January 04, 2006

Vancouver: on the radio again

Tania and Gwendal have been invited to talk on the radio.

Thursday January 5th between 5 and 6pm

On UBC's radio Station CITR 101.9 FM
Viva la Velorution! DJ Helmet Hair and Chainbreaker Jane give you all the bike news and views you need and even cruise around while doing it!
*on CiTR 101.9 FM Radio in Vancouver, BC, Canada * *From 5:00 to 6:00pm Pacific Standard Time

* if you have cable TV , you can plug the cable into your radio, tune into 101.9FM and get a very good signal.* _*
listen live on the Internet

In your media player, open URL/location:
Or, try clicking on this: http://www.citr.ca/live.pls

Posted by gwendal at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

Vancouver: On Radio Canada

Just a quick little update...
I will be interviewed by Danielle Marcotte at 12:30pm on 97.7FM in Vancouver and on the Internet at http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/colombie-britannique/Radio/quandonarrivenville16aout04.shtml

The interview should play between 12:30 and 13:00 on Tuesday December 20th.

What do you do after such a long expedition? The question has been dogging me since we returned to Vancouver.
I've been slowly getting used to no longer having to take down my tent and stuff my sleeping bag every morning... my bed is once again a mess and I even leave my dirty clothes on the floor for a few days before picking them up and washing them. Time seems to go faster in the city.

We are not idle however. We are slowly processing the film footage taken during the expedition and are planning to finish it by June 2006 with the help of producer Ian Hinkle. I'm helping with the organization of the Stanley Park Bike Festival for June 17th 2006.
I'm working with Momentum Magazine (http://www.momentumplanet.ca) to develop the Neighbourhood and Community section of the magazine.

This is a good time to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and we wish you a very happy new year with lots of open roads...

Starting in the new year the Antipodes Expedition will be happy to start going into schools to do presentations. We will also soon have a slide show ready to share some the best pictures and moments of the adventure!

Posted by gwendal at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

Canada: Back in Vancouver

So once you get to Inuvik by bicycle in the middle of a very short arctic fall, what do you do?


With luck on our side as well as the wind, we met Hank Pokiak on the Dempster Highway at the Ogilvy river lookout (km 256). Hank with much curiosity chatted with us while we all took in an amazing double rainbow overlooking the golden ribbon of birch trees that follow the floodplain of the river while the rest of the valley remained a rich dark evergreen.

Hank drove off and probably arrived in Inuvik that same evening, while it would take us another 6 days. When we arrived to a squall of snow we found out that Hank had left us a message. Hank runs a oil and gas supply and outfitting business and needed a truck to be delivered in Prince George... hmmm...would we be interested in taking it down for him?

It was an F350 turbo diesel crew cab pickup. Big enough to fit 6 touring bicycles and their riders. It was a fantastic opportunity, that would allow Mael to attempt to make it down to Vancouver in time for the beginning of university classes. Unfortunately this also meant that we would have to leave before classes started in Inuvik.
We had wanted to visit a few classrooms in Inuvik but apparently, on the first day of classes, the school was found to have structural problems. So classes started late, in temporary classrooms and in the recreation centre's hockey rink. This meant no lacross, no hockey, no ice skating. Thus visiting classrooms would have been delayed until later in the month.

On the drive down, we did manage to spend two days in Whitehorse to give presentations to a group of Grade 10, 11 and 12's at Porter Creek Secondary as well as Mrs. Burrell's enthusiastic Grade 6 class at Selkirk Elementary before we had to continue on to Prince George.

It was an eerie and altogether unnatural experience to retrace our steps in such a large and fast vehicle. In a day of driving we easily covered 10 days worth of riding. The drive also demonstrated very clearly to me why I thoroughly enjoyed doing the whole journey by bicycle. We had seen so much more from the seat of the saddle than when we were in the truck grasping to catch glimpses of important landmarks of our adventure on the way up.


I promised a few statistics for the trip. - So here they are!
After setting out on January 22nd 2004 I finished in Inuvik 587 days later on August 31st 2005 with Tania, Armel, Mael, Maria and Marcel. An average of 41 kilometers a day. But this doesn't tell the whole story. Of those 587 days only 333 days were actual riding days. Therefore the true average number of kilometers per day was 72.26. I do however believe that both stats are important when calculating what are reasonable distances to cover on a cycling trip. On the whole, I think we kept a decent pace that allowed us to do many other activities and deal with many major mechanical and physical breakdowns. That means I spent about 1665 hours on the saddle... (boy am I glad it was comfortable)


While in northern Mexico on a particularly hilly week we pushed just a little harder, logging more km in a month than ever before, because we knew I was keeping track of our food intake. The result was a caloric intake of more than 5500 calories per day. By comparison, the average base caloric burn of someone my age, not doing much excersise, is about 2500 calories.
I don't think we always ate so much, some in the group expressed that they never felt full at times while in the States and in Northern Canada, but in Mexico the opportunities to eat well and inexpensively were so frequent that we could not help but indulge.

