Today’s post will focus on da paddlers. Next post will talk details – river, camping, gear, surprises etc. for anyone who wants to do a similar trip.
Last Sunday, T-bone gathered his two wives, David and Ruth, and headed to the Mae Tang river. No, Todd does not actually endorse polygamous behaviour, but his favourite historical paddling heroes, the Voyageurs, sure did. Every time T-bone gets near a river, he starts dreaming of being a Voyageur, and this trip was no different. For the uninitiated, the Voyageurs were a hearty group of French-Canadians who routinely paddled across Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries to collect beaver pelts from First Nations communities. They played an important role in founding Canada, and are at least partially responsible for the fact that an overgrown swamp rodent is our national animal. They also had multiple wives – city wives and country wives. City wives were the official/legal wives, and they were fine for doing city/wifely things, but when you’re on the river for months on end, you need a husky broad on location who can skin beavers/lug your boats/maybe sew you a coonskin cap or something. The concept of a country wife was just too darned convenient for us to pass up, so we nominated David for the role.
The highly delineated roles of a Voyageur and his wives really worked well for our team. The tasks weren’t always traditional, but they got done with a certain je ne sais quoi that just wreaked of French-Canadian history.
Voyageur Todd: Fishing, Bannock-making, Navigating, Looking Visionary/Noble
Voyageur Todd did his best to fill those large francophone shoes by fishing and making bannock.
Sadly, he never caught anything. Perhaps this was because every man, woman, dog, child, and monk seemed to be out dredging the river with nets and spears at all times.
Fortunately, his bannock making experiments were more successful. A nice hunk of beaver fat would undoubtedly have cranked up the flavour, but the Voyageur did pretty well with vegetable oil.He was also very good at gathering fire wood in his
birchbark canoe kayak.And navigating rivers. His navigation may not have saved me from flipping my boat, but it did provide some pontificating-full photos.
Country Wife David: Jumping off stuff, hauling wood/water/tents/boats/everything, being perpetually perky, and offering the best facial expressions a photographer could hope for
David had a knack for simultaneously making photogenic expressions while being ready to launch himself off the ground and haul stuff around the campsite. The perfect Country Wife.
David also enjoyed hauling boats and assorted schtuff on bizarre portage routes that he and the Voyageur dreamed up.
City Wife Ruth: petting animals, conducting cooking experiments, growing algae colonies in my hair, sniffing out beverage/bladder stops
I conducted a variety of culinary experiments that ranged from successful to highly dubious and borderline poisonous. Fortunately, the Voyageur and Country Wife were a willing test audience.
Fortunately, some of the recipes worked out well, so I could hold onto a bit of City Wife cred.
The trip wasn’t quite full of enough hardship/misery/beaver fat to make Todd’s Voyageur dreams come true, but at least he nailed the wife bit, and got to bellow his favourite paddling song whenever the urge hit.
Next up: The River!