Multi-day kit list

My recent trip down the Magpie in Quebec, Canada, was my first self-supported multi-day kayaking trip. When I was preparing for the trip I spent some time chatting with other paddlers and researching on-line about what kit I needed to take. I struggled to find a list online of recommended items so, having completed the trip, I have compiled a kit list of items that I would take next time.

Paddling Kit
Kayak (think about how much space there is for kit as well as how easy it is to get kit in and out – I took a Jackson Villain, others in the group had Dagger Nomad 8.5, Pyranha Everest, Pyranha Burn M, Liquidlogic Jefe, Jackson Hero)
Throwline
Safety knife
Whistle
Helmet
Cag / Dry trousers / Drysuit
Thermals
Spare thermals
Buoyancy aid
Spraydeck
Pin kit
Paddles
Split paddles
Drybags (I took a mixture of Ortleib medium weight drybags and Watershed drybags. Next time I’ll take Watershed Stow Floats – pricey but definitely worth it)
Airbags
String/rope to tie in drybags and other kit
Water filter bottle
Satellite Phone (We took one for the group. We were too remote to use mobile phones)

Camp Kit
Gas stove (we took one stove between 2)
Saucepan (I took a one litre trangia pan)
Saucepan handle (preferably detachable – otherwise gets hot when cooking on an open fire)
Saucepan lid (speeds up cooking)
Firesteel (great for firestarting if your lighter gets wet – I took this one: Light My Fire Swedish Firesteel – Scout)
Spork
Mug
Lighter
Cotton Wool
Vaseline (vaseline soaked cotton wool is a brilliant fire-lighter)
Toilet rolls
Drybag for toilet roll (I didn’t take a separate dry-bag and my toilet roll got damp on day one!)
Sun hat
Wolly hat
Down jacket/gilet (even though it was warm enough during the day and evening, mornings are cold)
Long sleeve / short-sleeve t-shirts or shirts
Fleece
Trousers
Socks / Warm socks
Shoes (I took crocs as they are light and don’t absorb water)
Bivi / one man tent (I took a Nemo GoGo LE – I’m 6’6″ and had plenty of space, it packs up small and is light)
Sleeping mat (I took a Nemo Astro Air – packs up very small, is very light and, at 6cm thick, makes for a great nights sleep!)
Sleeping bag
Sleeping bag liner (I took a silk one – adds warmth and means I don’t have to worry about getting the bag dirty as I get in and out)
Tarp (we took 3 between 6 of us)
Towel (I took one of those really small travel towels)
Antibacterial hand wash
Zip ties
First aid kit
Gaffa tape
Head torch (I took a Silva Ninox – waterproof and uses standard AAA batteries)
Sewing kit (Was used to sew up a hole in a spraydeck)
Scrubber sponge (for cleaning pan and stuff)
Washing suds
Insect repellent
Mozzie head net

Food

Multi-day food (7 days)

Multi-day food (7 days)

The photo above shows what food I took for my trip. We expected the trip to take 6 days so I took food for 7 to ensure that I had enough if something went wrong.

I took the following:
7 x Dried pasta/rice/noodle dishes (1 per day for dinner)
14 x Porridge sachets (2 each day for breakfast)
7 x Coffee sachets (1 per day for breakfast)
1 x Block of cheese (chunk each day for lunch)
17 x Pepperoni sticks (2 per day for lunch and then some spare – they came in packs of 17!)
7 x Energy bars (1 per day – afternoon snack)
14 x Cereal bars (2 per day – 1 at elevenses and 1 at lunch)
6 x Chocolate bars (1 per day for dinner – I would have taken 7 but I only had 6)
1 x Bag of trail mix (for general munching)
1 x Instant noodles (spare)
Some salt and pepper sachets for flavouring food

If you think I have missed something, let me know I I will update the list.

Canada 2011 – Multi-Day On The Magpie

This trip had been a long time in the planning. Some time towards the end of 2010, Simon Knox somehow persuaded Martyn Read, Doug Johnson and myself that we wanted to travel to Quebec to paddle the Magpie river. Despite Simon mentioning the 26 miles we would have to paddle down a lake, it still sounded like a good idea and during the following months, the remaining spaces on the trip were filled by Nick Smailes and Richard Morley. This second post is a write-up of my diary for our trip down the West Magpie, Lac Magpie and then the Magpie River. Click here to read my diary for the first part of the trip.

