July 11

My last day on the river had finally arrived. I was excited and sad at the same time. I did want to finish and get my hamstring sorted out, but I did not really want it to end.
The river had been disappointing in many ways; the scenery was generally monotonous; there was no wildlife to speak of and the mud was an ever present source of frustration. On the other hand, it was a fascinating piece of water, grandiose in many ways, demanding and forgiving at the same time and devoid of people in between settlements.
I know that I will not easily forget my four weeks on the water.
But, I still had to paddle around 25 miles to get to Inuvik.. My GPS told me the distance was just over 11 miles, but that was "as the crow flies" and not "as the river flows".

It was already hot when I got up. The tent was bundled together at record speed; breakfast was cooked on the dock and after a very big meal of rice with chocolate powder (urrgh!!!!!) I was on my way.

The closer I got to Inuvik, the more boat traffic appeared and everybody waved. The wind had picked up and blew me in the right direction. I flew past the power station to the public dock and made a perfect landing in the mud, once again losing both my shoes and not exactly covering myself in glory as far as an elegant exit from the kayak was concerned.
The dock area was quite busy with boats loading and unloading. My arrival was noticed, as was my struggle to exit the kayak properly. It would have been easy for someone to help me by steadying the kayak but that clearly did not occur to anybody. It seemed that self-sufficiency was the rule.

Hot, wet and muddy was how I really arrived in Inuvik. That, and a good dose of frustration upon noticing that the camp site was less than one quarter of a mile away, but at the other side of a lake. It took me more than an hour to unload the kayak, lift it on the trolley I had brought, reload the kayak and start on my way up the first of three hills around the lake to the camp site. When I got there and tried to book my camp site, the attendant said:"why don't you get your breath back first, then at least I can understand what you are saying"
I secured a site in the "walk-in" section, i.e. wooden platform, close together with four other platforms. Good things: level, close to the showers and overlooking the river.
I had to get my kayak out of the way and was pulling it behind the platform. It got stuck in the undergrowth but I thought that I could pull it through without having to clear some of the vegetation. I gave one allmighty pull and made a backwards salto, into the bushes, out of sight. The other campers came rushing to my aid and were concerned that I might have broken something, which I had: the rope of the kayak handle. I was OK. I had fallen into the soft earth (not mud this time) and rolled a little down the slope but that was the only thing that happened to me. I was amazed that the rope had broken, though. The rope I use is parachute cord because it has very many thin strands inside the outer sheath, and is reputed never to break. I suppose the pulling and scraping on the Mackenzie was a little more than bargained for.

I am camped on a wooden platform, overlooking the lake I had to walk around. After two hours of setting up my camp, sorting my gear, cleaning the worst dirt out of the cockpit of the kayak, I was finally ready for the big clean up of myself.
I did not bring a razor, but with the razor blades I have with me for repair purposes I managed to cut most of my beard off and trimmed the rest to an acceptable length. The shower was heavenly. No time limit, nice temperature and nobody else in attendance. I must have showered for nearly 30 minutes during which I washed my hair three times, my body twice and spent about ten minutes on my feet alone to get most of the ingrained dirt out. It will take a number of more washes to get my hands and feet completely clean again, but a start has been made.

Today was the start of the Great Northern Arts Festival. I attended the opening and listened to a number of boring speeches, but I really enjoyed the performance of the Inuvik Drummers and Dancers who entertained the sizeable crowd with traditional music and dance.

By 11.30pm I was finally in my sleeping bag; the sun still shining.



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