Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mission Complete

Well, we’re done.  We arrived back in our hometown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on August 21st, 508 days after we left.  We haven’t tallied the exact amount of mileage yet but it is comfortably over 57,000km.  Regarding flat tires, there were more than I would like to count but Trevor won that race with a total of 93 vs my 73. 

The last bit of cycling through Vancouver Island was pleasant.  Sun was out and there were tonnes of wild blackberry bushes.  They grow like weeds around the island and Vancouver.  Funny when we had people approach us and ask where we started and where we are finishing, we would answer straight up and say we started in Vancouver and are going to Victoria and then back to Vancouver.  Usually we didn’t tell about the little in between part right away because people generally ask more questions after.  But some didn’t and would say something like ‘oh that is a nice little trip, well good luck’.

Since being back I have done a number of media interviews and it has been a really cool experience.  First there was the newspaper article in the Vancouver Metro, and then we did a TV news story on Global News.  Then I did a quick segment on the Bill Good Show and if you recall, we listened to his radio show religiously en route so it was pretty neat for me to go on the show.  I then capped off this media run by doing a live morning news show at Global TV with news anchor Lynn Colliar.  After the interview she said some inspiring words to me and that I should seriously write a book.  I have thought about that in the past but never really considered I would do it since there is still more I want to do.  That said, I am now leaning towards maybe trying to put something together because I think I have a wealth of tips on how to travel on the dirt cheap!  And plus this world tour was a blast and I recommend it strongly to those who have thought about doing something similar.  Anyway, with regards to all the media interviews, I plan to put all the links up in the Media tab I will add soon.

Even with the media attention we received I never thought we would be recognized out in public.  But that actually happened today at a McDonalds in Abbotsford.  We were there with our mom and were immediately approached by a group of people upon entry.  One of them asked if we cycled there and I was confused.  Then she said she saw us on the news and shook my hand.  We were then welcomed by other people and given thumbs up and just positive vibes.  It was quite unexpected!  The staff told us our coupons and money weren’t good there and treated us all to a meal!  I have to say McDonalds was very good to us on this trip with their free Wi-Fi and $1 any size drinks with unlimited refills.  We did that a fair bit in North America.       

Now that it is all said and done here is my list of my top 10 countries:

1. Thailand – Warm, cheap, excellent roads with wide shoulders and a 7-11 every 20-30km.  The chocolate Ovaltine drink was a personal favourite in the land of smiles.

2. Malaysia – A continuation of Thailand but unique in its own way.  Great food.  Southeast Asia is just awesome. 

3. Australia – Best camping, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, cheap and delicious milk, new flora and fauna.  Seeing the many koalas along the Great Ocean Road was super cool.  Even though I struggled through the Nullarbor, it was one of the most rewarding sections of this trip.  You definitely look back at the tougher times with fond memories.  

4. United States – The most giving nation in the world.  So many friendly and kind people who supported what we were doing.  Extreme weather which wasn’t fun riding through but made for great adventure.  The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Colorado Rockies, Mount Rushmore, Grand Tetons and Yellowstone provided some of the best scenery in the trip.    

5. Canada – Diverse terrain, wide shoulders, some great Easter deals when we went coast to coast, lots of wildlife.  The Canadian Rockies were the most scenic.    

6. Iran – Very friendly and hospitable people.  Almost every day people would approach us and want to give us something, help us out or take us in for the night.  An interesting and vibrant country to cycle through.  Solid camping spots.

7. Chile – Beautiful Lake District, and climbing up Volcano Villarrica was spectacular.  Cycling the Pan-American Ruta 5 was pretty nice with a continuous hard, wide shoulder.      

8. Denmark – Great cycling infrastructure with lots of bicycle paths.  Visiting family was very nice too. 

9. Germany – Plenty of roads to choose from, nice countryside, Lidl grocery shopping. 

10. Uzbekistan – The annoying bureaucracy and rough roads has now become overshadowed by the delicious, super cheap food.  I became fat but the ubiquitous samsas and the sweets I constantly snacked on made me one happy cyclist.  The best pomegranates I have ever tasted were around Gulistan.  There were a number of interesting cities to explore like Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent.  Central Asia in general was very fascinating to cycle through and a region I would like to return to explore further.    

My favourite city to cycle in which is also a country was Singapore.  I assume there is no surprise here, huh?  Real good times with friends and with the hawker sessions, ice kachangs, bandungs and kaya bread you really feel like you are in culinary heaven.    

