Yukon, Canada: “We never stop for anyone – we might get shot!”

1012km and 7,542 m altitude gain (in total 10,604km and 64,409 m altitude gain)

27 May – 12 June, 2016 – After exactly one month on the American continent we had reached the US-Canadian border. Actually we got to the US border post, a tiny building where they didn’t even want to see our passports nor stamp us out of the US. Our visa questions remained unanswered in the expected unfriendly tone of two customs officers. We moved on dissatisfied as we didn’t know for how long we could re-enter the US at a later point. Here they told us, that our time in Canada would be deducted from our allowed six months. They also told us, that we could only enter the US once per year on our visas. This was now the third time we heard something completely different and each time we got the information from customs officials. We continued cycling for another 25km before we reached the Canadian border post. A very friendly customs officers asked us the usual questions – how much money do you have? What are you doing for a living? Are you planning to commit a crime? Are you carrying any weapons? – we got our stamps and entered our 32nd country by bike.

Yippie, we are in Canada


…and more precisely: we are in Yukon
Roadside lunch


By now we still hadn’t spotted any bears, but as we had entered the most remote area of our journey we knew it would happen soon. We always had to carry food for several days, as we couldn’t get any proper information if there was a shop at the next gas station or not. Often we had to cycle for hundreds of kilometres through the wilderness without passing any settlements. In this Northern part of Canada the pristine landscape was gorgeous. Snow-capped mountains, lots of spring flowers along the road, vast forests, roaring rivers and lots of bears and other wildlife roaming around. In fact once we saw eight bears in just one day. Far too many for my taste, but still an unforgettable experience. They look so peaceful and friendly when grazing right next to the road in the lush green grass. More than once we got upset about tourists leaving their vehicles and getting as close as possible to the big beasts for a photo. These animals are dangerous and we were reminded of that every day when passing them on our bikes – the bears would focus on us until we were out of sight. Some tourists even blamed us for shying them away, and yes, they sometimes would run into the forest when we came around a corner but often stopped at a safe distance and stood on their hind feet to be able to better see us. We just couldn’t believe the stupidity of these people.

This one had just very casually crossed the road


This fox visited our campsite looking for food
They are called mountain sheep even though the look more like goats


Curious ground squirrels everywhere
Stopping dead when this black bear crossed

Unfortunately we weren’t really lucky with the weather this time. We had rain most of the days, sometimes only a few showers per day and sometimes rain for hours. On top we struggled very often against a strong headwind, making our experience less enjoyable than we had hoped for. Very unfriendly Canadians along the route added to our misery. Service was poor and the few businesses along the Alaska Highway somehow also didn’t really bother. We understand that doing business is very hard as the season is short and most Americans taking this route to get to Alaska or the other way around travel in their huge RVs (Recreational Vehicles) only stepping out of their vehicles to get fuel. And if I write huge I actually mean gigantic in terms of size. These RVs are the size of a touring coach and behind them they are often pulling a mid-sized car or another huge trailer with often a car and a motorbike inside. One day – we were sitting in the lounge of a campground – such a bus was pulling into the parking lot and Johan told me that it will get busy now, as there was a coach with at least 50 people just arriving :-). But as always only two people stepped out of this monster. What scared us most was the fact that there isn’t even a special license necessary to be able to drive them.

Even cyclists get featured…


This is a quite small RV; the small care behind is towed behind the bus

What we didn’t understand was the fact that we were treated so extremely unfriendly. Nobody seemed to like cyclists even though we were the ones eating lots of local food – be it good or bad – and paying a lot of money for camping without any facilities. While en route on a particularly remote stretch we stopped at a commercial campground to ask if we could refill our water bottles. The owner refused to fill up two bottles of water and instead told us we could buy bottled water as his tap water was only for paying guests. We left in disbelieve and angry without buying anything as it is against our principle to buy plastic bottles while there is drinking water readily available. This sign hung on his office door: ‘If you see a bear don’t run into my office’. I think this tells enough. Later that day some German tourists filled up our bottles and we pitched our tent next to a little river where we also washed ourselves, made a warming camp fire and went to bed as tired as always.


