Lakes Placid

Photos to come – not enough bandwidth!!

Our one night stay in Kenora was extended to two as Mike (finally, frankly) succumbed to the bug I’d had. I nursed him dutifully under the shade of the tarp in between making runs to the campsite shop, town and to check on various items illegally plugged in and charging around the site. Timing perfect as ever, our extra day meant we avoided paddling through another thunderstorm and set off a little fresher with a flat calm lake ahead of us. 

We still made it to the brewing company…

‘Lake of the Woods’ and this next section of the trip had always held a certain magic for us – on the map it certainly looked like a paddlers paradise, and people kept saying how wild and wonderful it was. Spoilt as we have been with wilderness, it actually felt incredibly busy leaving Kenora amidst the wake of motorboats, sea-doos, houseboats and even a great big cruiser. In spite of the business we had a lovely paddle in easy conditions, although navigation is understandably more challenging: we’d bought 16 detailed maps in Winnipeg to get us through to Lake Superior and I could no longer rely on the iPad. After a possibly slightly unnerving refresher on using a compass Mike put himself in my hands… it went well until I got tired and nearly threw the map and compass overboard, at which point we decided to camp. 

The weather was fantastic again the next day and the lake much quieter as we got further from Kenora. Dodging between islands and sneaking through tiny channels – this was what we’d hoped for; surprising a couple having a skinny dip from their pontoon, not so much, but when lunchtime came we threw caution and clothes to the wind and went for a swim too. This we had also hoped for – with stints between showers stretching up to 18 (18!) days, a swim and refresh is a total delight for us and, presumably, everyone we encounter. 

We came to our portage off Lake of the Woods in sweltering heat. Arriving at ‘Vic and Dots camp’ we headed inside to ask if we could tow our boat through to the highway and to just double check if they didn’t sell cold drinks or ice cream… they didn’t, but they gave us a cold can and, worried we might melt into the tarmac, offered us a lift over the (trans canada) highway to our put-in on Kakagi lake – we couldn’t refuse! 

From Lake of the Woods we knew there was a tangle of lakes and portages to get us through to the Quetico Provincial park – so many we hadn’t even committed their names to memory for our recitation of the route. We prepared ourselves for a tough couple of days – the first of which had no fewer than 7 portages: some quick heaves over beaver dams, some slightly longer trails through the forest, and one an almost completely lost kilometre of winding rocky paths and fallen trees. This last one called for the canoe to be completely emptied and carried on Mike’s head – something we had both looked forward to and dreaded in equal measure. We walked the route through to check it existed and was passable: it was, intermittently marked with ribbons tied in the trees, but it wasn’t passable with the boat, so we made a return trip carrying the heavier bags and armed with secateurs (genius!) to clear the way. We headed back to the boat to gather the remains of our kit and have our first trial of traditional canoe portaging. Struggling to get the 100L bag back on my shoulders Mike somehow managed to disappear off along the trail. Scurrying to catch up, whilst checking each ditch he might have fallen into, I eventually caught up with him in time to see the canoe stop abruptly, surge forward again, bounce back off some unseen obstacle and then slowly, gracefully, collapse to the ground. In a fit of giggles. Whether from the heat or the exertion of carrying our own body weights in kit, or the ridiculousness situation, we were both in hysterics for some time before the canoe squeaked breathlessly: ‘please can you get me out?!’. Proper voyageurs, us… 

Portage trails were sometimes challenging 
Anyway, we will now never forget Kakagi: lake of the crystal clear water, evening swim and incredible sunset camp spot; Osipasinni where we ate blueberries on the portage and Mike picked me a lily; Sandhill which wasn’t sandy at all, and Schistose with its perfectly placed tiny island at the end of a hard day of portages – bathed in the evening sun, with a fire pit which must have been there since the fur trade, with loon ducks making their eery, funny calls all around us and even enough time for a circumnavigation swim before dinner. The best few days of the trip so far: if the top of the Winnipeg river was Jurassic park, this area was the land that time forgot. 