My bottom 5:

41. China – Too much chaos for my liking.  I like peacefulness and riding through the country there was constant noise, pollution, and people in my face.  Drivers wouldn’t obey traffic signs so it was a free-for-all most of the time.  The coldness made matters worse.  To top things off I fell off my bicycle in Yunnan leaving me with a hematoma above my right eye.  It was closed shut for a couple of days and took the better part of a month to fully heal.  One good thing though was the red date milk.  They do their milk very well in China I will give them that.    

40. Turkey – It was very hot when we cycled through.  Lots of up and down hills.  I was harassed and threatened in Ankara by some dumbass punk.  In the East we had to dodge sticks and stones thrown by young boys and teens who tried to get money from us.  Many dogs would chase us almost on a daily basis.  BIM was good though. 

39. Kosovo – That incident with those young punks in Decan who wouldn’t leave us alone at the school left me not liking the country very much. 

38. Turkmenistan – Tough slog through the desert with a whole lot of nothing.  Too boring for my liking after seeing endless road with nothing around for 4 days straight. 

37. Argentina – It had the makings of a great country, it could have easily made the top 5 with its cheap yummy food, in particular dulce de leche.  But this one factor has put it on the bottom and that is they have no hard shoulders.  As such, there was nonstop nerve racking riding throughout.   

Trevor’s top 10 goes as follows:

1. Thailand – It is Thailand, nuff said. 

2. Czech Republic – Cherry trees galore, summer started when cycled through, quite roads.

3. Iran – Interesting country and the people are extremely friendly and hospitable, really good bread.

4. Australia – Conquering the Nullarbor was rewarding, camping with kangaroos pretty cool, and Aussies are open to walking around in public barefoot.

5. United States – Being entertained by southerners and battling daily storms and southern heat.  The Grand Canyon was a spectacle. 

6. Malaysia – Almost as good as Thailand.

7. Austria – Almost as good as Czech Republic.

8. Canada – Only reason it ranks high is because he got to have his personal mixes which included peanuts, raisins, chocolate chips, and jelly beans.  If it wasn’t for that, Canada would have dropped big time due to the coldness. 

9. Turkmenistan – Camping in the desert and the challenge of getting through the country within 5 days.

10. Uzbekistan – He was annoyed going through the country but it has gone way up in his rankings since leaving because of one thing: samsas.  Plus the sugar cube treats and raisins he picked up from the Siob Bazaar in Samarkand were delicious.

Trevor’s top city was also Singapore and his reason is and I quote, “Have you been to Singapore?”  It is an efficient and warm city, who could ask for anything more.  It is the best of both worlds in that it has both western and eastern influences.   

Trevor’s Bottom 5:

41. New Zealand – The South Island in particular was depressing and cold with unpredictable weather.  It was also expensive and there were too many broken beer bottles on the road which most likely slashed and ruined his $85AUD Schwalbe Marathon tire.

40. China – Message to China: You don’t need to constantly spit, blow snot out your nose and honk your horn.  Also learn how to drive.

39. Turkey – It was great in the west with a BIM in every town where he could get chocolate hazelnut spread but as we headed east the pestering kids wouldn’t let him eat his chocolate hazelnut spread in peace.  Plus the young boys in the east that threw sticks and stones at us were a huge nuisance.     

38. Argentina – Would have easily cracked the top 10 had it not been for the absence of hard shoulders.  So Argentina: if you want to be a top country to cycle in, build hard shoulders! 

37. Kosovo – Wasn’t that bad but there wasn’t much there of interest.  Those punks in Decan were a piss off too.   

I thought after this trip I would be done with the adventure travel game.  But I am not so sure about that.  I would like to keep going if possible and tick off more adventures in the coming years.  Trevor though, might call it a day and really focus on other things.  But never say never to anything.  This adventure had its ups and downs but on the whole it was an incredible journey that I obviously do not regret doing and will never forget it.  The thing that I will take most from this trip is the friendliness and kindness of strangers all throughout the world.  I know the first attempt didn’t start off so great but this successful go sure proved that there are more good people in this world than bad.   

This will be the last post of this blog and if you were a regular reader or checked in from time to time, I thank you for your support.  It really made the cycling much easier knowing that there were people following our journey.  Until the next adventure, peace out!  

The Prince Rupert harbour and I really think this port has a lot of potential.  I was a bit disappointed with the town itself but I think with its location it could become so much more than it currently is.  

