Day 30: Grayling and Anvik 53 mi

Dear Reader, we have received both envelopes with the SD cards with over 250 pictures and videos. Please check back on previous posts, day #24 and earlier. We replaced the general pictures (2014 photos or internet downloads) with photos we just received.

Two years ago Imre attempted to kayak the Yukon River all by himself. He started in Whitehorse. He was right at this point, in Grayling (pop. 174) where (after battling with storms for several days) he spent two days having nothing else to do than keep checking the weather forecast and visit with the locals. As the storm did not seem to stop, he decided to give up and fly home. He gifted some of his gear to them and in return they took him to the local airport, then back to the village when it turned out that the plane could not take off in the storm. They gave him accommodation for a night.

Now he revisited the same village. It was a bit emotional for Imre to be in Grayling again. Some of the people he remembered recognized him. Others have passed away since.

Peter and Imre are already counting the miles back. There are only 320 miles to go, but this will be the hardest section. The river is on average 1 mile wide here, and even lighter winds can stir waves that are several feet high.

“The strategy is always changing” – Imre explained. “These days we paddle whenever the weather is good, but never more than 14 cycles a day.” (1 cycle = 45 min. paddling, 15 min. rest still on the water.)  “7 hours of sleep minimum.” They also make sure that they rather select a safe-looking island sooner, rather than stay at a place that is not safe or overwork themselves in search of a good one. They always try to stay on islands. They see too many bears on the shores.

Tonight they stayed in Anvik (pop. 87). The local washateria (laundromat) has a shower, which was enough to make Peter happy.

 

Blind Judo Foundation – Why?

Why Judo?

Judo is a great sport. The word means “gentle way” and that sounds strange as we are talking about a type of martial arts, but it’s true. There are no punches or kicks in judo, and your goal is NOT to hurt your partner. You use their weight and momentum to take them to the floor and your own weight to keep them down. You do need strength, but it is much more about technique.

Judo people are a wonderful community. At the SJB Judo Club, which the Kabai family belongs to, all instructors are volunteers. They have been training for many years or even decades, and they don’t get a dime for showing up twice a week to teach. They use their time and their own money to travel to tournaments to coach the kids. Even some of the best instructors, who act as tournament referees, are volunteers. So are the parents who staff all judo events.

Imre did judo as a child. Later (after watching his kids compete in judo for a couple of years) he returned as an adult. After a year or two, due to a non-judo related knee injury he had to quit. But for a while, all 6 members of the Kabai family were training at the SJB Judo Club.

Why Blind Judo?

If you are like most people and you don’t have a blind person in your immediate family or circle of friends, this question probably never crossed your mind: How do blind people exercise to stay healthy? Judo can be a great choice for a blind or visually impaired person. The opponents are in constant physical contact, so seeing your opponent is not essential. In fact blind people often win against sighted athletes. Judo improves their sense of balance  and teaches them how to fall safely, skills that can be of great help in a blind person’s everyday life, let they be a child, an adult, or maybe an injured veteran.

Why Blind Judo Foundation?

During the season of the Olympics, remember reading “Proudly Supporting the Olympic Games” on every bottle of soft drink and every box of cereal? Have you ever seen “Proudly Supporting the Paralympic Games” anywhere? Who sponsors blind athletes when they travel to international tournaments or the Paralympic Games? Well, often their coach does, from his own money. The Blind Judo Foundation supports these athletes and also young kids who wish to participate in judo camps, clinics and tournaments. We want to help.

To learn more or to donate, please click here.
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The Blind Judo Foundation bracelet that the blogger has been wearing since the hour they left, and pledged not to take off until they are safely back at home.

Day 29: Blackburn 77 mi

Blackburn is “an informal collection of cabins”, not even a village, but this  was the most densely populated area Imre and Peter passed today, and we had to select a title for this post.

They started relatively late this morning, at 2:30 A.M., due to high winds. Then they had steady rain for most of the day. The afternoon turned out beautiful so they kept pushing on until 5:30. They revisited the area where a brutal storm hit Imre 2 years ago, still a difficult memory for him.

They staying in same small cabin where he had stayed before. They saw massive grizzly prints all around the cabin so they go everywhere with a gun in hand.

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2014

Day 28: Kaltag 52 mi

Peter and Imre stopped at Kaltag. They talked to the locals who were busy smoking salmon. The king salmon fishing season season just opened for a few days, after being suspended for 5 years.

