Meet Yellowknife’s urban portage specialist, Amanda Kanbari

Amanda Kanbari portages her canoe in downtown Yellowknife
Amanda Kanbari portages her canoe in downtown Yellowknife. Photo: Sarah Carr-Locke

A photo of a woman portaging a canoe across an intersection in downtown Yellowknife went viral on Sunday and Monday.

Amanda Kanbari, the Yellowknife resident in the photo, came into the Cabin Radio studio to clarify a few things – like, why does anyone need to portage a canoe across Franklin Avenue?

Here’s how that conversation went. Get more like this each day in Cabin Radio’s daily news podcast.

Ollie Williams: Chances are you have seen the image taken at the weekend of a woman portaging a beautiful, bright red canoe through downtown Yellowknife. The photo that I’ve seen was taken at the intersection between Franklin and 49 Street. You see A&W on one side, the government offices on the other, and this person purposefully marching across the road with a canoe perched above her head. That person joins us in studio now. Amanda Kanbari, hello!



Amanda Kanbari: Hi!

Ollie: What on earth were you doing portaging a canoe downtown?

Amanda: Well, you know, I just don’t have a car and it’s the the only way to get it from my house to Great Slave Lake for a nice paddle.

Ollie: Sounds like this is far from the first time you’ve done this…



Amanda: Certainly not the first time. I am definitely an urban portager for sure.

Ollie: This has become a little bit of a sensation just because this great photo was taken – I think it’s Sarah Carr-Locke who took the photo – it’s been spreading online for the last 24 hours. Hundreds of shares. Has this ever caused a stir before? Has anyone ever stopped you before?

Amanda: Never before. But yesterday a lot of people really wanted to help, but had never touched a canoe before – so a lot of people were just coming up from behind and trying to help but they really couldn’t.

Ollie: Don’t do that.

Amanda: I know! They really shouldn’t have done that, but it’s all good. Actually, another wonderful soul – she was jogging beside me – asked if she could take it for a bit. And so she ended up taking the canoe solo down from Arnica Inn to the corner of School Draw and Franklin. That was really nice of her, thank you Gracie!

Ollie: How did it feel to wake up this morning and discover hundreds of shares of this photo, and you’re suddenly Yellowknife famous?

Amanda: It’s certainly cool.

Ollie: I’ve had messages in this morning from people who say they are inspired by you.



Amanda: That is so great to hear. I love that. Are they women?

Ollie: Yes!

Amanda: Oooh! That’s wonderful! I’m so glad. Yes, women – portage your canoes, you can do it! It’s not that hard. Once you get it on your shoulders, it’s OK. Getting it up is a pain.

(Above: Tiffany Ayalik’s wonderful video demonstrating solo canoe carry technique.)

Ollie: At any point when you’ve done this, have you thought to yourself, ‘This is going to look a little bit odd, me portaging this canoe down Franklin Avenue’?

Amanda: I figured Yellowknife’s an odd place already. What’s another urban portager?

Ollie: Any aspirations to get a vehicle and see any of the other many lakes? Great Slave Lake, you can just about portage to. I feel like Prelude is still a little bit outside portaging range.



Amanda: Absolutely. This time, unfortunately, it just worked out that everybody’s car was in the shop so this was a time that I had to portage, but yes, I certainly go out other places.

Ollie: And any advice for first-time portagers, other than Yellowknife is odd enough already so don’t get self-conscious about it? How do you figure out portaging?

Amanda: First of all, you need to make sure you take care of the wind. You need to know where it’s coming from, because that wind is going to whip you around, especially if you are in an intersection, so watch out for that. Lateral movement, that’s a hard one to deal with. So just keep it steady. You got this! And breathe.

Ollie: I love how that was specifically an urban portaging tip as well. I have done a fair bit of portaging and have never had to worry about intersections before. This is a whole new sport! We should have races.

Amanda: That would be incredible!

Ollie: Next Festival on Franklin, block out the downtown. Start-to-finish canoe portage races with old canoes that people don’t mind getting battered about a bit.

Amanda: In fact, it could be added on to the Latham Island paddle race. So everybody comes down from the top of downtown right to Latham Island.

Ollie: Amanda, everybody. She is not only the star of that photo, she’s also the chief organizer of the first official Yellowknife portage races.