Do I have a whale of tale for you!  While scarfing down on the breakfast and dinner buffets on the Inside Passage ferry ride, we were lucky to see a pod of orcas.  I find whales really neat to view in the waters.  Not only that, we also saw a humpback whale making splashes later in the journey.  The oceans and seas are definitely places I want to explore more of.  Ever since I started scuba diving years ago, I have been amazed by what lies beneath the water.  It really is a whole new world under the sea.  And if you think about it, Planet Earth is covered just over 70% by water and just under 30% by land.  So we may have cycled a fair bit on land, but effectively, we haven’t really done this Planet justice in my view!   

Riding down Vancouver Island we passed all this shrimp along the roadside.  Very tempting to pick up and eat but we didn’t do it.

This spot in Campbell River reminded me a lot of our days riding through Japan back in 2008 on the Asia trip.  Japan is another country I think is a joy to cycle in with their manga kissas which are internet cafes where you have your own cubicle with a computer and other entertainment plus free drinks.  That was our accommodation all throughout the country.  Good times.

Back to the official start of the trip, Mile Marker 0 in Victoria, BC.  If you check out the starting photo and compare it with this one, you’ll note that my yellow jacket has experienced a little bit of wear and tear.  But it made it back. 

Taking a breather in Chemainus, a nice spot on the island with many cool murals.  

We thought there would be many wild blackberry bushes throughout the USA and into Canada but there really haven’t been any until this last stretch.  I guess we are lucky to have so many wild blackberries bushes around Vancouver and on the island.  I really don’t understand the need to buy them at a store around here when you can just pick them for free. 

Our first sight of Vancouver!  We decided it would be nicer to ride in from West Vancouver into Downtown Vancouver so we took the ferry over to Horseshoe Bay from Nanaimo after going down to Victoria.

Trevor actually had one more request on this trip: climb up some of Cypress Mountain before entering Vancouver.  So that is what we did.  Luckily the day was great with clear skies and the sun out.  We could even see Mt. Baker clearly in the distance.  Pretty cool.  I have to say every time I have been away from Vancouver for an extended period of time, I return thinking it really is a nice spot.  It is tough to beat its scenic beauty with the mountains and water at your fingertips.   

Some art that I believe is rather new to Vancouver. 
Inuksuk at English Bay.  I know there are a number of Vancouver pictures here but just trying to do my part and promote Vancouver tourism.  Please come check us out!  If you enjoy the outdoors, the Pacific Northwest is a great spot to be.   

I guess this would be the official endpoint of the trip.  I wanted to end it somewhere with a nice view in the back so this is it.  The ever changing skyline in Vancouver really does impress me.   

Or maybe this is the official endpoint.  Back where our official start of the first attempt was: City Hall.

I know the finish line should be a joyous occasion but I was a little down and out when I cycled by this house.  What is so significant about this house?  Well, it is the house I grew up in.  Since we had left on this trip, our parents have retired out in the suburbs and so the house you see now is in the planning stages to get torn down and redeveloped as a multiplex.  This is something that is done a lot in Vancouver, especially in this particular neighbourhood.  Just seeing the property not being taken care of and the garden overgrown was hard to look at. 

I like dogs.  And so I was happy to meet Moses again at my aunt and uncle’s place.  When we left he was still less than a year old and wasn’t yet fully grown.  Now he is a fully grown St. Bernard who loves to get right up close and personal and sit on me.  He is a funny dog.

Question: What do the Hulkster, Hulk Hogan and Trevor have in common?  Answer: They have both been on the front page of the Vancouver Metro!  I must admit I was surprised to see the picture I took of Trevor in the Andes on the Metro before going to do the radio interview on the Bill Good Show. 

Not going to lie, this was pretty cool.  It also was neat in that I got to see how things work behind the cameras in a newsroom.  I thought there would be producers and camera people in the room but nope, it was just the anchors.  The cameras move around by themselves.  All in all, very cool to see the whole operation in person. 

A lot has certainly changed since we left.  The house in the back or ‘Casa de Hansen’ wasn’t completed before leaving so it was interesting to see it finished.  But the real highlight for me was to see goofy boy, Cody, again.  He is a goof. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bear Aware

We have been cycling on highway 16 this last stretch and from Prince George onward it is sadly called the Highway of Tears due to a number of unsolved murders and disappearances of young women throughout the years.  The terrain has been alright but at times it got a bit dull.  One good thing about cycling up north is it has allowed me to learn more about Northern BC as it is easily forgotten when living down south in Vancouver.  Perusing through the guide brochures and reading what various towns’ economies rely on has been a good learning experience for me.  I knew that forestry as well as oil and natural gas were the economic drivers up here but didn’t really quite know the specifics.  Just another positive aspect of travel as it opens your eyes to various things and facilitates learning.

