Day #29-30 – Welcome Home!

The weather and the 5-day forecast did not change, the storm is still raging, but fortunately the airplane was still allowed to take off. Imre was finally able to leave Grayling, AK on Saturday morning.

The plane was fully booked, which meant 6 passengers. Imre was traveling with five Eskimo women on board of the Cessna. Normally a 4-seat Cessna is used for this flight.

On Sunday morning Imre finally arrived home. His personal travelogue will be posted here in a few days.

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“Before”

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“After”

Thank you for following our blog. Please check back as we are planning to add more details and many more pictures/videos. Please keep following Imre’s sons, Peter and Janos here. Janos (18) is riding his bicycle from Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA right now. Earlier this summer Peter (21) rode the 414 mile long Dalton Highway from Deadhorse (the Arctic Ocean) to Fairbanks, AK. This is probably the longest dirt road in the US, and possibly the hardest road one could accomplish on a bicycle. Sometime early next week Peter will join Janos for the last third of his North-to-South Cross-Country trip. The boys are riding alone, unsupported.

All these adventurous trips are a way for Imre, Janos and Peter to raise funds and awareness to the Blind Judo Foundation. To learn more, please click here.

 

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The Blind Judo Foundation bracelet, that the blogger has been wearing since day #1 and pledged not to take off until they are all safely at home.

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Day #28 – Grayling

0718Imre got a ride on the back seat of an ATV to get to the airport, that was 2 miles from the village. The man had already left when Imre learned that his flight was canceled because of the storm. Luckily someone else had brought a letter to mail (as the flight also works as a postal service) and was willing to give Imre a ride back to the village.

Imre had already gifted his tent and mattress to someone, so the villagers offered him a bed in a storage room of the tribal center. He could even take a shower. He also had the opportunity to learn more about the natives. He has talked to about 30-40 people so far, which is about 20% of the population.

It takes 4 (!) flights to get from Grayling to Anchorage. The first three flights are provided by the same airplane (a Cessna) that goes from village to village. Some passengers stay on board, one or two might get off or on. The first flight takes only 5 minutes, the second is 15 minutes. Just like a very small bus! A slightly bigger airplane takes passengers to Anchorage.

Imre was very disappointed that he was stranded waiting for another day. We sincerely hope that the flight won’t be cancelled tomorrow.

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Day #27 – Grayling – 29 mi

Last night at around 8 pm (AK time) Imre started paddling. At 2:30 am he reached the next village, Grayling (pop. 200) and went to shore. As we saw him moving during the night, we were again reassured that what had caused his delay was the weather and not illness or injury.

He called home in the afternoon. He told us all about the last few days. On day #23 he got into a big storm and had to use all his strength and energy and then a lot more to get to shore. He obviously stopped for the day and was forced to stay on shore for all of day #24.

On day #25 he tried to continue. He kept paddling for several hours. At times when he was in the lee of an island he (and the water) were covered from the wind, but as soon as the river turned or he got into the wind again, he had to fight 6 foot tall waves. The waves came from both sides and the front, as the riverbanks “echo” them.

Imre berthed at the next island, but he found very fresh bear tracks and decided to leave immediately. He crossed the river in what seemed like an endless battle with the waves and found an empty cabin. The few cabins available along the river are kept unlocked for those in need.

He stayed in the cabin for a day and a half. He saw a bear around the cabin, and knew the animal was watching him. According to the books Imre read before his trip, black bears, if they set eyes on prey, don’t give up. He made noise and the bear left, only to return later. This repeated several times.

Last night Imre decided to go on, and this morning he arrived to Grayling. Here he talked to natives who said that this kind of weather is normal in August, but unusual in July.0717 That’s why Imre had scheduled his trip for July in the first place! The weather forecast confirmed that in the next five days no change should be expected. The villagers said there is no way to kayak on these waters. Especially not in his inexpensive simple kayak. It could easily turn over, and once a person falls into the ice-cold water, one only has minutes before their body cools down too much, which could be fatal.