It has now been a week since, under the cover of darkness, we have snuck back into Vancouver. Feigning a desire to get our personal stuff in order (see two years of unfiled tax returns) we did not call anyone. After a week of living as a recluse in my mother's home I realize that I am definitely going through a small bout of reverse culture shock with a good dose of the end of the road blues.
Alright! So we are now officially home and winding down the adventure... not quite.
I am sitting on 60 hours of video footage that I do not want to let go to waste. I bloody carried the 10 pounds of filming equipment the whole time so, I am going to make a movie! If anybody has some good leads on people who could help me produce it -please let me know.

Both Tania and I are currently entertaining the idea of looking for work. My bank account reflects almost two years without employment. That said, we calculated that our daily expenditures were about $9.60 CAD per person (Tania and Gwendal) for the past year (excluding flights, and initial bicycle and equipment purchases). That number still blows me away. Cycle touring truly makes travelling amazingly affordable!
For those who are not satisfied with just the website. We have plans to prepare a few slide show events of the expedition. Additionally we are also working on making good on our goal of bringing geography and adventure into the classroom by visiting schools and giving presentations this fall/winter; interested teachers please give us a call. Certainly in the lower mainland and if we can find some funding, we will go beyond as well.

Our phone number where we can be reached is: 604-787-9577







Thank you for letting us share this adventure with you!
The pictures on this entry are of all the cyclists who have participated in the expedition.

Posted by gwendal at 09:40 PM | Comments (1)

September 02, 2005

Canada: The end of the Road

We have arrived in Inuvik!!!!!
Wednesday August 31st 2005
Lat (DMS) 68 20' 60N Long (DMS) 133 41' 60W

I am totally euphoric and elated! The best birthday present.
It is hard to believe that the line I drew on the map over two years ago has now been under my wheels!
Under the cover of a nice little northern storm with chilly northerly winds we fought our way up the last 94 kilometres of the adventure one at a time for 5km in front. Fittingly just as we arrived past the Inuvik airport where the dirt and mud give way to smooth pavement, it started to snow! Inuvik's first real snow of the fall.
We could not have arrived at more fitting a time!!!

Deborah Bisson whom I had been in touch with throughout the expedition was there with her friend Sue and her two dogs Jessie and Willow to greet us.

As it was already 8:30pm when we arrived, we were happily lead to Deb's home for a very very sound night's sleep. The next morning we rode the last 2km to the MacKenzie river shorline for a little ceremonial celebration.

Those present were:
Marcel Gjissen: mostly on the bike and on all continents except antartica in the last 5 years
Maria Josenhans: Since 2003 she has been cycling in Europe, Morocco and most of the Americas.
Mael Castellan: Has joined the expedition in Vancouver and completed 3600km
Armel Castellan: Was with the expedition from Ecuador to Vancouver and he rejoined in Whitehorse for the finall push to Inuvik.
Tania Lo: has logged over 16000km since La Paz in Bolivia.
Gwendal Castellan: Has been on the saddle since Ushuaia. Departing on January 22 2004 and cycling 24 072km + 6000km of alternate transportation (Boats, trains and busses) for a total of 30 072km to arrive in Inuvik.

The sun sets at 10:30pm and twilight still lasts until midnight.
I saw the Aurora Borealis again last night.
It was my birthday on September 1st so I am now 29 and very happy about it because according to Maria it is the only age I will ever have... forever in my twenties.

Wooo Hooo!!! We made it accross the Dempster.

This will not be our last entry! we are only half the way up the Cassiar Highway in our stories of the trip. So I promise to finish posting all of these as well.
It has been a real pleasure to share my stories and thoughts during the last 18 months. It is going to be weird to stay put for a while. Beleive me I have been thinking about it. You can't help but let your mind wander while on the road and often it is living in the moment and other times it is wondering... what next?

Who know for sure but I am excited!

Posted by gwendal at 10:28 PM | Comments (6)

August 21, 2005

Canada: Tome 1 Prince Rupert to Stewart BC

My eyes are squinted , my mouth is pursed shut and I'm pointing my nose down trying to keep the bugs from making their way into my diet. Numerous speacies of bugs, blackflies, dragonflies, mosquitoes and noceums, all kamikaze trained, pelt at my face at about 40km/hr. Today I've probably swallowed half a dozen and inhaled another half dozen up my nose.

