We did it ! Despite the mountain passes, very narrow tunnels and burning sun, we reached the first milestone of our trip : after cycling for 3000 km, we are in Vancouver ! 🙂
Leaving Donald, we were mentally prepared for the worst for the climb to Rogers pass. In fact, we had been expecting such a bad experience that in the end, it didn’t seem so bad (well, it was still 946m of positive elevation, so bad enough to leave us pretty tired once at the top…). We had been warned by the locals of the danger of going through the narrow anti-avalanche tunnels close to the top. Fortunately, these much dreaded tunnels were under construction, so when we stopped to ask the workers how bad it was going to be, they reassured us and one of them actually hoped on his pick-up truck and followed us from a distance to block the traffic and make sure nobody would try to pass us. That was pretty great !
Once at the top, we were so pumped up by our « achievement » that we decided to do a hike in the Glacier national park the same afternoon. We rushed to the park’s campground and had a look at the available hikes. It turned out that most of them were temporarily closed due to the presence of Grizzlies in the area, so only a short one of 4.4km (return) was available to us. We just didn’t realize that a hike with +425m of elevation over 2.2km hurts a lot… 2 hours later, we came back to the campground completely dead and with very stiff legs : next time we won’t clown about !
While we were in the process of lovingly preparing a delicious dehydrated meal, a man in his forties ran to us and asked if it was possible to share our camp-site (the campground was full and we don’t take much space with our bicycle + tent setup). We gladly accept and subsequently observe, to our surprise, a reasonably sized lorry backing up next to our tandem. It is indeed a commercial truck converted into some kind of camper van (or RV as they call it in Canada), driven by a German couple who started their trip ten months before and who crossed the Americas. We spent the evening joyfully talking together, accompanied by a bottle of wine opened for the occasion 🙂 Back on the road the next day, we stopped at the Revelstoke national park to do the giant cedars boardwalk, where you get to walk in a rainforest among cedar trees more than 500 years old.
From that point on, we decided to mainly cycle in the morning (meaning between 6.30am and noon) to avoid the heat and the heavy traffic on the trans-Canada highway. While we were stopping at a café on the side of the road not too far from Blind Bay to ask for water, we met Ray, who immediately invited us to come to his place to enjoy the lake and plant our tent there for the night. Although it was still early in the day, we gladly accepted the offer and raced to the meeting point. After being introduced to all his family, we spent a very relaxing afternoon reading, swimming and trying a stand-up paddleboard. In the evening, we were joined by Randy and Jerre (two of Ray’s friends, who turned out to both be travellers). After a very nice evening, a lot of laughs and a very pretty sunset over the lake, it was time for us to get a bit of sleep.
The alarm clock sounded very harsh at 5 o’clock the next morning, but we so badly want to avoid the heat that we get up anyway. Taking advantage of the very flat road, we did the 85km separating us from Kamloops in the morning, before stopping in a public park for most of the afternoon. We went back on the bike at 5.30pm in order to cycle the 10km to the next campground on our way. The only problem is that these 10 km to get out of Kamloops are really really tough and uphill only, with a slope steeper than 10 % for a big portion of the way. On top of that, it turned out that in Kamloops, the heat is maximum in the evening, so we started the climb under 37 degrees Celsius. While we have barely reached the halfway point to the campground, we have already started stopping every 100m and alternating between cycling and pushing. Clement then started to feel a bit sick (a thirst impossible to quench and the early signs of a heat stroke). This is when 2 people in a car in front of us that we hadn’t noticed ask us if we are feeling alright. Tracy explains to them we are having a bit of trouble, and by a very lucky coincidence it turned out that Bob and Joan are members of the website warmshower (a network of cyclists offering to house other cyclists). They invite us into their home for a shower, fresh air and a bed for the night. We spent the evening talking about our journey, still amazed by how lucky we were that we stopped in front of their house as they were about to leave. We are incredibly grateful to them for saving us from that terrible heat and for trusting us right away !
The next day, on highway 5A between Kamloops and Merritt (the old highway, much more scenic and with much less traffic than the newer highway 5), it was the headwind that prevented us from going forward. With wind speeds averaging 50km/h, we struggled as best as we could until 4pm, but after having done so few kilometres in such a long time, we decided to give up and knocked on the door of a nearby house to ask if we could plant our tent in the field in front of it. Eileen and Mark, who opened the door, immediately accepted and invited us in for a cup of tea while we waited for the wind to die down. In the end, thanks to their generosity, we stayed for supper, slept in the house rather than our tent, and even stayed one more day to rest our legs ! Their main house being close to Vancouver, they invited us to meet them again a few days later. We gladly accepted the offer and took the road again to go to Merritt.
Before reaching Vancouver, there was one last difficult step : the Coquihalla summit between Merritt and Hope. The road was quite long and with a lot of elevation, but luckily the slopes were quite gradual most of the way. After 30km on a secondary road in the middle of the ranches, we had to go back on the main highway (on which the heavy trucks struggle almost as much as we do when the grade is steep). It is at the junction between the secondary road and the highway that we experienced our first fall of the trip. While going over a cattle grid, the bike slips and Clement lodges his foot between two bars of the grid trying to balance the tandem in a more stable position. As a result, we both fell on the side, with a leg stuck underneath the bike. Fortunately, we didn’t get hurt, and ended up with only a minor bruise each. After this forced little break, we got back on the bike, finished the climb to the top of the summit, and immediately went for the downhill part (we even passed some tractor trailers on low gear in the beginning of the 40km downhill). That day was the one where we broke 2 records : the longest distance cycled in a day (133km) as well as the maximum positive elevation done in a day (1100m). Two days later, we arrived in Langley, at Eileen and Mark’s place, where we stayed several days so that we could prepare the next part of our trip and visit Vancouver without the bike.
Well rested and with a rough plan of what to do next, we are now ready for the last stretch of our Canadian adventure : we went faster than expected in BC, so today we are taking the ferry to go to Vancouver Island where we’ll stay a week before taking another ferry to cross the US border, between Victoria and Port Angeles.