This camp had poor access to the campsite so we left what we could in the canoe and only carried what we really needed to the camp itself. The camp itself was accessible from the water but only after a climb up a slippery dust slope. Carrying anything of any weight was very difficult. The kitchen was constructed down by the shore, and the fire ‘upstairs’ near the tents. The kitchen area was windy because it was exposed a little to the southerly wind, but only a little – that we felt that much wind at all should have told us how rough it was around the headland. We were not quite prepared for what was ahead of us tomorrow.
I awoke slightly bunched in the bottom of the tent because my site was on a slope – most of the sites were on a slope, and rocky. But I slept well and woke refreshed.
After packing as usual, we made a move to carry on south. The going seemed fine until we got around the headland out of shelter and back into the wind, which was stronger even stronger than yesterday. The next few hours were spent paddling full on for a few minutes then resting for a few minutes whenever we found a wind break then paddling… We were reduced to about half a knot in some places but slowly, and in numerous leaps and breaks, we made it to the shelter of Burnt Island – only about half a mile from the super camp. Then after 8km of slog and 2/3 foot waves coming over the deck the going finally became easier and we relaxed into a sunny paddling pace.
Burnt Island is sacred to the local people and used for healing and ceremonial activities. It’s one of the places we did not have permission to camp on. However, in a few days we were to have a look on the island but not under favourable circumstances. This time we just wanted to reach this mysterious camp. Rounding the lee of Burnt Island the wind was not quite as bad as earlier due to the high ground to the south of us. There was a high ridge ahead and it seemed to break up the strong southerly wind. We aimed for a small island shaped like the back of a whale that hid the super camp from our view – thus deepening the suspense further. The relatively short distance to the island went quickly and we passed to its west – Chris then simply said to the crew ‘There it is’. We saw a rocky outcrop which had a natural rock ramp at the water’s edge. We came to a stop at the ramp and tied up the canoe. This time, contrary to convention, we left the unloading for a few minutes while we explored the camp area.
The camp area was on top of a rocky about the size of two tennis courts but without the nets. There were few areas where tent pegs could be sunk and small rocks seemed to grow out of the ground just where a sleeping bag could lie. The whole kitchen site seemed to be set at an angle of forty five degrees from flat and was built on solid rock. In many places the rock was covered with a slippery covering of moss so that a slide into the icy water seemed inevitable with every step. Do I exaggerate? Well, just a little maybe, but it was treacherous in places.
When it sank in that we were to stay here for a couple of days we unpacked the canoe and built the kitchen and pitched tents (after moving a skip load of rocks away from each tent area). In time I built a fire and we all set ourselves into the usual routine of occupying ourselves until dinner: reading, painting, watching the Osprey fly-past, and generally staring awe-struck at the 4000 foot peaks with their tree-filled slopes and rocky peaks with glaciers waiting for global warming to set them free (not long now). We could not feel any of the strengthening winds that were on the south side of the ridge unless we ventured to over there. However, the calmness had its downside and the flies really took advantage – especially the kamikaze fly: they were experts at landing directly on one’s eyeball. You had maybe a half a second warning as they hovered two inches in front of your eyes, lining up for the dive, before they went in for the kill. Very irritating.
Burnt island was visible in distance, amid the frothy peaks that were developing on the waves. There was a lone duck on the water keeping an eye on us. It seemed to enjoy simply bobbing on the white caps of the waves that were growing in height. I enjoyed taking time to enjoy the views and to take some photos in the clear air. Later I took out the small canoe and paddled to the small island just opposite. With Chris I put spirit dancer II into the centre of the channel between the camp and the small island to stop the winds bashing it against the rock. Given its freedom in the channel, the canoe weaved left and right quite wildly in the wind so we later back again for fear that one of the ropes might be chafed and severed. Later in the afternoon the weather calmed and, in the setting winds, I started to read my book. Even so, the winds passed through the tree canopy and sounded like freight trains, like wind spirits riding on the tree tops. I slept that night with dreams of the ghostly wind spirits dancing to the music of the dying glaciers. Would they tire out during the night I wondered.