Imre knows that the weather won’t get any better for the next 5 days, but he cannot tell what will happen after that. What should he do? He could be sitting in his tent waiting for five days just to learn that the storm stays even longer. His days-off are not infinite. Maybe the weather will get better for a while and then turn bad again in an area where there are no villages around.

A few days ago Imre got close to never making it out from that storm. He decided that he owes to his wife and four children to not get into that situation again. With about 1500 miles done and and 300 miles still ahead, he has decided to return home.

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Day #26 – At Alice Island – 0 mi

Whatever is preventing Imre from continuing his journey hasn’t resolved yet. He practically has not moved for three days in a row.

As long as we receive OK messages every morning and every evening, we are not worried… at least not as much as we would be without them…

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Day #25 – At Alice Island – 8 mi

After a whole day spent on the shores of an island, Imre started paddling at 12:30 AM. This is just about when the sun goes down in that area these days. He reached the next island at 4:30, an hour before sunrise. He approached the island, but then for some reason he decided to cross the river and berthed on the other side on the riverbank, close to a small river reaching the Yukon. He did not continue all day long.

Once again, we don’t know the reason for this unusual schedule, we are just guessing that weather conditions prohibit him from continuing and he might need to wait for a day or two more. But thanks to the Check button on the Spot device (and Imre’s diligence to communicate in this extremely limited manner) we know that he is all right.

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Day #24 – Blackburn – 0 mi

Imre did not not get on water today, he stayed at the same island all day. We can imagine two kinds of reasons: Maybe one of his aches and pains (wrist/shoulder/elbow/back) are getting really bad and he decided to take a day to rest. By regularly accomplishing little more than the day’s quota, he collected about 6-7 days and he is now that much ahead of schedule. It is OK to take a break.

He tried to save up several days worth of time, in case weather conditions require him to stay on shore for a day or two. The Yukon is on average a mile wide here, and even relatively light winds can create 6-7 foot waves. This is what might be going on right now, as it is probably the weather which keeps him from continuing his journey.

Thanks to his Spot device we know that he is all right. Although no Track messages arrived all day, he manually sent an “OK” message in the morning, and once again in the afternoon at his usual stopping time.

Today we received the second set of pictures. These were mailed from Ruby, which means they were taken between day #11 and day #19. Let’s see a few.

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Day #23 – Blackburn – 44 mi

We don’t know anything special about Imre’s day, except that he stopped a few hours earlier than usual. We have no way to know why, all we know is that he is OK.

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Day #22 – Quail Island – 49 mi

Imre stopped in Kaltag and again he spent about an hour and a half on the beach, without turning off his Spot device. This is a new “habit”, and we are wondering what the goal of these not-too-long but not-too-short stops might be.

After Kaltag Imre passed Big Eightmile Island, and you shouldn’t have to have read yesterday’s post to figure out how far the island is from the village.

Salmon is in season, and according to The Book, for the next 5-6 days (until reaching Russian Mission) a paddler should see at least 5 black bears each day. So far, Imre always tried to put up his tent on islands – now he will absolutely have to do so.

The pictures are still from the first package he had sent to us, taken on the first week of his trip. We are expecting to receive the second set any day now.

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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 money to travel to tournaments to coach the kids. Even some of the best instructors, the tournament referees, are volunteers. So are the parents who staff all judo events.

Imre did judo as a child. Later (after watching his kids 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.

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 a sighted athlete. 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 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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Day #21 – Halfway Island – 63 mi

Imre has passed several points of interest today. Bishop Rock, which is a fish camp, then the village of Koyukuk. The Book warns about quick mud surrounding the island here where the Koyukuk river reaches the Yukon. One has to be very careful when stepping out of the boat.

The next point is Last Chance which has a liquor store. From here to the mouth of the Yukon it is illegal to possess alcohol.

It seems Imre stopped in Nulato (pop. 300) for a good hour, than passed Ninemile Island (which is nine miles from Nulato) and chose a smaller island next to Halfway Island to spend the night. Halfway Island got its name from being halfway between Nulato and the next village Kaltag.

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