Thursday, 26 April 2012

Le Mission du Quebec - Bastardized French, the Cold, and a Tough Call

"Y'know what they call Kentucky Fried Chicken in French Quebec? Poulet Frit Kentucky."

I just couldn't resist. But really, Quebec? Really? PFK? You can't do that. That's not how it works. It's Kentucky Fried Chicken no matter what language you speak. Jesus Christ.

Moving on.

So approximately one day after I posted that the Mistassibi needed five times as much water as is currently flowing down it for Black Mass to start working, the Mistassibi got 4 and a half times as much water overnight. Needless to say; after Devyn, Justin, Huffy and I shat our respective pants in raw, unbridled excitement; we crammed the bare minimum of our meagre possessions into some stinky gear bags so we could head ten hours North with high hopes of surfing more waves then you could shake a stick at.
"Take that you damn French waves! Its spelt KFC!"

Now this mission started off shaky at best, with the carbon boating princesses deciding they needed to bring a plastic boat as a spare in case they broke a nail, er um, a carbon boat. This resulted in our Beachburg-Ottawa leg cramming an impossible 3 people, gear, camera stuff, tents and an inexplicably large number of kayaks into Devyn's truck. Another side effect of this was that instead of arriving in Ottawa at Huffy's place at the predetermined time of 9pm, we instead showed up at a fashionable 1am. This was fine though. Because Huffy's vegetable oil powered pedovan didn't have roof racks on yet and the back was still occupied with a fridge that smelt like it hosted a skunk orgy in the non-too-distant past.

 Our 3am packing efforts. Notice most of the crap isn't in the van yet.

Some hours later, a sheet of plywood had been drilled onto the roof racks and we had a total of eight boats loaded up and at 4am, fuelled by a combination of Red Bull and barrels of that stuff you keep in a deep fryer, we were ready to rock our way North into the land best known for combining chips, gravy and cheese curds into something absurdly delicious.

Poutine baby. It even comes on Pizza. (You have no idea how hungry this made me)
I feel like I need to spend some time on the pedovan/mission-mobile/vegie-monster. This thing is the length of a small schoolbus, the height of a small house, yet once everyone's respective possessions and a confusing amount of kayaks (eight) were loaded into the beast; the four of us had maybe one square metres worth of personal space to get comfy in. Considering over the course of the next four days we would spend more time in this van than anywhere else, some may construe this as somewhat less then ideal. However to big wave enthusiasts such as ourselves we were more than willing to put up with being a teensy bit cramped for hours on end in order to log our time on Quebec's explosive offerings that we've been drooling over for the past 6 years or so.

The Vegie-monster ladies and gentlemen. Lock up your children Quebec.

One more thing to note which aided our comfort: in order to power this vehicle we required several barrels of vegetable oil in the back of the truck. Now the roads in Quebec aren't exactly ideal. In fact, one might say that Quebexican roads are a combination of the craters you'd find on the moon, and this wierd goopy stuff the Mythbuster guys walked on that one time. You might have worked out that this does not bode well for us and our barrels of sludge. In fact, the result of this unfortunate match up is a cascade of the stuff that cooks your chicken wings schlopping its way through the van every so often to lovingly coat your feet and sleeping bag in sweet, delicious goo.

Just think about that for a second.
There was another factor that formed a crucial part of our mission that you can tell from the above picture of the pedovan. Look at it again. Maybe even load the full image. See that lake? Yea that one. The only one in the picture. Notice anything unusual for an expanse of freshwater that large? No? You sure?

It's frozen.

Two things can be deduced from this. The first, and most glaringly obvious deduction: Quebec is really fucking cold. Some people may know that in the colder temperatures Australia has to offer, I'm a little bit of a wimp. If it drops down below 20 degrees I'll start romping around in a hoody. So it came as a bit of a shock to me on our first day when we showed up to the Mistassibi our van got stuck in snow at the take out, and we had to trudge through knee deep snow just to see the infamous Hawaii/Black mass rapid. And with my poor little Aussie feet in hole ridden skate shoes, oh my did I freeze to death.

