We’ve been in Canada for a few days now and are still getting over some jetlag (I seem to be sleepy around 1-2pm but wide awake at 1-2am – sigh) and adjusting to crossing the dateline on our 13½ hour flight over, arriving before we left. We spent a couple of days relaxing in Vancouver and since then have cycled up to Whistler, where the 2010 Winter Olympics were hosted. We have a vague plan of what we are going to do in Canada, which involves Vancouver Island and the Icefields Parkway, but our plans have a habit of changing so we shall see…
I ended up packing my bike up the evening before we left for Canada. Unfortunately, the bike shop in Brisbane didn’t receive the parts on time to rebuild my wheels so that was first on the agenda when we arrived. Our Vancouver WarmShowers hosts pointed us to a great bike shop, Dream Cycles, who build custom steel bikes and are really into cycle touring. They took a look at my wheels and suggested that the rims were actually fine and all I needed was the front one respoked, which they quickly sorted out for me. So that saved us a huge wedge of cash – thanks guys!
We decided to ease ourselves back into the cycling routine by heading up to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway over two days and then stopping in Whistler for a break before coming back down again. Vancouver seems to be a very cycle friendly city and we followed great paths all the way through the centre and then picked up undulating roads all the way to Horseshoe Bay, where we turned onto the highway. We saw 100s of roadies out on Sunday morning rides and all the cars and vehicle traffic was absolutely brilliant around the cyclists. We’ve also seen a couple of touring cyclists as well, so that has been nice.
The Highway was busy, but we had a big shoulder and absolutely stunning views to distract us from the noise of the cars. We climbed up and sped down all the way to Squamish, which is known for climbing and mountain biking and it is easy to see why – it has a huge granite monolith over the town which must be heaven for all the outdoorsy types who live round here.
Our night in Squamish was to be our first night of camping in Canada and so our first experience of being “bear aware”. There are black and grizzly bears around and we had read a lot of advice and spoken to Dave and Jenn, our hosts in Vancouver about bears. Generally the advice is to not leave food and related items in the tent overnight, but rather to cache them away somewhere away from the tent. Most campsites apparently have bear nets (up in trees) and lockers for this purpose but this site did not. It also was a Sunday so there was no-one on reception to ask either. So we opted to put all of our food into a pannier and leave it wedged in a tree away from our tent (we didn’t have any rope to hang it up). In the morning, Adam got up to discover that the pannier had gone!
We searched around and found that it had been dragged about 5m away into the bush. Something had tried to get into it but failed, so I suspect it wasn’t a bear, as Ortliebs, despite being sturdy, are probably not bear claw-proof. Still, whatever it was that had managed to drag it away must have been fairly sturdy as it was quite a chunky pannier. It did leave us somewhat rattled….
I had slept in that morning having not slept most of the night so we didn’t get on the road until 11am, and it was slow going up to Whistler, being mostly uphill (up to nearly 700m from sea level). It was also very hot and I started to feel very woozy. I think I was dehydrated and we needed to get water from a stream for me. We were about 30km from Whistler which still involved more climbing so I reluctantly got back on my bike for the last push. We made it although we didn’t get here until 5pm, and the ride was <70km, taking us 6 hours. Thankfully, it doesn’t get dark here until 10pm, which is such a relief after the dark evenings of Australia.
Today we have just relaxed in Whistler. It is a beautiful town, with snow-capped, tree lined mountains in the background. It is also a hive of activity, with mountain biking and hiking, and it feels really busy, which makes a change from Australia where everywhere felt empty. I guess we are entering summer and tourist season here now.
From here we will go back down the Highway to Horseshoe Bay where we will take the ferry across to Langdale and will cycle along the Sunshine Coast, eventually taking a ferry onto Vancouver Island and cycling back to Victoria. We are also thinking about taking the train to Jasper and cycling to Banff on the Icefields Parkway, although we may need warmer sleeping bags for that! From there we’re not sure, but at some point we will do a land border crossing into the USA to start making our way down to San Francisco and eventually LA.