British Columbia, Canada: Trees, hills and rain

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851km and 7,148 m altitude gain (11,454km and 71,557m altitude gain in total / Map: Google Maps)

13 -29 June, 2016 – At Watson Lake we rested for a few days to recharge our batteries, do our laundry and catch up on email. We also enjoyed the luxury of a real supermarket where we could buy fruits and vegetables again. There was free WiFi at the tourist information center and they even had detailed information about places where we could stock up on food on the final stretch of the Alaska Highway. We met Vanda, a retired Canadian travelling alone in her RV through Canada and the US. She was so kind to store our food bags at night as the campground didn’t provide any food lockers to protect us from the bears.

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Huge trucks along the Alaska Highway

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And finally another state in Canada ticked off

When we left we knew there was a shop and a restaurant after about 200km so we carried food for three days. The bad weather continued and we got wet every day. The rolling hills continued as well but the scenic snow-capped mountains unfortunately disappeared. We had crossed the Rocky Mountains and the rain and mostly overcast sky made it impossible to see anything else than trees, trees and more trees. The first night we pitched our tent behind a run-down gas station where we could use the toilet. The second night we reached a campground and were happy to take a hot shower before going to bed. For an awful lot of money we got the smallest meal we’ve ever seen, the salad was so tiny that we thought it was just decoration. Going to bed hungry we opted for our own breakfast the next morning to make sure we got enough fuel for the upcoming hilly section.

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Lots of wildlife – for a change a group of amazing buffalos…
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…and of course the odd bear here and there most of the days.

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I’m cycling in the rain….
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…I’m still singing in the rain.

We were now looking forward to the Liard Hot Springs as we knew we could stock up on food. The weather continued to be miserable, but the scenery improved with a quite spectacular river and cloud formations between the trees. Wet to the bones and cold we arrived at the hot springs only to find out that the shop had nothing to sell other than jam for 9$ and chips. And the restaurant was closed. We were shocked as we had no more food left and the next facilities were more than 100km away. The girl at the shop continued telling us, that we could ‘drive’ back 50km to where we came from, even though we told here various times that we had just come from there and that it wasn’t an option for us on our bikes. A woman had overheard our conversation and told us that she would have a look at her groceries and give us a few things. She came back with 2 beers, cans of tomatoes and beans, mashed potatoes, bread and sausages. Another guy also offered us some food and asked us to his campervan where we got a lot of dry-freezed military meals and energy bars. We were overwhelmed by this generosity. But it would even get better: it was still raining and we cycled through the campground just to notice that all sites were taken in the meantime. A Canadian couple saw us and invited us to pitch our tent on their site – and we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with them. Our faith in human kindness definitely got restored that day.

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Oh, another bear!
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Gigantic sign warning for gigantic animals

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At Muncho lake we treated ourselves to a cabin and lovely dinner at the Swiss-run hotel to escape from the cold and rain. The next day we met Keith from Scotland on his recumbent bike who is cycling from Alaska to South America. We had a nice chat and loved his enthusiasm, something we were at the moment lacking of. We met him a few more times along the way before he turned off in the direction of the Canadian prairies while we were riding into the Canadian Rockies.

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Muncho Lake
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…and what’s left from an abandoned RV Park at Muncho Lake.
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Certainly a nice way to see the stunning landscapes from high above in a water aircraft if you have some spare Dollars left.
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Our little wilderness cabin

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Cycling along peaceful Muncho Lake on a perfect summer day
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Final rest before we pedal up another mountain
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Curious mountain sheep even though to me they look more like goats
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Another abandoned place
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Keith is catching up with us
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There he is…

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As the weather was really bad we rested a few more days at a campground in Fort Nelson. We were almost kicked out because we dared using their free WiFi. It happened that it rained cats and dogs one day and we sat in their restaurant – eating there three times as there was no shelter anywhere on the campground to be able to cook ourselves – and of course also checking emails etc. Twice that day we were told not to use the Internet all day long (which we didn’t) and the next day we got reminded again. When I became quite upset and remarked that we are spending a lot of money besides the camping we were told we could also leave if we weren’t happy here.

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On that same campground an American approached Johan and started asking questions about our ride. At first, Johan was pretty unfriendly, not at all in the mood to talk but only telling the guy how unfriendly people in the West were compared to people in Asia or the Middle East. A bit later the American told us that his wife had sent him to ask the ‘teenagers’ if they would like to sleep in their motorhome in case it would rain again. We had a good laugh and suddenly he told us, that he would like to invite us for dinner. He opened his wallet, gave Johan 40 USD and thanked us for the conversation. Consternated we looked at the money and the guy disappearing slowly. Later that evening we sat at the table next to the American and he wouldn’t say a word to us. That was one of the strangest situation for us: we would have expected to eat together or that they would cook for us, but sitting next to them and pretending we don’t know each other was extremely odd. Nonetheless we of course were very grateful for the gesture.

After three days the weather improved slightly and we moved on to finish the last part of the Alkan. Happy to be on our bikes again we enjoyed our first rain-free day in weeks. Towards the end of the day on our final hill and right before we wanted to call it a day a car stopped next to Johan. Two nice ladies invited us to join their party in the nearby village. As we anyway were on the lookout for a campspot we accepted the offer and ten minutes later shuffled free hamburgers and salads into our hungry stomachs. We were at a first nation village and they had their yearly treaty celebrations with lots of free food, free drinks (no alcohol as still a lot of first nation people suffer from alcohol addiction) and traditional music and dances. One of the first nation villagers invited us to sleep at his house. Everyone was so friendly and they all welcomed us into their community and even invited us to stay another day. Nonetheless we moved on after an extensive breakfast the next morning and a nice lunch package in our panniers.

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The cabin in the background was our cozy home at the first nation village
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Traditional music from the first nation people
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This is nothing for the faint-hearted but another tradition: preparing and eating moose meat at the celebrations
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Every little piece of the animal will be eaten. Most parts of the body were either still in the smoke house or on the barbecue.

 

The landscape became more and more boring, rolling hills and forests and on top traffic suddenly picked up with a lot of logging and other local trucks passing by at a horrendous speed. Cycling became less and less enjoyable and every day was a struggle. On top my knees started hurting again due to our heavy loads and the constant difficult cycling over the often steep hills. At Oneowon we decided to take a lift to the next town and within five minutes a truck stopped and safed us from two even more boring days of cycling. Tom works in the oil and gas industry and drove back into town to meet his wife for dinner. Upon arrival they invited us for dinner and later his wife drove us to Dawson Creek – Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. While we had a really bad conscience for not having ridden the last 140km by ourselves we were glad for this offer as cycling would have meant riding on a very busy highway. And it would even get better. Tom and Shirley’s home is in Edson, Alberta, and we could get another 500-kilometer-ride south to avoid another super boring stretch of roads. They dropped us at a campground and the next day we could continue cycling into the Rocky Mountains and to Jasper.

Dawson Creek at Mile 0: 

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Another rainy day
Another rainy day
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…but thankfully there was some shelter from the downpour
Finally arrived in Etson after a long ride
Finally arrived in Edson after a long ride

 

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