Velocos Newsletter December 2018

About a year ago, in late autumn 2017 and after 13 years of cycling through 65 countries the circle finally closed when we rolled back over the Jura into Switzerland.  We covered 101,024 kilometers with the same great bicycles and sailed 18000 nautical miles (around 20000 miles) on board off different ships. We covered the entire distance overland and overseas, without boarding an airplane!

It is time to bring you dear friends and interested parties back to the latest state. Here is a short summary of our journey through the American and African continents.

Namibia KA Ai Ais to Hobas-033bw

In spring 2009, after 5 interesting and intensive years in the saddle and throughout many Asia countries, we left the biggest continent Asia. In the huge harbor of Busan in South Korea, the bicycles are loaded by crane into the belly of a huge container ship. The Freighter brings us in two weeks over the northern Pacific to Mexico. On the huge cargo ship we first get to know the captain and the whole crew. We are the only passengers and are treated like VIPs. In addition to a great barbecue, even a ping pong tournament and fun karaoke evenings are organized.

MV Pacifico loading in Busan-6bw MV Pacifico BBQ-14bw

In Canada, we run out of money, but we do not want to go home yet, so we knock on doors at different farm in southwestern Canada and actually find quite easy work. We harvest tons of fruit and vegetables, paint facades, renovate buildings, bundle wood, do gardening and much more. This will allow us to finance the ride on our bicycles through the whole American continent.

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On the way we experience an incredible and warm hospitality especially in North America and Mexico and often we are invited by locals directly from the road to their home. This created wonderful friendships that have survived to this day. This moral support always gives us the motivation to keep on traveling.

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We enjoy the colorful, loud and vibrant Central America with its diverse flora and fauna sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Guatemala SO Panajachel-008bw Nicaragua CD Somotillo to Chinandega-018bw

In South America we do not follow the Panamericana road along the Pacific coast but choose the more strenuous Andean route through the mountains. We climb with our 70kg heavy bikes almost daily 1000-1500 vertical meters up the hill followed by a very long breakneck descents into the next valley and often followed by wild and aggressive dogs. We usually stay in small villages and often walk to remote ruins, hardly visited by tourists.

Peru AM Leymebamba to Balsas-201bw Peru HU Tingo Chico to Chavinillo-005bw

In the Altiplano in the highlands of Bolivia we cycle over the Salar de Coipasa and the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt desert in the world. It follows the arduous but breathtaking lagoon route, known for its colorful lagoons, flamingos and the bubbling geyser field Sol de Manana which lies at just under 5000 meters above sea level. In 10 days we pushing a lot  through sand and gravel and arrive at San Pedro de Atacames in Chile, which lies on the edge of the Atacama desert, the driest desert on earth. Across the Paso Sico we passing salt lakes, extinct volcanoes and an incomparable moonscape. Christmas 2013 we arrive in Salta, Argentina.

Bolivia PO Isla Inca Huasi-115bw Chile AR Curacautin to PN Conguillio-025bw

In the grandiose expanse of Patagonia, also called Tierra del Fuego, we brave the steady, strong blowing wind. We meet friendly gauchos, see huge and still growing glaciers and set up our tent close to a very communicative king penguin colony.

Argentina SC Glaciar Perito Moreno-010bw Chile MA Onaisin to Cameron-001bw

We need three years to travel from Alaska to Patagonia to the southern tip of Argentina and Chile. For our exertions we get rewarded with breathtaking scenery and unforgettable encounters with friendly and hospitable people.

We leave the American continent

After an entertaining drive through Uruguay and the south of Brazil, in December 2014, at the Santos harbor we store our bicycles for the second time in a 360-meter-long container ship. In 10 days the huge ship brings us across the whole Atlantic Ocean to South Africa.

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We go ashore in Africa

Once on the African continent, we cycle along rugged coastlines through southern Africa.

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We cross hot, dusty deserts, barren primeval landscapes and climb huge sand dunes.

Namibia HA Sossusvlei to Dune 45-021bw

On an exciting trip, we’re lucky and see snakes and scorpions, even geckos and chameleons. Along the way we meet many friendly and helpful locals and feel welcome by their warm smile.