Without these warming camp fires we would not have survived


In this part of the world traffic is still very little and consists mostly of tourists and some huge supply trucks on their way to Alaska. This made cycling very peaceful despite being on a highway. Unfortunately the road was at many places under construction which meant for us a lot of dust when vehicles passed but much worse: we usually weren’t allowed to cycle through the construction site. Too dangerous! The first time we negotiated hard but unsuccessful and were forced to wait 20min until works would stop. All other times we had to load our bikes onto a truck to be driven through the construction site before we could continue by ourselves. Americans are always afraid about their liability and getting sued in case of something might happen.


Swallowing some dust
Through road constructions we usually got a ride in these pilot cars


One day, we had just left our campground knowing there wouldn’t be anything for the next 200km other than trees, hills and bears we spotted some red houses in the distance. Getting closer we could read a nice looking sign “Creperie” and thought that either must have survived from years ago or be a Fata Morgana. But no. There was a French Bakery in the middle of nowhere selling yummy French pastries, bred and of course crepes. Even though we had just had breakfast we couldn’t resist eating crepes and enjoying this unexpected treat.

OOPS, a Grizzly! Too bad we were just looking for a wild camping spot.


On another campground – we had cycled over 120km from the early morning until almost 9pm – they closed the toilets at 9pm and showers didn’t exist, but we still were asked to pay almost 20$. As cycling farther wasn’t an option anymore we stayed, I desperately wanted to wash myself and used the remaining 10min for a sink shower. Later they learned that they closed the toilets so early as they had problems with the truckers, who would wash themselves at the toilet sinks…..

At a information center where we got hot tea and coffee – for free of course


By now you might ask yourself why don’t you guys just wild camp instead of getting upset day after day. We had a few reasons for that: First we were more afraid of bears disturbing our good night’s sleep while camping out in the wild and felt safer knowing there were people around. Second we could get water from fellow campers and didn’t have to filter river or lake water while still risking to get sick. And the third and most important reason was that we did not have to put our food and other smelly items such as toiletries in the trees and out of reach of bears. That would have been a mission impossible anyway as all spruce and pine trees did not have proper branches. The state campgrounds always had food lockers or waste baskets that could be opened from the back and where we could safely store away our panniers. Without anything left in the tent other than two smelly cyclists, bear spray on either side of the tent and fireworks, Johan got from one of our Warmshower hosts, we usually slept safe and sound.


Stopping to get changed – one of these days where rain was on and off


Most state campgrounds by the way are in the middle of nowhere at beautiful locations, with great views, next to a river or a beautiful lake and without any facilities other than outhouses and fire pits. There is no ward and you place your money for the night – usually between 10$ and 15$ – in a box by the entrance.

We crossed a few rivers on quite spectacular iron bridges
Washing dishes in a lake
First nation art
A moose we never saw alive in Canada


A few businesses still stood out, and of course they were busy as crazy. And a few people stood out as well. There was for example our wonderful Warmshowers host Susan in Whitehorse with who we stayed a few days and who took us on a lake canoe trip. One evening at the pub with some of her girlfriends we met Dee, a visual artist working with clay and spontaneously invited her the next day for breakfast to Susan’s house to show us her artwork. For those interested have a look at her website at www.DBaileyArt.com. And there was this retired guy with his campervan who stopped for us to ask if we needed anything. Or some Americans en route spontaneously inviting us to their homes back in the lower 48 in case we would pass by.


A beautiful lake but strong headwinds unfortunately


Johan was so hungry that he ordered a second meal after this one
Due to the late arrival the day before we treated ourselves to a shabby motel
An interesting church in Haines Junction


Ready for our mini adventure with Sue
Final foto with our Warmshowers host Sue

After another longer stretch through nothingness and less spectacular landscapes while crossing the northernmost Rocky Mountains we were looking forward to arriving at Watson Lake, known as the gate to Yukon (if you’re coming from BC) or for its signpost forest.

