squirrelfish and toadfish. As well, we were able to see the corals under a very different “light.” Since UV light absorbs different colors at different depths, diving at night allowed us to see each coral’s true colours.

    Throughout the trip, we experienced unbelievable dives, plunging to depths of up to 110 feet, swimming through caves and sunken ships. We also saw some truly remarkable species of fish as well as turtles and eels and of course, the whale shark. Each encounter was just as memorable as the last, whether it was playing with the territorial damselfish or watching hawksbill turtles chomping down on coral, there was never a single dive that ended in disappointment. The expedition opened our eyes to a whole other world that most people will never see first-hand, exposing both its beauty and the many problems that will make it disappear forever.
                                                                                                                                    Contributed by Ryan Rodriguez, BCS'07.

Bishop's College School is an independent English-language boarding and day school for grades 7 to 12 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.