Saturday 20th August 2011

Today was the day. We were to fly in to Lac Vital to start our descent of the West Mapgie and later the Magpie. We had a couple of hours to have yet another go at packing our drybags and working our just how much food to take with us – we were expecting to complete the trip in six days, but do we take enough food for a full seven days? Or six days plus a little extra? Lots of decisions to make! We also popped to the map shop just down the road from the hotel in order to get some detailed maps of the rivers. If you ever happen to find yourself in Sept Iles you have to pay a visit to this map shop. The man in the shop managed to keep us entertained for the best part of an hour as he talked about bears before teaching us how to fold maps ‘the army way’! We later sent Martyn in to get a mosquito head-net. He came out with a can of bear spray and proceeded to sleep with his paddles in close proximity for the entirity of our Magpie trip for fear of bears!In what seemed like no time at all, 11am arrived and it was time to head to the float plane base. With only one car, six people and lots of kit it took a couple of runs to get everything to the base and it suddenly became very real that we were actually doing this. The float planes we were going to be flying in were moored up on the pontoon, we paid and then the fun of squeezing our boats into the planes began. Although each of these planes could take three passengers and three kayaks, only two kayaks could fit inside each plane. That meant that one boat had to be tied to the outside of each plane! As my Villain and Simon’s Everest were deemed to be the two longest boats, we were ones lucky enough to test the knot-tying ability of the pilots.

Our shuttle vehicle

Our shuttle vehicle

A 45 minute flight took us to our destination – Lac Vital – and all we saw during the flight were trees and lakes. We had a soft landing onto the lake, unloaded the planes and then stood back and watched the planes take off. As we were stood there watching the planes disappear into the distance it suddenly hit me that we were doing this. Miles from anywere. Miles from anyone. Just the six of us for company for up to a week.

Our only escape route departing

Our only escape route departing

With our boats having to be empty for the flight our first task was to pack our boats for the first time, before setting off across the lake towards the outflow which was, after a couple of miles, to lead us into the West Magpie River. Arriving into the West Magpie, a big flat section combined with the wind lead to a few minutes of confusion before we worked out which way was downstream! This flat section lasted for about five miles and took us to our first whitewater of the river – a little gorge with three rapids in. This was to be our first experience of paddling whitewater with loaded boats and I screwed up at the first attempt! Luckily the line I ended up taking went ok. Below these rapids was a nice looking beach where we decided to stop for the night – just over two hours after setting off from Lac Vital. With a fire going and our bivis pitched (and Martyn’s paddles next to his) it was time to find out whether the Wal-mart Sidekick pasta dishes were any good – not that we had any choice as these are what we all had for dinner every night! Any spare energy was spent trying to outsmart the very persistent black-fly that seemed intent on eating us all alive despite a combination of Deet and headnets and by 2130 we were all in bed.

Sunday 21st August 2011

Overnight rain cleared in time for us to get up, cook our porridge and pack away our camp but started again just as we were setting off downstream shortly after 0900 although the rain didn’t last long. During the morning we were treated to some fantastic rapids, requiring a combination of boat and bank scouting. Today everyone got to grips with paddling their loaded boats (which paddle very differently to empty ones). Following a cereal bar for elevenses, a nutritious lunch of a pepperoni, some cheese and trail mix set me up to continue for the afternoon – well, until it was tme for my mid-afternoon Clif (energy) bar.

One of the many fantastic rapids

One of the many fantastic rapids

We failed to find a nice beach to camp on so, just before 1700, ended up stopping and scrambling up the bank where we set camp in a clearing. The ground was covered with a thick, white moss. It was about six inches deep and made for a very comfortable base to sleep on. After pitching camp, we sat around the fire cooking our dinner (more Sidekicks) and checked the GPS and map to find out where we were and roughly how far we had paddled during the day – it turned out that we hadn’t paddled as far as we thought we had.