We met this funny Japanese cyclist when we left Whitehorse


Washing dishes again
Updating my diary at our home for the day


On one of the oldest bridges in Yukon
An easier mode of transportation in this huge country


This vehicle might need some maintenance first

We stopped at the RV Park to ask for a camp spot and got the brusk reply: “No tenters”. As we weren’t aware of any other campgrounds in town we asked if we maybe could take a shower and of course pay for it, but got the same unfriendly reply: “No, these are for guests only.” We couldn’t help but ask why he was so unfriendly and were told that he didn’t like tenters, especially cyclists as they always keep their food out of their tents which attracts animals. Well, what else can you do in bear country if you don’t provide any lockers or room for food?

Another wild camp next to a rest area


Another interesting bike setup


Luckily there was another campground that didn’t really advertise behind a gas station with clean showers and toilets and even good washing machines. Here we met a strange elderly couple parking their RV right next to us without even saying hello upon arrival. They apologized later for being grumpy and rude, as they had driven more than 700 miles that day. The next day we told them that we were quite disappointed about the people’s attitude here in Canada as nobody would talk to each other, people stay amongst themselves and hardly take notice of others. We also told them that we found it very strange that hardly ever someone stops in the middle of nowhere when they see us to ask if everything was OK or if we maybe needed any water, knowing there was just nothing for hundreds and hundreds of miles. They then told us that they also would never stop – not even for cyclists – as they might get shot. A response that can only come from a US-citizen! For us it seemed as if most of the Americans live in fear.


Still a long way to Calgary

Season’s Greetings


Thank you everyone for following our journey, reading our blog and commenting on it. Thank you to those who hosted us over the past months, who gave us food or just encouraged us to continue doing what we are doing. You all are a part of our journey and will have a part in our hearts forever. You are the ones who make this trip so memorable and enjoyable. We are looking forward to new adventures and to discovering many more countries and cultures and meeting more wonderful people in 2016!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. May your hearts be filled with joy and peace and may some of your dreams come true.

Bärbel and Johan



Relaxing in Dushanbe

Fast facts Tajikistan:

  • A small landlocked jewel with huge and beautiful mountains, second only in height to the Himalaya/Karakoram range
  • Neighbouring countries: Kyrgyzstan (North), China (East), Afghanistan (South), Uzbekistan (West)
  • Population: 8.5 million people
  • Poorest country in Central Asia: a teacher earns approximately 80 USD per month and it is estimated that 20% of the population lives on less than 1.25 USD per day.
  • Drug trafficking is the major illegal income source

9 – 20 September 2015 – We’ve had a wonderful time in Dushanbe. Only then we realized how tired we were. Not only from a 24-hour drive heart-stoppingly close to cliffs but also from the hard work over the past few weeks. The coming days we did not set an alarm, we did not struggle against headwinds and instead just slept, read, ate, updated the blog, slept, strolled through the city, relaxed a bit more, applied for our Turkmen transit visas, slept again, met a few other cyclists and enjoyed the luxury of our guesthouse.

Marian's guesthouse in Dushanbe - our little paradise
Marian’s Guesthouse in Dushanbe – our little paradise
Finally meeting Phoebe who is cycling to Singapore. We met her brother a few years ago in Singapore and have been following Phoebe's travels since earlier this year.
Finally meeting Phoebe who is cycling to Singapore. We met her brother a few years ago in Singapore and have been following Phoebe’s travels since earlier this year.
The world seen from Dushanbe
The world seen from Dushanbe
Tajikistan's president - smiling at us from millions of billboards
Tajikistan’s president – looking at us from millions of billboards
One of Dushanbe's landmarks
One of Dushanbe’s landmarks


And another monstrous building
And another monstrous building
Once Asia's largest flagpole, the flag alone measures 2000 square meters!
Once Asia’s largest flagpole, the flag alone measures 2000 square meters!

The day our visas should have been ready we nervously cycled to the embassy. We had heard too many stories of people getting rejected for no obvious reasons. We arrived at around 9am only to hear that they would only open by 9.30am. Finally inside we were told to come back the next day, the visas weren’t ready as yet. Now we were even more thankful that we had arrived on time in Dushanbe as the next day was Friday and Sunday was the day we had to leave Tajikistan. If we wouldn’t get the visas on Friday we would have to leave without. But lucky as we are the next day it was ready – we only had to cycle across the city through mad traffic to pay our 110 $ visa fee to a Pakistan Bank located at the other end of the city and pedal once more all the way back.