“Circumnavigation Island”

The next day we were due several more portages but to our delight high water levels made several of the low dams easily passable by canoe (maybe not so much by the fishing boats that followed us…). Through Pipestone Lake, Loonhaunt, a couple more small dams to haul the boat over and some ‘rapids’ which turned out to be nothing of the sort, we had another stunning day and arrived at the last dam before Rainy lake and our last big portage before Fort Frances. 

The last portage was a good track so we put the canoe on the trolley, harnessed ourselves to the painters and set off. We camped on another well placed island and watched thunderstorms roll down the lake. Another morning of paddling saw us arrive into Fort Frances for our resupply – aiming for Pithers Point park and campground we were somewhat distracted by a big hotel with a boat pontoon and tables outside almost declaring food was available… 

Bertha mixing it with the big boats

Thanks go to: 

Robert, for the lift!

Every lovely person at La place rendez-vous!

The amazing guys in customs, Fort Frances, for their patience and help.

Mike’s new favourite piece of kit: factor 60 suncream

Are we nearly there yet??

A couple of days ago we crossed the provincial line into Ontario and after a quick mileage review realised we’re over halfway! (for distance at least – this next bit will be slower…). 

Here’s a round up of how we wound up in the middle of Canada:

  • Distance covered: 2900km (give or take a wiggle…)
  • Days since departure: 68
  • Paddled/portaged: 60 
  • Weather bound: 6
  • Days off off: 2 (he’s a task master…)
  • Provinces crossed: 3; remaining: 2
  • Favourite campsite: Bear camp, Alberta

Worst mosquito bite location: 

  • Cas: between toes
  • Mike: scrotum

Tick tally: Mike 2; Cas 2

Leech tally: Mike 2; Cas 1

    Halftime favourite piece of kit: 

    • Mike: water filter;
    • Cas: carbon paddle (a few mm shorter than when we bought it…)

    Nervous moments we thought we’d broken the boat: many

    Repairs to boat: 2 (superficial, luckily)

    Stow-aways: 2 (one mouse, one toad)

    Hitchhikers: 1 

    Useless trivets lost overboard: 1

    Useless trivets needed to reset the stove when it broke: 1

    Cameras destroyed due to stupidity: 1

    Times we almost fell in: 1 (yesterday)

    • Fuel used: 3L white gas, 2 small camping gas 
    • Wine gums consumed: 3.5kg (slightly alarming)
    • Whisky consumed: 3 bottles, all excellent

    Best piece of advice: burn birch bark for smoke to get rid of mozzies!

    Worst piece of advice: 

    • ‘Awful cramped: you should get another canoe and tow it behind you with your kit in it!’

     Closely followed by: 

    • ‘You should run a noodle [floatation device used by children and in aquarobics classes] down either side – improve your stability!’

    What we have learnt: this life suits us!

    What we are yet to learn: we have to confess we’re still not 100 percent clear what poison ivy and poison oak are…

    Weddings missed: 2 (and 2 more to go…)
    Friends and family missed: many 

    We love you guys!! Xxx

    Dam it all!

    We departed our rock with mixed feelings: excitement to see the terrain start to change and embark on the next section of our journey mingled with apprehension at the thought of another big industrial river which we would be paddling upstream no less, and multiple portages around dams. Well. 

    Day one on the Winnipeg we reached: Pine falls which we ‘lined’ the boat up; Powerview dam which we portaged; Silver falls which we paddled up; Mud falls which we slightly ungracefully slid and slipped the boat up, and finally Great Falls dam which we again portaged. We didn’t know or care how far we’d paddled because we were loving every minute: the river is stunning with great slabs of grey and pink granite overhung with pines and cedars; sometimes wide and lake-like, sometimes high and fast. 

