Bears and Pelicans

Dear future me,

As I was very happy to be on my bike again, my ankle didn’t appreciate being tucked down into my motor boots. In fact, nothing could please my ankle for quite a while as I could hardly walk around on my swollen painful foot. So I had to take it easy for a while. Instead I was going on a Bear hunt in Haines, because I didn’t want to leave Alaska without seeing a bear from close by. Well, I got what I wanted as I was looking for a grizzly at the lake and got surprised by a big momma bear who was peaking behind a tree to see if the road was clear. From just 5 meters away a bear looks really big! I survived though and just a half hour later I could see her fishing for salmon on the other side of the river.

Now I’ve got this bear experience ‘in my pocket’, I could let go of Alaska and greet Canada. First I had to cross over to Skagway, the last town in my Alaska quest. As it is the starting point for the famous Chilkoot trail and White Pass trail during the Gold Rush, I was set back in time and in the midst of tourist heaven. It reminded me of Dawson City, which was the destination of all the (mad) Gold Rush adventurers at the end of the 19th century. A lot of people died or returned home broke in those days as the passage from Skagway to Dawson City took more than a brave heart. As I like to stay alive and sound, I’d rather ride on a motor bike than doing the trails on foot (over snowy mountains with avalanches and a lot of steep and cold tracks). So, after staying put in Skagway for a while – my ankle really didn’t want to let me off that easy – I got on my bike to Whitehorse. Finally, a ‘big’ town with a very nice homely hostel and bakery with very good cappuccino’s. It gave me just the breathing space I needed to prepare myself for my next big quest. When you think Alaska is low in population and wide spread with miles and miles of trees and nothingness, think again! The Yukon can match Alaska easily as I soon realized that I had to camp out for the next few weeks, since there are no hostels anymore.

But I’m not the only adventurous European out here. I met two German guys who were in Whitehorse to start a canoe trip to Dawson City. It will take them two weeks to get up there, although they hardly have to paddle: the river is running really fast and they went downstream up to the north. I was their “waving goodbye party”. They are just one of the many, many Germans I meet. I don’t know who is living and working in Germany now, they aren’t Germans…they are all over here! Another German couple, who is on the road for nearly 3 years, helped me figure out the route I ‘m gonna take to Watson Lake, east of Whitehorse. You can go the easy way; just follow the Alcan Highway (which was built during World War 2  to get military up to Alaska). Or you can do it the hard way. Guess what I did….. Fortunately I had the greatest weather, sunny and hot. Which means: dehydration and a lot of dust. Here in the Yukon you can ride for 8 hours without seeing anyone or a place where they sell drinks or food. And as I’m not a planner (did I mention that before?) I never carry enough drinks or food and I expect to be at my destination sooner than later. Well, I don’t know if they secretly changed the distances on these roads while I’m riding them, but as I can’t use my odometer anymore, I always think that my destination is right behind the next corner and there is a nice restaurant waiting for me. Yeah, right!

I took the South Canol Road up to Ross River, which is a very scenic route and I saw about three people in six hours. I probably did accompany a bear as I was trying to eat my lunch on a camping spot. As soon as I heard claws using the toilet houses as poles to sharpen its nails, I took off. Many rocky stones, curves and potholes later I noted that some items were missing: I lost my bag with water (just one of them) and half of the light on my keychain (a gift from colleagues). I thought I was quite lucky as I was expecting far more damages. I learned my lesson though; never ever think you are lucky! The next day I was on my way to Watson Lake (small headache of drinking too much beer and rum with other campers), riding the Campbell Highway, which is a funny name for a road that is hard core gravel an dust and is only visited by mining trucks. In the next 8 hours I saw my top case flying in the air as my lock broke. Never buy cases that are named after a bird, because they think they are the real deal. Although it had no feet to land on, the Pelican case proved sturdy enough to hit the road by 80 km/hour and still be functioning. Wow, I’ll never try that again, I promised myself as I was strapping it back to my bike in the gruesome heat. Next, Canada had another surprise for me as it wanted to show me that they have their share of bears too. A giant black bear (aren’t they supposed to be the smaller species?) stood in the middle of the road as I came around the corner. Too late to stop, I had to go for passing the bear on the left or right side. It felt like trying to pass a lion, so I just accelerated right before I got to the bear. At first he or she wanted to run with me, but then decided to run for his or her life into the other direction. I can’t describe what I felt right there: relief or overjoyed as the bear was running from me. Me! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? I had six more hours to think about it, as the road never seemed to get to Watson lake and I was over exhausted from the heat.

In times like these, a motel is a very welcome present to myself as I tried to get myself back to order. And two truckers who saw me wrestling the dust bought me breakfast, how sweet! Next on the agenda: two very relaxing day rides as I headed to Liard Hotsprings and back. I really wanted to see the place as I read ‘Into the Wild’ the other day. I’ve been to most of the places in the book, so it was worth to go to this really really hot hotspring he (Chris McCandless) once visited. The herds of bison and lonely black bears on the side of the road were a pleasant extra. Now I’m super relaxed again and ready for the Cassiar Highway which will bring me down south to Prince Rupert. Today gave me my first glance on the beauty of this highway and I must say, my face isn’t big enough to hold my smile. As I’m camping near a river, with more camping days to come, I feel really at ease. Now bring on the next adventure!

SYL,

Annemieke, 13 August 2013

Reacties 7

leen huisman 15-08-2013 10:55

ga zo door meid ik ben al hopeloos jaloers hoi leen huisman

Ramón 15-08-2013 13:31

Wow , we 'ervaren' het ook een beetje ...
Ga zo door !

Rien Kremer 16-08-2013 14:21

Hoi Annemieke,

Ik ben nu pas 'ingestapt' (of liever gezegd achterop gestapt), maar wat schrijf je geweldig goed en humoristich! En wat een prachtige foto's van een schitterende omgeving!

Good luck en ik kijk nu al uit naar je volgende story.

Rien

Harrie 16-08-2013 17:19

Grandioos verhaal doe rustig aan en op naar het volgende avontuur.Ben best wel jaloers maar blij dat ik jou verhaal ken volgen

henk Petermeijer 21-08-2013 20:45

Dapper hoor !!!
Mooie foto's
Groet,
Henk

Dawson Steve 23-08-2013 20:56

Hi Anne,
Nice to see you are having such a grand adventure. You express yourself and write very well, and your journey makes for excellent reading. I especially liked the "the salmon were jumping out of the water to see if it was raining". It has been the nicest summer I have seen in 37 years in Alaska. Excellent photos too. I didn't catch how you hurt your foot?
Take care and Live Adventurously
Steve and Jack from Dawson D2D.

Charles 24-08-2013 10:32

Hey Annemiek,
Ik kan je verhalen amper lezen want hier in Australie is het internet amper beschikbaar lijkt het wel. (of wij zijn op de verkeerde plekken)
Anyway, een paar verhaaltjes gelezen, geweldig amusant! Ook leuk te lezen dat je op zoveel plekken komt die voor ons ook bekend zijn.
Safe travels!

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