Friday, 31 August 2012

A final sign off from me also.....I largely reflect the comments of Gandalf below.
Fantastic experience and adventure, lots of memories to cherish. At present it is difficult to believe little over 3 weeks ago i was paddling along the coast of the Arctic Ocean.
Big thanks to all the residents of the NWT who helped along the way.

Team MacKenzie two days from completion

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I am going to close my part of the blog.
I have returned to life at home and am gradually getting back into previous routines. I continue to struggle to get in touch with my thoughts and feelings around the whole Mackenzie experience. It seems distant, unreal somehow. I am writing an account and that is helping. Perhaps I will make that public, perhaps not. Its a slow process but rewarding and the trip deserves that finish I believe.
Some things are clear. I am appreciating our good old, for ever changing Scottish weather, rain, winds,sun and off course no bugs to talk of. I'm enjoying the dark nights and sleep has returned.
I continue to be touched by the amount of people who have supported and followed the journey. A final thanks guys.
Yes, it is good to be back.
Where now?

Saturday, 4 August 2012

We made it! Arrived in Tuktoyaktuk 1st August 2.30 p.m. Tired and relieved.
I will give an account of these last 5 days directly from my daily journal.

Hot weather again - 30 plus no clouds - No relief from the sun but made good miles with what breeze there is behind us.
28th July - camped Reindeer station (old hunting station now being rebuilt by Inuvick aboriginal community). Bugs are the worst we have known them. Could only clean our teeth under our nets and were soaked in sweat by time we had escaped into inner tents.
29th - Got out of that place asap and had breakfast after a few miles. another hot day and both of us drained physically. I am in contact with Inuvick Coastguard on the VHS radio which is reassuring as we are into the potentially most hazardous part of the trip.
Really tired and wishing for it to be over.
Camped at foot of Caribou hills. Had a seal visit the camp. I suppose lost, as it is 40 miles from the sea?
Oh, we saw moose and young moose swimming.
30th - no longer any trees. Tundra. River big and wide and very shallow. which is scary as sometimes we have to paddle over 1K to go round mud banks and we are very exposed to winds. But weather continues to be kind. Camped near Swimming Point (where caribou and moose swim across the river).
31st - Wind definitely from north west and increased as day went on. Next to no current so we are earning every penny. Wind increased as day went on and we have been forced to shore, prob about 30 K from our destination. Good campsite, good meal but spirits low. We/I are ready to finish but it seems a long way to cross the line. Are we in the Arctic ocean or the Mackenzie River? I think both. There is a definite big ocean swell coming in. Are we able to get round the "points" I can see in the distance? Not in this wind!
Lots of fears. Have we got the skills? Will the weather be ok?
!st August - The wind dropped during the night and although dull and threatening rain, we struck camp 6.30 a.m. and on the water by 7.20 a.m. The wind did not increase and the sea state was manageable and we made good time along the coast to Tuk.
2nd August - Michael swam in the Arctic Ocean (not for long as some mosys were hanging about) and we explored Tuktoyaktuk and bought some gifts. Spent a chunk of the day sorting out our stuff for shipping back to U.K. Managed to change our flights and flew out at 7.00 p.m.

The last leg of the journey was the most difficult. Physically and psychologically. We were both very tired, there was no current to help, and navigating the end of the Delta and the coastline was undoubtably the most challenging, from a paddling perspective.

Now that it is over and we are safely ensconsed in our hotel in Edmonton, I am struggling to express how I feel about the trip and Michael is the same. I need some time and space to process the experience, talk to someone else and when I have done that, I plan to finish this blog with some of those thoughts. Perhaps Michael will wish to do the same.

I know there have been many of you following this journey and would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and encouragement. It has meant a lot.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday 27th July, no Olympic fever here in Inuvik.
We arrived last night in 'The Land of the Midnight Sun', shower, laundry and eating out was on the agenda, happy again after 3 hard days.
We left Tsiigehtchic on Tuesday, 15k after Tsiigehtchic we entered the MacKenzie delta where basically the Mosquito's are worse, current near non existant, the banks are steep and muddy and apparently grizzly bears are more common.  It was a tough three days, not helped by a poor start - after about an hour on the water from Tsiigehtchic we were forced to the banks of the river for a few hours as a big storm came in, we past the time with fire and shelter building, one of these activities was more successful than the other, Tipi's appeared so easy to build?
Thankfully the weather has been ok since, overcast but not too much rain or wind.  Some very nice views also and generally we have done some good paddling.  There are around 126 different species of birds living in the Mackenzie Delta - we counted at least a dozen bald eagles on Thursday alone.

We are back on the water tomorrow for the last leg, the last leg will undoubtedly be the toughest. With the Arctic Ocean/Beaufort sea awaiting us the weather will definitely dictate our progress more than ever. Sourcing drinking water will also become an issue as we enter the latter stages as I am not too fond of salt.  We will have to take our chances to get water when they come and load the boat encase we are storm bound for an extended period....fingers crossed.

