Canada – bears, glaciers, forest, forest, forest…
Canada is supposed to be famous for the Stanley cup, CN Tower, their Totem Poles, Celine Dion, maple syrup, Tim Hortons, etc., but this is probably not what we will remember it for. Instead, what stuck in our minds were the enormous forests, remains after the gold rush, bears, nice roads and scenery, rivers full of spawning salmon, and again, a country with super friendly people.
I smashed my headlight AGAIN!!!
After a bloody cold night in Chicken, Alaska, with little sleep, we woke up by hearing raindrops on the tent. Before the tent got too wet we packed up and shortly after we hit the road it started pouring down. The road to Dawson City was very nice with mostly gravel. This was supposed to have been a very scenic route, however, we didn’t see very much because of all the heavy rain. Prior to the Canadian border my headlight smashed by a flying stone that came from a passing car… damn it! This headlight was almost new as it was one of the parts I replaced in Anchorage after the head-on collision I had in Ladakh, India.
Dawson City is a pretty cool place, it was the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century. The town community has done a great job to preserve its past, it has kept virtually all of the dirt roads within the town, along with its wooden boardwalks; this certainly gives it the aspects of the ‘old’ Wild West. However, the Cowboys, horses and gunfights on the streets were absent… but to be honest I was quite relieved that it wasn’t any gunfights taking place while we were there.
A welcoming return from the sun
From Dawson City it was quite a long ride, approx. 530 km (330 miles) to the next town, which is Whitehorse. After a couple of days riding on pretty good roads, apart from needing to watch out for potholes and its wildlife, we stopped at a nice campsite on the border to Whitehorse. After a sublime sleep we woke up with the sun shining on us for the first time in a long time. It was wonderful to feel the warmth of the sun. I thought we have had more than enough wet and miserable weather for some time. It is like yin and yang; you sometimes need crap days to really appreciate the good ones. Whilst we were in Whitehorse, we went to look at the fish ladder that they built to allow the migration of Chinook salmon to bypass the Yukon River dam, and gosh, how many salmon we saw… so cool.
There are very long distances between the towns in Yukon and it was a further 450 km (279 miles) to Watson Lake; this was our next destination. In one day we completed the ride to Watson Lake with the rain pouring down once again, sigh. When we finally arrived we where quite knackered. Just before Watson Lake we stopped at a campsite where we were told that they didn’t allow tents, this was due to the amount of bears in the area at the moment… So, the only choice we had was to find a place to camp in the wild before it became dark, despite the amount of bears active in the area, probably a very stupid idea… However, after some searching we found a spot next to the Second Wye Lake where we could pitch our tent and go to ‘bed’, hoping that no bear would come and knock down our tent during the night… scary thought.
The morning after we went to the Sign Post Forest and took some photos before heading south on the Cassiar Highway. The Sign Post Forest is a collection of signs at Watson Lake that started in 1942, today it is over 72,000 signs… and counting!
The Cassiar Highway has some beautiful views and scenery with plenty of wildlife, i.e., moose, bears, etc. After half a day riding we came around a sharp corner and there, on the road, was a small black bear cub that someone had run over. It was very obvious it was dead, but we did not dare to stop and move it to the side as the bear mum probably was sneaking around in the bushes nearby. Later on in the evening we found a really nice spot to pitch our tent next to the Upper Gnat Lake. It was a stunning evening and the place we found was great, but I still felt a bit worried, as this was bear territory big time, aah! During the night we heard wolfs howling in the distance several times, which were both terrifying and exciting at the same time. The next day we woke up early in this beautiful place. It was sunny and the lake was like a mirror that reflected the snow covered mountains. When we had breakfast we suddenly could hear rustling in the bushes not far from us… I immediately looked around to see where the bear spray was, but before I had found it we saw a wolf in the bushes… at least that’s what we thought. When it came out on the gravel road running towards us we saw that it was a dog… phew, that was nerve-racking!
Close encounter with a wolf… or?
Wow, wildlife viewing at its best
We rode on fantastic roads with some stunning views to Stewart and managed to see three black bears on the way there. There were probably many more in the forest, but it is not easy to spot them among the trees and bushes. In Stewart we had a super nice and well needed shower, it had been a few days since the last one. The next day, at the crack of dawn we left Stewart to check out the Salmon Glacier, which is the fifth largest glacier in North America, to see if we could spot any grizzly bears on the way up there. We made the first stop about 5 km (3 miles) north of Hyder at a small stream called the Fish Creek. This place is well known to provide excellent opportunities to view both black and grizzly bears as they feed of spawning salmon this time of the year. When we got off our bikes and went down to the stream I couldn’t believe my eyes… as there were loads, and when I say loads I mean loads, of salmon in the shallow stream and it was like watching the Discovery Channel. It was such an incredible scene, we shot lots and lots of photos and films of the salmon swimming upstream while waiting for any bear to turn up.
Suddenly after a couple of hours waiting we saw the first bear coming out from the woods… OMG it was a huge grizzly, probably around 350-400 kg (770-880 lbs), and the beast started to wade in the stream straight towards us while trying to catch a salmon. We stood absolutely still and when the grizzly passed us, it was only about 10-15 meters away from us, perhaps not the recommended safe distance… However, the grizzly was too busy trying to catch a nice salmon so it ignored us totally, phew! A few moments later when the grizzly had disappeared a big black bear also waded out in the stream to grab a meal. What a day and it had only just started.
After this adrenalin kick we continued to the Salmon Glacier. It was a great gravel road all the way to the glacier that twisted and turned through the fantastic landscape. There were some breathtaking views of the mountains with a river that meandered gently through the valley. The glacier itself was very impressive and from the view above you could see how it “flows” down the mountain to the valley, were it eventually melts.
