24 August: lots of NM from Klemtu to somewhere wonderful

(I’m not going to divulge its location because it is a dream spot and I don’t want anyone else to know about it apart from those who already do)

We were up at 5.30 ready for an early and long paddle to the next campsite. We packed as usual but the extra walk from the house to the canoe got our legs and arms warmed up nicely. I was a little sad to be leaving a place that had touched me so deeply but, thankfully, there was nobody around to say bye to and I managed to keep a dry face. The water was incredible – like clichéd mill pond (mill ponds in Orkney don’t get very mirror-like though). Close to shore the effect was like a kaleidoscope and if you stood on your head you wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t for the pain on the crown of your head. It almost felt as if I was living in a Photoshop slideshow.

The kaleidoscope effect of the mirror surface

The kaleidoscope effect of the water was stunning and created some strange sights such as this ‘flying saucer’ island.

After a misty start the rain started and the mirror disappeared – my waterproofs leaked so I got a wet bum. But I was paddling again and got into my rear-end contemplative world and was lost in the stream of the water. The scenery slipped past mile after mile and the trees became almost hypnotic as I got more and more tired. Then Chris woke me up by pointing out that we were actually paddling against a strong adverse current. I looked to my right to see the land hardly moving. Until then I didn’t notice how tired I’d become. I headed to the shore at an angle to get into the slower water and we moved on and into the bay where we were to camp that night.

We entered the bay and slowly paddled along the shore with Chris and someone else mumbling ‘it should be there, I’m sure we’ve got the right place’. Then we saw it: a wooden cabin almost hidden in the trees and raised on stilts about ten foot above the high-water line. It was incredible, a real Indian secret cabin. This one was owned and used by the people at Klemtu when they were fishing. We had permission to stay here from the elders at Klemtu so we were doubly honoured by their hospitality. Each time I meet First Nation people I am struck by their hospitality and other good qualities but here, I was taken by the way that we were helped along our way – as a part of the family. It was important that we were travelling in the way that their people had for thousands of years, in canoes. Canoes formed a central focal point of their way of life: it was their bus, trading vehicle, fishing boat, and, no doubt, much more. It must mean more to them to see people arriving in the old way than in an expensive yacht.

We landed the canoe on some slabs of stone that were angled out of the water at about twenty degrees – a nice and friendly landing spot, unlike some of the places we’d had to camp over the last week or so. Exploring, we found the cabin had three bedrooms with six, four, and one bunks: a typical hierarchical sea-farers’ mess with female, male, and officer’s accommodation. There were enough foam mattresses for all of us (well, the ones not afraid of bugs that is) There was also a kitchen/dining room, and an outside toilet (Canadians call it a washroom for some strange reason – I’d hate to wash in there, yuck!). There was also an outside communal area with a central ring of stones for a fire and seats made out of logs. A selection of useful bits and pieces were scattered around the place inside and out: the usual kitchen stuff, kindling in a dry place under the cabin, some rolled up cord, various tools, and some pre-cut wood ready for burning. Obviously a place that is often used and made with comfort in mind. There were paths well worn going into the forest but none of us wanted to venture far from the hot coffee now brewing in the cabin. No need to worry about the reserved sleeping spots this time, although I did get to choose a spot not too close to the snorers amongst us.

Once everyone settled in we relaxed and eased our aching muscles. I was watching the water and the distant geese on the water when I saw my second humming-bird – it buzzed in flight across my line of sight, froze cartoon like in mid-air, and just stared at me from about a metre away with is large eyes. It was like a graceful and pretty version of Tweety Pie and seemed to blink twice in astonishment at the crazy humans on their ten-foot perch before it buzzed back into the forest. There were four of five of the others on the perch but they were engrossed in books or journals so I think I might have been the only one to see the show.

The crew on our perch in the secret location

The crew on our perch in the secret location

As usual the evening matured with food – delicious as ever – settling in stomachs, followed by reading, writing in journals, and chatting until all were tired. No sleeping pill needed tonight but the ear-plugs given to me by Nancy helped a great deal.

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