Namibia ER Swakopmund desert dunes tour-022bw  Zambia-EA-Kacholola-to-Nyimba-009bw

In South and East Africa, we visit numerous nature parks and get to see many wildlife in various safaris. In the Okavango Delta in the north of Botswana and the world’s largest inland delta, we take a seat in a rickety dugout and explore on foot with a knowledgeable local guide the varied landscape.

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Impressive are also the spontaneous encounters on the way on the bicycle where we espy elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffalos, springboks and warthogs. Our pulse goes faster as we recognize a lion’s pack in the tall grass that naps near the road in the midday heat.

In Malawi and Tanzania we load our bicycles and and all the luggage on a old-fashioned passenger ferries and cruise comfortably over the Malawi lake and the crystal clear Tanganyika lake.

Tanzania RU Kipili Lake Tanganyika MV Liemba-027bw

At extremely hot temperatures of up to 45 ° Celsius, we cross the remote Kenya / Ethiopia border area. On sandy flats we encounter the endangered Turkana tribes and visit in the south of Ethiopia some of the colorful markets where the native peoples regularly meet and trade.

Kenya RV Kainuk to Lokichar-069bw Ethiopia SN Omorate-008bw

In the Sudan we camp right next to pyramids that are more than 2,000 years old. We arrive in Egypt with another ship across Lake Nasser. For safety reasons, we are often escorted by police in the fertile Nile Valley and the high contrast Sinai Peninsula, as the government is concerned about the safety of tourists.

Sudan RV Meroe pyramids-064bw  Egypt-SI-Dahab-135bw

In Israel, we pedal through the dry Negev desert and camp under a sky with millions of stars. We continue cycling to the Dead Sea, which is 400 meters below sea level and thus the lowest point of the earth.

Israel SO Dead Sea Neot Hakikar to Ein Bokek-013bw  Israel JE Jerusalem old city-060bw

After an interesting visit to the holy city of Jerusalem, the old city is divided into Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian quarters and the many warm invitations from locals, we continue to cycle to the Mediterranean sea.

Over the Mediterranean sea back to Europe

A bit wistful, we say goodbye to the African continent and load the bicycles in the port of Ashdod on a cargo ship that brings us across the Mediterranean to the south of Italy. This is followed by a varied drive across the Apennines, before we once again load our bikes on a car ferry that transfers to Greece.

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The last stage takes us through the hilly Balkan, from Macedonia to Slovenia. We get to know a new region in Europe and experiencing incredible warmth of the local people. At the end we pedal through the densely populated and culturally exciting northern Italy and cross the beautiful French Alps and the Jura.

In the late autumn of 2017, after 2 years and 19 000 kilometers of exhausting kilometers through the African continent and the Balkans, we return to Switzerland, where everything started on May 16, 2004.

13 years we had the luck and the privilege to meet many interesting countries with different cultures and traditions. 13 years of adventure and freedom where we saw breathtaking landscapes, flora and fauna. But above all, we met countless warm, lovable, helpful and hospitable people along our long way. Without these people, we would never have got that far and we are very grateful for that.

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Africa we come

Africa just a glimpse away

Africa, the cradle of mankind, and the second biggest continent of the earth, are close at hand. After Asia and America, Africa is already the third continent we explore by push bike. It is a gentle arrival after 2 weeks of ship travel across the Atlantic. The anticipation for South Africa is huge, but first wait is announced then because of a missing paper, the huge ship must endure before the coast. After 4500 nautical miles (over 8000km) over the big pond, we are now drifting off the South African coast. A small pretaste on Africa, then patience should be available enough. As an old African proverb says.

“You Europeans have the clocks, we have the time”

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Land in sight

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We enter the port

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Trawler pulls container ship; David und Goliath

After three days of waiting, the floating giant may enter the largest port of Africa. The 335 meter long container ship can be loaded with 8400 containers, which corresponds to a over 50 km long freight train. The captain and the first officers have now exchanged their shirts for elegant sailor uniforms in order to be able to receive the port and customs authorities accordingly.

The charge is cleared

As soon as the giant has laid out, a part of the cargo is cleared and loaded with new containers. As leaded by ghost hand huge crane booms float over the ship deck, Where they unloading a container from the ship to positioning them later precisly at the loading area of a truck, who is waiting at the dock. For us it is now time to say goodbye. It is a gentle arrival after 2 weeks on open sea. During the Atlantic crossing we had time to reflect, after 5 amazing years we spent on the American continent. The container ship journey also gave us the opportunity to feel the distance between the two continents. There is also no luggage limitation of 20kg they didn`t charge us for the bicycles and you can almost carry everything, even tubes and empty petrol bottles.