Camp 2 on the soft moss

Camp 2

Monday 22nd August 2011
We had heavy rain and a thunderstorm during the night. Fortunately the rain stopped for us to get up, cook porridge for breakfast and pack up camp before starting again just as we got in our boats and set off downstream. From looking at the map last night, we expected to spend the morning paddling flat water before reaching plenty of rapids during the afternoon. As well as the rain, we were also treated to a headwind which made paddling flat water for hours hard work. However, after a lunch of more pepperoni, cheese and trail mix we were rewarded with some fantastic rapids almost all afternoon.

Martyn hoping he gets through the hole

Martyn hoping he gets through the hole

I didn’t have that great an afternoon. On one of the earlier rapids I came down slightly further towards river left than everyone else, managed to pin nicely against a rock and ended up upside down under the rock. Not wanting to join Simon on the swim tally I was determined to stay in my boat. Luckily I was able to reach up and haul myself back upright – much to my relief! Not content with scaring myself the once, I went for a similar trick on one of the last rapids of the day. The line was something like “ride the tongue down but avoid the rock at the bottom”. Guess what? Yep, I hit the rock. Hard. And got myself into a broach pin. Looking downstream, I was positive that I didn’t want to swim. In fact, I wanted to avoid getting off the rock upside down if at all possible. After a few minutes of wriggling I managed to get the nose of my boat free, allowing me to paddle into the eddy just below. Having seen my amazing attempt at the line, for some reason everyone else decided to portage the rapid. It was still raining as we decided to make camp on another moss-covered clearing, as it had been all day. Despite this, Ray Mears would have been proud of Nick as he managed to get a fire going – for which we were all very greatful, having something to cook our dinner (yes, more Sidekicks) and huddle around to keep warm.

Tuesday 23rd August 2011

Having breakfast on day 4

Having breakfast on day 4

The rain has finally stopped! After our now traditional porridge, we packed up and set off downstream along the flat water. After a couple of rapids, we arrived at what looked like almost any other rapid on the river. However, we had been warned about what to expect today – a gorge that is not marked on the map that requires a portage with a lead in that looks like every other rapid on the river.  It didn’t take long for us to realise that we had reached the unmarked gorge and the portaging began.

Inspecting the gorge

Inspecting the gorge

Doug had already started to portage along the left bank whilst we inspected the gorge so he continued while the rest of us decided that portaging down the river right bank would be better. How wrong we were! Our route involved ferry-gliding across the river above the gorge, bush-whacking through so very dense trees along a steeply sloped bank before lugging our boats up and down over rocks. We got off to a bad start amongst the trees when Simon managed to disturb a wasps nest by dragging his boat over it! By the time we emerged from the trees, only 1/3 of the way along our portage, we could already see Doug at the end having already completed his portage. Reaching the rocks, Rich and I shouldered our boats (which was no mean feat considering how heavy they were) and proceeded to clamber over the rocks. Once we were happy that we had passed the rapids we wanted to portage we sought to get back onto the river. Unfortunately there was a small matter of a cliff in the between where we were standing and the river approximately 5 metres below. After lowering our boats down using our throwlines, climbing down after them and then getting back into our boats at the bottom, we paddled the next part of the rapid to join Doug. As we were portaging next part of the rapid just downstream and starting to falter due to the exertion of portaging in this heat we were quickly brought to our senses by shouts of “swimmer!”. Looking upstream we could see Simon’s boat soloing its way towards, and then past, us. We completed our portage as quickly as we could, jumped in our boats and set off after the boat and paddles. Once these were retrieved, we regrouped and saw Simon walking downstream towards us, quite obviously in considerable pain. It emerged that Simon, Nick and Martyn had re-entered the river higher up than Rich and I had. Both Nick and Martyn had successfully managed to make their desired line down the first part of the rapid after they got back in but Simon wasn’t so lucky. He had meetings with a hole, a wall and an undercut and was sucked out of his boat. Somewhere amongst all of that he took a big impact to his lower back which was causing him a lot of pain. His boat was also looking slightly worse for wear, having had the nose remodelled on a rock during its solo mission.