    We were fairly shattered when we got to the other side of Great falls dam and decided to just camp right there in the car park. Minutes after we’d pitched the tent Dan and Shayna arrived to go for a swim in a nearby flooded quarry. We were too tired and hungry to investigate but on hearing of our trip Dan said ‘We have a market garden – I’ll be back in half an hour with fresh stuff for you guys!’. And he was with, to my utter delight, bags full of freshly picked salad and vegetables, and to Mike’s unbridled joy a pack of homemade venison smokies (sausages!). We seriously considered a second dinner…

    Day 2 on the Winnipeg dawned fair and bright and we made an early start, not really knowing how tough the current may be nor how tricky the portages. Within minutes we were watching an otter and her 3 pups playing in the eddies just metres in front of the boat. They scurried over a headland and then back out into the middle of the very current we were struggling against. It set us up for the day ahead – another dam to portage and Lac du Bonnet to cross. We were now in prime cottaging (totally legitimate phrase, stop snickering at home) country and it was easy to see why. We made a stop in Lac du Bonnet town for some emergency supplies (read: ice cream) and by great good fortune met up with Bev and Rolly – Wayne’s sister and brother in law. Once again they invited us to stay and once again we decided regretfully to push on, but not before Bev had given us a huge blueberry cheesecake. ‘We can’t possibly eat it all!’ We cried: ‘It’ll go bad in the heat and be wasted!’ It turned out we could, it didn’t and it wasn’t… 

    Day 3 started with a portage up Seven Sisters dam via a steep track. Mike had warned me that in this area there are stone sculptures or what appear to be piles of rocks which we should leave untouched as they could be aboriginal. Imagine my delight when he kicked over a little stone man we had been carefully avoiding on the slipway… (I estimate the slipway concrete was poured in the 70s so I’m thinking he didn’t wreck too much history…). We paddled on towards Pinawa and into island hopping territory through some fairly fast water (easy ‘drop and pool’ everyone said! ‘Virtually no flow’…) sadly receiving an invitation to meet the mayor too late. Through Margaret lake, Dorothy lake and onto Nutimik lake the headwind picked up but we were determinedly aiming for a provincial park near Sturgeon falls – the next portage. Barring the wind it was a fairly glorious evening and plenty of folks were out on their decks and pontoons drinking sundowners (I may have suggested paddling closer on the off chance of an invitation up for gin but Mike will take a direct line). Arriving at the park I headed up to find the office and see what else could be had there. I returned frazzled an hour later: suffice it to say, these parks aren’t really geared up for people arriving in anything other than a car. It was going to be quite a hike with the boat to any pitches so instead we paddled on around the headland and camped on a beach right next to the falls. 

    Day 4 started with a short portage around  Sturgeon falls and a brisk paddle to Slave falls hydro dam. We hadn’t managed to find much online about this portage since early 2000s and we hoped the track had improved since then. After a bit of searching we found the marker and after a steep narrow section through the woods the trail became a wide grassy track up to the ‘high side’. Phew. We left a small token taped to the marker for our friends and comrades-in-boats Mike and David who have been utterly beset by winds and storms on lake Winnipeg. We hope it’s still there when they arrive!

    The next hurdle was 8 foot falls which we reckoned we’d need to portage (it’s all in the name…) and immediately afterwards Pointe du Bois dam. We got closer and closer to where the falls were marked on the map and the water got faster and faster but no obvious get-out, nor actual ‘falls’ could be seen so we carried on. Paddling our socks off we suddenly arrived just below the dam so apparently had come up 8 foot falls! This portage was supposed to be clearly signed so we carried on until we dared not go any closer. We ended up hauling the boat through someone’s garden and found the road. Turning back a short way up we saw the portage signs – clearly marked if you were heading downstream!! It was quite a walk to the high side but greatly improved by the presence of many wild raspberries. We had lunch on the boat pontoon and chatted to some locals – apparently the wild blueberries out ripe too, in abundance! The dam sign said flow rates were currently high which could be good or bad depending on their effect on the rapids ahead, but for now we were essentially on a lake and we had a fine paddle up to Lamprey falls where we made an early camp. We even had time for a quick dip before dinner which will come as a relief to anyone who has met us recently. 