Two happy chaps
Two happy chaps with their Turkmenistan visas

Finally we were ready to hit the road again. The next morning the alarm went off early again but we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was raining! We haven’t seen any rain in weeks. The forecast was bad for the whole day and eventually we stayed another day. Good decision, the following day we set off on a clear and sunny day with slight tailwinds. Mostly we cycled along boring cotton fields, apple plantations and grapevines, with a barren mountain chain in the background. But after 12 days off the bikes we enjoyed sitting once again on our hard saddles. Halfway to the border we got a water melon and ate it together with the friendly and very well English-speaking people. Later that day I got fresh grapes and Johan a freshly baked bread. From everywhere we once more heard friendly ‘Hellos’ and ‘Salams’ and people kept asking us how we liked Tajikistan. We were no longer ‘normal’ tourists but cycling travellers attracting a lot of attention and causing much confusion. ‘Why do you cycle? Why not go by car? This is so much easier!’, were the questions and comments we got from locals. Only the poorest or kids are cycling in Tajikistan, everyone else rides a car.

Leaving Dushanbe in the early morning
Leaving Dushanbe in the early morning
The melon has already been eaten
The melon has already been eaten






Let the president always be with us
Let the president always be with us
Aluminium production - we are now part of an espionage plot, as the Uzbek customs officer asked us for a copy of this photo
Aluminium production – we are now part of an espionage plot, as the Uzbek customs officer asked us for a copy of this photo
At lunch time
At lunch time
Cotton fields
Cotton fields
Time for the cotton harvest
Time for the cotton harvest

We entered the country from a very poor area and cycled through one of the most remote regions. The climate is rough with hot and arid summers and very cold winters. People are shy but very friendly and hospitable. Food is basic with little variety. Soup is the staple dish and if we were lucky there were a few other vegetables than potatoes in it. With it we usually got stale bread and sweets. Sometimes fried potatoes or plov (fried rice with carrots and mutton meat) was served. If we were very lucky we got tomato and cucumber salad, most likely the cause for our constant stomach issues.

Bathrooms are basic and usually quite dirty. This surprised us as they are very tidy if it comes to their houses. You must not enter the house with shoes, that’s a major offence. Early in the morning they start sweeping the floors and it continues throughout the day, often to our annoyance as they cause more dust than anything else. Squat toilets are built as far away from the house as possible and shower facilities usually don’t work – there was either boiling hot or ice-cold water, nothing in between. Sometimes there would only be a few drops coming out of the tap. But then these were bathrooms built for tourists. Locals on the countryside only have toilets, washing takes place in front of their houses with water out of a tin pot or a bucket.

Tajiks are very bad drivers, same as everywhere else in Central Asia. Due to the condition of the roads, cars – the majority being old ladas from the Sovjet era – are in the same poor state. Tajiks only know one speed: fast. Wheels spin whenever they leave, they are overtaking everywhere whether they see something or not, they are always on the phone and we’ve hardly seen cars without broken windshields.

Landscapes were absolutely stunning and breathtaking most of the time. Being such a mountainous country it’s been the toughest cycling experience for us ever. Despite all the pain and effort we’ve been through we are very grateful that we made it through the Pamirs in one piece and that we were able to explore these extraordinary landscapes.

Ausspannen in Dushanbe

Fakten Tadschikistan:

  • Ein kleiner, von Land umgebener Juwel mit atemberaubenden Bergen, die höchsten nach dem Himalaja/Karakorum
  • Nachbarländer: Kirgisistan (Norden), China (Osten), Afghanistan (Süden), Usbekistan (Westen)
  • Bevölkerung: 8,5 Millionen
  • Das ärmste Land Zentralasiens: ein Lehrer verdient ungefähr 80 USD im Monat und Schätzungen gehen davon aus, dass 20% der Bevölkerung mit weniger als 1,25 USD auskommen muss
  • Drogenhandel ist die größte illegale Einkommensquelle

