1st Jun 2011 - 23rd Jun 2011
OK, I know you're wondering how many more terrible bear puns I can come up with, so I promise this will be my last, but bears are definitely the main topic of conversation out there on the roads of rural Canada.
I'm sorry it's been so long since I last blogged. I admire all those dedicated travellers who maintain a daily update, but what with emails, letters, journal - oh, and a little bit of cycling to do, I don't know where they find the time! Hopefully I will also manage to get a couple of photos uploaded too, although I can tell you now that none of them do justice to the awe-inspiring landscapes around here.
Since leaving Anchorage on 11th May I have cycled almost 3000 miles through Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia and a little bit of Alberta and yet I have still only seen a tiny corner of Canada. It's hard to get to grips with the sheer scale of this beautiful country. I've seen bears, moose, porcupine, beavers, humming birds, elk, caribou (I think, though I'm not too good at telling the difference between all these 4-legged hoofed creatures and they all look the same on the warning signs), bald-headed eagles, golden eagles, a vast assortment of small rodents (most of which have had a go at my food supplies) - oh....and an awful lot of mosquitoes! Actually, I have been quite lucky on the mozzie front. As the lakes were still frozen when I left Alaska I didn't suffer the full force of these delightful creatures until much further south. Just outside Prince George I pulled into a rest area to camp for the night and met Roger, a cyclist from Texas who had retired on 1st April and set out to cycle to Alaska on the 5th. Our efforts at conversation were somewhat hampered by the sheer volume of mozzies flying directly into our mouths and biting every visible (and some not so visible) area of skin. Despite the warm evening we were forced to don full waterproofs complete with hood and sunglasses just to be able to stand outside our tents and talk. We must have looked a sight!
Before the mozzies errupted, the start of spring was heralded by the emergence of a million assorted insects. I've not been able to identify them all (although they all taste pretty similar!), but by the end of a days' cycling, the contents of my brassiere would keep any self-respecting entymologist amused for hours!
About 10 days ago I realised that I was going to arrive in Vancouver with a couple of weeks to spare before my parents arrive, so I took a little diversion through Jasper National Park. The mountain scenery and the vast Columbia Icefield are pretty impressive, but I was disappointed at how expensive the place was. You are forced to pay daily park fees - even for the rest day I had in the town of Jasper! - and as cyclists take longer to pass through the park than all those smelly RVs and noisy motorcyclists, they end up having to pay more for the privilige of bumping along the rutted hard shoulder. Added to that the fact that you are not allowed to camp rough and so have to pay anywhere between $15 and $25 dollars to pitch your tent and use a pit toilet and you can see how Jasper NP blew my budget. Up til then my average accommodation fees since arriving in Alaska worked out at a respectable $3 a day. Needless to say, I am spending considerably more on beer and wine - you have to do something to keep the cold out when camping and, hey, I've got a beer belly to maintain :-)
Well, after 6 weeks of camping I have finally arrived in Vancouver. I fell in love with the place even before I arrived. Spinning along the Sea to Sky highway from Whistler (so called, I believe, because you whistle when told the price of anything there!) to Squamish and then on along the shores of Howe Sound into the city itself. It is by far the most beautiful approach to a city I have ever experienced. No gradual increase in filthy industrial areas, urban sprawl and the inevitable cat and mouse game with city buses. Entering Vancouver from the north you glide from the snow-capped mountains past stunning sea views, over a bridge, through a park and there you are in the heart of downtown. Passing a host of bars, cafes, restaurants and bike hire shops I suddenly found myself on the beach. Right in the city centre! Vancouver really does have it all.
I've only passed breifly through the city but I can't believe how many bikes there are! Everyone is on two wheels of every description, though I think I had more luggage than most! Lycra clad beings streaked past me and old ladies wobbled towards me with small dogs in their front baskets. Mountain bike, folding bikes, tandems - you name it. Vancouver is biking bananas. Good job, too as it means I will be able to find a bike shop to get a few running repairs done.
After 6 weeks of camping I am now staying in the luxury of a family home and making the most of the washing machine and a chance to air and clean all my kit. My poor sleeping bag has just had only its second wash since Hong Kong!
My parents arrive on Sunday for a holiday, so the bike will be getting a rest for a couple of weeks. It will be weird to travel on 4 wheels again. I have loved every minute of Canada and Alaska - the rough camping, the animals, the spectacular scenery, the wide open spaces and the friendly and generous people who have the pleasure of living here. I love the place so much I would happily move here, but doubt the Canadian government will oblige me with a resident's parmit. Hmmm - I'll just have to find myself some unsuspecting Canadian guy to marry.....
There's so much more I could say about my experiences over the past few weeks, but my eyes are going fuzzy from all the typing and the sun has just come out, so time to go and clean the bike.
Take care and enjoy the summer!
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