Simon's remodelled boat after his swim

Simon’s remodelled boat after his swim

We took a little break before setting off downstream in search of the lake. After another hour or so (including a lunch stop) the river widened and flattened – we had reached the lake. We had completed the 45 miles of the West Magpie in approximately 24 hours of paddling and we now had 26 mile flat water paddle down the lake to look forward to. I had never even attempted a flat water paddle of a quarter of that distance so I was not looking forward to this. We paddled all afternoon until we stopped at a beach to make camp at 1800.

The lake - we had to paddle to the horizon and beyond!

The lake – we had to paddle to the horizon and beyond!

We were fortunate, in some ways, in that we had a slight tail wind for the four hours we paddled down the lake. Although this is what we wanted, we seemed to expend a considerable amount of effort attempting to keep our creek boats pointing the direction we wanted to go! The evening was spent cooking our dinner (another Sidekick!) over the campfire as we were treated to a beautiful sunset. We also saw our first sign, since our pilots had flown off and left us on Saturday, of other human life as a float plane flew past us having picked up a fishing group further down the lake.

Wednesday 24th September 2011

Waking to clear blue skies and the lake as flat as a pancake we were all hopeful of a good paddle down the lake. Our start was delayed as we took advantage of the lovely weather to dry out our kit on the rocks next to the beach, but we eventually set off at 10am. We made good progress for the the first hour whilst the lake was as flat as a mill pond. Our luck then changed and our progress slowed considerably. It started off as a very gentle breeze at first, but the wind continued to pick up and we spent the rest of the day paddling into a full-on headwind. Every time we stopped paddling forward the wind blew us backwards. The next 6 hours were spent with our heads down, occasionally looking up to make sure we were still on track heading towards the hills in the haze in the distance. We would paddle to the horizon and discover there was still a considerable distance to paddle. Lunch was eaten on the go as we all just wanted to keep going and reach the outflow into the Magpie river. I cannot explain the relief that I felt when I noticed the water beneath my boat flowing towards the outflow! Despite the tiredness, we paddled about an hour down the river, taking in the first few rapids before stopping for the night. We stopped at a beach that wasn’t ideally suited for camping – it was covered in shrubs and not at all flat – we had to remove some of the shrubs in order to create a big enough gap to put our bivis in, and all of our bivis were on a slope.

Enjoying what we hoped would be our final breakfast on the river

Enjoying what we hoped would be our final breakfast on the river

On the plus side it did have a nice rock for us to sit on while we were enjoying our dinner -yes, another Sidekick! As we were sat around the fire the discussion turned to tomorrow. We knew that it was less that 35 miles to the get-out and knew that it had been done in one day before – the group was split into a Thursday club and a Friday club, based on when they expected us to reach the get out.