Again firm ground under the feet

South Africa KZN Durban harbour-085bw

bicycle on the hook

Even our luggage and the bikes are hauled by ship Krahn from the belly of the ship. We say goodbye to the captain and the crew, and leave the ship with a little nostalgia; we really had a great time on board. One last time we look back at the ship and our bikes are rolling for the first time on the African continent!

 

 

South Africa KZN Durban harbour-102bw

We say goodbye to the captain

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Where to go with all the containers?

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On Back roads through the Lake and Kootenay District

The Yellowhead Highway is a popular road between Prince Rupert and Prince George in northern British Columbia. This road is also known as Highway of Tears. The locals tell us a sad story about a series of unsolved murders and disappearances of young women along the 800 km (500 miles) section of Highway 16.

43 girls or young women, aged 14-26 years, who traveled this stretch by hitchhiking, were abducted over the last 40 years. Most of them have not been found until today and are still listed as missing. As we pass the next village entrance, we spot a huge poster with a photo of a 16 years old girl, who has been missing for over 3 months. I freeze, and unconsciously I step faster on my pedals. My thoughts are with all the young missing women, and I hope that this monster will caught soon.

When we arrive in the village of Smithers, our Warmshower hosts are not home yet. We contacted them a few days ago, and asked, if we can stay a couple days at their home. The Warm Showers Community is a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up at www.warmshowers.org  and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. We pass the time in the local library, often a contact point for travelers. In almost every village, no matter small town, or big city, you can find a local library. In addition to borrow books, they usually offer a free Internet service. Often we can meet here other travelers and can exchange some travel experiences. Thanks to this generous service, which they offer even in remote regions of Canada and the United States, is it possible to contact our family and friends through e-mail or Skype.

Again, we cycle back to the house of our Warmshower hosts. They are at home now and welcoming us as their guests. They have not lived long in Smithers and come originally from Toronto, from Eastern Canada. They have deliberately exchanged the busy city life to the tranquil and manageable life in the small town. Together we visit the local Rodeo and fair. Back home we return the favor with a typical Swiss dish, a potato casserole with salad and homemade bread. During our stay our bicycles, the tent and all the bags get a good scrub.

The rest of the now much busier Yellowstone Highway we have quickly traversed. In the town of Quesnel, we visit our friends Peter and Renee. We met both, one year ago along the road. They invited us spontaneously into their home, where we spend a few relaxing days with the whole family. We continue our journey on minor roads, which lead us through a varied landscape into the “Interlake district”. We reach several beautifully situated lakes, which are all only sparsely populated, and so we can easily and undisturbed pitch our tent, swim and even start a bon fire.

We reach Salmon Arm and visit our friend Patrick; we have met him a year ago in Keremeos. Pat is Quentin’s father and for Quentin we have worked one summer on his organic farm in the Okanangen valley. Pat, who is retired for some time, likes to spend as much time as possible in the beautiful nature. Moreover, even he has a casted forearm he takes us to a great canoe trip. It is a wonderful experience and we enjoy to glide silently through the water and to foil the still intact nature. After an entertaining week with Pat, we continue our journey. We want to cross the Kootenay’s, a beautiful area with innumerable lakes. Several times, we have to use a ferry to get across the lake. A few times, we treat ourselves with a visit at one of the superbly situated hot springs.

There is a great walking -and bike path, named “Galena trail”, which runs from Rosebery to Kaslo.This small path leads along a former railway line. The railway line has been used to transport minerals from the nearby mines. We feel back to the past, as we follow the lovingly renovated path. Often we can still see and feel the old railway sleepers, when we are passing them. We have to cross a couple old bridges, and then a big surprise! There is no bridge to pass the wide stream; instead, we have to use a small hand-operated cable car. That is a lot of work but a lot of fun too! Another highlight of this trail is a ghost town. We easily can imagine the time, when men had work very hard in these mines. Next day we arrive in Creston. In the small border town, we get to know some interested residents and at the end of our stay in Canada, we invited for an interview at the local radio station.

