Here’s the loooooong overdue update on the last bit of our trip in North America:
From Tok we rode straight to the border. Having a doubtful feeling about our border crossing into Alaska (the US) on the Top of the World Hwy we found out that it was justified. The lady at the Alaska Hwy border crossing made it very clear that we were illegally in the States. After explaining where we got into Alaska and a phone call to the border post who let us through without giving us a visa, we were told that we were fine and won’t have any problems in future visiting the States again. Apparently it was some internal communication problem with certain border staff …
Anyway, we were back in Canada and glad about it. In Whitehorse we went to the NOLS branch, met the lovely Briana who runs the show there, and pitched our tent. This branch is much smaller than the one in Alaska and very quiet when there are no groups arriving or leaving. That suited us fine and we found a good spot to work on our bikes. We replaced my fork seal and did the usual maintenance to prepare the bikes for the final stretch back to Vancouver. Before carrying on we met aunty Heide & Wolfgang from Edmonton again, who were now on a road trip through Alaska with their cozy campervan. Unfortunately they had problems with their vehicle too, so it was not possible to spend some time together
After a last soak in the thermal pools next to the NOLS place it was time to hop on the bikes again. From the long, straight, boring Alaska Hwy we were glad to turn off onto the Cassiar Hwy. This is a nice stretch of road through the endless forests. It’s interesting to see the reminders of past bushfires. Although the fires happened a long time ago, the black tree stumps give you a feeling of the force that these fires can develop.
This area is obviously a favourite for motor bikers and we met quite a few from various places all over the Americas. On one campsite we had a nice chat with Dom, Ben & Tym who had just started on their journey to South America (www.alaskentina.com). They dedicated their ride to raise funds for children’s rights and education to break the cycle of poverty. Although they left the campsite a lot earlier than us we soon caught up with them again. One of their bikes had broken down with a damaged rear wheel bearing. None of our bearings fitted. The boys had already contacted various people to arrange their rescue so there was nothing left for us to do and we carried on.
We couldn’t pass the chance to visit Stewart (Ca) and Hyder (US) with the impressive Salmon Glacier. Stewart is a nice little town with old houses and even some classic cars decoratively parked on the street. The campground in Hyder is more like a parking lot right next to the road, so we rode back to Stewart where we set our camp on the Rainey Creek campground, a much nicer place. Next thing, we couldn’t believe our eyes, there was a R100R motorbike from 1981. It belonged to Marty, another Beemer enthusiast, and you can imagine the bike talk that went on for hours …
In between the bike talk we managed to do a day trip to see the glacier. What a beautiful, impressive mass of ‘flowing’ ice that is; and what a great ride, too. The funny thing is that you have to cross the States (Hyder) to get to the glacier which is in Canada again. There is no border check to get to the glacier but on the way back you are stopped and checked by US officials, which is quite ridiculous. I mean, it’s a dead end road to the glacier, so what point has the question where to and where from and whether one has anything to declare? You can’t buy anything on the way, so whatever you have on you, you brought with you in the first place … At least on this border crossing there are no visa issues.
Back on the main road we came through an area that is proudly showing its native Indian heritage (or First Nation’s – as the Canadians say). In Hazelton we pitched our tent on the campground right next to a Ksan village, with its old carved poles and re-built houses. The night at this campground will surely stay in our memory forever. We like some privacy and the place was not busy, so we pitched our tent far away from everyone else, next to the line of bushes separating the campground from the river. A beautiful place. In the night we woke up from ‘something’ walking behind ‘our’ bushes – and it was something BIG. We had been by the river in the afternoon and those rocks were big, they didn’t move one bit when we jumped over them. Now they were rolling and rattling … Out came the bear spray and trying to remove the safety latch we found that it had built up a lot of pressure, probably from sitting in the tank bag in the sun all day. So, when the safety latch finally gave way, a short spray came out – and we jumped out of the tent, coughing like mad. That stuff is bad!
For a moment it was quiet behind the bushes but then our visitor started moving again. Try to visualize, Thomas standing on the picknick table, armed with the bear spray, a flashlight and some handy rocks, while I got our gear out of the tent, and pulled it over the dark campground to set it up right next to the other campers further away from the river. When we climbed back into the tent later, we could still feel the effects of the bear spray, it doesn’t help you sleep better. And our new neighbours were pretty surprised when they looked out of their tent in the morning.
The side trip to the historic town of Barkerville sadly ‘fell into the water’ as the German saying goes. It started off in bright sunshine along a lovely small road but we could already see that we were moving towards some pretty dark clouds. But we hoped that those clouds were stuck in the mountains. In Wells, just before Barkerville, our hoping ended abruptly. Even an hour later it kept bucketing down, no sign of easing up, so we decided to leave our safe place at the tourist office and go back to where we came from and back to the sunshine.
This was a lucky decision because it took us to a small campsite near Quesnel on the shores of Dragon Lake, managed by an old German chap who enjoyed hearing our story. He lent us his canoe for a tranquil paddle in the evening. The next day Lance arrived, driving a gorgeous red 1961 Buick convertible. When he set off on his boat he told us that he let the key in the car and we’re welcome to take it for a spin around the lake. How amazing is that? At first we thought “no way” but the temptation was too strong and we went for a short drive. It’s a dream of a car, just look at Thomas’ face in the video.
Getting closer to the end of our trip we were taking it easy, wanting to make sure that nothing happens on the last stage of our trip (remember the beginning?). But the main road was just too boring, so we went off to visit some sand dunes at the Farewell Canyon. The canyon was nice but we couldn’t find any sand dunes. Anyway, the gravel road was easy, the map showed that it would lead back to the main road, so we kept going.
The road turned more and more into a farm track crossing the Gang Ranch, the landscape was vast and beautiful, the sky dramatic, very dark behind us and blue ahead of us, we enjoyed the ride. Then the first puddles appeared, showing that it had rained not long ago. The puddles got bigger, more like dirty pools and we had to trust that no obstacles were hidden in them. This was a bad sign but we hate turning back and we were still having fun. When the fun ended it was too late to turn around. The track became rough and rocky and then turned into pure thick sticky mud – first downhill then a steep climb …
I watched Thomas gently sliding into the ditch and decided to keep going as long as I had momentum. Well, I didn’t even get to pass him before going down as well. It was almost impossible to walk and we really don’t know how we managed to get the bikes up the hill eventually. On the last few meters of the muddy section I went down again, my front wheel stalled with all the mud under the fender, and got my foot caught under the pannier. Boy that hurt! Here I was, sitting in the mud, crying from pain and the thought of ending the trip as it had begun. Thomas helped me up and we were both relieved to find that I could stand and nothing was broken.
We were still on farmland of this huge ranch and when some people from the farm came past we asked if we could pitch our tent here for the night to give my ankle some rest. No, we were not allowed to – injured or not. Oh, did we miss South America at this point. So with clenched teeth we carried on until we found a place to camp by the Frazer River. This was a good place to cool my swollen ankle too. And with a hearty breakfast in our bellies we were ready to carry on, back to the main road and on towards Vancouver where Bob & Teresa were expecting us.
To see the video click here: CLICK