Today started bitterly for me. Not in the cold, poetic sense but because in the bleary eyed light of dawn I managed to pull Anusol from my toiletries bag instead of toothpaste……fortunately I haven’t had to put the demon paste to its proper use, so far.
We’ve arrived in Prince George (BC) after a tough couple of weeks pedalling down the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, before turning onto the ‘Yellowhead Highway (16)’ which travels east-west through Canada. The Cassiar was particularly beautiful with high snow covered peaks dropping to mill-pond flat lakes. Spruce and fir trees lined the highway which was narrower than we had been used to with only 1 or 2 vehicles passing per hour. It’s nice being able to use the entire road when you’ve been restricted to the hard shoulder for weeks! We stocked up well with food in the village of Watson Lake before setting off down the Cassiar as villages are few and far between and food expensive where it exists. The heavy bikes combined with steep hills and headwinds made for a few tough days in the saddle.
Another notable feature of the Cassiar Highway is the bears. Black bears. We saw well over 10 (ran out of fingers to count with and couldn’t see my toes), mostly munching away by the side of the road or strolling across it. Since I started this post off with toilet humor I may as well continue the theme. One evening we set up camp on the edge of an airstrip, just as darkness set and after a hearty meal of pasta and moose meatballs which had been given to us by a friendly campground attendant. The next day I woke with my stomach churning and leapt from my tent, toilet roll in hand, in search of some cover. My relief at finding a suitable spot was to be short lived though. As I went to grab the bog-roll I looked to my right where a bloody huge black bear was munching away happily on some grass. Mr bear seemed quite unaware of my intrusion but I was only too aware that as soon as I stood up or moved he would see me (only being 10 m way). Heart-beat pounding I snuck with my shorts around my ankles through the bushes in front of me and made my escape good, mercifully the bear took off in the other direction. Lesson learnt, carry bear spray EVERYWHERE.
We have met quite a few other cyclists on the road, coming from and destined for different places. We usually stop for a chat and info on the road ahead such as camping spots. Our group of 5 leaving Whitehorse was reduced to 3 as the two American lads we had been cycling with (Jared and Cameron) headed off down the Alaska Highway. Anyone thinking of undertaking a cycle in this part of the world shouldn’t be afraid to set off alone, it’s likely you’ll meet fellow cyclists as I did.
The mountainous landscape which has characterised the first month of our cycle is beginning to mellow with hay fields giving way to woodland before reaching the high peaks. Previously the height of the forests and vegetation was restricted by permafrost and the impacts of cold winters were much more evident.
Although each day brings new experiences and landscapes there is a certain monotony to long distance bike travel. It’s a monotony made all the more glaring when someone asks, ‘what have you been up to?’. 90% of the answer can be summed up in one word ‘cycling’, but the cycling allows access to the final 10% which includes swimming in remote lakes, seeing amazing wildlife (we saw a Lynx today) and meeting interesting people!
A few geeky stats to finish: top speed recorded so far – 48 mph, distance travelled roughly – 1700 miles, punctures – 1, number of Mosquitos in the Yukon and Northern BC – innumerable (also lots of horseflies midges and other biting insects).
See photos below – they should open as a gallery when clicked as opposed to one at a time.