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Baer on the run!

The next day, we continue our trip through the hilly terrain. Additionally to the long climbs, we are facing since two days a gusty head wind. It is sometimes so exhausting and frustrating that I swearing in my mind and asks myself what in God’s name I am doing here?! Suddenly, Robi stops in front of me and I almost crash into his bike. Immediately, he grabs his camera. I look around, but cannot discover anything. “It’s a bear” whispers Robi. “A bear, a bear,” I repeat much louder. „Schzzzzzzz, be quite “snaps Robi. I am very excited and my mouth wide open, I see, how a proud black bear mama, with her two cubs, is just walking next to the road and enjoy eating the ripe berries. We watch for a while this fascinating scene from a secure distance. Now almost every day, we can encounter bears close to the road. One day, we can spot, not too far, a fairly big grizzly lady with her cub. They try to catch fresh Salmon and disappear quickly in the woods, when they recognize us. It’s so wonderful. The nature up here in the north, far away from the civilization, seems to be still intact.

As we get closer to the coast, the weather does change dramatically. In the evening, after we set up the camp and had a tasty pasta dinner, the rain starts heavily. It is pouring rain for the whole night and the complete following day.

Because of the steady and heavy rain, there are landslides and already some roads are closed. We decide to wait for a day and hope the weather is getting better. In moments like that, it is good to know, the tent is waterproof. Nothing is worse than a wet sleeping bag! The next day it is still raining, but we decide to continue our trip. Tonight we need urgently a roof, to hang up our soaked clothes.  Soaked wet to the bones, we finally reach the Meziadin Junction, the crossroads of Highway 37, which joins the Alaska Highway to the north and Highway 37A, which leads west to Stewart and the BC and Alaska border.  Both Meziadin Lake General Store and Meziadin Junction Services have closed, so we pitch our tent in the empty log house, next to the former, but now abandoned Gasoline station.  We are not the only guests here. A young black bear, in search for some food, is wondering around. It seems this bear is used to people, then he is not shy at all and Robi has a hard time to scare him away. We have been warned several times of these “garbage” bears. Like the name „garbage“ bears explains, these bears eat kitchen waste, which is not stored away correctly by the local population, but they often attracted by discarded food waste from lazy tourists.  This bears are used to people and lose the natural fear of human beings. In search of food, the bears get very near to densely populated areas and therefore pretty close to humans, which can lead to dangerous situations. Most of these bears are so intrusive, that they have to shoot them.  Before we meet the Yellow Head Highway, we pass through the neat little Indian villages, Iskut and Kitwanga. The Natives are very friendly and welcoming and many of them show interest about our heavy loaded bicycles and our long journey. The tall and impressive totem poles scattered around the village, show how important these places have been for the first nation people, in the past, the presence and the future!

