North lures European adventurers
German duo touring by raft and bicycle

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (July 16/99) - Manfred Horn and Bernd Nielen have discovered something that many of their compatriots apparently aren't aware of -- the Canadian North.

"They have no idea about the Northwest Territories of Canada," Horn said. "They cannot imagine how wide the rivers are...they go to Spain and fry in the sun."

The German duo, bound for Whitehorse, are on a six-week trek that began in Fort Nelson, B.C., on June 30. Neither of the travellers have even attempted a similar voyage on a European river, according to Horn.

"It's overcrowded. There are only a few rivers you can paddle," he explained. "I think it's not allowed to build a log raft and go down a river in Germany because there's so many traffic."

Horn, an architect from Goettingen, and Nielen, a cook living in Oldenberg, met two years ago while hiking in the Yukon's Kluane National Park. They agreed to hook up for another adventure and decided on the NWT.

Upon reaching Fort Liard, they found themselves in need of a vessel. After paying a local resident $150 to cut down some trees, they constructed their raft.

"We built this platform...we haven't lost anything already," he laughed.

While overnighting in Fort Simpson Tuesday, Horn estimated that it would take them another 10 days to reach Norman Wells aboard their vessel. The duo will then have to cycle more than 1,000 kilometres to reach their destination. They plan to use the Canol Trail route, but lack any updated information on the road conditions. They brought a rubber dinghy along in case they encounter washed out sections of along the route.

They had reportedly seen very little wildlife until a noteworthy incident occurred late Tuesday evening. While the pair were over near the Fort Simpson campgrounds, they heard gunshots. They returned to the river's edge to find a renewable resources officer and police officer standing over a dead bear. It seems the food aboard their raft may have been luring the black bear closer.

"It was close last night with the bear," said Horn. The men couldn't really afford to spare any of their provisions as their luck with rods and reels has been unfavourable.

"We have tried fishing, but nothing."

Nonetheless, the men said they set out to have fun and they were doing just that.

When their Northern excursion is complete, Horn said he may try an adventure in New Zealand or Australia. Even so, the North will remain atop his list of destinations.

"It's my favourite place here," he said.