Friday, August 21, 2009

Romaine River Trip - Finally On Our Way

The Romaine River Crew (RRC) ready to take flight!

I got up at 06:30 wondering if we would fly today. I stuck my head out to to find heavy fog everywhere! My heart sunk wondering if the delay would continue.With time to kill, Ben and I eventually drove back to the St Lawrence to see low tide and go for a walk. The rising sun and gentle breeze slowly began to dissipate the fog and gave us hope. We eventually headed back and packed at a snail's pace soaking up the sunshine. We didn't want to get too excited, but the reality of flight buoyed our spirits. After stuffing ourselves of mismatched food that needed to be finished for breakfast, we loaded up and drove to the airbase. Ben came out of the same office he went into the day before, except this time with 2 thumbs up! It was all systems go!

While waiting for the Single Otter from another flight, we got our gear together and nestled the canoe. We also had to weigh everything, including ourselves. When the attendant remarked "That's all!", when the four of us were weighed, we knew we were well under the limit. (thanks to Ben's 118 pounds soaking wet with keys and pockets full of coins!)

Our 2 packs, 4 barrels and accessories weighed 472lbs!!
Yikes! The big "hurt" is coming!
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

When the Single Otter finally did arrive, (12 at this time, if you are counting), the pilot went to lunch! The long delay was frustrating but we had no choice. Actions sometimes speak louder than words in a rare show of solidarity of our annoyance. Waiting patiently and holding back the anticipation of the trip tends to stir your deep inner bowels. Like clockwork, we promptly one-after-the-other filed into the one room office with a bathroom and released that pent up pressure. It was funny to see everyone come out of there with the same smug look! Based on the expression of the person behind the counter, I'm sure he didn't share our sentiment!

I've always heard about pilots flying these legendary rock-solid De Havilland Beavers and Otters. But when the pilot tells the attendant who has already filled the tanks, to then re-fill them until the fuel spills out, it kind of makes you curious? Then he tells the attendant to the fill the other spare tank. (the third) Hmmm? On top of that, he calls the mechanic over to investigate a leaky gas tank. We all looked at each other and wondered if we should skip the flight when the mechanic said it was still okay to fly with the leak!! I didn't want my first experience in an Otter to be my last! Needless to say, we finally left at 13:30!

Is there any reason not to be excited about
starting a big canoe trip?!!
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

The stark interior of a Single Otter - Where's the drinks
and the hot hostess?!!

The view of the boggy landscape around Havre
St Pierre soon after take-off

We began seeing the frothing whitewater in the canyons
far below on the Romaine (gulp!)
Photo: Ben Albert

There was an amazing display of reindeer moss and spruce
covering the harsh landscape below

The almost 2hr flight went smoothly. So smoothly that all 3 of us in the back crashed while Ben himself tried to stay awake while keeping the pilot from falling asleep! But that's another story!

The weather turned for the worse at our arrival at Lac Marc,
just in time for the pilot to turn tail and leave us!

Landing on the shores of Lac Marc, we quickly unloaded and said our farewells. The immediate silence out in the middle of nowhere was deafening. It was almost eery. But there was no time to ponder since we had to assemble the Esquif Canyon before setting off. The grey cloud cover and the approaching rain hastened everyone's efforts except Ben. For some reason, he started to feel ill. Nausea, dizziness, and a headache immediately overcame him as he staggered to find a place to sit. Like a pregnant lady in her first trimester, he began throwing up everywhere. (shredded carrots anyone?) He thought it may have been the noise of the engine (very loud) but it seemed more like motion-sickness to me. Nonetheless, even trying to get Gravol down his throat was a challenge as he just threw it back up! There really wasn't much we could do but let whatever get through his system while closely monitoring him.

If you look closely, Ben is tucked in the bush on the left, and if
you look even closer you may see goodies
that he left behind!
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

Once everything was ready to go, we decided that we should make camp as close as possible and call it a day due to Ben's condition. He insisted he was okay to paddle, (well of course, he is only just throwing up his guts!) so we decided to head to the first documented campsite 5-6 kms away. Did he just not paddle from shore to then throw up over the side?! We continued on. When we finally got to the campsite, it was unfit for tenting. The sandy shore was very wet and mushy. Unfortunately we then backtracked to a small cove with an even smaller spit of sand just enough for our tents. Once the tents went up, Ben squirreled into his sleeping bag and crashed while the rest of us got supper going.

Our meagre but adequate campsite on the shores of Lac Marc
Photo: Dimitry Sapon

The trip was finally on its way, maybe not to the best start but we were now out here! All the effort, planning, and hard work had finally all paid off! We were now in our element!

Taking in the first of many beautiful sunsets on the trip!

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