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).

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The dragon flies are amazing, they take out dozens of mosquitoes from the air, so quick, amazing creatures.
Slavering on the keyboard- BBQ at Tulita (check out fish in background)

Some way up Bear Rock, yes this is a pose, deep in thought about my next meal.
Tulita from the MacKenzie as we leave for Norman Wells

Soaking up the culture in the Norman Wells museum

The Ravens are huge, noisy, not very fond of them! I can see where Hitchcock got his inspiration from though.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

6th July
My turn to write.
Yesterday we left Tulita, and I know both of us were glad to be back on the water. We made a conscious decision to slow down and to split the 50 miles to Norman Wells into 2 days. We have accepted that there are no "campsites" as we have always known them (green soft grass beside a clear flowing mountain stream) and that we have to make do with the banks of the mighty Mackenzie which have been ripped apart by the winter break-up and really are just different degrees of hard packed mud. Thank goodness for our snow pegs! So we are less choosy about where we are going to spend the night and this has relieved some pressure. The illusion that round the next point will be Utopia has been shattered.
A strange day yesterday. I found it difficult to get myself "up" for the next leg and doubted why I was here in the first place, putting myself through all the discomfort, heat, bugs, mud (and heavy thunderstorm). Much of the trip so far has consisted of huge swings in moods (Michael is going thorough similar) and a bunch of different feelings, and yesterday was no exception. At the end of the day, I looked out of my tent and saw a caribou drinking from the banks of the river with the setting sun in the back ground. I was back to living in the "now" and once again feeling grateful for this amazing experience.
Norman Wells. We had read there was camping available at a local adventure centre (Canoe North Adventures) and on asking directions, 2 guys, who worked in the local authorities office, took us and all our gear to the place. On arrival we were told that we could stay in the cabin besides the lake where the business was. And, no charge. Once again we have been blown away by the friendliness and the willingness of the northern Canadian to go that extra yard to make us welcome.
We have accepted their kindness with good grace and plan to stay here for 2 nights. A time to meet people and learn more about their way of life.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Arrived in Tulita, it is 254km from Wrigley where i last updated the blog, we have again made some good progress and also enjoyed a thunderstorm induced day off. 

It is Canada day on the 1st of July, as this was a Sunday the public holiday is today (Monday), the bad news is everything is shut and we are very low on supplies, the great news however is that there is a big bbq in the middle of the commuity.  A fantastic BBQ too, no salad to be seen, just lots of meat and bread, a baked potato if you are watching your weight.

After my sunny weather prediciton on the last blog post we had heavy rain three days running, we pretty much slept through the first lot, only getting out our tents mid afternoon for food, it was much needed and we appreciated no sun for a few days.  The wind hasnt been too strong so paddling has been ok in the thunder storms, the current has continued to be ok which has greatly assisted our progress.
We are well ahead of schedule at the moment so will likely take a few more days off in the coming weeks, we are both pretty tired with lack of sleep and distance covered.

After seeing out first bear on the day of the last post we spotted a further two during the next day (photos to come), thankfully we were at distance on the river so no threat.

We are getting into the swing of things now, wild camping every day is tough but you do kind of get used to it, that said i am looking forward to a bed or at least 2 or 3 nights in one location - packing up camp and setting camp can be hard work at the best of times, on occasion we have to haul our stuff quite far from the river.  Finding good campsites is tough too as there is very little to choose from.

The scenery has continued to be beautiful, we have passed a few mountain ranges in the past week or two, the landscape has gradually changed, we are appreciating the variations.

I (we perhaps) plan to climb Bear rock tomorrow which is very close to Tulita, its only 1,500 feet so will only take a few hours, the views should prove to be fantastic. 

There is also rumour (TBC) of a community pool in Tulita, a shower and a swim in water which is not freezing and without swarms of mosquitos is something to behold.

Edit - Since writing the above we have booked in to 'The two rivers Hotel' (the only hotel in Tulita which at this time of year can only be accessed by boat or air) the suggested camp spot was too far away (trying to justify it to myself) and to be honest i think we will hugely benefit from the rest, 17 nights in a tent is not always the most enjoyable coupled with the sun sleep has been thin on the ground. 
Another huge benefit of the hotel is they have laundry facilities, I have washed my clothes in the river up until now but it wasnt quite doing the trick, when i am smelling myself during a windy paddle it really is getting bad. As i write this i am showered and wearing shorts for the first time on the trip, i can now distinguish between what is tan and what was just dirt. Sweet.
Camp site on 'Rocky Island' we slept through the first of the rain storms here, good camp spot!

Evening view from Rocky Island, beautiful evening.

Black Bear #1, we watched this from across the water, exciting to see our first Bear, thankful also it was on the other side of the water.

Bear #2, we paddled alongside this bear, the bear didnt seem bothered by us one bit.

My malet bought in Yellowknife has died, going to struggle to buy another out here.

The storm brewing in the background, it was a beauty.  The storm lasted for quite a while, not a huge wind so it wasnt too bad.  Unfortunately the storms have caused the phone lines down in Tulita, they are flying in an engineer apparently.