End of Day 1

The Yukon Blind..... Canoeing the 'Big River'
Team "Imtiaz and Howard"
Sat 18 Jun 2011 18:10
End of Day 1
61:16.049N, 135:11.861W
Here we sit in the solitude of Lake Lebarge, having just had breakfast and another stimulating chat about life and adventure. Yesterday this time we were sitting in our soul-less hotel room in Whitehorse, and Imi made the remark that this was our last night in a real bed, and how one feels this slight apprehension about being exposed to nature and all the associated unknowns for more than two weeks. Yeah, that's an adventure, and in him saying that I knew we would be ok, as he had experienced it before.

We had a slow start with a few admin issues at the canoe outfitter, and the inevitable last minute decision. One of these was water and whether we can drink from the lake / river. As is so often these days, the zero tolerance advice torrent kicks in with all the extreme stories designed to make one fearful and then desiring of buying any and all solutions to prevent any and all possible water problems. Well true to form we didn't fall for this and will really on instinct and nature to guide us.

We finally made our first paddle strokes in Lake Lebarge at 12h30, setting off from Deep Creek on a perfectly still, but slightly overcast day. The lake water was bitterly cold, with my feet going numb as I stood holding the boat so Imi could get in, another chilling reminder of the potential danger ahead.

Being the sighted navigator, I took up the steering position at the stern of the canoe and Imi the power man at the front. Although having done much kayaking, I hadn't paddled a traditional double ender, so the steering skills from the back were something I knew I'd need to learn, and here the 'J' stroke is key.

Well we wandered along zigzagging all over the place, and I was glad Imi wasn't aware of our tortuous course. Being an experienced solo canoe adventurer, and master of the 'J' stroke when he was sighted, I really felt for how he must feel, being relegated to front man. I had to rise to the challenge and get a level of proficiency that he would have demonstrated, but hey this wasn't easy... My muscles didn't like the foreign action, and my mind didn’t like the contradictory, yet temporary brake each stroke included. My resistance to change started kicking in wondering how this stroke will ever feel natural, and with 14+ days ahead this is the start of a nightmare.

The adaption side of my human psyche kicked in and within an hour I was feeling the battle for the feeling of paddling normality will be won. Soon we were keeping an arrow perfect straight course and the GPS showed an impressive 'team' 5.7 km/h, but there was just one issue: Certain shoulder and arm muscles were crying out saying how come you have finally found us after 54 years; we had managed to hide from being used!  At the end of our six hour paddling day we had covered some 27 km's, but the body was aching.

Campsite was a perfect spot on the west side of the lake, snow sprinkled mountains behind us, impressive rock outcrops across the lake, and just a whisper of breeze making for cool conditions. It was pretty cold paddling on the lake, and rest breaks needed an additional layer of outer wear.

We didn't see another soul the whole day, our only companions being a few iconic loons, curious at our mid lake travel. I guess the truly awesome call of these loons in the vast solitude of the lake and surrounding terrain brought a connection with the cry of the African fish eagle and my more familiar 'bush'. For Canadians the loon is a common and well known sight, but somehow this was special for both of us, the sound of the call bringing Imi right there with me in our deep joint experience.

It was just great to escape into this wilderness, and the way Imi immersed himself so naturally and passionately into its solitude was amazing. He was like a changed person, at one with where he was.

Tent building time produced some new milestones! Being fiercely independent individuals, we have separate tents, and Imi has been determined to not burden me with having to build his tent every day. Well, the man loves a challenge and this one is supreme: Firstly on a search for tents most suited to visually impaired people, I'm pretty sure that his tent will rank 100th least suitable out of 100, mainly for complexity of setup! For aesthetic appeal, and engineering innovation it’s tops, and so provided Imi with an irresistible challenge.

While I setup cooking facilities, he proceeded to find a tent site and build his tent, insisting he didn't want help from me. Five minutes and 33 seconds later, he had set a new (the only!) record for the blind building of the tent. TRULY amazing feat, I really mean that!

Dinner around a driftwood fire was a delightful experience, and the ever helpful Imi, heading solo down to the water's edge to wash the dishes, returning without any lost cutlery!

Our discussions have been very intellectual and illuminating, with the concept of personal triumph, and our need to feel internally powerful through personal triumph being a very illuminating confirmation of my adventure life since 2004. Imi has very interesting perspectives, and as we talk I see so much more of our similarities as being explorers and adventurers of life.

More on all of this to come....

Time to head off paddling, and hopefully complete the still waters of Lake Lebarge. The strong flowing current of the Yukon awaits…