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Camping in the wilderness

Instead of pedaling the busier Alaska Highway, we choose to cycle along the Cassiar Highway through the wilderness. The Cassiar Highway is much more remote and because of that, there are not too many places or towns along the way to stock up supplies. That means we will have to carry plenty of food over long distances. After Whitehorse and just before Watson Lake we turn right and join finally the Cassiar Highway.We rewarded with a gorgeous green forest. The solitude and tranquility we enjoy to the fullest. It is almost no traffic on this road and we are for hours the only ones. The road leads trough a breathtaking landscape. We surrounded by a beautiful nature and wildlife. Along the way, countless idyllic camping spots in the woods, right next to crystal clear creeks, rivers and lakes invite us, to stop for a night, pitch the tent and jump into the stream to take a refreshing bath. What a release for our tired muscles! We believe, to camp in the wilderness it is just freedom.Alaska and the Yukon are a paradise and perfect for camping. Then in this part of the world is almost nothing is fenced. In the countryside, just a small part of the land is private owned. Everybody can set up camps almost wherever he likes. No one bothers, because the locals love the outdoors too. It is the perfect place to fish, kayaking or canoeing, or just goes for a walk in the mostly untouched nature. Even in the winter, they locals like to be outside for activities. They do snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or visiting the “Iditarod”, the world famous dog sled race, which leads over 1000 miles, from Anchorage to Nome.After a few days of strenuous cycling in seclusion, we reach the small village of Dease Lake, the first sign of civilization since a week. The neat village has a small hotel, an RV park, a school and a well-stocked grocery store, gasoline station and just next to it a Laundromat with Bistro. In this pretty town, we will have a short rest and stay for a day, or two. We do need to stock up our food supplies and we have to do some laundry. After a couple of days in the remote wilderness, it would be great to have a hot shower and wash finally our greasy hair. After our shopping in the local grocery store, we check the local RV Park. Unfortunately, we can’t pitch our tent here. The unfriendly owner does not accepting bikers, or hikers tenting on his campground. What a welcome!At the Laundry, they offer hot showers, but they charge 7 Dollars per person. That’s definitely too much for us, so it looks like we have to take another bath in the icy cold river nearby. Not far from the village, in a forest glade, we discover a ramshackle little house, just next to the river. It seems it has been uninhabited since a long time. Indians must have lived here, because the shed next to it, was a long time ago, used to smoke the freshly caught salmon. We pitch our tent and establish our home. Afterwards we are collecting firewood to start a campfire. It must feel like back then, when the first pioneers came to this wild and abandoned place and built their huts next to the river in order to nourish from fishing and hunting. When we sit around the bonfire, we feel once more very happy and dropped back to the old days. The next morning we pack up our dirty laundry and head back to the village. The laundry is always an interesting place to meet new people and have a chat. I meet Craig, an older men, how spent almost his whole life in this remote part of the world. He tells me exciting stories about his family, the gold rush and the life in the Yukon back then. Like many thousands others, in 1920, Craig’s parents left the United States during the great gold rush, to try their luck in the north of Canada. Of course, most of them did not found any gold, and life was hard at this time, so they were forced to pursue another work. Craig has seven children, how are living in different places all over the world.He was three times married and survived all his wives. Craig’s interesting life is similar to other stories, as we have heard from people, who spent their completely live in Alaska and the Yukon. Some of them are quite interesting characters! In the laundry, we also meet the Swiss couple Eveline and Hans. We have much in common. They rented a camper van and explore all over Canada. Spontaneously, Eveline and Hans invite us for diner. It is the only Restaurant in the village and it is surprisingly tasteful furnished. We laugh a lot and the food is delicious! Indeed, it is a very entertaining evening.When we say goodbye to our new friends, it is almost dark. On the way back to our little Shack by the river, we do not talk. It is a kind of magic, to cycle in this complete silent through the obscure forest. You can get, that great feeling, only far away from the civilization. We look up to the sky and can see millions of stars.

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Diving Moose

On a car ferry we cross the wide “Great river”, as the Natives call it here. From the shores of the Yukon river, it is only a short ride to Dawson city in the Yukon Territory, which covers an area that is 11 times bigger than Switzerland!

After gold was discovered there in 1896, the Klondike Gold Rush, sometimes referred as the Yukon Gold Rush, drew people from all over the world to this remote area. The gold rush lasted only a few years, but changed the First nations camp into a thriving city of 40,000 by 1898.  Today the population of Dawson city is about 1400 people, but this place has retained his original character.

And still, especially during the summertime, hundreds of adventurers come to this place, to dig in the rivers around the local area for the precious medal. Here, we meet again Rene and Claudia. We have met them already in Chicken, near the US-Canadian border. They both want to drive along the Dempster Highway, and ask if we like to join them. The Dempster highway leads through the Arctic wilderness from Dawson City to Inuvik. What a great offer, then this remote area offers a unique landscape.

After a longer drive, we arrive at the “Two Moose” lake. On the way to the Dempster Hwy, we already spotted 2 Moose and we are lucky again to see more of these large species. This lonely Moose stands very picturesque in the middle of the small lake and dives calmly for fresh grass! The Moose, also called Eurasian elk, is the largest extant species in the deer family. An adult easily weights more than a thousand pounds!

If they are with their cubes and you get to close, the consequences can be fatal. With their long spindly legs, a Moose can kick in all directions. Locals tell us that people has been trampled over by these giants, when they feel their young ones are in danger. We decide to remain in a safe distance and watch from far, as these heavyweights enjoy a relaxed bath in the lake. When we return early in the morning to the campsite,

it  is still dusk. After the long drive we are tired, but we do not feel going to bed, it is to bright! And it does still amaze us that during the summer it never gets completely dark in this latitudes. Before we continue our journey towards to Whitehorse, we visit the local non-profit casino in Dawson city. We are not fortunate, and very quick we have lost our stake. But It was definitely fun and by the way, all “proceeds” are donated to the town to use on restoration of the aging gold rush buildings.