They saw a grizzly mom with two cubs just outside of Kaltag on a sandy island.

They had crosswind for most of the day making it difficult to keep the canoe heading straight. The weather looks ok for the next 3 days with ocsssional challenging crosswinds. “The paddle felt very heavy all day” – Imre wrote.

Dear Reader, let us remind you this time that besides seeking the adventure, the lifetime memories, the bond between father and son, and stretching their limit in every possible ays, Imre and Peter Kabai has another goal with this trip: to promote the Blind Judo Foundation. Please visit the Foundation’s website here or from the top menu. If you can, please consider a small donation.

Here are some pictures of Kaltag, downloaded from the internet.

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Day 27 Koyukuk 84 mi

Yesterday Imre and Peter decided that they just could not get enough sleep during the afternoons. They needed to take a nap for an hour or two in the middle their “paddling day” which usually is from midnight to early afternoon.

By the end of today already broke the rule; they paddled without a break on the shore, and for even longer than usual. The reason was that they wanted to reach the next village, Koyukuk (pop. 80) to resupply with food.

Because of the location of the village, it was difficult approach and they needed to paddle upriver along the islands.

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Giggling Eskimo Indian ladies took Imre around the village on the back of their ATV. Awkward sitting position to say the least, but normal there. Peter made sure to he took pictures. It turns out that these women had never been farther than 50 miles up or downriver in their whole lives.

“Tonight is the second 24 hour period the Eskimo Indians are allowed to fish for king salmon, in 5 years. All were very busy with preparations. Very sad situation, Indian subsistence lifestyle is limited while commercial ships on international waters are not limited to hugely overfishing.”

Father and son stopped at Last Chance Cabin, a cabin and liquor store. This is the last place to purchase alcohol for the next 500 miles downriver. Below this point alcohol possession is illegal due to the huge alcoholism problem.

They will camp on a “large island with full fauna and flora – running big fire and shot 00 12 gauge ammo in air to show who is boss”.

“Very tough day, cold night and struggling with exhaustion” – Imre summarized.

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2014

Day 26: Past Ruby 53 mi

Early morning, Peter and Imre stopped for over two hours on an island. Wonder why… Maybe to rest? Nah.. they don’t do that. They paddle for 45 minutes then stop for 15 minutes, but they stay on water; so far they have never pulled to the shore to rest. The only choice is that we worry and keep checking whether they have finally continued.

They arrived to Ruby, a fairly big town (pop. 166), where they were hoping to take a shower and get wifi in the local school so that they could send some pictures. But they only stayed about 30 minutes.

Later in the afternoon Peter explained everything: “We decided to wake an hour earlier but stop every day around 5 am and sleep for an hour on the shore, to avoid hallucinating and falling asleep while paddling.” “The downside of traveling by night is nothing is open when we get there, so we skipped the shower and laundry in Ruby.”

Two years ago when Imre attempted to paddle the Yukon by himself in an inflatable kayak (he started in Whitehorse, Day #8 of this current trip) he was in Grayling, which is 230 miles from here, when unexpectedly strong storms hit the area. He has spent 5 days waiting for a chance to continue but he finally ran out of time and had to give up finishing the adventure.

Now day by day Imre and Peter are trying to keep up with the pace of “that crazy guy”, and they are having a hard time.  That why Peter was happy to report today: “Ahead of schedule (Dad 2014)  by 13 miles and a half day.

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Day 25: Approaching Ruby 74 mi

Imre’s back hurts badly, they reconfigure the front seat hoping that will help. Two days ago a retired Tanana doctor in Mike’s fish camp gave Imre a massage and remedies which are helping. The doctor’s name is Will, “he was an angel” – Imre said.

The bodies might hurt but the spirits are still high, just read Imre’s message: “Took thunderstorm shower, washed hair after long time, it is super clean bit icy cold, have to do intense cardio to stay warm while ‘showering’ (naked jumping jacks) Peter was more shy and decided to stay stinky.”

Millions of mosquitoes. They paddled by the boneyard where the Yukon cuts through the permafrost and woolly mammoth skeletons stick out the cliffs.

They put up the tents on an island with herds of moose. Moose hurt more people each year than grizzlies so they made a big fire and shot some rounds “to let them know who the boss is”.

“Goddess Yukon still plays us and alternates between giving us life long beautiful memories and intense scares and hardship” – Imre wrote.

