Sunday, June 28, 2009

Toba Trip 09

This trip started of as an innocent little five day trip, and turned into an epic adventure that captured the essence of what world wild adventures is about.

"a unique trip with a small passionate group, willing to push their limits to explore beautiful places and to explore their inner self."

As Bruce, Karen and myself headed out of Penrose Bay into Okeover inlet, it was a hot sunny day. Bruce casually but confidently remarked he would like to see the entrance to Toba inlet some 70 km north. I (not being one to discredit anything too quickly) smirked and said "we will see how we go and what the weather does," though at the same time I was chuckling in my mind thinking that most people barely make it around the head land and back in five days (hence we have a particular trip for Toba that entails about 6 days one way and a motor boat pick up from Toba back).

It quickly became clear that despite Bruce and Karen being on their first Multi day Sea kayaking trip, they had kayaked enough to have strength, stamina and team work together in a double kayak that rivaled most experienced paddlers!

We blew past our usual first night camp before lunch, being helped by the out going tidal current that swept us into the magnificent Desolation sound. We were not giving it our all but setting a good pace, a flow, a meditation in our strokes, as we observed and absorbed the surrounding beauty. The shinny round heads of seals, gazing at us through the whirls in the current next to a kelp bed, the great spread wings of the bald eagle that flew across the sun then landed in a tree above us, its gleaming white head cocking back as it let out its mighty yet beautiful shrill cry!

The day was hot and there was not much of a breeze. We pulled into a sheltered cove in Galley bay, where the glass flat water reflected the small cabins that surrounded it, with a wavering ghostly image. We ate our lunch looking out over the sound at the magnificent snow capped peaks of Vancouver island in the far off distance, as the green pointed trees of the north started to sway in a slight breeze that was building and promised to help push us even further to our final destination for the day; The Curme Islands.

The Curmes are a beautiful array of four islands at the NE end of desolation sound, they posse's magnificent vistas in all directions, drop toilets and warm ocean water to swim in, not to mention the prolific oysters that can be collected in the area. We set up camp on the southern most Curme, after a wonderful crossing through the southern part of desolation sound.

The wind had picked up to a moderate level as it does in the afternoon in this area, though it was warm and pleasant and only slightly hampered the speed of my cooking. We all slept that night with the tent flies off, letting the outside sky and air creep through our mesh enclosed tents.

As we fell asleep our last view was the stars and then we awoke to the sun creeping over the horizon and a still calm morning on the water.

The weather forecast was predicting rain to come with a low that night and the next day, though I felt confident we could actually make it to Toba and back in five days, as Bruce and Karen where both still energised after dinner the night before and also still before and after breakfast. Today we had to cover slightly more ground than we did the first day, though we could also get an earlier start. "If there was any five day trip that could make it to Toba and back this would be the one, with the currents running the way they are, how the wind is helping us to get up there, the fact that we are a small group quick to pack and set up and the fact that you two are strong enough". I told Bruce and Karen.

Bruce being a determined man that knew what he wanted and enjoyed a challenge, grinned. Karen, probably not quite sure what she was getting herself into, smiled and suggested we get on the move!

It was a magic day, no wind in the morning to hamper us and slight current against us, we awed at the mountain rimmed Homfray Channel, its peaks reflected in the light ripples on the surface of the inland sea, as we started heading north. it was not hard to imagine the glacier that once lived here, carving the shear sides of the channel hundreds of meters above the surface of the sea and hundreds below it. Despite its depth and glacial history the surface of the channel was warm. Not until we paddled over the outflow of a snow melt stream did we realize just how warm the sea really was. The air was even cold to our lungs as we breathed above the freshwater outflow that mingled with the salt water to make a murky haze below the kayaks bright hulls.

We landed on Lloyd Point for lunch, which was half way to our camp at attwood bay. As we sat in the sun eating, a breeze picked up and some clouds began to roll in. It began to cool off just as the hottest part of the day began and we slipped our boats silently back out across the deep green sea.

Paddling north into an increasing wind, we stopped to check a potential camp site that had a beautiful waterfall in the back though was still quite industrial looking from previous logging. We decided to push on, arriving at 6pm at our camp in Attwood Bay. I set up the kitchen and rain tarp as Bruce and Karen set up their tent, tonight it would certainly rain. The forecast was for rain all the following day, however the sky cleared up and the high tide, that had come in and confined us from our kayaks stashed above high tide down the beach, and us to our shady yet pretty wooded camp site, eventually withdrew and allowed us to stand out by the glassy flat water and eat our desert.