On hindsight, this may have been a silly idea.

On this trip to Quebec I brought two hoodies, one jacket, two thermal tops, one thermal bottom, trackies, jeans, three t shirts, one singlet and a toddler's sleeping bag that went up to approximately nipple height. I think it goes without saying that I wore all of these, all the time, in a method not dissimilar to this.

The second thing that can be deduced from all that frozen water up there is that when water is frozen, its probably not flowing down rivers.

Not pictured: about 600cumecs and Detonator Wave

But hey! The water's not gone, its just frozen. We've just got to stick it out for a while, paddle the Mistassibi and surf Middle Earth Wave a few times, wait till all the snow and ice melts and Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt, we'll be surfing the biggest flooded river waves the world has to offer in no time at all! We've got this stakeout thing down pat!

"None of us are injured yet! Hooray!"

And so, spirits soaring far higher than the rivers' surface and temperature, our heros (that's us) returned to the Mistassibi, donned layer after layer of thermals then coaxed Pat Camblin and Ben Marr to lead us down one of the largest and seldom paddled big water runs on the planet. Incidently, it's also one of the coldest. Yes, I am going to labour that point. On getting into my boat at the side of the river and negotiating the ridiculous amount of driftwood cluttered in the eddies, I did my traditional splash of water in the face as part of my weird pump up routine. Big mistake. It felt like someone clubbed me in the face with a stalactite. Anyway, after a few minutes of giving several appendages frostbite we were on our way and cruising up to rapid number one.

Now Pat and Benny weren't the happiest with us because the day before we might have accidently forgotten to run shuttle for them, leaving them stranded at the snowy take out in wet gear very far from anyone who spoke English. We probably should have known not to mess with the guys who would show us safely down a few kilometres of very large, very freezing whitewater. In some sneaky yet justifiable revenge, when they lead us down they would float cruisily down over wave after wave, then all of a sudden start furiously paddling to the side as if there something absolutely monsterous that we were about to float into but not out of. They would then leisurely turn around to look at our terrified faces and laugh as we popped over the horizonline to find that we were actually long out of the way of the deadly holes. They did this four or five times. It worked everytime. Cheeky buggers.

Justin sussing out Hawaii

To all of the four people who have been following my adventures somewhat closely, and on the off chance that you're still reading this, sometime in the past two paragraphs you might have thought "Hmmm, didn't this guy concuss himself less then a week before having a crack at this sheer, unrelenting gnar?"

And to you I answer "Maybe I did, but I felt fine that morning!". Well, turns out I was little bit silly, and was not in fact that fine. Coming into the top of the Hawaii rapid, so called because of a fourteen foot angled barrelling wave that feeds into a mammoth hole ridden with recirculating tree trunks thicker than Gandalf's beard, I went over a wave and copped a dizzy spell. 

"Goddammit, now is not the time."

Y'know when you were a kid and you'd all spin around in circles and then race to a tree or something whilst falling over each other? No? That's ok, do it now, its still awesome. Running the Mistassibi with a concussion is kind of like an extreme version of that, in a dangerously cold, watery gravey, Davey Jones' Locker kinda way. Anyway, despite enourmity of the rapids combined with my head spinning like the totem from Inception, we all made it down safely and soundly, and I decided I'd call it a day and sat on the side of the river to watch Ben and Devyn show off for Pat's camera. See Mum, I'm not a complete idiot!

I'm willing to bet good money she rolled her eyes at that.

