Ben Parkinson column: Eating 6,000 calories a day on the Yukon

Ben Parkinson in training for his Yukon expedition, in Poole.
Ben Parkinson in training for his Yukon expedition, in Poole.

It’s getting nearer to take off for the Yukon. Final practice weekend is done, down on the open sea at Poole.

It was a chance for the team to try out all our equipment and ask the last questions. It won’t be much of a surprise that most of these concerned food. We have been told that we need to eat at least 6000 calories every day. No problem, you may think, I can manage that!

But unfortunately it’s not that easy. Every single thing that you eat drink and wear has to go in your kayak with you every day, plus your tent and sleeping bag, and any waste material, so to speak.

So the first job is to go to the supermarket in to buy supplies to last seven days in the wilderness, on the water.

For breakfast it’s been recommended we have instant porridge made with full cream dried baby milk and milkshake powder. In my case that will be banana flavour. Sounds delicious. In fact it is delicious. Lunch is more of a problem, there is no time to cook so it’s things like chocolate, salami, and hardtack, which may fit the bill in calories but isn’t exactly something to look forward to.

The evening meal is the only time we will be able to heat food, and then it’s things like noodles or pasta. Apparently we will all be so tired that food will be the last thing on our minds and all we’ll want to do is sleep. They don’t know me very well!

We have a film crew with us as there is to be a documentary of the expedition. I have a small camera mounted on the front of my Canadian canoe. There will be a drone flying overhead filming.

The cameraman from the BBC fancied himself as a bit of an action man. He is using a single man kayak. On the final days training we were going out onto open water and paddling all the way across to the Isle of Wight.

“I’ll push on in front” he said “and drift slowly back filming you all one at a time”. We decided to show him a thing or two about the military. He couldn’t keep up let alone get to the front. We had to take pity and put him in a two-man boat to give him a chance to get filming done.

The water was pretty choppy when we got to the Needles but the entire team managed it. For most it was their very first time on open sea, including Andy my dad.

It can seem a lot worse when all you can see is water around you then when you are looking at two riverbanks.

When we get to the Yukon Andy is partnered with a wounded Canadian lad, but for training he was given a young lady from Ernst and Young who are accompanying us. Sarah was tiny and Andy was panicking thinking he was going to have to do all the work, but it turned out she had been kayaking since she was five and was an absolute machine in the boat. Make the most of it Andy you won’t have it that easy when we get there!