    Apparently some folk are trying to guess from reading who wrote each post (before it becomes obvious) so I’ll try and keep this as neutral as possible…

    We pulled into the Narrows slipway on Canada day weekend and immediately obstructed it – one of us went to investigate the Lodge whilst the other sat on the canoe eating wine gums. 

    ‘We’ve got a room with a king size bed! AND a double bed. AND a BATH!! Oh, and the restaurant smells soooo good!’

    So we speedily unpacked the boat, loaded it onto the trolley and literally ran to our room. 

    Our excitement was only slightly curbed by a sign on the wall saying ‘Strictly NO smoking and NO pets. Any evidence or smells resulting from breaking this rule will lead to a $150 cleaning fee’. We hoped they would believe that the smell was just 2 unbelievably grubby humans. 

    One of us was despatched to buy some beers before taking up residence in the bath for 2 hours. Then we put on our cleanest clothes and headed to the restaurant, but before we left the room debated: really muddy shoes, sopping wet sandals or bare feet? We opted bare feet. 

    ‘I’m going to have to ask you to put some shoes on, please’ said the server as he greeted us. ‘For your own safety.’ We explained our predicament and ultimately agreed socks were acceptable, and would definitely enhance our safety. We ate steak and drank wine and chatted to James, our lovely server, and agreed we’d be back for breakfast and almost certainly dinner too the next day. 

    The forecast winds arrived and we were thankful for the opportunity to do some laundry and blogging and sleeping and a little resupply stop. We also ate more steak. 

    Setting off on Tuesday in good cheer and great weather we paddled to Margaret Bruce beach and camped on the sand under a tree. 

    Once again battling head wind and tail swell but also blistering heat we set out hoping to get around Big Point – from where we thought we’d be able to get off the lake in one more day’s paddle. The water was thick with carp and in places we couldn’t put a paddle in without bonking one on the head, which did add interest to the day. But the weather broke us and we started looking for a camp spot 15km short of the point. And looking. And looking. A few Km later one of us may have (briefly) stopped paddling altogether and had a tantrum. ‘Well, we can try and make space here if you’d like?’ Said the other, in an effort to mollify, pointing at 2 square feet of sand in the middle of a reed bed. But then we glimpsed a big sandy stretch ahead of us: 

    ‘how far is that?’ 


    ‘*~€{} it, we’re going there’. 

    So we did. It turned out to be called Hollywood beach, so we stripped off and went for a swim. 

    The wind put paid to any plans to progress the next day which was frustrating but meant we got to eat pancakes with the remainder of Darlene’s rhubarb. 

    We were also given some fish by an interesting fella in an RV who had plans to build a jackable/floating platform for it and haul it into the middle of the lake to live out his days…!

    Rested up and with a good forecast we departed Hollywood beach on Friday not convinced, but hopeful, we might make it to the Assiniboine diversion. And we did!

    Thanks go to:

    Blair, James and the rest of the team at the narrows for making us (and our boat) very comfortable! And for the washing tablets!

    Arnold for letting us camp under his tree.

    Randy, for the fish and entertainment!

    What we’ve learnt:

    Headwind + wine gums = ok

    Headwinds – wine gums = tantrum 

    Lake Manitoba to the Narrows

    We set off from Melford’s early on Thursday devoid of breakfast but with a gift of frozen fish, freshly picked lettuce and spring onions for our dinner and about 2 kilos of Saskatoon berries. It was only a few km portage across to Lake Manitoba along a range road to a gravel beach. We were so delighted to arrive at our second lake and see easy campsites all around we celebrated with pancakes, syrup and berries – thanks Melford! 

    With low winds and a glassy lake we made our first crossing avoiding a hefty bay which would have added about 20km. The day was muggy and hot though and we were increasingly aware of distant and then not so distant thunder. As we approached the second headland we were faced with a sky of black, a wall of rain and the sound of the apocalypse. ‘I think we might want to sit this one out!’ Yelled Mike, and we did an abrupt divert to a thin, steep  rocky shore. We hauled the boat up a few feet, and then a few more, and then as far as we could as the wind built to storm force and the waves grew to over a metre – all within minutes. 

