July 26, 2005

Canada: location Update

!!!! We are in Whitehorse, BC!!!!
Tursday August 12th 2005

Current Riders:
Gwendal Castellan, Tania Lo, Mael Castellan
Marcel G. and Maria J.

Joining us are Armel Castellan and Amanda

We will be Seven people heading out from Whitehorse to go to Inuvik with ten days of food in our bags. We will then resupply in Dawson City and hopefully have enough to get through the 740km of gravel road that separates us from the end. There is a music festival at the end of the month headlining the excellent childrens entertainer Fred Penner. So we are motivated to roll :)

Inuvik estimated date of arrival: Still early September, maybe labour day.

Posted by gwendal at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

Canada: Cycling in the Queen Charlotte Islands

So your knees still hurt from the last time you tried cycletouring in the Gulf Islands? Do you still remember that 15% grade that met you just as you got off the ferry?

As we found out after leaving Prince Rupert by ferry for the port of Skidegate on the Queen Charlotte Islands, there is an alternative. The Queen Charlotte Islands are also known as the Haida Gwaii by the Haida for whom the Islands are their ancestral home. The Islands have a decent network of roads and most of them don't have any sizable hills. The scenery is amazing and the opportunity to see wildlife is inevitable. The largest species of black bear lives on the islands, the bald eagles seem to keep a eye on you everywhere you go, and the small deer are constant companions.

We arrived at the Skidegate ferry terminal at about 6pm and headed left 8km for Queen Charlotte City (QCC). There are several small corner stores and one descent sized grocery store. Then just a couple kilometers west of "QCC"
there is the haydn Turner Park community campground. It has three walk in sites right on the ocean that are ideal for cyclists. It was july when we were there and we were the only ones camping??? maybe it was all the recent rain that has kept people from travelling, but for some reason we never heard of a campground being full on the Queen Charlotte Islands. But at $5 per walk in campsite I really can't understand why.
Wet weather really does not have to be a deterrent. It was never really cold and with a good tarp and the abundance of trees you can make your campsite a comfortable place to hang out.

The next day we took the only paved road that took us back through Skidegate and the Haida museum which is currently being rebuild and expanded.
There is also another good COOP Grocery store in Skidegate. Then it is 42km of beautiful flat coastal road to Tlell. Every second weekend in July Tlell hosts the end of the world music festival (we missed it by a week). Just north of Tlell there is the beginning of the Naikoon Provincial Park. There is a fantastic Provincial on the edge of the water called Misty Meadows. From there starts a coastal hiking trail that follows north for 89km to Rose Spit which most people accomplish in 3 to 5 days.

From Tlell it is only 21km to Port Clemens where there is another very nice grocery store and campsite on the edge of the ocean!
From Port Clemens we continued north to Massett for 40km. Where again there is a good COOP grocery store (can you tell what is important to me?)
We headed East for 26km to Tow Hill half of the road is a muddy gravel. Tow hill is a large basalt monolith that stands alone on the north east coast of Graham Island surrounded by the much flatter and boggy parklands around it. On either side there are two beautiful long sandy beaches decorated by the traditional west coast sun bleached driftwood. There are two campgrounds right next to the ocean on either side of the hill. Agate Beach provincial campground with 32 sites and 10 tenting pads, it is on a small bluff overlooking the water just west of the hill. Just east of Tow hill is Hiellen River and a brand new campground.
What suprised me was that the sand at low tide is very hard and it is possible to ride out on your bicycle. We were able to ride nearly the whole lenth of the beach this way. What we did not enjoy too much was that every tourist in their car found it appropriate to drive out as well. Most beaches of this beauty that are in Parks and also designated nature reserves don't alow this. But this is not the case here and although there are thousands of crabs moulting on these beaches, we were also whitness to the inevitable oil that leaks from the bottom of every vehicle that rolls onto the beach.

On our way back down the Island we decided to take the forest service road from Port Clemen to Queen Charlotte City. It is 68km long and has several fantastic attractions. Such as a 10 minute trail to a parcially carved Haida Canoe that was mysteriously abandoned and Rennell Sound on the West Coast of the Island where there are two rustic ministry of forests campgrounds.

As we raced for the ferry after five days on the islands, I look south to South Moresby Island. If we had a little more time there is a 102km loop of road from Sandspit to Moresby Camp to do. Most of it is gravel except for 22km of paved road from Alliford Bay to Sandspit. But there are many campgrounds available and I am certain that any cyclist that ventures there will find that they will have a warm welcome and they will always have an empty campsite waiting for them.

!!!Stop the press!!!:::
I forgot to add an intersting discovery.
We were cycling on the logging road south of Port Clemens and went over a bridge. Below us were two freshly finished cedar dugout canoes.
The The Haida Nation Recently had a large Spirit Rising. We soon had a young guy run up and start working on the boats. One of them was large enough to easily hold 6-8 people.

We were told that they had enough cedar logs to build 120 boats. The plan as he told us was to build the 120 canoes within 4 yeas and descend on Victoria for a very impressive show of cultural renewal. I am looking forward to learn more.