And that brings me to the next unfortunate occurance of the trip. Devyn's ambitions of securing a photo of himself on the Stakeout Facebook page (check it out, they have much better pics then I do) lead him to attempt a downriver front flip off a wave not really suited in the slightest to down river front flips. You kickflip it! Duh. Judging by the hilarious gopro footage, which once released online will render this entire paragraph obsolete, he bailed out halfway through the trick, and landed with a screech with his arms way above his head. After a few frantic roll attempts, he popped up with a popped out shoulder. I can't stress how stoked we all were that he rolled up. In rivers this size it could have easily taken ten minutes to get a swimmer out of the water, and when salinity is the only difference between the water in the Mistassibi and the water in the Titanic, its pretty clear that we could have been dealing with a much more treacherous scenario very easily.

Once Ben had towed him to the shore, we were faced with a new problem: we are a cruisy 2 hours away from the nearest hospital, theres an uphill, snowy hike to get back to the van, and Devyn's roaring in pain everytime his now flacid arm moves even slightly. I've always been taught through First Aid courses and Surf Life Saving that you should never attempt to reduce a shoulder injury due to the risk of pinching nerves and blood vessels which can lead to the arm losing circulation within twenty minutes, but it was fairly clear something had to be done about this. Luckily all of us were knowledgable and well practiced in the art of shoulder relocation.


Actually, of our group we had a few people who heard some stuff about it, a couple people who has seen it done, and one person who had someone explain to them how to do it. Fortunately with these combined powers and with only one failed attempt involving a rock it went back in far smoother then I thought it was going to. And twenty minutes later it hadn't lost circulation either! Winning.

High five! Oh wait...

So naturally our next step was to start the long arduous trek to the hospital, where Devyn would get his shoulder checked out and I, who had been growing steadily dizzier by the minute, might as well get my head some medical assistance as well. How hard can it be? Just roll up to the hospital, ask to see the doctor and  then - 

"Bonjour!"    /     "Fuck."

"Um... Bonjour... Je... suis.... malade... a mon.... head. Et mon amis -"
"Stuff it, I'll wait till Ontario" (Devyn exits)

Thanks to the bastardised Frenglish of Huffy and I, it was eventually concluded that I have given myself an unfortunate dose of Post Concussion Syndrome (no brain bleeding, stop worrying Mum), am unable to kayak/have fun for weeks and/or months, can probably expect dizzyness and headaches throughout that time, and if I'm really unlucky or give myself a slight head bump I can permanently alter my personality - none of which sounds all that crash hot to me. Particularly the personality thing. I kinda like me.

As for Devyn, I don't think he's got a proper opinion yet on how his shoulder's going to fare up... But shoulder injuries are probably the most feared injury amoungst kayakers, and chances are he's got a long road of rehabilitation to walk down before he can even get close to throwing air on Buseater again.

Disheartened, and one third broken, our six person posse soon discovered that snow was forecast through the next week, and an executive decision was made to get out of dodge and back to somewhere English and marginally less freezing.

~ squiggle ~

So now I'm back here in Beachburg, chilling on the banks of the Ottawa river that I cannot paddle down, pondering the question of "What now?" Breaking things down a tad, I have two options: not kayak in the awe-inspiringly exciting cultural utopia of rural Ontario,


or not kayak somewhere else. 

Guess which one wins...

I'd be game to abandon the whole paddling thing for a while and not kayak somewhere cool. But seeing as I came here with a somewhat limited budget, precisely, one that allowed me to sit in Beachburg and do nothing but kayaking and the odd trip to Quebec in a petrol free truck every so often, I'd say backpacking up and down the Americas is kind of out of the question... Which really only loves me one option...
As much of a cop out as it may seem, and by God, it definitely feels like a cop out; my best bet is to call it a day and head home. Every week is approximately a hundred bucks, and its frankly when I'm not on the water its just not worth it. Might as well save my money, and get myself a wetsuit to last me through the Aussie Winter, which will not be nearly as cold as Canadian Spring.

 Or maybe just save up for a different trip at the end of the year...

Anyway, thats enough talk on this one, I can't beleive I had the concentration to voluntarily write that much in one sitting. See ya Canada, was good breifly catching up again.

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