    It was too windy to put up the tarp but we found some shelter behind the boat under the trees. We made a cup of tea. Then the wind started to drop and the rain really began – so we put the tarp up and made another cup of tea. Feeling suitably humbled and chastened we set off, keeping maybe a little closer to the shore. 

    We found an awesome beach camp, made a fire and turned Melfords fish into fishcakes, using the fresh spring onions, instant mash and some bacon bits. Honestly I’m starting to think camp cooking is my culinary forte, and a hungry clientele are definitely the best recipients! We made some more granola for breakfast and a berry bannock too in an effort to use up some of the saskatoons. 

    The tragic end of the whisky…

    The next day dawned a little dreich and uninspiring and after a few slow km and with the wind building again we were anxious about a repeat of Lake Windy. Walking seemed like a more appealing option so we decided to avoid an exposed headland by heading into a bay and portaging across instead. Within minutes of setting out we watched a huge bear stroll across the road a hundred yards ahead and were reminded we ought to have our spray handy… queue a quick scrabble in our bags…  

    Some of you may have seen our track from Crane River and whilst we’d like to say we are getting fitter and faster we can’t pretend we averaged 56km/hr on the crossing. George stopped by in his truck – he was just heading home to grab something but in 5 minutes time he’d be passing us again heading (wouldn’t you know!) to the beach on the other side of the headland where he was camped with his family. It was too good an offer to refuse!!! So we unpacked the boat and strapped it at an alarming diagonal across the bed of the truck and off we set. 

    On arriving at the beach we met his wife and foster daughter and were welcomed into their trailer for coffee. In the hour that followed Rose taught us a little of the local history and language (Ojibwe), and some of her cultural lore ranging from medicinal plants to moral stories. We could have listened all day! We left with lavender oil, lightening stones and maybe just a little more wisdom. 

    We paddled on down the lake passing endless shingle or sandy beaches (some surprised ATV riders waving enthusiastically from one) until I declared I was tired, whereupon there were none. Pushing on a bit further we found a beautiful patch of flat green grass. A lawn, in fact. Mike headed up towards the house and met Andy Thibert – the ranch owner and one of the ATVers from earlier on. He welcomed us to camp on the lawn, brought us a huge stack of wood and invited us up for beers. It was Canada day weekend and this was the 150th anniversary of the commonwealth so there were a whole host of people staying nearby, all of whom were not just friendly but really interested and excited for our trip. I’ve lost count of the number of people who wish they could do something similar. We promise we’re grateful! 

    Narrowly avoiding losing another meal to dogs (ok, mostly just Angel – who was far from) we ate and headed up for our first cold beers in weeks. Andy’s wife caught us saying we were low on tasty food and swiftly produced a bag full of jars of pickles, chutneys, green tomatoes, beets and rhubarb. 

    The next morning we were sad to depart, not least because they were having a pig roast and fireworks that evening, but felt we ought to press on whilst the weather allowed. Not before we both had the opportunity to weigh ourselves: this weeks super slimmers are us, achieving 10% body weight each which amounts to 16 kilos! 

    We got about 10km before the wind put a stop to progress at another big exposed crossing. Once again, all the sandy beaches packed themselves off and we spent an hour hunting in reed beds for somewhere to camp. We found a good spot in the end from which we could watch the wind on the bay, ever hopeful it might drop enough for us to cross. We’d started listening to a Lord of the Rings audiobook on Windy (yep, 2 months married, already run out of things to say to each other) and it’s a good way to while away some otherwise frustrating waits. 

    We had an early night in anticipation of an early start the next morning (5am!) and then nipped across the bay in a bit of an awkward swell. Heading around the surprisingly named Reykjavik point The Narrows came into view. This time we were overjoyed to hear the forecast for strong southerlies: the perfect excuse to stop for a day at the Narrows lodge which promised bed, bath, beer and beef. What more could we wish for?! 