We saw a few black bears along highway 16.  It is funny how bears on the side of the road here aren’t that much of a big deal.  In Yellowstone you would have stacks of vehicles parked creating a traffic jam but here in BC vehicle after vehicle would drive on by not caring to stop and have a look.  I was the only one who stopped and checked the scene.  All the better since it is best to just let bears be.  However, I can’t help but to stop and observe.   

We also met our fair share of touring cyclists along highway 16.  I did not expect to see any since up north here does not appear to be much of a draw for touring cyclists.  However, I forgot many cycling tourists do the Americas trip from top to bottom.  And so pretty much every day we would meet long haul cyclists en route to South America.  We were the only ones heading in the opposite direction.  We have met quite a number of touring cyclists all throughout this trip and I always enjoy following their trips if they have a blog going.  I have set up a new tab with links to the blogs of all the cycling tourists we have met en route.  Just goes to show we aren’t an odd bunch for taking on a trip like this as a number of people from around the world are doing something similar. 

I know I said in the previous post that Canadians are not as open and friendly compared to our neighbours to the south but along highway 16 we have met quite a number of friendly and supportive Canadians.  So I guess I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions so quickly.  One man who spoke with us said our trip made his day and was genuinely happy to have met us.  He gave us two scrumptious apples each and told us he went around the world three times over the course of nine years back in the 70s through the means of hitchhiking.  Quite the adventurer.    

We had a few nights with thunder, lightning and rain but it wasn’t really bad.  Funny the next morning we would overhear and have people approach us saying that it was some of the worst rain they had seen.  All the while I am thinking they obviously have never been down south in the States during Hurricane season.  Now that is some hardcore rain. 

Trevor finished the book Summer Sisters he had been reading and I have to say it’s true, you really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  I was wrong about it.  He told me it was better than expected and it wasn’t a teenage girl’s book per se.  Since he finished it, he has been on the lookout for any roadside books.  When we were passing through McBride, the local IGA was having a clearance sale as the store was closing down and they were giving away free vampire romance novels.  I never knew there was such a genre.  So Trevor picked up three titles and has already finished one of them.  Believe or not, he is a big vampire fan and likes the Twilight Saga.  Who would have thought?  But the book he just read was not his cup of tea.  I think there was too much romance and not enough vampire action in it. 

The main highlight of this last stretch was making it to Terrace and meeting our grandma who is 93 years young and still going strong, Aunt Susan who arranged media interviews, Uncle Mark who cooked up some delicious steaks and our cousins who are some of the best board and card gamers around.  Our mom who is the very reason why Tim Hortons is so profitable and sister who appeared to be training for a boxing match as she kept using me as a human boxing bag, also came up for a visit.  So it was nice to see familiar faces again.  We used to go up to Terrace pretty much every summer when I was a kid but I hadn’t been back now for quite some time.  A lot has changed since in the north and I honestly couldn’t remember any of the towns and terrain we passed cycling along highway 16.  Anyway, big thanks go to everyone for the warm welcome back.

We are now in Prince Rupert and are about to board the ferry that will take us to Port Hardy at the top of Vancouver Island.  All we have left to cycle is the island and then this show will be over! 

Back in BC!  Shame Trevor didn’t really do much of a triumphant pose here but the miserable weather had us a bit down and out.  See what bad weather can do to you? 

We were welcomed with open arms by pesky mosquitoes and other tiny blood sucking insects when we stealth camped our first night in BC just off the side of this road.  Take a one step into a BC forest and they will be on you like there is no tomorrow. They were so bad they had a full out assault on my face causing it to swell a bit and as a result, I had to quickly put on my mosquito face net that I picked up in Australia.  Probably the best $2 I spent on this trip.  So I think BC insects are the worst of the worst.  They could take on all comers from around the world no problem with their army of mosquitoes, no-see-um’s, hornets and black flies.    

Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954m.  And a mountain I would love to climb but it is actually very difficult.  I went to the visitor centre and they had a video that had been fast forward to show the wildlife that wander about at a random spot in the forest.  Over the course of I guess a 24 hour period mountain goats, elk, deer, black bears, grizzly bears and even a cougar passed by this particular spot.  Pretty neat to see how many animals meander around but watching it made me a little uneasy as many of them were out and about in the night.  Every night we were a bit paranoid about being disturbed by a four legged animal.  A couple of times we did hear something outside our tents but again, no idea what was out there. 

The mighty Fraser River, British Columbia’s longest river with an abundance of salmon.  Also the livelihood of many folk which begins near this spot around Mount Robson and flows out all the way into the Strait of Georgia in Vancouver.  I guess we could jump in here and just let the river guide us back to Vancouver.  Probably would be a more thrilling way to get back in my book but that can be another adventure for another day. 

We stopped for breaks at many rest areas and I must say BC does them well.  They are always set up in a nice area with an outhouse and garbage bins.  Another good thing about BC is their informative signage.  When passing rivers and creeks they clearly state the name and when passing rest areas they note how far the next one is.  So BC gets some checkmarks there. 

Our first sign we saw directing us towards Vancouver!  Probably not that exciting but we wondered when and where we would see this.  This was in Prince George, a town that is no beauty contest winner and had a raunchy smell emanating the air as we entered it.    

A photogenic black bear absolutely working it for the camera.  Actually not quite but I wouldn’t mind knowing the name of its dentist.  Just look at that celebrity smile with its pearly whites!  Of the few bears we saw, this particular bear was the most aggressive as it growled and walked towards us to show that this was its territory.  It was interesting to see from a distance as it stood up on its hind legs quite a number of times all the while growling at us.  This event brought about a question I have often thought about while cycling: what land animal is the biggest, strongest and fiercest?  That is, if there was a survival of the fittest, who would rule the land?  My money would be on the Kodiak Bear which is the largest brown bear.  Trevor thinks the Polar bear.  I think if push came to shove they could take out say a Siberian Tiger or an African Lion.  Those would be my front runners but I think the Kodiak bear would be the force to reckon with.  Also who would rule the sea is another question I have pondered.  My money is on the Killer Whale as I think they have been known to have taken out a Great White Shark in the past.  Though the blue whale would be extremely difficult to take down because of its size but they don’t really have a killer instinct.  They are friendly giants.  This is just random stuff I think about because I have had plenty of time to think.  Random stuff Trevor has thought about on this trip?  If he could, would he like to become a vampire?  And his answer to that is yes, in a heartbeat. 

Pumping water from the ground.  This water was tasty and refreshing but some of the water we have got from the tap like in Vanderhoof hasn’t been all that great.  So maybe Canadian water isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.  I thought we were going to get refreshing, clean water all throughout BC but at times it hasn’t gone down so nice leaving my stomach feeling a bit bloated.  So as I have alluded to in a previous post, the world’s best water we think came from the springs in the former Yugoslav region and in Turkey.  It was nice, cold, clean, refreshing and readily available out in rural areas.   

Prepare to be amazed here… the world’s largest fly rod!  Right in Houston, BC.  WOW!!!  Okay, not really.  Seems like that is our thing in Canada: make the largest whatever to attract tourists to small towns, only to have them stop, take a quick photo and mosey on much like I did. 

Actually I didn’t leave Houston right away.  They had this electrical vehicle charging station which is the first one I have ever seen.  It was good to see as I wish there were more electrical vehicles on the road.  Trevor tells me there is a much larger one in the Olympic Village in Vancouver. 

Trevor takes a rest after making the very demanding Hungry Hill Summit at a whopping 844m!  Seems like peanuts compared to our Colorado days I’ll say that.  For most of North America we had been well above 1,000m but we are now back at sea level.  

Prepare to be amazed yet again for this is the world famous Moricetown Canyon!  Or at least that is what they were calling it as we entered the town.  I think if you are going to label an attraction as ‘world famous’ one must get it approved by some international authority because there is too much overuse of the two words.  Have you heard of this Canyon?  I am guessing no and I hadn’t either, yet I am from British Columbia.  In any event the local fishermen below were catching salmon and many passersby’s would stop to have a quick look and perhaps buy some smoked salmon.  On an aside, this village and many other towns along the highway are very much against Enbridge, a main player in oil and gas pipelines here in BC.  We saw quite a few signs and banners stating Enbridge is threatening the livelihood of its people and for them to stay out. 

