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.        



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