Across Continents

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Struggling along the lake

October 1st, 2011

Escaped the relentless headwinds of the last fifty miles or so we might have, but I was less than appreciative. Felt increasingly nauseous since leaving Destruction Bay, and there’d been a brief foray into the woods with a toilet roll. And bear spray – didn’t want – quite literally – to get caught with my trousers down. Hardly a fitting epitaph for a headstone.

It’d been hard going from last night’s wild camp into the small settlement of Burwash Landing, on the shores of Kluane Lake. Not more than fifteen or so miles, progress had been slow. Mike had finished the last of his rations the previous evening, and I had precious little water left. We’d agreed that whatever the other had could be shared, but in practice, we’d just pressed on.

We’d found the cafe in Burwash without difficulty. Little more there. And, delighted they’d take cards as we’d still not been able to get hold of Canadian dollars, we’d both taken the larger of the breakfast options on the menu. The Hikers Special. And frequent coffee top-ups. Got the flask replenished with more for later, and our water bottles filled.

Destruction Bay, the next and only remaining settlement on the lake shores, was a mere ten miles away, but it had taken well over an hour to reach it, constantly buffeted by remorseless headwinds. A brief coffee stop at the Talbot Motor Inn stretched a little. Replenishing rations and admiring the quaint 80s perms that appeared to be popular in these parts.

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First Nations

September 30th, 2011

I was thirsty. We’d been told Kluane Wilderness Village was closed. Another First Nation venture that had failed. Maybe not their fault. Empty motel units, doors ajar, grass, small shrubs taking root. On the other side of the road a small garage, set back from the highway. Shabby cars and an old tow truck parked askew outside.

Thought I could see a drinks dispenser by the garage. Told Mike I’d like to make a brief stop. We were quickly running out of daylight to find somewhere to camp, but I really needed some fluids. Couldn’t quite make out his reply, but he followed me, albeit reluctantly it seemed.

A couple of old men were tinkering with cars in a poorly lit workshop. At first I was ignored, then one said, quite abruptly, "We’re closed". I asked if there was a shop nearby, already suspecting I knew the answer. "Twenty miles. Burwash Landing" he replied. More neutral tone this time.

As we rode away Mike explained these were probably First Nation people – indigenous Canadians – elaborating a little on their history, their place in society. I was intrigued. Some remarkable similarities – in terms of integration – with indigenous Australians – the Aborigines, the Torres Strait Islanders. Very striking.

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