We were treated to an amazing sunset after a hard days graft on the lake

We were treated to an amazing sunset after a hard days graft on the lake

Thursday 25th August 2011

Despite the mixed expectations over whether we would finish today the whole group were up and ready early, managing to set off downstream by 0820. We were into the whitewater immediately, albeit with some easy-ish rapids to start with. It didn’t take long for the whitewater to subside and, before we knew it, we were back paddling flat water into a headwind! Simon demonstrated the dangers of portaging as he managed to pin himself as he got back into the river! Maximising our chances of completing the Magpie in one day, we even lunched on the fly as we portaged another large rapid. There were a number of fantastic rapids ranging up to grade 5, although they were interspersed with a considerable amount of flat water. At 1600 we arrived at a rapid leading into a gorge. The entry rapid looked nasty, and the rapids downstream didn’t look any better. I set off along the rocks on the left bank. After I had made it about 50 metres downstream, Martyn shouted from upstream to say that they had located a portage path on the other bank and they were all going to use that. If I wasn’t so stubborn, I would have carried my boat back to the top of the gorge, paddled across and then made use of the portage path. However, I am stubborn. Very stubborn! Instead of taking the logical option, I decided that it would be easier to paddle across the river in the pool I was next to and carry my boat up the other bank to the path. Sounded simple enough and definitely like a plan! My grand plan came crashing down when I had paddled across the pool and realised that the bank on this side was considerably steeper than I had realised. The next half an hour was spent scrambling up the cliff to a ledge, hauling my (very heavy) boat up to the ledge on a throwrope, and repeating. I then had to drag my boat through the trees and down a bank, where Martyn was standing having taken his boat along the path and then coming back to look for me! Having seen the portage path I would highly recommend its use in the future – it is considerably easier than hauling a loaded boat up a cliff! Reaching the enf of the portage path, we got back in and headed across the flat water towards the get-out. Paddling across the lake we were quite surprised to see a cloud of spray coming up from the flat water ahead of us – certainly not what we were expecting. As we got closer, we realised that this was Magpie Falls. This time I decided to follow the others along the portage path! Again, we set off across the flat water towards the get out, all feeling tired and ready for the end. By now it dusk was setting in and we were tired. We should have expected this by now, but the river had one final curve-ball to throw us. Martyn and Rich sat in an eddy above the rapid, looked down and could see an eddy part way down. Martyn went for it, made the eddy and then peeled out again. Disappearing over the lip, the next we saw of him was the nose of his boat coming back over as he was back-looped towards the centre of the hole. Luckily it washed him straight out so, one by one, we followed. A nice grade 5 rapid to end the trip! From here, we paddled around the corner and could see the pylons marking the end of the river. To end the trip, we were treated to the sight of a beaver swimming just in front of us. With the dam now completed, it was a simple walk up the track to the car where our (now warm) beers were waiting! We changed out of our stinky paddling kit, loaded up the car and set off on the 100 mile drive back to Sept Iles. To say the atmosphere in the car was jubilant would be a slight understatement! Unfortunately there aren’t many photos from the day due to the relentless pace we maintained during the day.

Back in Sept Iles, two hours later, we started the search for somewhere to stay. Somewhat surprised, the first motel we tried was fully booked and so we booked into Motel 7 – where they only had 3 double rooms available. Fortunately none of us were fazed by this – we were happy to be somewhere with modern facilities!! After collecting the car and showering, we headed off into town to find the slap-up meal and beers we were all eagerly looking forward to. However, none of us had taken the late time into account and we discovered the only place open for food in Sept at 11pm on a Thursday was Subway…. not quite what we were looking for but we weren’t going to turn it down.

Friday 26th August
Despite not having to pack up camp can get off paddling today, we were still up early. Following on the food trend last night, our slap-up breakfast consisted of another McDonalds before we heading back to the motel. The next couple of hours was spent unpacking and drying our kit out under the clear, blue sky. By late morning our kit was dry and we were packed up, ready to hit the road for the long drive back to towards the airport.

Simon’s write-up can be found at: http://thedrownedfish.co.uk/2011/09/05/quebec/.

More photos are available at:
Http://photos.andywicks.com/Quebec2011
Simon’s photos on Facebook

Canada 2011 – the warm up

This trip had been a long time in the planning. Some time towards the end of 2010, Simon Knox somehow persuaded Martyn Read, Doug Johnson and myself that we wanted to travel to Quebec to paddle the Magpie river. Despite Simon mentioning the 26 miles we would have to paddle down a lake, it still sounded like a good idea and during the following months, the remaining spaces on the trip were filled by Nick Smailes and Richard Morley. This first post is a write-up of my diary for the first part of the trip, before we flew in to the Magpie.

Sunday 14th August 2011

The issues started before we had even set off for Gatwick. After arriving at my house, we discovered a 4 inch crack in the bottom of Martyn’s boat – that would make it entertaining to paddle across 26 miles across a lake! Fortunately I had a couple of spare boats in the shed that Martyn was able to choose from so he ended up taking my old Nomad 8.5 (I have recently changed to a Jackson Villain). After spending a few hours practicing how to pack our gear into our boats, Doug arrived and we loaded the boats onto the car ready to head to Gatwick very early the following morning.

Monday 15th August 2011

Today started very early – we left my house at 0430 in order to get to Gatwick for 0600 This should leave us plenty of time to unload the cars, drop them off at the car park and get to check in nice and early. Upon arrival at Gatwick drop off, we pull up behind Simon’s car who had arrived only a couple of minutes previously… not bad considering we hadn’t arranged it!

