Chants, songs and bulrush snack part of monk’s first day on Confederation Trail

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By Eric McCarthy

Journal Pioneer

ALBERTON — There’s a Hare Krishna monk walking Prince Edward Island’s Confederation Trail this week as part of his fourth Cross-Canada trek.

If Bhaktimarga Swami’s (The Walking Monk’s) saffron–coloured robes don’t catch your attention, then maybe the 25 year-old Bluefront Amazon parrot perched confidently on the shoulder of Daruka dasa’s shoulder will.

Daruka is a monk-in-training and he travels by car to drop off Swami at the start of each day’s trek and pick him up at the end of the day. He also provides for him during the day and arranges media interviews and encounters with Swami.

Swami’s fourth cross-Canada marathom started last fall in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He resumed the marathon Tuesday in Tignish, covering 35 kilometers of trail to Bloomfield. He normally does a full marathon a day, 42 kilometers.

“I’m turning 60 this year, so I’m slowing it down a little bit. My knees are telling me so. You know, your body is it’s own guru. It’s telling you what you can take and what you cannot take,” Swami said upon returning to Alberton’s Old Stone Station Park for a meal after completing Tuesday’s trek.

Swami describes his walk as “Time for myself, time for inner-development, (and) time for introspection.” Hare Krishna chants takes up about two hours of each day’s walk.

“I like to start early in the morning with a walk. This morning it was quarter to five, so that I can have my little peace to do that, my little time to chant.” Here are songs to sing, people to meet and nature to enjoy.

The trail here allows you a lot of time for doing that kind of stuff,” he said. “It’s a place of incredible solitude here, this trail. It’s wonderful.”

Previous treks in 1996, 2003 and 2007, were conducted primarily along sides of roads.

Depending on the time of the year and where he is at, trails can be dangerous. He has had encounters with a Grizzly Bear in a previous trek.

On Tuesday his most common encounter was with black flies and mosquitoes.

“You become bug smart and wildlife smart,” he acknowledged, adding that working oneself into a frenzy over the bugs only makes things worse.

Swami acknowledges his appearance often strikes curiosity in folks. He’s eager to chat with whomever he meets.

“There’s a lot that can inspire you just by the simple things people do,” he said. “I hope that I can mutually do the same thing, just by walking and trying to tell people, ‘hey, we need to spend a little more time to take care, not only of our bodies but our souls.’”

Swami suggested North Americans are generally out of balance in the way they live.

“We’re pretty good with the recreation, very good with the work. We have our commitments there, but when it comes to that introspection, we’re a little bit on the weak side.

“We need some time for reflective walking.”

While he has received some help from his own community in starting out on his trek, Swami admits he also relies on generosity of strangers. “Kindness is there when you need it,” he said. Provisions include a Grand Marquis, tent and Coleman stove. A snack along the way on Tuesday consisted of tender bulrush stems.

Swami’s trek will take him to the Manitoba border by fall. He will pick up next spring where he leaves off.

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