Day 5: A Big Day...

The Yukon Blind..... Canoeing the 'Big River'
Team "Imtiaz and Howard"
Wed 22 Jun 2011 14:47
Day 5: A Big Day…
62:03.05N, 135:35.67W

It's 5h30 on the start of Day 6, the all too familiar pitter patter of rain on the tent roof, but today quite a bit is different:

We are camped out on a small island, maybe 400 metres long and 50 metres wide. It has impenetrable dense bush all over it other than 10 metres right at the downstream northern tip. That's where we are. The Yukon is rushing by with a therapeutic gurgle on the one side of our cape, and a much more gentle flow down the other side meets almost where Imi's tent ends. My tent is almost backed on to his, and we have less than 10cm of freeboard, before rising waters would make our campsite no more. Why camp there you may ask..? Firstly, this section of the river has either very steep and high earthen banks, or thick forest right down to the water’s edge, so is not suitable for camping, but secondly this is a very special spot.

The other difference with today is being so close to Imi's tent, I was treated to a night of snoring (and more!) entertainment! All good boys stuff, reminding me of my sailing days, with some of you snorers from those days reading this blog!

Yesterday was a great day from a progress and river appreciation perspective. We covered more than 80 river kilometres, spending 10 hours out there including a few breaks. The one break being quite a bit longer as the others as Imi and I engaged in a fairly emotional debate about my favourite subject, Risk, and how the lack of understanding of Risk was the real cause of the financial crisis. It is really great having these discussions on such a wide range of subjects and at a philosophical level. Often the debate is taken down to our real situation on the river to make a point, which sometimes adds a dose of sobriety!

The river has really expanded in width often being close to a kilometre wide. One really gets the sense of its immense power, and regional significance.

The paddling day was cool and overcast, and mostly free of rain, but true to form on setting up camp it began to rain, making for a short dinner and straight into our tents. Interestingly we saw an abandoned canoe wreck on the side of the river, both of us wondering how that could have happened, but a reminder of the fact that we are on an adventure.

We are paddling well together, now that I have capitulated to Imi's Zen based, time is not an issue, pace. We had a long discussion about paddling cadence and what sets our paddling pace. A discussion I have had with Ruth (another Zen adventurer) on our joint adventures many times before, so am well versed with the arguments. Eventually we agreed that Imi's cadence (strokes per minute) is the sustainable pace for him, and so that is the team pace. In exchange he offered to give me free Zen classes!! I did remind him that without the non Zen vision and planning of this trip we wouldn't be on the Yukon! I think I almost have him adopting some 'Life as a series of Adventures' approaches!

Interestingly on the trip so far, we have been so engaged in discussion that we have had very little time 'in the zone' in our own worlds as normally happens on solo pursuits, but both agree that the second half should deliver more of that. Our discussion time has built a huge level of openness and trust in each other and we both feel we have the basis for a truly deep friendship, which is very special.

By the end of today we should be in the town of Carmacks, the halfway point, and some 60 kilometres from here.

Today's insight into Imi's blind world brings a sad perspective but one which we have now made a source of light heartedness. With me doing most of the campsite work on the adventure, and necessarily helping him when he or the team needs it, he is accepting and almost overly thankful. For example, when I ask him whether he wants tea or coffee, it used to be, "Oh only if you are making, and then whatever you are making". I can see the situation from his perspective, how he feels he is burdening me, and with work load so unevenly split, how can he ask for something that needs more work. The thank you’s beyond the norm confirmed the same feeling of burden, and so early on we discussed this. I asked him if it was the way I was behaving that made him feel like that, or was it just the dependency factor that made him feel uncomfortable. He confirmed it was only the latter and I told him how I didn't see it like that and my extra load was part of my personal challenge on this adventure, and him having a great experience my goal. To help the situation and get him to almost demand what he wants we now use the five star hotel analogy. He is the five star hotel guest and me a variety of service providers working for the hotel. Every time he 'over thanks' me I say: "Sir, remember you are a guest of this 5 star hotel, it's my pleasure to help you, and I don't expect thanks" on the team and coffee issue, I say, "Sir, as a valued guest to our five star hotel you can have whatever you want, whenever you want, so what would you like. The analogy works well, often is the source of much laughter, really helping the essentially sad feeling of a 2nd class citizen. As I said to Imi, I can see how hard it must be accepting all the time, and my personality would struggle a huge amount, so I know it's not easy even as a five star hotel customer. To help I also explain to him how much he is giving me, and so although it may not be obvious, all is in balance.

With the pitter patter unabated I will now sign off and deal with the preparation of breakfast in the drizzle and then packing up a wet tent, before we get to the peace of being out on the river again. It’s strange how one gets to a point of not just acceptance but enjoying being in the rain outdoors. Cycling in Patagonia made me appreciate this seemingly bizarre experience.

Take care

H + I