I still don’t have a concrete plan in place as to what is next after this trip but with my fabulous fashion sense and amazing hair style perhaps the model/fashion industry is calling?  Not sure the dog, who is one of the two friendly Labrador’s that our aunt and uncle have, feels that way.  Probably wondering who this strange character in front of him is.  And that character is my sister Natasha wearing a red coat who unfortunately was caught on camera when we were being interviewed by the Local News and now has the paparazzi chasing her as well as TV and movie deals rolling in.  Sorry for putting you in the limelight Natasha. 

Trevor isn’t a fan of the whole interview/media thing but I welcome it.  We were interviewed by CFTK TV, the local news channel in Terrace.  You can view the video here: CFTK News.  I thought the bit was put together very well and enjoyed watching it later in the evening.  I especially like that they put on my positive comments about Iran because every time we tell people we cycled through the country we get a lot of surprised looks like it is a very dangerous place.  But the fact of the matter is it really isn’t and the people there are extremely friendly and hospitable as I have said before.  The only prevalent downside that sticks with me still is the oppression of women.  That needs to change if they want their society to progress and prosper.  And it was very apparent the sanctions in place are a big burden to the common folk and that really isn’t fair.  They have recently elected a new president and hopefully change will come, although the real power has always been with the Supreme Leader.  So who knows?  Anyway, enough about politics.  Funny on the day after the interview aired on the local news, we were recognized while stopped at a rest area by this man.  He wished us luck and shook my hand.  Also while in Terrace I was interviewed by the local newspaper called the Terrace Standard and the article should be out sometime next week. 

A group photo with our cousins and sister.  From left to right: a caveman who needs a haircut, Sarah, Rebekah, Abigail, a hobo who desperately needs new attire, and Natasha.  And we can’t forget Rachel, who isn’t pictured as she had to rush off early in the morning for work.     

I could be totally wrong here but I think this may be a bald eagle.  I read a sign that said immature bald eagles are brown, speckled with white spots until they reach 4 or 5 years old.  In any event, it was a neat bird to look at.  We also saw a couple of hummingbirds flying about.  That was pretty cool too. 

I would say the ride from Terrace to Prince Rupert was the nicest part of highway 16.  We followed the Skeena River pretty much the whole way and saw seals swimming around, waterfalls and fjords aplenty.  It really reminded me of the Milford Sound in New Zealand except that this stretch was free of charge and I could see more here because there wasn’t as much cloud cover.      

This is the ferry that will take us through the scenic Inside Passage all the way to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.  Our mom, who didn’t want to be photographed (perhaps afraid that she might have the paparazzi after her too, I don’t know), was very kind to handle the reservations for the day long ferry ride.  She said to me: “It has been 500 days since you guys left Vancouver and have circumnavigated the globe.  Well done.  Now I understand you can’t really cycle Antarctica because of all the ice but you boys totally missed Africa.  It is part of this world too you know?  I thought I raised you two to go hard or go home.  You know, shoot for the stars and even if you don’t quite make it, you are probably still on top of the world.  That aside, you did put in a solid effort and so I will pay for the ferry ride from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy.  Heck, I’ll even throw in the breakfast and dinner buffets; you both look like you need some fattening up.  Though had you conquered Africa I would have thrown in $25 gift cards to Tim Hortons and Subway, but you didn’t.  So maybe next time try a bit harder and really shoot for the moon, okay?  Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be getting back to Vancouver so I can prepare for the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.  Why?!  Because I go hard!!!”  Alright, maybe she didn’t quite say it like that.  But there is a lot of truth and valid points to this fictitious dialogue I just made up.  She really did take care of the ferry reservations and is contemplating tackling the Annapurna Circuit in the mighty Himalayas which I might add is one of the best hikes I have done.  But my main point here is we didn’t hit up Africa.  I really did want to cycle through the continent and had pondered going through a bit of Northern Africa but then thought what is the point?  If we are going to do it, then we should do it justice, like Cairo to Cape Town justice.  Not sneak in for a couple of hundred kilometers just to say we cycled Africa.  So I’ll leave that adventure for another day.        