    Ice cream: that’s what

    What we learnt:

    Dogs are far more likely to take stuff than wild animals (we didn’t lose our dinner in the end but we do seem to have lost our mascot, Humphrey…)

    Storms pick up pretty quick! 

    Thanks to:

    Rose and George for the perfectly timed  lift and kind hospitality

    Andy, Dar and the extended family for such good cheer around the fire – we hope you had a great ride out on Saturday 

    Favourite piece of kit: Mike’s bug shirt, which Cas covets daily… 

    Paddle for the Portage!

    After 5 days on the lake and an average daily distance a snail would be embarrassed by, we finally got a break. The winds lessened enough to get us off the shore, though the waves were still pretty uncomfortable and tacking was needed to avoid being broadside to the steepest ones. A lull in the wind signalled a forthcoming change in direction, but we enjoyed the respite. We’d done a quick inventory and knew we’d be on basic rations before long if we didn’t get moving, so some gastric motivation and sheer bloody mindedness saw us paddling into a headwind for the next 80km. The lake shore now changed noticeably from the marshy reed-lined misery of the northern reaches of our trip, to a more rocky and solid structure. We were hopeful for better camping options and so happy to push it late into the evening. This meant paddling through epic mayfly hatches, being mopped up by monster carp. The largest we saw was around 2 feet long and looked more like a beaver swimming under the boat. I was pretty excited, but I know these fish won’t chase a spinner and I was all out of bread and boilies.

    Some of the places we’ve found on these lake shores have been quite amazing. Coming round a headland in search of camping, we found the Olsen’s place. No one here now, but freshly cut grass meant someone still tends it. Obviously once a farm, it now sits semi-derelict on a peninsular with no ongoing road access yet a graveyard of old Massy’s, combines and boats. It reminded me of Badbea, my grandparents place in the northwest of Scotland, and reminded Cas of The Walton’s! We asked permission to camp from the guardian in residence, a sleepy garter snake who didn’t seem to object, and pitched the tent on the flattest looking bit of land.

    The rocky shoreline continued the following day, along with the headwind. But this does have its advantages – animals don’t smell you coming. Midway through the morning Cas was scanning the bank exclaiming how much some rocks and trees look like creatures. Turning to me, I told her the bear she was staring at might be offended. It didn’t seem to be, and stood watching us until it got a whiff, at which point it ran for cover as usual. We chuckled and started paddling again, only to be met by another black bear, then a larger cinnamon beast who looked as ancient as the landscape. This one definitely couldn’t see or smell too well, and though only 15 feet away tasted the air for some time before deciding that we were not to be trusted and heading for the bushes. They truly are beautiful creatures, and to see them up close is always a treat.

    A long day later, with a brief break on shore sitting out yet more brutal wind, saw us paddling around 50km and collapsing into our cosiest camp yet. Cas cleared enough space for the tent whilst I made dinner, and a mental note of the size of the bear prints on the next little beach. We were too tired to care though as it was almost 9.30pm and we’d been going for over 13 hours. We were now less than 50km from the portage to Lake Manitoba.

    Our final day on the lake started early, as the winds were already picking up at 6am. We battled through to mid-morning, at which point I got fed up with fighting the cross-winds and turned the air blue. Cas fed me coffee and wine gums, which fixed matters, and the lake finally decided to give us easier passage and the winds dropped. We paddled on to the end of the lake with sunshine and a light breeze and found a way through the reeds to the take out, 8 days after we started. This was clearly someone’s back garden, and Melford was kind enough to let us camp in it. It is typical of the friendliness of the folk here that on opening his front door to two weary and weather beaten paddlers, he had us in for tea and biscuits before we’d even explained what we were doing there. His dogs made a thorough investigation of the boat whilst we were inside, and it was only the next morning we realised why they were so friendly all night…they had made short work of our granola…

    Thanks goes to:

    • Melford Saari, for tea, biscuits, company and camping.
    • The weather gods, for finally letting us off this wild, windy lake.
    • Our unsung hero: Big Bertha, our boat, for looking after us on the water, and standing up to all the scrapes and bashes we’ve inflicted thus far.