9. – 20. September 2015 – Wir hatten eine sehr schöne Zeit in Dushanbe. Erst hier fiel uns auf, wie müde wir waren. Nicht nur von einer abenteuerlichen 24-Stunden-Fahrt am Rande des Abgrunds, sondern vor allem von der harten Arbeit der letzten Wochen. Jetzt stellten wir uns endlich keinen Wecker mehr, mussten nicht gegen den Wind ankämpfen, dagegen schliefen wir viel, lasen, aßen, aktualisierten den Blog, schliefen, ich arbeitete, wir liefen durch die Stadt, entspannten uns ein bisschen mehr, kümmerten uns um unsere Turkmenistan Visa, schliefen ein bisschen mehr, trafen andere Radfahrer und genossen den Luxus unseres Gasthauses.

Finally meeting Phoebe who is cycling to Singapore. We met her brother a few years ago in Singapore and have been following Phoebe's travels since earlier this year.
Endlich treffen wir Phoebe, die nach Singapur radelt. Vor ein Paar Jahren haben wir ihren Bruder in Singapur getroffen und verfolgen Phoebes Reisen virtuell seit einigen Monaten.
The world seen from Dushanbe
Die Welt aus der Sicht von Dushanbe
Tajikistan's president - smiling at us from millions of billboards
Tadschikistans Präsident, der auf uns von Millionen Plakaten herunterschaut
One of Dushanbe's landmarks
Eines der Wahrzeichen von Dushanbe


And another monstrous building
Und noch ein monströses Gebäude
Once Asia's largest flagpole, the flag alone measures 2000 square meters!
Einst Asiens größter Fahnenmast – die Flagge allein hat eine Fläche von 2000 Quadratmetern!
An enormous tea house
Alles ist hier groß – hier ein enormes Teehaus

Am Tag, als unsere Visa fertig sein sollten, radelten wir nervös zur Botschaft. Wir haben so viele Geschichten von Menschen gehört, denen das Visum grundlos verweigert wurde. Wir kamen um 9 Uhr wie vereinbart an, die Botschaft machte aber erst um 9.30 Uhr auf. Nachdem wir dann endlich rein durften mussten wir leider erfahren, dass unsere Visa noch nicht fertig waren. Jetzt waren wir erst recht froh, dass wir so rechtzeitig nach Dushanbe gereist sind, denn der nächste Tag war Freitag und am Sonntag mussten wir das Land verlassen. Wenn wir morgen das Visum nicht bekämen, müssten wir ohne ausreisen. Aber wir hatten wieder einmal Glück, am nächsten Tag waren die Visa fertig, wir mussten nur noch quer durch die ganze Stadt und wahnsinnigen Verkehr radeln, um die Visagebühr von 110 $ bei der Pakistan Bank zu bezahlen und dann wieder zurückradeln, um unsere Pässe mit neuem Aufkleber abzuholen.

Two happy chaps
Zwei Glückspilze mit ihren Turkmenistan Visa

Jetzt konnten wir endlich wieder weiterradeln. Am nächsten Morgen klingelte der Wecker wieder früh und wir trauten unseren Augen nicht: Es regnete! Wochenlang hatte es nicht geregnet. Die Vorhersage war für den ganzen Tag schlecht und letztendlich blieben wir noch einen Tag länger. Das war eine gute Entscheidung, denn am nächsten Tag fuhren wir bei Sonnenschein und leichtem Rückenwind los. Die Strecke war langweilig, meist fuhren wir an Baumwoll- und Obstplantagen mit Äpfelbäumen und Traubenstöcken vorbei und einer kahlen Bergkette im Hintergrund. Das machte aber nichts, nach zwölf radlosen Tagen waren wir froh, wieder auf unseren harten Sätteln sitzen zu dürfen. Auf halbem Weg zur Grenze bekamen wir eine Melone geschenkt, die wir gemeinsam mit den netten und sehr gut Englisch sprechenden Menschen aßen. Später bekamen wir noch leckere Trauben frisch gepflückt und ein warmes Brot aus dem Backofen geschenkt. Von überall her hörten wir wieder “Hello” und “Salam” und die Menschen fragten uns, ob es uns denn in Tadschikistan gefiele. Jetzt waren wir nicht mehr länger ‘normale’ Touristen, sondern radelnde Reisende, die viel Aufmerksamkeit auf sich ziehen und oft für Verwirrung sorgen. ‘Warum fahrt ihr mit dem Fahrrad? Warum nicht mit dem Auto? Das ist doch viel einfacher!’ hörten wir immer wieder von den Ortsansässigen. Hier radeln nur die Ärmsten oder Kinder, alle anderen fahren Auto.

