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Guide's Report

By Geoffrey Peake

Chowder and a geography lesson

Thursday, July 19, 2001


Campsite: Nachvak Fjord 599º 04.50'N, 639º 53.65'W
Distance Today: 16 km
Total: 162 km

Our paddle today was like something out of a geography textbook. The mountains and valleys here bear the classic U-shaped marks of glaciation. Higher up, thin ribbons of water cascade from hanging valleys cut from tributary glaciers a thousand feet above the valley floor.

Today was one of those characteristic days that all canoeists know -- the rainy day paddle. The rain started just before we left our campsite and continued into lunch. Grey bands of clouds swirled and broke around sheer cliff faces. The mountains gradually faded into gray, and soon we were paddling into a faceless wall of rain, the wind at our back, riding both the tide and waves to the end of the fjord.

The rain picked up just as we stopped for lunch, and some of our crew accustomed to warmer weather (i.e. Tom) found the prospect of sitting around in the rain to eat lunch less than appealing. In this type of weather, it's important to keep comfortable; taking a bit of extra time to fire up some hot water for some tea can make a world of difference to morale. Normally, setting up a tarp is a simple affair, but in the absence of trees or anything tall enough to tie to, it took us a while to rig up something large enough for six people. The tide was rising and our beach was disappearing, so it became a bit of a race to finish our lunch before we got flooded out.

After we'd finally got the tarp figured out -- a hopeless entanglement of lining ropes and paddles -- the rain, quite naturally, quit, and the sheer face of Kutayupak Mountain appeared, that marks the entrance to Tallek Arm and the start of our upstream journey.

We whisked down the last few miles to our camp after lunch, propelled by a strengthening tailwind and the occasional patch of blue above. We are camped on the north shore of Nachvak again, as this gives us the southwest exposure we need to use our sat phone. Tonight, however, the mass of Kutayupak rising above us blocks our exposure to the south, so someone's going to be doing some hiking in the morning if we want to send our pictures and stories out.

We had an incredible chowder tonight. It started out as pea soup -- two cups of split peas, assorted handfuls of dried veggies (courtesy of missing Peake brother, D. Andrew). The Piscine Director, Peter G. Brewster, esq. and his minion in training, Andrew (David) Macdonald, threw a few casts into the waters by camp in the hope that they might tempt some char onto their hooks. The Squire had a few nibbles but no takers. Andrew, full of youthful vigor and enthusiasm, walked the half-mile down the beach to where another creek came in, and there we could see him for the better part of an hour, casting away, intent on feasting on char this evening.

Meanwhile, Tom and I proceeded to plan "B" (the no-fish option of pea soup) and were halfway done when who should show up but Andrew himself, with two good-sized char to add to our meal. The Squire was roused from the depths of his tent by this good news, and together they headed off and did a superb job of filleting them both. For obvious reasons (big white bears) the Squire told Andrew to walk as far as he could to discard the fish guts, not realizing that Andrew, G.I.T. (Guide-in-Training) took him quite literally and he fairly disappeared for a while -- we understand the fish remains ended up somewhere in Quebec...

Anyway, the meal proved to be a great success and the perfect fuel for a cold evening. Tom and I had made the pot literally to the brim of soup, convinced that we'd have some left in the morning. The pot was empty in about five minutes. This was followed by a mug of tea and some of our mother's five-star fruitcake -- as good a cold weather dessert as you're likely to get. This course was followed up by some brandy and Cuban cigars (for those who felt so inclined) from the Governor's Reserve cabinet.

As the light faded, we looked to the south, where the steep walled entrance to Tallek Arm lies; The highest mountains in the Torngats lie just a few miles up that valley. Tonight will most likely be our last night camping on tidewater. The real work of the trip -- the upstream and overland journey to the Korok -- will begin tomorrow.

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