Travellers' gear stolen in Whitehorse, midway through their epic adventure
Two women paddling and hiking to Tuktoyaktuk woke Friday to find their load lightened
Australian adventurer Leigh Swansborough said she had just told someone in Whitehorse on Thursday that "the only thing that the Yukon could steal from me was my heart."
She was wrong.
Hours later, someone was making off with a bunch of her travelling gear while she was asleep in her tent. She found out what had happened when a police officer woke her early Friday morning.
"I thought, 'Oh God, what have I done?' And he's like, 'No, we found your passport on the other side of the river,'" she said. "We sort of jumped out of bed and we woke up — and our bags were gone."
It was heartbreaking. It was, 'Oh my gosh, is our trip done?- Clarissa Black
Swansborough and her American travelling partner, Clarissa Black, were camping at the Robert Service Campground in Whitehorse when thieves evidently opened the vestibule of their tent in the wee hours of Friday, and made off with three of their packs.
"It was heartbreaking. It was, 'Oh my gosh, is our trip done?" Black said. "We still have two months left, and half of our gear is missing, Leigh's ID is missing. The pit of your stomach just hurts."
The women are midway through an epic adventure. They started in Skagway, Alaska, and hiked the infamous Chilkoot Pass, then paddled inflatable packrafts to Whitehorse.
"We went from Bennett Lake, we made it to Carcross, we paddled Nares Lake, Tagish Lake, Marsh Lake, survived several nasty wind storms," Swansborough said.
From Whitehorse, their plan was to keep paddling down the Yukon River to Dawson City, then hike all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., from there. They expected to finish the trip in September.
Now, they're trying to figure out how and when they might keep going.
Some gear found, most still missing
Besides the passport, police found Leigh's green card and a few other things. Some items were scattered in the campground.
Police say they're still investigating the theft.
"[The thieves] had taken a few of the bags about 50 feet away, to a bench, and sort of opened them up and rummaged through," Black said. "We found a few things there, but we're still missing the bulk of our gear."
"The only clothes I have now are what I'm wearing," Swansborough said. "So yeah, this is our outfit for the next 60 days!"
Swansborough is clear though — their trip will continue.
"I'm going all the way to the Beaufort Sea. I'm not sure how we're going to pull that off just yet," said Black.
"We're resourceful and I think, you know, we've battled through a lot obviously, in the lakes with the wind storms. You can't let something like this stop you."
They're also not letting some bad luck alter their impression of Yukon.
"Yukoners embraced us — they took us into their homes during wind storms, they fed us, they showered us," Swansborough said.
"The spirit of the Yukon reminds me a lot off rural Australia, where I grew up. People, they embrace you not as a stranger, but as a family member."
With files from Dave White and Jackie McKay