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  • August 17, 1997

    Peter Brewster writes:

     KANGIQSUALUJJUAQ: We made it.
     To what must be the friendliest little town in the North. But more on that later.
     Arriving here, 14 years after our first visit, was an enormous surprise. There have been so many changes above and beyond what you would expect in that time that the town is almost unrecognizable.
     Time has been good to George River. It is now a busy community of 600-plus people, with many new houses, new school, church, community office ... an amazing transformation that sits most comfortably. On our last visit there were about 350 people in a village that progress seemed to have passed by.
     We got here from our final campsite under sunny, clear skies, again a big difference from '83 when the wet, grey, cold weather that plagued the entire trip followed us into town.
     The only thing that hasn't changed is the mammoth Ungava tide, surging 12 metres and more like a giant bathtub filling and emptying. We waited on rocky cliffs across from town for the bay to fill up, so we could paddle right up to the harbor, avoiding our muddy portage of yesteryear.
     There have been very few canoeists down the river this year, and word of our arrival spread like wildfire. In no time kids surrounded Geoff on the beach, fascinated by the digital photos in the laptop, while Mike, Peter and I went to look for help.
     It found us, fast, and in no time we had a place to stay, a truck to 'portage' our gear, and - for the first time in better than two weeks - SHOWERS!
     In fact, the good folks of Kang (see above) are spoiling this smelly, weather-beaten gang of travellers. And it feels so good.
     Tonight we are sitting at tables, under fluorescent lights, to type and sort digital photos. What can I tell you: the technology has worked. In spite of some dodgy times with power levels, we were able to file stories and photos every day.
     We have cut new trails on this trip, and yet we have still had a real canoe adventure. If you can call running big rapids with $40,000-worth of high-tech electronic gear sitting behind you reality.
     However, I could never get used to the idea of receiving E-mail from the office on the river. Some things ought to be sacrosanct.
     We are scheduled to fly out Monday at 2:00 p.m. to Kuujjuak, and then on to Montreal where our trusty driver Ryan Davidson will meet us in the Ford of Canada van for a late-night run to Toronto
     And finally, I would like to re-introduce the band:
     TOM STEVENS: Our rookie chose the George River for his first trip with the Peake boys, just as I did back in 1983. And his eagerness and good humour were a great asset. Tom did far more dish-washing duty than he should have, so ... Tom, you can come again.
     PETER SCOTT: Superior canoeist, Anglican minister, Neil Young afficianado ... and founding president of the Ungava Breakfast Debating Society. That tall, red-haired man standing beside the river at 7 a.m.holding a food bowl and waving the other arm around wildly is NOT swatting bugs.
     It's just Peter trying to provoke a discussion on something. Anything.
     MIKE PEAKE: The great photos that accompanied these reports are of course Mike's, just as his pix adorn the pages of the Toronto Sun. He aspires to the title of The Governor in our group, an old Hudson Bay Company position denoting the Main Man. Accordingly, he's finally getting enough grey in his stubble to warrant being called grizzled.
     DAVID PEAKE: Every canoe trip should have one. Dave is our morning man, a crack o' dawn sort of guy who made breakfast every morning. He's the quietest of the four Peakes, and frequently the rest of us have wished that there were more at home like him!
     GEOFF PEAKE: The Chief Guide, a tower of strength and determination and route-maker par arrogance. Geoff just decides where he's going, whether it's upstream or over yonder mountain, and we follow. And yes, sometimes it's impossible. But we do it anyway.
     AND THEN THERE'S ME: In 1983 I was, to some members of the group, "that old, short guy who's Mikey's boss". Since then they have tried - and failed - to kill me by drowning, freezing, and food deprivation. I am unclear on their current thinking.

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