Landing in Vancouver, British Columbia, I was beyond tired. The flight out of Bangkok took 34 hours with a stopover in Hong Kong of 18 hours. I was confined to the airport and although I tried to get some sleep, this proved impossible due to the high number of other travellers. The good news was it took only minutes to get through the airport in Vancouver, with my luggage and bike already waiting for me, a very slick operation and a nice welcome to Canada.
I had arranged a stay with a Warmshowers host as close to the airport as I could find, so a quick taxi ride later and I arrived to find a rather surprised Howard greeting me. Surprised because I had forgotten about the time difference and was a day early! It was pretty late so everything just got left and I crashed out until the morning. Howard and his partner Wynn live just a 30 minute bike ride from the centre of the city, in a lovely apartment chock full of bikes and related biking paraphernalia – these were true touring cyclists!
Unpacking the bike, the only damage was a bent mudguard and my rear brake rotor put out of true. The mudguard was an easy fix (wrap in tape to regain shape for 24 hours) and the rotor was straightened by Howard, who amongst more tools than you’ll find in your average bike shop, just happened to have the right ones. I didn’t wander out on my first day, being content just to try and alleviate the severe jet lag I felt and as it was Howard’s day off we chilled out and shared our touring experiences.
Unfortunately both Wynn and Howard had to go off to work over the next couple of days, so I was pretty much left to do my own thing which included washing the bike, then going into town to find the bike shop(s). It’s a really nice area of Vancouver and I enjoyed exploring a little, though I would see more when I later joined Howard and his bike club buddies on their evening ride out, which ended up being a bit of a special evening for me.
The ride focussed on taking me around the waterfront and into Stanley Park, which is a truly beautiful place to ride. Here’s a few pictures I snapped as we enjoyed the cycling:
Once the ride was over we all stopped at a Chinese restaurant for a takeaway, before riding on to meet up with Wynn and a few friends to have a beer and eat said takeaway. What I didn’t know is the flag I had wanted making up was presented to me and I had a projector to run my slide show, which seemed to go down pretty well. It was a very enjoyable end to the evening and special thanks go to Nancy for making the flag and Vincent for not only hosting us, but providing ice cream and apple pie for pudding!
I was genuinely sad to leave Vancouver, not least of all because Wynn and Howard had been such wonderful hosts and I could easily have stopped longer. But I had to make a start on my “Goodwill Tour” and it was a very nervous yours truly who hit the road. Nervous, because in the back of my mind I was still not sure whether my plan to cross Canada without sufficient funds was the wisest decision and as I’d had to replace my cycling boots (my only footwear for 17 months) and my two front panniers, I was so grateful for the donation given to me by my Vietnamese friends. I do however believe I will find the ‘Goodwill’ I need to cross both Canada and America.
So it was onto my first stop Agassiz and an overnight camp with another Warmshowers host, Dustin and his partner (Lisa? – I told you my memory was bad!) who gave me a warm shower, nice meal and a great breakfast the next morning. As they are moving and planning their own road trip, we’ll keep in touch and I’ll follow their journey.
It may well sound like I’m spending all my time with hosts, but this is not the case. After leaving Agassiz (in the rain) I headed east and then north towards Kelowna and had two nights of wild camping before reaching my next Warmshower. It was 30 years since I last visited Canada and I loved the scenery, clean air and just being in the mountains. Returning after all that time I’m still overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of it. For a mountain lover like myself it really is nirvana, though the climb up Allison Pass had me gasping and puffing like an old steam train. At only 1342 m I have climbed much loftier peaks (over 4,000 m), but this was a really hard slog and I actually camped on the slopes before attaining the summit the next morning.
I wasn’t finished with climbing either, as the next biggie Sunday Summit proved quite a challenge, not because of it’s length but due to it’s very steep gradient. The weather was still pretty dire, but the good news was that the hard climbs were now out of the way until I get much nearer to Jasper.
After riding through the mountains, entering Kelowna was a bit of a surprise as it was a very busy town, with shopping malls and stores either side of the main highway. Once again I was heading for Warmshower hosts, Jaqui and Rob, who were very experienced cycle tourists themselves. Sadly I neglected to get a photo of them, but I really did enjoy sharing stories and picking up some really useful information – not least of all a guide to avoiding the big hills after leaving Kelowna (thanks Jaqui – your instructions were perfect and easy to follow!) and I also got to watch the American version of ‘come dancing’.
After another night of wild camping, this time in a rest area next to the highway, I’ve now made it as far as Kamloops. I’m now up to date with my blog (at last!) and enjoying my first day off, before I head north to Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise and then on to Calgary.