between the Nakvak and the Korok: an expedition to the Torngat mountains. Hiking through the Valley of the cirques, climbing Mont d'Iberville, fishing in the Nakvak Valley, Canada, Torngat Mountains, northern Québec, trek, Nakvak, Korok, icefield, caribou trail, summit, travelogue, trip, travel, hike


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Wednesday, November 19
From Kalopani to Tatopani

It was a fairly rigorous trek from Kalopani to Tatopani. We trekked on a trail that ran along the sides of mountains, following the river below. There were many steep climbs up followed by steep descents, and some of the footing was fairly treacherous, with stones and loose rocks and steps and grades and many horse caravans going both directions on the narrow trail. Although my boots were reasonably good, Krishna set a fast pace, and descending some of the rock steps my foot would slip and I would catch myself with my trekking poles or my other foot. The trail had a sheer drop of many meters onto rocks or into the river on one side. One of the times my foot slipped loudly, Rob looked back with concern on his face. I told him, if you hear that followed by a splash… "Come to your rescue?" he asked. No, just turn the prayer wheels for me at the next temple.

The scenery was spectacular, though. We were trekking through the world's deepest gorge, as measured from the peaks of the forested mountains on either side down to the river in between. And we did have to cross the river in places, on bridges. One we barely made it across before a herd of sheep arrived to cross.

We took a break and sat with our backs to the mountain we were on, looking across the river at the mountain opposite. There were eagles soaring on thermals, beautiful birds with beige feathers on the tops of their wings and black on the bottom. We watched them for a long time, soaring effortlessly. Such a contrast to our difficult day of climbing and descending. And of course, we passed through little settlements and there were interesting sights and faces. A woman nursing her child and brushing its hair at the same time. Beside a house, a little still about the size of a beer keg, where they were making millet liquor. People pounding millet with a stick to dislodge the grains.

We passed a lot of waterfalls, but one in particular sticks in my memory. It fell from very high on the opposite mountain, appearing out of the trees as a very narrow stream that free fell for a spectacular distance down the mountain face. For lunch we stopped at a restaurant by another waterfall, this one tall and broad. The waterfall restaurant provided me with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a lemon Fanta. Lemon Fanta is addictive almost. My main gripe with the place was that there was no toilet, except for one under construction. The bottom couple of feet of the four walls of the toilet building were up, and three workmen labored to add to it. They said we could use it, but they weren't going to stop work for us. There were no takers.

After a hard push all day, we descended to the riverside village of Tatopani. The accommodations were dingy and a bit strange. Our rooms were on the second floor, and the balcony from which the rooms were accessed overlooked a patio of tables populated with relaxed looking trekkers. The toilet facilities were grim even by our newly developed expectations. Krishna managed to get Rob and Andy a cottage out in back of the main building instead. It was new and spacious, with two beds and its own bathroom with a warm shower and a lovely western toilet. I extracted a promise that I could use it.

Andy was coming down with my cold. I had given him some zinc lozenges for the sore throat. But he was exhausted after the strenuous day and stayed in the cottage. Rob and Krishna and Bira and I headed down a short, steep trail to the river, where the hot springs were. We paid a nominal fee. There were two concrete pools, a hot one and a hotter one. There was a little shack that sold drinks and snacks. We decided to go in the hotter one, which was less populated with trekkers, but first we needed to change into our swimsuits and take a shower from a pipe that drained the overflow from the pool. There was a little structure, four poles and between them tin siding on three sides, open on top and to one side, which faced the woods. The changing room. We changed and left our clothes safely within view but out of splash range. I had some soap and shampoo with me and bathed in the hot water from the pipe and rinsed off. After bathing, we got into the pool and the heat was delicious. To be immersed in the hot water and to have the whole body warmed was an exquisite treat. We ordered a beer and they brought some somewhat scorched popcorn to go with it. It was heavenly. Quite a few other trekkers appeared, most without bathing suits so they just wore their underwear. Kids from the town came to bathe, in what probably was the only place they could get a warm shower. We stayed a while, sipping beer and talking.

Tatopani is famous for having the best food on the trek. But I was overwhelmed by the menu and couldn't decide, so I got dahl bat. It was good.

There was what used to be a window, or at least an opening, between my room and an interior one. It was partly blocked with old boards, but there was a draft through the wide cracks. I hung my bathing suit there and my towel on the balcony rail outside my room. By morning they were dry.

The next day

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