Lucky for us we are cycling through northern BC, the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories late in the summer so, the bugs should begin to subside as the frost sets in. It has been unseasonally wet this summer. Our record dry days have been numbered... After a soggy week cycling up Vancouver Island and a few more on the Queen Charlottes, we are far from experiencing the 100 days and 100 nights of rain that Marcel Gjissen (new fellow cyclist) experienced but our journey on the Stewart-Cassier Highway has been a little wet and clammy.

First off in Prince Rupert we were reunited with Maria and Marcel, with whom we cycled in Southern Mexico...seems they had nothing better to do (hehehe) than continue their cycling saga while awaiting the OK from the immigration Canada folks (Maria is trying to become a Canadian).

The five of us began our journey westward enjoying a fabulous tailwind and enjoying the amazing views as the highway snakes the side of the Skeena River to Terrace B.C. In Terrace we had to do our first big stock up of food as we were not going to see a big grocery store for at least 500km. A dirt road north of Terrace took us through the Nisga Lava beds. In the mid 1700's a small volcano erupted... Canada's last major volcanic activity. As the Nisga'a legend goes, several young boys were playing on the side of a river during the salmon spawning season. They were putting pieces of slate and burning wood in the backs of the salmon and watching them swim upsream. The Salmon spirits did not take this abuse well at all. Later the volcano erupted and buried more than 2000 nisga'a people. In one of the chiefs longhouses there was a girl in puberty isolation. In the panic of the eruption the family forgot her there. It was only several weeks later when the lava had cooled that they dared to go back to their village. When they did they found the girl exactly where they had left her, but petrified in Lava. The Lava beds now have a really beautiful appearance as the mosses and a few hardy trees attempt to re-colonize the landscape. 36 square kilometers of land are buried by the lava that is about 12m in depth on average but up to 30m deep in places.
The Nisga'a memorial Lava bed interpretive centre is the only provincial parks site with both provincial and native involvement.

Leaving the lava beds was a little muddy, the road was under construction and with all the rain, our fenders were caked. This muddy road took us back to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. We had planned to go directly towards Dease Lake but we ran into a pair of Swiss cycle tourists who convinced us that a 70km detour to Stewart and Hyder, Alaska was worth it, to see Grizzly bears fishing for the spawning Chum salmon in Fish Creek. In Hyder, Alaska, a mere 5km west of Stewart, B.C. is the Tongass National Park with a Grizzly Bear Observation Deck. We hung around for three hours watching a nice big bear showboat for us as it scratched its back on a tree and occasionally caught a few big chum Salmon. It is a town for about 100 happy people with a winter population of a mere 30. All the shops and bars only accept Canadian Dollars as the only way to get to Hyder by road access is through Canada. Even Telus is the telephone provider. Stewart BC currently holds the record for the most snowfall in one year, 90 feet!!!!
It is no suprise then to find the Salmon Glacier only 20km away. On the road back to Meziadin Junction you can see all the smaller ice falls and glaciers squeezing between the mountains. Their source is the Cambria Icefield.
The main glacier that runs down to a lake next to the road is the Bear Glacier.
In the 1940's and 60's it butted up against the other side of the valley creating a much larger lake. Every once in a while as the lake grew to be too big, the glacial ice would float and the lake water would escape below in a breach. This happened several times and would catastrophically flood the valley downstream. Since the sixties however the glacier has been in fast retreat and the lake is no longer dammed by ice.

From Meziadin Junction there were 500km of road left to the Alaska Highway.
We hope to have the time to write about the rest of the ride up the Stewart Cassiar on our next internet opportunity which will probably be in Inuvik.
We will also write about the Alaska Highway, Whitehorse, the Klondike Highway and of course the last strech on the Dempster Highway.
So much good stuff

Posted by tania at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Canada: Location Update

!!!! We are in Dawson City in the Yukon TerritorrySunday 22nd of August2005

The riders are:
Gwendal Castellan, Tania Lo, Mael Castellan
Marcel Gjissen. et Maria Josenhans, Armel Castellan et Amanda Kalyn.

We are realizing that we won't make it to Inuvik for the End of the road music festival headlining Fred Penner on the 27-29th of August. Nor are we sure to make it for Gwendal's Birthday on the 1st of September. But we are pretty certain to make it by the 4th of September. We will see how we do on 740km of shale and mud between Dawson City and Inuvik on the Dempster Highway.
It has already snowed in Inuvik, and in Pelly Crossing a slightly adamant local told us "you are one month too late". But we are going ahead confident that we will make it.

Posted by gwendal at 04:11 PM | Comments (1)

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)