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Moose – from Imre’s pictures taken on his previous trip

Day 24: Tanana 30 miles

Imre and Peter did a half day today. They usually paddle 45 minutes then rest for 15 (used to be 50-10). Today they only accomplished 5 of these 1-hour cycles.

The reason is that yesterday afternoon’s unexpected visit with Mike and Stan from the Yukon Men series threw them off their paddle-from-midnight-to-afternoon, try-to-sleep-in-the-late-afternoon schedule. They stopped at the usual time in the afternoon today so that can start a full “day” at midnight.

Also there was a massive storm, such that a bush pilot decided to turn back to his starting point. Our adventurers had to wait a little too.

Tanana is a fairly big city (pop. 250 :o) ) so they were able to send home another memory card with pictures. We are still waiting for the one mailed from Dawson City! There is also a small present in the envelope from Stan and Mike – they did not tell us what it is. “Stan and Mike are amazing people, truly like in the show, living subsistence lifestyle, hunting, fishing, trapping, raising sled dogs” – Imre wrote.

They also met Alex Tarnai, famous grizzly guide and fellow Hungarian. Imre met him two years ago. That time Alex exclaimed that he had been waiting for 30 years for a Hungarian to stumble upon here. He surely did not expect that the guy would show up again, this time with his son who also speaks the language!

Imre and Peter caught up with a crew of 4 paddlers today. Talking to the locals they learned that there is only one other traveler ahead of them.

Imre wrote this about his son: “Peter is an amazing partner in this adventure, dependable, disciplined and strong.” He continued: “My part: body totally worned out, former Tanana doctor in Mike’s cabin fixed my back. Can not close my hands in the morning, back pain is intense until endomorphine kicks in after about 4 hours of paddling.”

When in Ruby, they hope to get wifi and send some very recent pictures.

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Update: On July 2nd we received the pictures they’ve sent on this day. Here, Imre enjoying smoked salmon. We also received some in the mail. Delicious!

Day 23: Between Rampart and Tanana 81 miles

Imre and Peter gave us some guesswork today. (Not appreciated; we tend to worry when things look unusual.) First of all, they (seemingly) did not start at the regular time around midnight, and not even by morning. Did they forget to turn on the Spot device? That’s what had likely happened, because the first coordinates posted at 9 am showed that they had accomplished a nice section since the last available track message.

They sent the “OK sign” at around 3 pm, which always means they are done for the day. Then at 7:30 pm they continued for another 90 minutes. Why? Maybe the first place looked unsafe?

Later in their InReach messages they clarified most of it. They stopped in the afternoon because they met Mike and Stan from the Yukon Men series. They invited Peter and Imre into a fish camp and offered them smoked salmon. “Best smoked salmon ever”. They took them in a skiff. After the visit father and son paddled to a safe spot for the night.

Earlier in the day they had passed Rampart (pop. 45) and The Rapids. These are violent whirlpools that spin around even local small boats.

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Day 22: Yukon Crossing 68 miles

This was the last road crossing the Yukon. From here (for the 800 miles still ahead) the only way to leave the Yukon is by plane.

Since they crossed Whitehorse, YT on the 8th day of this trip, the surroundings are familiar to Imre, since he paddled his kayak along this same route two years ago. For Peter, this was the first time during this trip that he was at a place he had been before: Two years ago rode his bicycle across the same bridge that he paddled under today. This is where the Yukon is crossed by the Dalton Highway, the 414 mile dirt road Peter had conquered in 2014.

They stopped close to the bridge and Peter walked to the same small restaurant where two years ago he bought a few bottles of water and ate a simple meal. He was also able to give us a phone call! Then he returned to the canoe so Imre could have his turn.

“Everything hurts but the spirits are high, we enjoy each-other’s company.” – Imre said.  “Finally we have the Yukon flats behind us. We are back in hills.”

“That mountain lion and her cub yesterday were about 5 feet from me” – said Peter. On the island where they raised their tent they saw the footprints of a moose and her calf.

They are able to get a bit more sleep now, as they are slowly getting used to sleep during the day. (For the past few days they have been paddling from about midnight to early afternoon each day to avoid the afternoon windstorms.) They try to pretend they are in a different time zone, where 11pm is morning and 11am is evening, to make it easier to sleep in the middle of the day. The sun drops under the horizon just for an hour or so each night, which makes the switch easier.