Return to the Chilko_part IV: Skymelt

But there was a problem. Our functional raft was parked just upstream of the logjam, with little to no chance of making the ferry to a clear channel. I watched with renewed horror as Chuck took the course I had feared, ploughing directly towards a massive dead tree sweeping over the channel in which he was trapped. At that moment, I felt that we were beaten, that the river had won, that for all our toil to recover the situation, we were still at its mercy. The present reality of rubber contacting tree was now inevitable, and it was all we could do to react, to play the fool’s game once again. I was resigned to the moment, at its service, my will irrelevant. And it was precisely that moment of resignation at which the tree gave way under the weight of the raft. Just opened like a barn door. And the juggernaut pushed on through. Continue reading

Return to the Chilko_part III: Chucknot

My head broke the surface. Things always look worse from the surface. Waves slapping my face, I glimpsed a fallen army of trees lining the riverbed on either side of my narrow channel. I righted the ducky and scrambled on top. Hoots and hollers from the raft crew reached my ears as the water drained from my head. Footloose, with upside-down paddle blades, I shambled downstream through the dead-forested corridor. Leaden blood coursed through my arms, squeezed my chest. Continue reading

Return to the Chilko_part II: Pinky

The rope in my hands was of lightweight polypropylene, designed for throwing at a swimmer and yelling at them about. It was not designed to feed through a mechanical advantage system and unwrap an 18-foot expedition rig plastered under forces incomprehensible. Continue reading

Return to the Chilko_part I: Riverbent

Frosty oars of Douglas fir stand ready in the autumn sun. The Chilko blue slides downstream.

My drysuit crinkles in the bluebird air. I row the kitchen-raft solo, grateful for the silence. No-one to ask, ‘How deep is the water here? What grade of rapid is this? How many times have you done this? What do you do in the winters?’ Just the river gurgling, the wind nipping at my ears. Last run of the season. Continue reading

Moto Tramp 125cc_part VII: Northbound

26/02/14 – 01/03/14

Tierra del Fuego National Park – Ushuaia – Rio Grande

After the night of the fox, we made a special effort to rise before noon. We followed a trail to the Lago Alto, where we emerged from the forest canopy onto a grey-pebbled shore. Bright and placid, deep and dark, the water’s edge guided us to the border with Chile. A wooden sign suggested that we not trespass, but it was shorter than us, and this really was the most pleasant place to cross. No guards posturing for authority, no sequence of paper-shuffling desks to negotiate, no queues stretching to the nearest paved road in the glaring ultra-violet. Here in the shaded lakeside forest, the only border guards were the unseen birds that chirped and flitted between countries without firing a bureaucratic neuron. Continue reading

Moto Tramp 125cc_part VI: Land of Fire

24/2/14 – 26/2/14

Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego National Park

The mess hall was aflutter with campers drawn to the light like moths. Whump, the multilingual chatter crossed the decibel threshold whereafter everyone suddenly speaks louder to be heard. A card game got rowdy at the French table. If you listened without searching for meaning, you could divide the white noise into its constituent colours. French casts a purple light, Spanish red and English blue. Through the din and backpacker everhype, my only tangible thoughts were of the sherpa-dog I’d left shrinking in the side mirror hours ago. What if he was still running after us, lost in the cold night rain, harrowed by  headlights flashing by? But even this thought I was too tired to sustain. I could count on my fingers the number of hours I’d slept in the past week. Three on the left, seven on the right. The tent might have been a luxury hotel for all I knew. Continue reading

Moto Tramp 125cc_part V: World’s End

22/2/14 – 24/2/14

Rio Grande – Ushuaia

We eddied out by the Rio Grande waterfront. I’d rather have jumped into the Argentine Sea than ridden back into fray. The styrofoam joke-armour in my jacket and pants would give me buoyancy. I’d float with the currents to the Falklands, flash my British passport at the coast guard and check into the hospital. I surveyed the beach: black seawater, long rustle-grass, dark earth turned orange by dim street-lamps. Continue reading


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