    Lake Windypegosis

    The most frustrating week thus far. 

    Having arrived on the first of our large lakes in bright sunshine, we sat still. For 2 days. A brisk 20 knot northwesterly turned the lake into a seething mass of churning water. It’s a bit like watching the sea, but super shallow so the waves kick up fast and stay short and steep, rather than mellowing out as they tend to on the ocean. A classic prairie thunderstorm ensured we didn’t miss out on a soaking on land either. But in its first proper storm test our Exped Orien tent kept us nice and dry, though the guys were attached to the boat to stop us being blown away. 

    After the storm had passed we thought we’d try and get moving again. The wind had swung around to northerly which we hoped might help us, but the storm had left a sizeable swell. We managed a short crossing in sketchy conditions, with a wind/wave combination I’m not sure a canoe is meant to be out in, and thanked our lucky stars we were still the right way up on the other side. Lesson learnt, we hid in the lee of an island until the wind dropped enough for us to escape, and found an empty outfitters lodge to camp by for another 2 days whilst the wind ramped up for a second time. A bear wandered through camp on the first night, saw/smelled Cas and legged it. We expected it to be back to check out our food at some point, but it was obviously too shaken by the experience…

    Finally we managed to get away again. We realised a tactical portage would save about 10km of rough water paddling and allow us some shelter to get going in, but it was short lived and we were soon making tea on a lee shore waiting out another rough squall. A third short day ensued, with another frustrating two night stop and the winds only dropping late in the evening before getting up again in the early morning. Still less than a quarter of the way down, we wondered how long it was going to take to get off this lake. 

    The truth about the trip

    Not a post for the faint hearted or those with delicate sensibilities…!

    Anyone who still has any misconceptions about this being a honeymoon, or – ha! – romantic, let me set you straight:

    For starters, we’ve packed for 5 months. I have 5 pairs of pants – and that’s 2 more than mike thought was necessary! (2 of them the comfiest pants in the world courtesy of Livs – thank you!) 

    We brush our teeth, morning and night – just before we put the toothpaste in with the other ‘food’ stuffs and make it bear safe – but thats about as far as personal hygiene goes. Our single small shampoo and body wash has lasted, barely touched, for a full month. We ditched the deodorant – too attractive to bears.

    In very beary areas we have to provide defensive ‘cover’ to each other (read: stand nearby with bear spray) whilst we poo. There’s no other way to say it. This is less of an issue now we’re out of grizzly country, apparently black bears are more bashful. 

    In very mosquito-y areas Mike has had to ‘defend the realm’ whilst it is exposed, and even apply DEET to my derrière. It still looks like a polka dot Tour jersey. 

    As places to land become more difficult and more of a hassle to find we have taken to doing many things ‘on the float’ – making coffee, having lunch… peeing. I bought a US equivalent of a shepee for this trip. Annoyingly called a ‘Go girl!’ it is made of squishy silicone in an offensive baby pink colour.  Not only does it not work (I won’t go into details but know that they are tragic when you consider we can’t easily wash things) but I’d like to ask the manufacturers: why make it in a pink that could never come close to matching anyone’s skin tone but still manages to make it look absolutely obscene? And why is the only alternative camo khaki?! So I can easily hide it in the bush (…) or am I supposed to be sporting a camoflage rear? 

    However, I would like to announce that I am now quite accomplished at peeing into a Nalgene bottle whilst standing up in a moving canoe. Thank you. 

    Finally, 2 short weeks after our wedding I was standing in our bedroom, proud new owner of a mooncup, trying to explain to mike how and… no, just how it was going to work. Well, there are no mysteries left in our relationship now. 

    It is worth saying that this particular piece of kit is genius. Think of the alternatives. Then think of the disposal. And the bears. Anyone who hasn’t a clue should google it. Especially, but by no means exclusively, if they’re female.