Some facts on Inuvik i read last night....
56 days of 24 hours of daylight (late June, July and early August)
Mean Annual Temp -9.7 degrees Celsius
Extreme Max +32.8 degrees Celsius
Extreme Min - 56.7 degrees Celsius
Population 3,400

Campsite at 'Point Seperation' we left the main river and turned left up the East Channel towards Inuvik, in doing so we entered the MacKenzie Delta (Canada's largest and the worlds 12th largest Delta (full of facts today))

Inuvik 'Igloo Church' - the only building in any of the the settlements worth a photograph, the architecture along the Mackenzie is understandable built for functionality rather than aesthetics.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sun set from camp spot at Fort Good Hope
Much needed nap time - Rae acting as mosquito food

Locked and loaded, shamelessly wearing our Palm gear for their facebook page - we chose a different picture (Palm kindly gave us gear at cost when Dad wrote to tell them about the trip)

Evening view from the tent, sunset at this point was around 2am ish, the sun doesnt truly go down now and is unlikely too before the end of the trip.

High fives, reached the Arctic Circle!

Filtering water, no decent creeks so the water is pretty muddy, although likely ok to drink it is a little crunchy! The millbank bag filters the water so it looks and tastes ok - no bits.

Pre-paddle pose

Campsite across the Arctic River from Tsigehtchic
Ok. First, boring old weather report! But so important for us as our day is defined by sun, rain, wind, things which at home we can escape from. I say "they" but really it is our attitude to the elements that define our day.
Less hot the last few days and changeable. More winds, which can be scary when on the water as white horses develop literally in a few minutes. And the river is bigger and slower as we move down.
We arrived in Arctic Red River last evening, so 2 more legs of our journey to go. Our last stage was 8 days paddling and we are tired and welcoming the break today.
Mixed feelings about reaching a settlement (this one is small - 200 pop. ). Good to hopefully get a shower and goodies from the store, speak to loved ones, catch up on e'mails, etc. but the freedom that comes with living on the banks of the river vanish and we have to now cope with beholding to others for our basic needs, which although is usually given freely, can be awkward, bounderies can be blurred, unclear. Also camping near, or in the community means noise, which goes on late, dogs barking - people really are the problem in this world ! Or is it me? Whatever its good to be back on the river and tomorrow we head for Inivuk where there is an arts festival in progress, so that I'm sure will be interesting.
A word about personal hygiene. Michael has just read Ranulph Fines biography and apparantly he did not wash for 7 months on some Arctic expedition. My concern is that M. sees him as a good example and a reason to continue not to change his socks! No wonder the moose are staying clear of our campsites.
Possible hard 2 legs of the trip coming up and there is part of me wanting it to be over. The challenge for me, us, is to prepare well, and live in the days left, and not wish the trip finished. Continue to enjoy this amazing experience. When the going gets tough its so easy to tap into that illusionary, materialistic type of protected living, which I often seek, but really does not fill my soul!
Michael and I are working well as a team, up until now! We are different and similar, in many ways but are communicating pretty good and something is working.
First shower for 8 days coming up today - YES!! and fresh fish for tea tomorrow, so things are ok. Weather settled at the moment and our physical health holding up. Love to all.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

We arrived in Fort Good Hope on Friday afternoon, the paddle from Norman Wells was tough, the current was very slow and we had some UK weather to contend with, high winds and rain meaning we spent a lot of time on the river banks waiting for the river to calm down. The day we left we also had to endure two portages, fairly short but we have a lot of gear, thankfully it is highly unlikely we will be faced with another.

Norman Wells was fantastic, met some really good people, accommodation was great and i got to experience a NWT bar on a Saturday night at 2am - not much different to what i imagine Alness would be like on a Saturday night.  We also got to watch the entire tennis, shed a tear for Murray.

The two recognized rapids on the Mackenzie lay between Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope, it was good to finally get these out of the way and in the end they weren't too bad, skipper Rae steered us pretty much clear of them.  The scenery has been pretty stunning at times, the 'Ramparts' particularly - the Ramparts is flanked by high cliffs and is relatively narrow (prob just under a k).

Today we have went to the Northern Store in Fort Good Hope where the manager offered us the use of her shower later this evening (she said it without a wink), we got picked up by a guy in town who gave us a ride with our groceries back to our tents in the back of his truck. We are currently at the house of a lady who works in the community hall who we met yesterday, we are using her washing machine and internet at present, we also showered here yesterday, she just let us in to use her house and went away again, and finally tronight we are going fishing with a local guy who we met on the river - standard stuff really, the warmth of the people continues to be quite humbling.

The next stage of the journey is 220 miles, 10-12 days, we have replenished our food barell and are ready to leave tomorrow morning. This will be the biggest stretch of the journey, looking forward to it as it is always cooler on the water, despite the few days of wind and rain it is back to 30 + degrees with no shade from sun rise to sun set (about 20 hours).