Six weeks after leaving Anchorage we’ve reached Vancouver via Quesnel, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Highway 99 which runs south-west through Whistler and Squamish. The province has been experiencing a heat wave over the past few weeks and hence we have been waking up at 5-6 am, pedaling until lunchtime then spending the hottest part of the day out of the sun eating and sleeping. We got caught out in 40 degree Celsius heat on a tough gravelly climb just before the village of Williams Lake where we had taken a back road, at that point local news stations were reporting that over 1000 ha of forest in the province was ablaze. Descending the road into town you could feel waves of heat draughting from the Tarmac burning the nostrils and boiling the meager remains of water in the bottles. We had filled our bottles from a local farm hose the night before, the rubbery taste meant I had skimped thinking we would soon find better which turned out to be a mistake. As soon as we got into town I drained a massive can of ice tea, sooooo good! Around the village of Clinton fire smoke hung heavy in the air, restricting views and giving the sun an orange hue.
The riding has been perhaps the toughest yet. Leaving Lillooet we encountered slopes of 13% for several kilometres as can be seen in the photos below. The plus side is the climbs have allowed us access to some other-worldly mountain scenery and glacial lakes to swim in.
Cycle touring raises many contradictions for me; when I’m freezing cold I can never remember being hot, when I finally get to clean I soon forget what it feels like to be dirty and when I’m tired I can never remember feeling fully awake! Some days are tough, on wet days the cold rain chills my hands and I can feel the broken bone in my thumb pressing against the hardened metal of the handlebars. Strong headwinds grind the pace down to a near halt. When I get bored of looking at the scenery I follow the lines demarcating the edge of the road until I feel dizzy then look up again. Other days are a breeze. Tailwinds push you along shallow gradients while the sun warms your back, wildlife scurrying for cover as you pass through incredible landscapes and scenery.
The quiet highways we have been used to have become busy motorways as we travel south. Never mind the wildlife, the biggest threat to cycle tourists in this part of the world are drivers, swerving in and out of the hard shoulders and cutting you off at junctions! I’m still not quite used to the drivers being on the opposite side of the car from the UK. The other day a car roared by with a German Shepherd hanging out of the UK drivers side window, it took me a couple of minutes to abandon my motorway evacuation plans convinced that muttley had taken control of the wheel.
We have been fortunate enough to have been hosted in several towns between Prince George and Vancouver. In Williams Lake a friendly mountain biker named Ivor saw us cycling past and chased us down, inviting us to stay at his amazing lake side house. Relatives and friends of friends have provided showers and comfy seats (nice not to be crouched over a camping stove or sitting on a rock of an evening) elsewhere which have all been extremely gratefully accepted.
Arrival in the city of Vancouver has been a bit of a culture shock, towering trees swapped for towering sky scrappers and stars for streetlights. I’ll be heading off to Vancouver Island in the next few days through Nanaimo and Victoria where another ferry will allow access to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Other cyclists have recommended this route as it cuts out the urban sprawl of Seattle, dropping you into a scenic coastal route instead.