Stage V – The Road-trip home & The Dempster Highway

We had hoped to get back to Inuvik by boat, but in the end and after running around town on our final day in Tuk we flew back to Inuvik. It was painfully expensive and the flight was only 25mins. The good part was that we flew over where we had paddled and had a wonderful view of Tuk, the Mackenzie River and Delta, and the weather system that was the reason for no boats heading to Inuvik. It was a turbulent flight and Tallak’s first time in an aircraft. It was a small, 8-seater with the cargo stored behind a net in the back of the plane. Tallak did very well, it would appear he is not phased by anything anymore and took the flight and turbulance in his stride. Watching him try to fit in a crate designed for a smaller dog with his backpack on was very entertaining.

The airport in Inuvik is quite a distance from the town. Fortunately, after having had a brief chat with the pilots about our trip by the plane we met them about to drive to their accommodation in town. At the time we were wondering what to do, stood under the cover of the building to avoid the rain. We asked for a lift and they readily agreed. We were about to push 2 airport trolleys down the highway to get to Inuvik so we are grateful to them for helping us out. They dropped us off at the same spot we had camped before which was a strange feeling. Deja vu, and the thought that we needed to be paddling to Tuk was common. The weather had changed; now the leaves were almost all yellow, with them dropping frequently.

The following day in Inuvik was busy. Trying to prepare for our re-integration into society once more was no mean feat! We have been out of the loop a while, though it took a few more days before the change really affected us. We again met up with Diane & Tom Thomson who once more hosted us for a slap-up dinner & wine  which was a great way for us to celebrate our completion of the paddle. We were expecting our friends to meet us in Inuvik 2 days later but when we returned to our camp they were there waiting for us – a real suprise! They set up camp beside us and one of the pilots came to talk with us about the trip which was great, he had many good stories from his travels. We stayed up late into the night and even had the Aurora Borealis break through the clouds and put on a show for us.

We departed the next day with Yusaku Koshisaka (Koshi) and Sho Tetsumoto on the drive South to Jasper. The drive is around 3,500km which I drove in 4 days. Koshi had just driven the entire way up so I did not want him to drive back as well. The Dempster Highway is the first leg, approximately 700km and was spectacular, though it is a dirt road so I never reached above 60kmh the entire time. The entire drive was amazing and well worth it if anyone ever has the opportunity as you pass through the NorthWest Territories (NWT), the Yukon, British Columbia (BC) and Alberta, all the time driving through or alongside mountain ranges.

We camped along the way, the second and third night with all four of us and Tallak in the tipi still with enough room to comfortably cook and relax. It was great to be able to have Koshi and Sho experience a little of how we spent our time with the way we managed our camp, food, drink, etc. We did little in the way of tourist stops as the guys had spent longer on the way up exploring and we had wanted to be in Jasper on the 10th Sept so could not afford to delay much. One delay was a morning spent at the Liard River Hot Springs which is a natural sulphur spring – incredibly hot and fantastic. It was just as though we were in a giant, steaming hot bath in the middle of the forest. We could not have asked for better as a reward and to work the heat into our muscles after the trip. It is apparently good luck to place a stone at the source of the spring which I did, one for myself, and one for Vicki. Though it is no easy achievement with the water getting hotter as you work your way towards it, so hot in fact that at one point Koshi, who had been hip-deep walking towards it stood up a little further and had a bright red band around his waist and below from the heat – we were literally cooking! It was great.

To our amusement, we saw more large mammals on the drive than we did on the entire paddle, especially once we crossed into BC. We were crossing them off the list as we went: Caribou, Buffalo, Moose, Black Bear, Mountain Goat, Bighorn Sheep, Porcupine and Fox, all right next to or crossing the road.

It was approximately 01:00 in the morning of the 10th as were drove in a pitch-black, cloudless sky with the stars shining bright and clear when we crested a hill before Grande Prairie and saw lights covering the horizon before us. It was intimidating and made Vicki’s and my heart race when we saw it, like thousands of camp fires spread across the plain. It was rather unnerving to have civilisation so visible before us and I found myself unintentionally slowing the car; I was driving 60kmh on the highway as we approached until I came to my senses. It was a most surprising response, and one I had not expected as we had been in towns along the way, though with a population of over 50,000 Grande Prairie was something huge, new and – I do admit – frightening.

Travelling through the towns really did bring into perspective some of the smaller issues of our expedition which perhaps can be overlooked. For example, our combined, average water consumption per day was around 5L. This includes drinking water, rehydration of food, etc. It was only when I entered a fast food restaurant and went to the washroom did I see on the urinal that it used 3.7L per flush. I was rather horrified and as there was a button I did not flush it. That didn’t matter as when I stepped away it flushed anyway. Almost 2 people’s water for an entire day used to rinse a urinal after a single use. After some basic math about average usage per day for that restaurant alone we soon stopped as the degree of water consumption was astronomical and more than we cared to think about, especially as for us to acquire that water in the bush was such a time consuming venture, having to boil everything before use. I now feel guilty each time I have a shower, flush a toilet or wash dishes! I am sure the feeling will dissipate shortly when I become accustomed to it once more (as I have experienced in the past), but, this time I do not think I want it to. Perhaps it will help me do a little of my part to conserve in the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those we met on our expedition; we learnt so much and have been astonished and greatly welcomed the hospitality and friendliness of (almost without exception) all those we met along the way. I would also like to thank all of you who have read the blog, and those who have posted comments. Whilst I did not respond to them unless it was a question, it really helped to motivate us and we really looked forward to reading any comments on the blog and seeing ‘Comments’ and ‘Likes’ on our Facebook page. It is appreciated and it has been great to know people enjoyed reading about what we were enjoying doing so much.

We shall continue to update the blog with equipment reviews, a camping food section, and we have many more projects planned that we shall put on the site as we progress. We have videos that we shall be uploading from this trip and if anyone has any questions about what we did, how we did it, or anything related to camping that we could perhaps help with please feel free to contact us.

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2 thoughts on “Stage V – The Road-trip home & The Dempster Highway”

  1. Well done on completing your fantastic adventure, you should both be very proud of yourselves.
    I am going to miss the updates!
    I see you are now in Quebec – new adventures??
    All the best Sian, Christine & Roger x

  2. BRAVO!!!
    I have followed you guys from the beginning, initally because I accidentally came across a story about Tallak. Since then it has been my lunch time distraction from the cubical world of big city living! I am an avid paddler who dreams of just such adventure and feel inspired to get going and make it happen!
    Congrats!
    Doug

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