Posted by gwendal at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

Canada: Smellscapes of the West Coast

After leaving the Pacific Ocean in El Salvador we did not see it again untill we reached Bellingham, just south of Vancouver.
It had been 4 months without any sight of any ocean. Having grown up with the ocean never more than a few minutes bike ride away, I started to miss it.

What was Noticable? As we set back on the road leaving Vancouver for Horseshoe bay July 7th and we pulled onto the ferry. The very familiar smell of the BC ferries car deck. A particular mix of diesel and wet mooring lines.

Later as we rode north of Parksville towards Denman Island we passed by a nice section of coastal road. Another familiar smell wafted past us as we rode north. That of intertidal seaweed and kelp, decomposing on the beach.
Later we passed the Fanny bay oyser farming buildings and with the smell of seaweed was the pungent smell of drying oyster shells.
Somehow all shorelines smells are salty. I don't know if it is possible to smell sea salt, but I certainly will never mistake a sea smell for a lake smell.
It was also very interesting because the temperature of the waters in British Columbia are so much colder than Central America. The result is a completely different sensory experience.

Later we passed by a section on the highway 20km south of Port Hardy just after the Port Alice turnoff, with tonnes of white clover flowers on either side. Well nestled in the flower patches and enjoying the sweet honey fragrance even more than us were three black bears busy grazing. All of them noticed the three of us on bicycles much more than the cars. Maybe we were more smelly than the cars, or our movments harder to understand. One of them even went back on his hind legs to have a good look at us as we went by.

From Campbell River to Port Hardy we were constantly followed by rain and a forcast that tomorrow would be sunny... which did not happen until our 4th day on the Queen Charlotte Islands. We tried our best to dry it out, but the tent always got packed a little or very damp in the morning. By the time we arrived in Skidegate on Graham Island our tent had a slight mildewy smell that is hard to ignore.

Now in Terrace we have bid farewell to the ocean once again. Our next encounter will be with the Beaufort Sea, north of Inuvik where the MacKenzie river finally meets the salty sea.

Posted by gwendal at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

Canada: Location Update

!!!! We are Terrace, British Columbia!!!!
Wednesday July 20th 2005

Current Riders:
Gwendal Castellan, Tania Lo, Mael Castellan
Marcel G. and Maria J.

We just finished a beautiful ride alongside the Skeena River. With a Swiss couple on a Tandem at the beginning of their adventure!!! We have decided to head north from here to the Nisga lava beds. There will be just over 800km of lonly road until we reach Watson Lake in the Yukon. Between here and there we have few food refueling opportunities. So our bikes will be loaded as we head out.

Inuvik estimated date of arrival: Still early September, maybe labour day.

Posted by gwendal at 03:54 PM | Comments (6)

July 06, 2005

Canada: so hard to leave home

We made it to Vancouver on June 25th 2005 after 518 on the road for me. It was a huge motivation to be able to ride home. Home is a word that is so loaded in english and like "soldade" in Portuguese, it really does not translate without having to use at least ten words to get at its true meaning in another language.

Ah... Vancouver...
-where water flows hot out of the shower
-where water flows and never cuts out any time of the day
-where I can drink straight from the tap
-where produce is of very high quality and variety
-where streets have more than three small grocery stores per block
-where I can find "Yerba mate" imported from Argentina
-where sushi does not cost you a second mortgage
-where asking for non fire arms related bear protection is not alien to store clerks
-where a vietnamese pho restaurant can be next to a portuguese cafe in with a New Zealand pie shop and a chinese insurance agent across the street.
-where it rains in july.
-where my friends are
-where more than a year on the road quickly catches up to you.

We barely had the time to see half the people we wanted to see.
I thought it would be a little like any other rest stop we have taken along the way. Just unpack your paniers, fix what needs fixing and be on our way again.
But somehow we ended up unpacking all the little packages we sent home from various parts of Latin America and turning my mothers back yard, kitchen, bedrooms and living rooms into a mess.
We have also gone shopping for dried goods to send up north. The idea being that it will be much more expensive up in the Yukon and we will have at least ten days of meal planning sorted for the 740km Dempster highway.

It has been two days since we have tried to leave. Our goal was tuesday the 5th and it is already noon on the 6th and it is looking touch and go as to whether we will make it to the ferry. The group leaving Vancouver will be Gwendal, Tania and Mael.
Our route north will be as follows.
We will ride up Vancouver island to Port Hardy, then catch the ferry to Prince Rupert. I was given a tiny Haida watchman carving made of agillite (or black resin) as a small talisman before leaving. So as a thank you for having helped me travel so far and so safely we will go visit his home on Haida Gwaii.
Then back on to Prince Rupert on the mainland (Where Marcel and Maria will join us) we will go to Smithers. From there we will travel north on the Cassiar highway to Dease Lake and then to Watson Lake in the Yukon. Finally we will rest in Whitehorse where Armel will join us again and race to be in Inuvik before Labour day.

This will be my first time cycling across Canada... albeit south to north and we will probably pass through some of its most remote areas. Certainly the most remote accessible by road.

Check out the riders page to see bios of all the riders on the expedition.

Posted by gwendal at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)