Journey to the Totems: A 350km challenge for Oceans of Hope
Oceans of Hope UK supporter Carol Cotterill has completed a fundraiser of epic proportions, raising £2,500 through her adventures in British Colombia. Here she shares her story:
“We paddled slowly into a river of fog. It felt like we had left behind this world and entered another that was shrouded in swirling mists, with islands appearing out of the gloom as we crossed mirror-like seas. But I am getting ahead of myself in describing a surreal end to an unreal adventure to Haida Gwaii.
Back in June I flew to an island chain off the British Columbia coast to undertake an adventure race. First known by the Haida as Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai or “Islands at the Boundary of the World,” these islands are more commonly known as Haida Gwaii, or “Land of the Haida.” The area comprises more than 3,600 islands in all, with an oral history that can be traced back 7,000 years.
I was looking forward to an active challenge, where I could raise funds for Oceans of Hope. My “adopted” brother, Ian, suffered from MS (losing his battle in April of this year), and previous exploits had seen me scale Kilimanjaro to raise money for MS-UK. But on this occasion, a large component of my challenge was water based, so a water-based MS charity seemed like the perfect way to honour him.
Over the course of 16 days, I cycled 135km down logging roads, through dense forest with the odd sighting of bears; I pack-rafted 5km across a strait under blue skies and thankfully fair winds; I hiked 15km, again on logging roads, before finally kayaking 195km through the Gwaii Haanas National Park.
After dipping our bike wheels into the water at the top of the island chain in Old Masset, we headed south, along gravel roads, through lush, dense forests, the call of eagles echoing overhead. We took advantage of the few signs of civilization along the way, stopping for coffee and hot meals that weren’t freeze dried!
However, the stand-out section for me was the kayak stage. This was by far the longest kayak expedition I had undertaken, and I would be lying if I said the distances involved weren’t daunting. We had given ourselves 10 days to complete 195km, and everyone said that it couldn’t be done due to the changeable weather we should expect. However, apart from one day sat in our tents listening to the sound of rain, the sun smiled on us and we completed the journey with a day spare to sit on a sunny beach and read and relax!
Along the way we visited Watchmen sites – sites of special cultural / heritage importance. One of these introduced us to an old Haida settlement, whilst another let us soak our weary muscles in hot pools. Yet another allowed us to explore a traditional longhouse and totem pole. But the final site, with a 5-mile open sea crossing through the swirling mists took us to a very special place indeed. The ancient Haida village of Ninstints is guarded by twenty-six totems, who cast their gaze out to sea. Truly a hauntingly beautiful place. And on the journey back to our world, we were welcomed by a breaching humpback whale – a truly awe-inspiring end to an adventure like no other.
And a word of thanks to everyone who supported me in raising just over £2,500 for Oceans of Hope, including Ian’s local The Victory in Walton-on-the-Naze!”
Over the course of 16 days, I cycled 135km down logging roads, through dense forest with the odd sighting of bears; I pack-rafted 5km across a strait under blue skies and thankfully fair winds; I hiked 15km, again on logging roads, before finally kayaking 195km through the Gwaii Haanas National Park.Carol Cotterill, Oceans of Hope UK Supporter and Fundraiser