A few days later we headed east towards Jasper National Park where we had to make a stop at a small picturesque town called Smithers, as the road to Prince George was closed because of a huge ongoing forest fire. It took a couple of days before the firefighters had the fire under control and they could reopen the road again for public use. When we came to Prince George I spotted that my rear tyre, which I bought in New Delhi, was in desperate need to be replaced. The rubber had started to crack alongside the worn down knobs and I was worried that the tyre could be ripped apart totally if I continued. We looked up where we possibly could buy a new tyre, just to find out that all motorcycle shops in Prince George were closed on Mondays, with the exception of one. Well at that shop, they had only one tyre for my bike in stock, Bridgestone Trail Wing 152. I thought, what the heck, lets try a more road oriented tyre this time, it will would probably be quite a lot of paved roads in Canada and US anyway.
Lake Louise…what a tourist trap
All along the way to the Jasper National Park people told us that a “must-see” destination for travellers is Lake Louise with its magnificent turquoise water and breathtaking landscape… what a bloody disappointment. This was one big and I mean BIG tourist trap. Before we came to the lake it was three huge car parks, which all were full, and then at the lake it was a very large resort on the shore. The lake had wooden and paved footpaths along the waterside that were absolutely crowded with people, and also loads of canoes on the lake… not really our cup of tea of nice wildlife scenery. Once again we were reminded to ‘filter’ and listen to the ‘right’ people for advice on where to go and what to see…
An ‘English’ gathering
As a contrast to the busy and crowded Lake Louise it was very nice to come to the relaxed and laid back town called Golden. We found a small campsite next to the Kicking Horse River. Within a few minutes, a British family, John, Clare and their two sons, came up to us. They told us that we were the first people with GB registered vehicles they had seen in Canada, which was a bit unfortunate for John as he had promised the kids some money (cannot remember how much) if they saw another vehicle with GB plate, haha bad luck John! 🙂 In the evening they invited us for a meal at their motorhome. It was so nice to just sit down at a table ready laid with a proper tablecloth and candles. The meal Clare served was delicious; sausages stew with pasta, yummy. The day after we met another super nice British couple, Steve and Janette, who stopped at our tent for a chat. It turned out that they were on a Triumph Tiger 800, and on their way to the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Nakusp where we were heading. Fingers crossed that John and Clare’s sons didn’t see their bike with a GB plate… as it could be expensive for John 😉
Horizons Unlimited Travellers Meeting in Nakusp
We arrived to Nakusp and the HU meeting on a Thursday afternoon and the campground was already full of people enjoying adventure travelling. It was also great to meet Steve and Janette again. On this event we held two presentations. It was really nice that so many people stayed afterwards and asked a lot of questions about our trip, motorcycles and the equipment we were using. We also got some really nice feedback from them, which is always encouraging. There were many interesting presentations to listen to and plenty of opportunities to meet and mingle with other likeminded bikers. So after four great and intensive days we left Nakusp and a bunch of new friends. We also said goodbye to Steve and Janette… or rather ‘see you later’, as they were going down to South America too.
After the HU meeting we decided to treat ourselves and check into a hotel in Vernon and just relax. Wow, it felt like such a luxury after six weeks of camping to sleep in a bed with proper pillows and a clean toilet with a shower just few meters away and on top of that we also had a fridge and a microwave in the room. I even thought for a while to drink a lot of beers just because I didn’t need to crawl out from the tent in the middle of the night when it’s freezing cold to go to the toilet… hmm maybe it is time to get back home soon as this cannot be a healthy thinking. However, I decided not to buy any beers, as I wasn’t really in the mood for drinking.
We had really good Wifi at the hotel and Petra went through all the messages we had received on Facebook etc. and she told me that we now had reached over 4000 followers, never expected that to happen (Today 4,982 followers). I think we starting to have followers from all corners of the world, which is fantastic.
From one treat to another 🙂
When we left Vernon we had for once planned the route all the way down to Vancouver, which is very unusual for us. I must admit that we had great help from three bikers we met on the HU meeting who pointed out the best way to ride to Vancouver. Most of the route was on small winding dirt roads with hardly any traffic on. We loved it… a big fat thank you to the three bikers, which we unfortunately forgot the names of… sorry guys!
We had earlier received an email from a guy called Mark who we met in Nakusp. He was interested to find out if we thought BMW F800GS were good bikes to ride around the world on. And of course we told him that if we would start all over again, we would without hesitating go for a BMW F800GS. Mark also invited us to stay at his place in Squamish if we were passing by. Four days later we arrived to Squamish where we dropped Mark an email asking if the offer still stood, and he replied instantly and told us that we were more than welcome. Mark and his girlfriend, TK, were super nice people and they lived in such a wonderful house. In the evening they made us a delicious salad and we drank a wee bit to much wine and beer, hah. We had an absolutely fabulous time chatting with them until late. I really hope that Mark and TK will take their time and make the trip of their lifetime, which they both were dreaming of. The day after we woke up, in the most wonderful bed, to the sound of TK preparing a nice breakfast… what a luxury.
Canada certainly is a huge country, in fact it’s the world’s second largest country with over 3 million square kilometres of forest. So no wonder we will remember it for its vast forests, peacefulness, nice roads, huge glaciers and beautiful sceneries. I never in my life thought we would dare to camp with bears sneaking around the tent and stand just a stone’s throw away from wild grizzly bear, but we did and survived… phew! And as an ‘old’ angler and fly fisherman it was amazing to see the rivers full of spawning salmon. Finally we must say that it start to feels like a broken record writing these summaries from each country, but here it comes again… once again another country with super friendly people that we would love to come back to.
Random photos from our time in Canada