Despite the big day, Karen and Bruce where still very energised, staying up until about 10.30pm, while I was falling asleep on my feet.

We awoke to light rain, I made breakfast and prepared a packed lunch in case we just ate in our boats. Then we slid into our boats after eating and paddled north towards Toba inlet. Today was to be our relaxed day, though that changed when we reached Toba Inlet. As we approached the mouth of the inlet the rain increased to a steady light pour, and you could see the wind and the current pouring out of Toba into Homfray channel, nothing crazy though enough to slow our progress and make us realise just how sheltered the water we had been paddling on was.

Turning the corner we were not greeted with the high towering mountain vista Toba was known for, but with the strong winds and tidal chop it was also well known for. However this all been said, it provided an exhilarating paddle, I was ready to turn back as soon as Bruce and Karen wanted, however i also encouraged them to push on, especially when Karen was unsure of the rain hitting her face. The sight of the large falls on the northern shore was a dramatic lure to continue and Bruce and I with smiles on our faces, enabled Karen to find the fun in it all.

Eventually we got through the mess into quieter water and decided to try and cross the large inlet, as a worse case scenario simply meant the wind and current would push us back to where we came.

The wind almost seemed to pick up in disagreement with our attempt, though as we neared a sandy beach on the far side it gave up, the white caps subduing and the rain stopping. We stepped upon sand ( a rare treat in this area) and explored the beautiful campsite nestled amongst large cedars, then ate lunch as the clouds eventually opened up for a short while, bringing veiws of the mountains.

As we crossed the channel we had seen the magnificent falls that surge to the inlet from the mountains like a great silken veil beckoning. Now after lunch we paddled north towards it, where we sat below and bathed in its beauty and power.

On the paddle back to camp the rains were scattered, even the clouds allowed some sun to shine through for about half an hour and we skimmed over mirror flat water to our sheltered bay and pre made camp. On arriving at camp Bruce and Karen found a stream now flowing around their tent, then began a furious attempt to re route the water and dry the site. It worked and with the help of the dissipating rains, the camp was well drained and protected from further flooding before dinner. We had no fires due to a ban in progress though even without it, there was no appropriate place to be found, however it was not needed.

I woke early to an overcast sky though no rain, I packed up my tent then set to work on breakfast, we managed a quick pack up despite the soggy camp, and thanked the sky for saving the rain until we had our boats loaded and had pushed off onto the misty cool water.

Crossing to the far side of Homfray channel and traveling south this time along the shore of East Rhodonda Island. We had an amazing view of the coastal mountain range to the east, with its snow tipped peaks now clearly seen below the rising clouds. The water remained calm, the rain was sporadic, and after exploring a beautiful gulch with a freshwater cascade, the sun even came out for our lunch break.

However they say things must get worse before they get better and the weather is no different. We continued paddling south and watched a big black frontal system wrap around the peaks of East Rhodonda then pour down the sides towards us like a tidal wave. We paddled close to the shore as the squall hit us with hard rain and strong winds. Tucking into a small conveniently placed cove we sat and waited it out. Admiring the power and beauty of such and event and knowing we were lucky not to be out in the open sea in such an event, we continued on our way.

Later that day we crossed back to the Curmes passing buy a large group of seals that swam about us snorting and puffing at our rudeness to pass through their territory. The Curmes greated us with dry windy slopes that quickly dried our tents and gear as we set it out in full exposure. The sun came out eventually giving us a lovely sunset, though the chilly wind forced us to hide behind the rain tarp as a comfortable wind block. It was lovely to climb into a dry tent and sleeping bag and I slept like a stone until morning.

The Morning was an overcast one, though no mention of rain on the forecast was heard, and even if it did rain we were heading out today anyway. We ate a great gluten free pancake breakfast then hit the water, to find the day was going to be hot and clear.

As we pulled back into Malaspina Inlet and passed into Okeover Inlet back to Penrose bay looking at starfish along the way, we all laughed at how "when it rains you really want the sun to come out, though when the sun is out hot and strong, you hide in the shade wanting the clouds back!" It was great to have such a wonderful mix of weather in such a perfect combination, and to get up and see Toba inlet like no other commercial trip usually does at such a quiet time of year. We only sighted about 7 other kayakers, and that was mostly on one day.

I recommend to any one looking for an adventure of beauty, to check out Toba Inlet.