When flying with boats the most stressful time is checking in as we hope that we get the boats on without any issues. Fortunately Thomas Cook have a clearly defined policy for taking kayaks (£30 flat fee each way) with the only weight limit being the 32kg limit specified for baggage handlers. Once we had checked in and then dropped all of our boats off at oversize baggage it was time to go through security to get some breakfast – I can proudly admit to enjoying my fry-up with both a coffee and a pint of London Pride!

We discovered we were on the same flight as Sam and Emily from Love It Live It, who were off to Ottawa to run a coaching course. During the flight Emily came over to show us some photos from her trip down the lower Magpie river a few years before which whetted our appetite even more.

Arriving at Ottawa, we retrieved our boats and kit, collected our hire cars (a Ford Explorer SUV and a Dodge Caliber) and commenced with the challenge of loading them with 6 boats and all of our luggage – no mean feat! It didn’t take Helen long to get tired of our farcical attempts at loading the boats so she decided to take public transport to commence her own holiday (she flew out with us but as a non-paddler had her own itinerary as a tourist in Canada). After numerous attempts, we were finally fully loaded and ready to leave the airport and headed into downtown Ottawa in the direction of the Ottawa Paddle Shack where Martyn and Simon purchased matching bright yellow cags and Rich invested in a set of AT paddles. Our next stop was just down the road at the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) were we all invested in a considerable number of Clif energy bars and various other bits of outdoor gear we needed for the trip. Returning to the Dodge we discovered that we had already earned a parking ticket – having only been in the country for a couple of hours!

Having lightened our wallets significantly, it was time to head out of the city towards our first river. A two hour drive took us to Maniwaki, near the Gatineau river. We pulled in to a motel only to discover that the lady on reception didn’t speak a word of English, so it was time to pull out our best French. Somehow we succeeded in getting three rooms so we dumped our stuff and set off in search of much needed food before getting a relatively early night (having been up for approx 22 hours taking into account the five hour time difference).

Tuesday 16th August 2011

Struggling to adjust our body clocks, we were all up and about early and wolfed down a McDonalds breakfast before setting off to the river.

Trying to locate all of our kit at the Gatineau get-on

Trying to locate all of our kit at the Gatineau get-on

The shuttle took considerably longer than any of us expected and this was the first, but definitely not the last, time that we doubted the distances quoted in the guidebook. The river turned out to have a considerable amount of flat sections, although it did have a number of interesting rapids. On the track between the get-out and the road Simon discovered that the Ford Explorer was not 4 wheel drive as he managed to get the car sideways on a bend, heading for the bushes! After collecting the Dodge from the get-in, we set off on the six hour drive to Tewkesbury, in preparation for paddling the Tewkesbury section of the Jacques Cartier river tomorrow.

We arrived in the town of Tewkesbury after dark and, after discovering the only motel in the area was fully booked, we decided to bivi in the car park at the get-in. Pitching in the dark we were glad at how easy it was to pitch our bivis. The biggest challenge we faced was in avoiding the boggy patches all around where we were pitching.

Wednesday 17th August 2011

Awaking early again, we were to all surprised to discover that our wild camping spot came with a port-a-loo (courtesy of the local rafting companies who use the car park as their get-on).

Our wild camping car park

Our wild camping car park

With no eateries in the close vicinity (we were actually a couple of miles outside of the town), it was porridge for breakfast. Once kitted up and the shuttle complete, we got on the river and were pleased to see that this river actually had a flow (unlike the Gatineau yesterday where the flat sections had no obvious flow). It didn’t take long for the rapids to arrive and after a few warm up rapids we arrived at what looked like a long rapid. As we started to eddy-hop our way down Simon managed to drop into a chunky hole and proceeded to demonstrate his freestyle ability. Unfortunately, the hole was not in the mood for letting Simon escape in his boat so before long he was heading downstream while his boat continued to recirculate. Having seen Simon’s beating, none of us were particularly up for following his line into the hole so Rich and I headed off downstream after him, being careful to avoid the big holes. Simon managed to get himself and his paddles to the bank and out of the river at the bottom of the rapid, approximately 200 metres from where he swam, while his boat managed to eddy out into the eddy next to the hole he swam from. Once Simon had collected his boat and everyone else had reached the bottom of the rapid it quickly transpired that Simon was not the only one to enjoy some hole time – Nick managed to drop into the same hole as Simon but escaped in his boat and Doug found himself in another large hole towards the bottom of the rapid – again managing to escape in his boat. We later discovered that Simon had been beaten in a hole called “Meatgrinder”! There were a few more chunky rapids before the get-out was reached. Despite it only being early afternoon and the run down taking a couple of hours, we made the decision not the run the section again – deciding instead to set off towards our next destination – the Malbaie. As we starting to realise, Canada is actually a very big place requiring a considerable amount of driving to reach each of our destination.