Leaving Dushanbe in the early morning
Auf dem Weg nach Usbekistan, Stadtausgang Dushanbe
The melon has already been eaten
Die Melone ist bereits aufgegessen






Let the president always be with us
Auf dass der Präsident immer bei uns sei!
Aluminium production - we are now part of an espionage plot, as the Uzbek customs officer asked us for a copy of this photo
Aluminiumfabrik – wir sind nun Teil eines Spionagekomplotts – der usbekische Grenzbeamte hat uns um eine Kopie dieses Fotos gebeten.
At lunch time
Cotton fields
Time for the cotton harvest

Wir sind in das Land von seiner ärmsten Seite eingereist und fuhren durch eine der abgelegensten Gebiete. Das Klima ist hart mit heißen und trockenen Sommern und sehr kalten Wintern. Die Menschen sind scheu, aber sehr nett und gastfreundlich. Das Essen ist sehr einfach und bietet wenig Variationen. Suppe ist DAS Gericht und wenn wir Glück hatten, dann gab es außer Kartoffeln noch anderes Gemüse in der Suppe. Oft aßen wir dazu altes Brot und Süßigkeiten. Manchmal gab es Bratkartoffeln oder Plov (gebratener Reis mit Karotten und etwas Hammelfleisch). Und wenn wir ganz besonderes Glück hatten, gab es Tomaten- und Gurkensalat, der war wahrscheinlich immer der Grund für unsere ständigen Magen- und Darmprobleme.

Die Bäder sind hier ebenfalls sehr spartanisch und oft leider auch sehr dreckig. Letzteres ist überraschend, denn die Häuser sind extrem sauber. Auf keinen Fall dürfen sie mit Schuhen betreten werden, das kommt einem schweren Verbrechen gleich. Schon früh morgens wird mit dem Fegen begonnen, dann werden die Böden genässt und gewischt und dann wird wieder gefegt. Die Stehklos sind immer so weit wie möglich weg vom Haus und die Duschen funktionieren in der Regel nicht, wenn es denn welche gibt. Entweder kommen aus dem Hahn nur ein Paar Tropfen oder kochendheißes oder eiskaltes Wasser, dazwischen gibt es nichts. Aber dann muss man auch wissen, dass diese Bäder auch nur für Touristen gebaut werden, die Menschen hier auf dem Land haben keine Badezimmer, sie waschen sich an einem einfach Waschbecken vor dem Haus. Manchmal gibt es noch nicht einmal ein Waschbecken und man gießt sich das Wasser mit einer Zinnkanne über die Hände und den Rest.

Die Tadschiken sind sehr schlechte Autofahrer, wie übrigens überall sonst in Zentralasien auch. Aufgrund des schlechten Zustands der Straßen sehen Autos nicht viel besser aus – meist sind es hier alte Ladas noch aus Sowietzeiten. Tadschiken können auch nur schnell fahren. Die Reifen quietschen, wenn sie losfahren, sie überholen, ob sie etwas sehen oder nicht, sie telefonieren fast ununterbrochen während der Fahrt und wir haben fast keine Autos ohne Risse in der Windschutzscheibe gesehen.

Die Landschaften waren außergewöhnlich und fast immer atemberaubend. Aufgrund der vielen und hohen Berge war es für uns wohl schwierigste Land zum Radeln. Trotz aller Schmerzen und Anstrengungen durch dieses Land, sind wir froh, dass wir es heil durch den Pamir und das Wakhan-Tal geschafft haben und dass wir die Möglichkeit hatten, diese außergewöhnlichen Landschaften zu erkunden.