Paddles his Kayak 11,000 kms
The Greater Loop
Interview by Karen Irvine
Mark Ervin got in a kayak in Halifax to do what he calls The Greater Loop and paddled 11,000 km round trip. To put it in perspective, that’s like paddling from Norway to Peru.
Before Mark left, he sold his house. He says, ‘I wanted to get rid of some of the cares in this world. So I sold my house and bought an apartment, moved all my things into a container.’
Although Mark is Canadian, he met his Norwegian wife and has lived in Norway for 25 years. She passed from brain cancer 11 years ago.
What led Mark to tackle this monumental trip? He said, ‘I really believe that life is seasons of time. When you marry and have children, when you have a career, and somewhere along the line when you get a bit older. The window of opportunity opened up and I wanted to see and experience things I’ve never done before. I wanted to be alone just to rethink life, self awareness, self acceptance and self caring. Just try to reboot some of the things in my life that might prepare me for this next stage I’m entering into. Sometimes it’s difficult to redefine direction when you are caught up in everyday things. So I said, Mark, you’re gonna go on a long, long holiday (laughs). And that’s exactly what I did.’
‘When you take on a trip of this magnitude, you leave one type of stress and get into another one (laughs). I didn’t know what would happen each day – I didn’t know where I would sleep. I didn’t know what would happen. It could be a nice day and within 15 seconds it can get dangerous. It’s definitely the unknown’, he told me.
I asked how the Kawarthas compared to the rest of his trip. ‘The Trent Severn Waterways in the Kawartha area was the most beautiful paddles of the whole trip. It was far more beautiful than the Rideau Canal. It was further in nature and there wasn’t a lot of civilization around it. It was serenity that engulfed me. And I loved Georgian Bay, the soft windswept rocks and the clear water you can just drink out of’.
What did Mark find out about himself that he didn’t know before? ‘You’re exposed to pure nature for such a long period of time and are exposed to people who are honest with no agenda. We live in a staged reality. In our relationships with people there’s always some who want a piece of you. But meeting people along the way, there was no agenda. That authenticity has really affected me. I have a much more drive to be authentic with myself and to be more honest with my relationships and myself. It’s been a purification, where I think genuine things. I want to be more in touch with genuine people.I want to downsize in a big big way and it’s driving me to a more simplistic life.
Did this trip satisfy his adventurous mind? Mark answered, ‘I think it comes down to who you are as an individual. How you interact with society is dependant on you. I’m not going to be a hermit. I will live in society but not allow society to take a piece of me. I haven’t really digested it all yet. Thankfully, I’m finished with the trip. I don’t miss it as it was a tremendous mental strain’. When you do something like this, you are exposed to a different type of lifestyle and adventure. Suddenly the idea that the world is open in a way that it never has before. I have more ambition to explore than every before,’ he said.
Was the trip dangerous? He said, ‘The last 10 kms before Halifax, I was on my home stretch and encountered a great white shark that was only 9 feet from my kayak. I just stopped and didn’t move and just let it pass. In Alabama, I woke up to what sounded like a dinasaur with dentures (laughs). I got out of my tent and there was a huge bore. I blew on my whistle and it sauntered off. I paddled through Lake Okeechobee in Florida and it has 31,000 alligators. Right before I started to cross, I got torpedoed by alligators on both sides of me. I looked behind and saw a huge one following me. I paddled as hard as I could for 3 minutes full out. It got to a metre from me and it just gave up. That really scared the hell out of me. We’re not on their food chain, but sometimes we get in their way.’
‘When you do something like this, you are exposed to a different type of lifestyle and adventure, so suddenly the idea that the world is open in a way that it never has before. I have more ambition to explore than every before’, he said.
He filmed the whole trip. Unfortunately, he lost five months worth of footage when the front hatch wasn’t locked down properly and water got into the boat ruining his computer and cameras.
Mark has written two books that are being edited right now. Toilet Training the Mind, Rethinking Life While You Sit, and his second book, Fifteen Meters Down – chapters about what you would think about in your last minutes in life when you are dying.
Follow Mark’s YouTube channel at