Following the instructions in the guidebook, we turned off the highway after kilometer board 55 onto what the book describes as a ‘dirt road’. It turned out they weren’t joking! After a few miles of this we crossed the river and arrived at a lodge claiming that we had to register our entry into the park. A chat with the woman in the lodge was again made complicated by having to hold the entire conversation in French, but it didn’t take them long to get across the message that camping was prohibited in the park with the nearest campsite being at Lac Ha! Ha! half an hour up the road. Bundling back into the cars we went back to the highway and followed the directions to the campsite. Luckily it was easy to find – it was signposted from the road. However, as the receptionist didn’t speak a word of English booking in was complicated but we ended up with two pitches for the six of us. We did feel and look quite out of place as all of the other pitches had large RVs or caravans on whereas ours had 6 bivis! As each of the pitches had a fire pit we decided that we would have a go at cooking dinner on an open fire. Our attempts were short lived as, blaming the restrictions imposed by the small fire pit, we pulled out the gas stoves to cook our dinner considerably quicker whilst doing our best to avoid getting eaten by the mossies.

Thursday 18th August 2011

As the alarm went off at 0600 we all awoke looking forward to the adventure that awaited us today. This morning we didn’t even consider cooking porridge on a open fire so fired up the gas stoves and left the campsite by 0730. Now, such an early start when we stayed just over half an hour from the get-on should mean that we got way before we ended up getting on at 1300! The guidebook says to drive as far down the road to the get on as we dare before unloading and continuing on foot.

Making our way to the get-in

Making our way to the get-in

We decided that we ought to do the shuttle while we left the others to walk down to the river so off Rich and I went. If we thought the dirt tracks up to this point were bad we were in for a real shock! The stones in the road grew into what could be classified as rocks and the gradients became steeper. At the top of one particularly steep descent we passed a four-by-four going the opposite direction and I was concerned by the look of shock they gave me as I sat in the Dodge! Nevertheless I slowly set off down the hill wandering if I would be able to drive back up later… The guidebook describes the track to the get-out as a ‘6km horrible, horrible dirt road’ – worse than the tracks we had driven along so far. Again, we drove the cars as far as we dared, before deciding to ditch the Dodge and see how much further we could get in the Explorer. A bit further down the road we ditched the Explorer and continued on to the get out on foot (we had to continue down to the get-out so we would be certain to recognise it later on as we paddled the river). After walking for about 2km we spotted something moving along the path a little way in front of us. As we continued to watch it walk on we both came to the conclusion that it was a bear! Needless to say it didn’t take us long to decide that we weren’t going to continue along the path so we hot-footed it back to the Explorer, continually over our shoulders to check that it hadn’t decided to follow us – not that we would have had any idea what to do if it did!! Reaching the car we breathed a sigh of relief as we drove back up the track to find the Dodge and then back upstream to where the track crossed the river, which is where Rich and I decided we would paddle to. We made it back to where we unloaded the boats more than 3 hours earlier without further incident and headed off down the track to the get in. The others had taken all of their kit the few kilometres to the get in and we met them as they were carrying our kit down. We eventually made it onto the river heading downstream at 1245 – almost four hours since we started the shuttle for the 7 mile river! The Malbaie is a fantastic river with plenty of pool-drop rapids and plenty of big holes to avoid.