Thursday, August 8, 2013

An Open Apology

I have to start this post with an open apology to all the countries I criticized for being too expensive when it comes to food.  Cycling through Canada first time round over a year ago we scored some great deals and didn’t actually spend a whole lot on food.  True we cycled in April and May just after Easter so we got some great reduced deals on Easter jelly beans and chocolate they were trying to clear.  For as long as I live I don’t think I will ever forget the many bags of white chocolate we picked up for 99 cents a kilogram in Marathon, Ontario.  Probably the best deal of the trip right there.  I don’t know what happened since we have been gone but a lot of the prices have shot up.  I realize prices generally go up year after year but some of the increases have dramatically gone up.  We both held our heads low coming out of the Superstore and Extra Foods.  Trevor in particular has been really disappointed because he would talk a lot en route about the mixes he ate while cycling through Canada and how much he can’t wait to get back and eat them again for a decent price.  He said if it wasn’t for the mixes, Canada would rank low for him because we were freezing cold pretty much every day.  The mixes he ate kept him going.  So our homeland is dropping like a rock at the moment.  We haven’t yet been to a No Frills so maybe it can save Canada from being super expensive.    

While we are on the topic of food, we have both agreed the cheapest countries to buy food were Uzbekistan and Iran.  Trevor really misses those Uzbek samsas he gobbled up there for about 20 cents each and because of that, the country has been rising on his rankings list overtime.  Funny how countries grow on you even though you may have not been big on them when cycling through.  Australia has been really growing on me even though I wasn’t very happy with the constant headwinds we endured through the Nullarbor.  But they had good bread and jam and more importantly, delicious cheap milk.  I like my milk and Canada unfortunately doesn’t sell it for cheap.  Why?!  I don’t know.  We have so much agricultural land I really don’t get why our food is so expensive.  If Australia can sell it for cheap why can’t we?  
But it isn’t just the food that is expensive here in Canada.  To enter Banff and Jasper National Park we had to pay $9.80 each per day!  I thought going in that it was a one shot deal where you pay it and it is good for a week or so, much like they do in the United States.  So I have 2 beefs here with Parks Canada.  The first is that they should make the passes valid for at least a couple of days and not just one day.  It is too much hassle to extend the pass if needed, especially when cycling.  To note, they do have a weekly pass but that would have been no good for us since we were there only two days.  The second is cyclists should get a discount of some sort, much like they get in the United States.  It is not like cyclists take up much space or emit pollution.  Although, Trevor would argue that last fact and say that I release my fair share of pollution out my rear end.  To that I say it was only because I have had to resort yet again to oats and sugar since it is the cheapest and most filling food I can find.  Why can’t we just do like the U.S. and just charge $25 for vehicles for 7 days and charge cyclists and hikers half price.  To me, that is fair.  Cycling through the parks I sometimes wondered what the revenue goes towards because at times the shoulder from Lake Louise to Jasper was quite bumpy with many cracks.  Instead of gazing at the jagged peaks around me and looking out for bears, I had to really watch where I was going on the bumpy shoulder.  So I feel cyclists are getting the short end of the stick here.  I plan to write an email to Parks Canada expressing my comments and concerns.  I think we can do better.  Don’t get me wrong, I support Parks Canada and like that they protect and conserve our parks as well as educate, but I just think cyclists should get a better deal when cycling in the parks.    

There was also a noticeable culture change when we entered Canada from the United States.  Us Canadians seem to be more to ourselves whereas Americans are much more open.  Each to their own but I miss that openness and just overall friendliness from the United States.  For example, we don’t get approached as much here in Canada.  Not that it should be expected but I certainly do enjoy it when people come up to us and have a chat about our trip.  Here, people seem to just mind their own business or don’t really care.  The people that have approached us with positive vibes and words have been mostly Americans and Europeans. 

Another bother we have had to tolerate are the mosquitoes.  Again, I apologize to all the countries I dissed before because of their blood sucking insects.  Canada probably has some of the worst.  They are so bad they even bite me while I am cycling.  At times I can’t even hop off my bike to take a photo of the Rockies since they quickly find me and then never leave me alone. 

Anyway, enough bashing of my homeland.  It really isn’t all that bad.  There is a lot to be proud of.  Aside from that short stretch of road where it was bumpy with all the cracks, Canada does have nice, wide shoulders.  We also have some of the best tap water in the world as it is always clean and ice cold.  Plus it is easy to forget the little things like having rest stops with picnic tables, toilets with toilet paper, hand sanitizer and garbage bins around.  When the fog finally lifted, the scenery has been spectacular riding through the Rockies.  Highway 93 is one of the most scenic stretches of road in the world.  Hands down.  And I think I can say that given I have cycled many stretches of road around the world.  Both Trevor and I agreed that the Canadian Rockies are more scenic than the American Rockies.  You’ll see why we think this when you scroll down to the pictures below.   

