This story picks up where the bison chase ended in Contact Creek, in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
In Contact Creek I had to recover from the whole bison adventure. I could enjoy a cup of coffee in peace and wrote the adrenaline off my shoulders in the diary which I keep mostly every day. Was this territorial behavior of the 900 kilogram animal or was the bison simply scared and desperate. Lois told me in Watson Lake that in summer the bisons are used to the cyclists. I came to the conclusion that the animals are clearly not used to cyclists in winter time.
The door opened and a cheerful couple walked in. The lady immediately started a conversation with me about the just discovered bicycle parked next to the door. They turned out to be acquaintances of the owners of Contact Creek and lived a little further up a hill. “Complete freedom,” she told me.
It changed the energy in the cafe, I mean cafe, it looked more like the living room of the lady. It seemed like hardly any customers came here in the winter. There were puzzle pieces all over the place, the television was on loud, and some dusty Jack Link’s Beef Jerky’s hung on a rack.
I told them I had just escaped the whims of a confused buffalo. They didn’t think it was very strange and told stories about how the animals caused problems in the summer in the places where they grow vegetables.
“They do plow the land nicely and provide fertilizer,” she joked.
I asked for advice if it really came to an actual collision.
“Shoot,” was the reply.
To shoot? Is it really time for me to mount a shotgun on my handlebars? No, I’m not starting that, I could still consider an aerosol bear spray.
The couple tried to download a streaming program on an old laptop. I offered my help but the laptop was simply too slow to run the program. It kept getting stuck when we suddenly heard their dogs barking outside.
“It’s a bison, a bison is approaching,” was the man’s response.
And yes, the adventure was not over yet, the bison that had just chased me came visibly irritated walking along the road. He stopped in front of the Contact Creek building and took a tour of the yard. The man made some noises to let him know he was not welcome here. Solid clouds came out of his nostrils, this bison was visible on a mission. Fortunately, the animal continued and I was left with the fact that I had to pass the bison again. I fortunately didn’t meet him again, although it remained exciting, because every time I approached bisons again they spooked and ran, only to disappear later in the woods.
It is a remarkable winter, just before Christmas it was very cold but January was surprisingly mild around here. Temperatures went up to 5°C when I arrived at the Liard Hotsprings. The snow was even melting.
The Liard Hotsprings Lodge was too pricey for my travel budget, so I slept at the adjoining provincial campground. Rick, the friendly campsite manager, let me stay there for free.
“I think what you’re doing is very brave and I’m telling you, if the rangers come I’ll have to ask you to pay.”
And he continued with a warning, “there’s snow coming Henk, a big pack of snow, you might just have to stay here for a few days.”
That evening I walked the ten minutes from the campsite to the warm water I had been looking forward to for so long. When I arrived, there was a man with his son in the wooden house that served as a dressing room. Other than that there wasn’t much than just the beautiful running hot water.
“Aren’t you that cyclist?” the man asked.
I let him know that this was true and I told him I had been looking forward to the Liard Hotsprings.
“Do you smoke?” he asked without really going into my story.
“No, it used to be that I smoked but now with cycling, it’s not a good combination,” I answered him.
“Here, take this one, it has marijuana in it,” he insisted, “help you relax.”
Is this my destiny now? I asked myself. Can I turn this down? And oh, why not, normally I would have declined this, but traveling has taught me to surrender to whatever comes my way.
It wasn’t cold outside and the hot water felt great. I lay there for hours, alone, with the stars above me, one of them falling every now and then. It was stunning.
I left again after a few days of floating in the hot water. After two days of cycling I found myself in the Double G Service south of Muncho Lake. It was a long remote road from the Liard Hotsprings to Fort Nelson with mostly truckers and snow plows. Here in Muncho Lake there was a place, 60km further there was Toad River and then 200km nothing at all. It was snowing consistently all day, in these conditions I take any opportunity to warm up very seriously.
The Double G Service café looked cosy, a small café with a bakery. The wall there is full of signs with all kinds of quotes on them.
‘If only close minds came with close mouths.’
Or another sign, ‘a recent study has found that a women that carry a little extra weight live longer then the man who mentions it.’
“In the winter, the truckers keep us alive,” a friendly lady explained to me.
I was allowed to dry my sleeping bag and sat there enjoying a good cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, which turned out to be about 20 by 20 centimeters. Nice for the truckers, I thought, most of them look like they really enjoy the truckers life.
Half an hour later two large trucks were roaring outside and the truckers were having lunch inside. One of them was a sweet-looking quiet man, the other was a lady who chatted away. They ate some eggs with bacon, cheese, ketchup and thick slices of bread, which came fresh from the oven here.
Now I was sitting here, the subject of bicycle travelers on the Alaska Highway came up. The lady trucker laughed a bit and started a story while she was cutting a piece of bread.
“Those cyclists, yes, they also call them meals on wheels. And then they often have those earplugs in their ears and they hear nothing. There was a cyclist at Dawson City who got into trouble when a bear came close. Well, he didn’t hear anything, then a trucker had to rescue him. Throw your bike on the trailer, the trucker called to the cyclist. I tell you those cyclists have to watch out.”
The door opened and an annoyed trucker walked in and started complaining about the lack of salt on the snowy paths.
“Well, I’ll see what I can do for Mister Princess,” said the lady behind the counter when the trucker was out again. Someone else who had just came in joined the conversation: “We can’t sprinkle salt at all because our dog eats it and he is allergic to it, last time his head was completely swollen again.”
The lady trucker added, “Well, I’m definitely not going to be able to help if he slips there, I couldn’t move that guy an inch!” And she chuckled at her own joke.
I got up when I had finished the giant cinnamon bun and decided to take a shower before I had to go out into the snow again. I was allowed to use a towel and hairdryer and ended up paying only for the cinnamon roll and coffee. They were very sweet here and at times like this it is difficult to move on, especially with the snow that fell from the sky in buckets.
Still, I managed to get back on the bike. Hours later, in the late afternoon, just before Toad River, a car pulled up. It was Mat the cook of the Liard Hotsprings Lodge. He had previously recommended a camping spot on Muncho Lake and might come fishing. He apologized for not being able to come by last night and then stuck a 1.15 kg sandwich out of his window. It was a heroic act and certainly a bright moment on this difficult day.
Fortunately the sky opened after a few days of snow but the extreme cold replaced it. I quickly cycled in -30°C and was again confronted with how tough it can be to cycle and camp in this weather.
I was happy to arrive in Fort Nelson to finally give it all a rest. It has been a weekend of rest but also doing all preparation for the next leg of cycling. Washing my clothes and buying a supply of food and pack it in daily packages of about 4000 to 5000 calories. I eat a lot of energy bars, chocolate, dried fruit, nuts and seeds and my favorite breakfast, oats with coconut milk powder, raisins, prunes and dates.
The loneliness of remote cycling is becoming more and more tangible. Fortunately, I will be cycling from Fort Nelson to Fort St. John and after there will be more cities and places to warm up and be more social with local people.
What follows in the coming weeks is the Alaska Highway all the way down to Dawson Creek. From there I continue past Grande Priarie, Jasper and then on to Banff. By then, I would be cycling into a more mountainous area, which is getting more though but also getting more and more beautiful each day.
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