Martyn in one of the many rapids

Martyn in one of the many rapids

We were able to inspect most of the rapids from our boats but, knowing there was a 30+ft waterfall on the river we were suspicious of a few of the horizon lines. As it turned out, we needn’t have worried – the spray kicked up from the bottom of the waterfall was visible from a distance. Inspecting the falls from the bank, Martyn and Nick quickly made the decision to portage, with Doug not far behind them. Rich, Simon and I spent a few minutes looking at lines but our eyes were constantly drawn to the ferocious boil occurring on the right hand-side at the bottom. Despite this, both Rich and I thought that there was a line down the falls, starting off on the left, hitting the rooster tail and hoping that it doesn’t throw us into the mess on the right at the bottom. As we were both so confident in our line choice neither of us wanted to go first so it was down to the only fair way to decide – rock, paper scissors. I went scissors and Rich went rock so, after one last look at my line, I headed off to get in my boat. Sitting in my boat in the eddy I was confident on my line and peeled out into the flow. Within seconds I was over the lip and underwater at the bottom, slowly floating towards the surface. The aeration of the water at the bottom made for the softest landing I have experienced – so soft in fact I didn’t even feel it. One second I was going off the lip towards the rooster tail and the next I was resurfacing! I floated into the eddy below and signalled up that all was good. Shortly after Rich followed me down and resurfaced at the bottom upside down. Having seen me and Rich get down safely Simon decided that he wanted a go and, after ensuring there was sufficient camera cover, got in his boat, peeled out of the eddy and fell off the waterfall.

Yours truly on Gatineau Falls

Yours truly on Gatineau Falls

Rich paddling out from the bottom of Gatineau Falls

Rich paddling out from the bottom of Gatineau Falls

The rest of the river passed without incident and the get out bridge was soon reached. With the boats loaded and us changed, we set off back up the dirt track towards the get-in to collect the Dodge before heading off in the direction of Sept Iles. Unfortunately, the second hill proved too much for the Explorer and we failed to reach the top. In fact, we only made it about a third of the way up before the car lost grip and made it no further. Thinking it might be too heavy, everyone but the driver got out who reversed the car to the bottom of the hill before taking a run up and trying again. Nope, still didn’t get to the top. We were starting to get concerned that we might be stuck out here, miles and miles from anywhere (including the road!) and it was only a couple of hours before dark.

Trying to get to the top

Trying to get to the top

Three more attempts and a change of driver later the car finally made it to the top – much to our relief. We collected the Dodge, returned to the road and started the 7+ hour drive to Sept Iles. We stopped at a roadside Motel after a couple of hours, enjoyed our first showers since Tuesday morning and dined in yet another diner.

Friday 19th September

After a relaxed start we continued the long drive to Sept Iles, eventually arriving mid-afternoon.

The long drive to Sept Iles

The long drive to Sept Iles

Our first port of call was the float plane location to check that everything was still on for our flight tomorrow. Despite having booked a plane to take all six of us together, they didn’t have a large enough plane available so had changed our booking to two smaller planes capable of taking three passengers and boats in each and that our take off had also been put back from 0800 to 1430 due to pilot availability. Leaving our boats at the ‘airport’, we set off for Sept Iles town centre to locate a motel for the night. We checked in to the Comfort Inn, unloaded all of our gear into the rooms and then Nick, Rich and I set off to do the shuttle, having lost the spoof. We were to leave the Explorer at the get-out for the Magpie, some 100 miles further east from Sept Iles with the shuttle. Whilst we were spending almost four hours completing the shuttle Doug, Simon and Martyn made a start at packing for the Magpie trip.

Upon our return at approximately half past eight, the three of us made our first attempt at packing before we all headed off for our last proper food (and beer) for at least five days. An enjoyable dinner was had in Mike’s – a chain of ‘traditional’ Italian restaurants, accompanied by a couple of beers each… except Nick… who stuck to the soft drinks. Returning to our rooms, most of us had a second attempt at packing before retiring to bed.

To be continued…

(EDIT: the rest of my diary is now available at /2011/09/29/canada-2011-multi-day-on-the-magpie/)

Simon’s write-up can be found at: http://thedrownedfish.co.uk/2011/09/05/quebec/.

More photos are available at:
Http://photos.andywicks.com/Quebec2011
Simon’s photos on Facebook