We actually entered Canada on my birthday which I guess was a nice present to myself.  Unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of the day and rack up some freebies like I did at Denny’s when riding from L.A. to San Diego on the first attempt.  That was probably one of my best birthdays ever.  I may have said this before but I am not a fan of my birthday since I like to celebrate unbirthdays because there are so many more of them.  So on my birthday I was down and out and tried to forget what day it was.  Up until I hit my mid-twenties, I have never really been a fan of time passing even though I realize it passes every second.  Unfortunately we only have a finite time on this Planet we call Earth and time is something you can never get back.  It just keeps on a ticking.  I always remember comments made by fitness guru Jack LaLanne who talked about time being the most important commodity you’ll ever have.  That is very true.  You can view these comments I speak of if you Youtube the song Hallelujah by the Canadian Tenors at the 2011 Emmy Awards.  Good song, and the performers are, you guessed it, Canadian! 

We are now in Jasper but had some tire problems approaching the town.  My front tire blew up so we have just picked up another tire here.  I don’t get why North America has destroyed so many of our tires?  The roads in South America were far worse yet we got through with very little flats and no ruined tires.  Strange.  Anyway, we are about 25km away from British Columbia, our home province which would also imply we are almost done this world tour!  Vancouver is in sight!

I know you can’t really see my face but I assure you that is me and we are back in Canada!

If you didn’t believe from the last shot, then you can’t deny this shot.
It has been a while since we left Canadian soil so this barn was happy to see us back in one piece.  And great to see you too!  

Calgary was another milestone I guess for us in that it is the first place on this trip that we have crossed twice.  So it now REALLY feels like we went full circle if it hadn’t already.

Once again a big thanks to Fran and Joe, our great aunt and uncle in Calgary who we stayed with much like we did over a year ago when we were crossing Canada and it was early days in this trip.  It was also very nice to meet up with our mom’s cousins and their families. 

I woke up to foggy, gloomy weather on the day we were riding through Banff National Park.  I was seriously pissed off since I didn’t want to see my most favourite lake in the whole wide world covered in cloud and mist.  Luckily as we approached Moraine Lake the weather quickly turned for the better.  I was utterly surprised.  The weather gods must have known I was coming on through and changed up the weather for my arrival.  Thank you weather gods, even though you have frustrated me many times on this trip.  But you came through when I needed you. 

An absolutely packed with tourists Lake Louise.  Last time we were here there weren’t many people around.  Plus the water was frozen and I could walk around on the lake.  Trevor liked it much better before since there weren’t many people around.     

Well here is something that I think my park fees go towards and I support it.  They have quite a number of these animal bridges along the Trans-Canada highway in Banff National Park.  As such, mama and papa bear can guide their three cubs across the highway safely if need be without getting run over.  They also have fenced off pretty much all of the Trans-Canada highway through the park.  That is reassuring since there is plenty of wildlife out and about.  However they didn’t do that along highway 93.  And so Trevor came face to face with a fair-sized grizzly bear who wanted to cross the road.  It walked out onto the shoulder and stared Trevor in the face.  As Trevor halted to a stop about 25m away from the bear, it hightailed it back into the forest.  Poor bear just wanted to cross the road.  Unfortunately I missed it as I was zoned out but heard it trample over small trees and bushes to get out of there asap.  But can you blame the bear after looking Trevor in the face?  He isn’t really an approachable person.  In fact, he can be downright mean.  I became a bit annoyed at Trevor for scaring the bear since I love viewing wildlife, especially grizzly bears.  So I reminded him as I have done before on this trip to smile next time and do it more often because it goes a long way.    

Alvin the chipmunk.

Here is my second most favourite lake in the whole wide world: Peyto Lake.  It is a really close 2nd by the way.  Just love the turquoise lake with the many mountains in the background.  Quite the view, quite the lake. 

The morning we cycled through Jasper National Park the weather was again gloomy.  But the weather gods did their thing yet again and said let there be sun and blue sky.  Just in time too, because it would have been a letdown had I not seen the Columbia Icefield in all its glory.  Both Trevor and I remember seeing the Athabasca Glacier coming out closer to the road when we were younger.  Sadly it has been retreating a fair bit over the years.  See it while you can…

More Canadian Rockies.

Athabasca Falls.

Trees, rock and water.