Published: June 27th 2012June 26th 2012
Road miles to date: 3,240
The ride through the Canadian Rockies into Jasper National Park didn't disappoint as it took us past wide roaring rivers, rows upon rows of snow capped peaks, turquoise lakes and ribbons of water tumbling hundreds of meters down sheer cliff faces. To top it all, the rain had a day off too.
With the knowledge that the dry weather wasn't going to last, we got straight to it and went on what turned out to be a twenty-two kilometre hike. It took us up to a beautiful view of Jasper where the previously cloud covered peaks emerged with some proper summer sunshine. We saw the only other people of the day on that peak before the trail took us deep into the forest and led us through the mountains, eventually to the picturesque Valley of the Five Lakes, each of which were different shades of amazing greens and blues. The combination of hot sun and distance walked made the temptation to go for a dip irresistible and not two minutes after reaching the first lake, Byron's white bum was reflecting like a mirror in the water that turned out to be not quite as
tropical as it looked. Isabel made a wise choice to wait for the verdict on the water. An hour spent at the lakes passed quickly before the sun disappeared and the rain set in for the walk back.
Unfortunately the weather forecast turned out to be pretty accurate and the rain didn't stop for the next two days. More bad luck bought thunder and lightning to the mix so the next day was spent on the campsite in a shelter that came complete with a wood burning oven which we soon had lit and fed all day to see how hot it could get. At the first break in the weather we attempted to dry out along with all the other soaked campers, before packing up and heading South along the Ice Fields Parkway to Banff.
The mountain tops were draped in cloud again and the blue rivers we had seen on the way in were now a dark shade of grey and had flooded their banks, carrying away whole trees on raging waters, confirming the decision to scarper as a good one.
What should have been a four hour drive to Banff took us close to
ten hours due to the frequency of pulling over at glaciers, canyons, waterfalls and lakes that lay just off the roadside, some up thick snow covered paths and others down steep rocky ones. When we finally did arrive in Banff it was to our dismay that we learnt the rain had followed us and was forecast for the rest of the week.
Like Jasper, Banff is a rich ski resort and not the most affordable place for a couple of mean drifters to hang about watching the weather rapidly deteriorate, so after a quick trip into Banff town we decided to high tail it back to the campsite, pack up and get on the road heading West, destination unknown.
Riding out of Banff and into a storm wasn't the most enjoyable journey but we came out the other side with nothing more than a thorough soaking, thanks to some pro riding. As the sky cleared up and we left the Rockies behind, we came across some entirely different landscapes and realised that travelling by bike has given us the chance to watch the changes in scenery close-up, to feel every bump of the road, adjust to the changes
in temperature along the way and take in the different smells. As we passed through Salmon Arm and arrived in Kamloops we were pleased to see the landscape open up, watch the roads smooth out, feel the temperature increase by a good few degrees but are yet to place the thick sweet smell in the air.
We didn't stay too long in Kamloops but on our last night, we got to see an incredible sunset from the top of a hill behind our campsite. As the sun went down behind a mountain, it lit the underside of an enormous cloud that hung over the valley, turning the lining every colour from orange to red before sinking away. We later found out that Kamloops is the hottest place in Canada and is known as the desert of Canada, which explained the fiery end to that day.
Up to this point the bike had been running sweetly, however on the final leg to Vancouver our luck began to change. The bike stalled mid motorway and after coasting it onto the hard shoulder and taking it off the road down a verge, it started again. But after getting it back up
the sand bank and onto the road, it cut out completely. Taking a good look over the bike, Byron found loose wires in the ignition switch, no doubt shaken loose by the bumpy Alcan and we managed to limp into Vancouver.
We headed over to see Big Al McWilly (Byron's partner in crime from Edinburgh) and his mate Neil who had just finished a season in Whistler and were staying in Vancouver before heading home. They took us on a tour about the city, stopping off in Granville Island and Kits Beach, giving some expert local insight which turned out to be well bluffed as Neil's cousin let on this was the most they'd been out in days!!
As the day in Vancouver turned out to be the only dry one, Byron used the time to repair the bike using the campsite maintenance man's bunker-cum-workshop where he took the opportunity to fill Byron in on his alien conspiracy theories. Isabel in the meantime spent some time investigating where two apples disappeared to out of the tent and how the zip of a wash bag had been gnawed away, right under her nose. The outer space conspiracy theories might
not have been quite so wild. With the dodgy ignition fixed and the estimated one million dead mosquitoes and other insects washed away for the first time since Alaska, the bike was purring like a kitten once more and we upped and left the site that gave us the heebie-jeebies.
We headed just South of Vancouver where we had arranged to stay on a help exchange - a set-up where you work on a farm in exchange for a bed and food. Debbi and Dario's farm was busier than the horse breeding one we originally thought it was, with goats, sheep, a llama, ducks, pigs, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, parrots, guinea fowl, geese, cats and a dog joining the horses. Despite all these animals, Byron was put to work fixing a whole heap of mechanical problems on farm machinery and some classic cars while Isabel helped out in the house and made a bad attempt to move a ton of baby turkeys and one crazy sheep.
Having been on North American roads for over a month it was great to meet fellow Brits Doug and Elaine who had been staying on the farm for a while waiting for some
visas to arrive for the next part of their travels and showed us about, one night taking us to a local claim to fame, a nearby farm where the TV series Smallville had been filmed for ten years. Inspired by their labouring work, Doug and Byron spent evenings scouring adverts for ride-on lawn mowers to soup up while Debbi exhausted Tootie the parrot's tricks and Isabel and Elaine tried to wash away the smell of turkeys.
The site of the farm was one mile from the US border so as we waved it and Canada goodbye on our last morning, we crossed over into the perfectly groomed American-Dutch town of Lynden with nothing but a wave and yet more playful grizzly wind-up stories from the officer representing the notoriously hard faced US customs... until we told him we were heading through Mexico when his face dropped, his tone lost any element of jest and he waved us through with a look of concern. Undeterred and with the knowledge that Mexico is still a way off, we headed East in the direction of New York.
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