After a rich breakfast, we say goodbye to Rene and Claudia. The first part of Dawson City to Whitehorse is a little monotonous and we will bring this section quickly behind us. As we pedal along the road, a red VW Bus appears just next to us. “Do you come from Switzerland?” We look to the side and see a young couple, which leans out the window and grins at us. “Of course!” we answer in Swiss German. We stop and start chatting with Guido and Miriam. They travel with Guschti, an older Volkswagen Bus, which Guido has lovingly restored. Both were traveling for quite a while too and we make an appointment in the next village, where we will buy some grocery.

In the mean time, they already explored a suitable place for the night. When we reach a bit later the beautifully situated spot just next to a river, they just started a fire. After a refreshing bath in the clear stream, we are ready for the Barbeque. Guido tells us, that he drove with his VW-Bus all over the American continent and Miriam joined him later in Mexico. We exchange many travel tales and so it is getting late until we crawl into our tent.

A couple days later, we met them again on a bright sunny day in Whitehorse. We decide spontaneously to celebrate a picknick on the shores of the Yukon River, just next to a nice renovated paddle steamer. The steamers played a big role during the gold rush. These huge steaming ships brought food, tools and other resources, but also gold seekers, who could afford this passage, to the gold fields. We continue our way southwards and are planning to cycle along the Cassiar Hwy.

 

 

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Top of the World Highway

The Top of the World Highway is a 79 miles long highway, beginning at a junction with the Taylor Highway near Jack Wade, Alaska traveling east to its terminus at the ferry terminal in West Dawson, on the western banks of the Yukon River. The highway is so named, because along much of its length, it skirts the crest of the hills, giving looks down on the valley.

The gravel road in the hilly mountains begins with a steep ascent. Heavy breathing and very slowly we pedal up the hill. A swarm of small, but extremely obstinate black flies, which are attracting by our sweating, accompanies us. These small little beasts often are sucking in through our nose. In the last few days, it rained a lot and at some stages, the road washed away. Huge excavators have moved away the worst of the road mud, but the constant up and down brings us to the limits of our forces. We are now not far from the Canadian border, but the final climb has it all and so we reach the US-Canadian border totally exhausted and just in time before it closes down for today. Still out of breath, we hand over the green visitor card to the grumpy American border officials and then push our bikes further to the Canadian customs.

The young customs officer looks quite astonished at us, and asks us if we really cycled all the way up here, with all that gear. Still out of breath, we nod with a grin. He is impressed by our performance and we talk for a while about cycling touring, before we get to the official part. After the obligatory questions, for example if we carry firearms, we get another stamp in our passports. This allows us to travel for 6 months in Canada. The Canadian officer is very helpful, fills all our water bottles, and wishes us a safe journey. We are amazed by the friendliness of the young officer, who doesn’t carry a weapon, in contrast to their American fellows, just next door. The hard work is not over for today, we didn’t reach the top yet! It’s already late and there is still a steep hill in front of us, luckily the climb is not too long. Afterwards we are reward with a fast descent, on concrete road. We finally find a suitable place for our tent and after a warm meal; we crawl completely exhausted into our sleeping bags. The next morning, the sun squints at the horizon and while we enjoy a spectacular panorama, a herd of Caribous, climbs elegantly down the flank of the mountain next to us. Robi quickly grabs the camera, and takes some nice shots from the herd, before they slowly disappear into the distance.

After the breakfast, we continue our journey towards Dawson City and soon the paved road ends. We have absolutely nothing against dirt roads, as long as it does not rain and there is not too much of loose gravel. However, here we were confronting with steep ramps. That means a lot of pushing and you have to be very careful on the descents, so that the front wheel does not slip away on the loose gravel!

Additionally to the bad road conditions, it is bone dry up here. This means that we pass on the entire section no river, or stream and it lives no human soul along this stretch, where we could knock on a door and ask for the precious liquid. Lucky there are campers vans, and so we ask them for drinking water. They are glad to help us and that is very nice.  In the evening, when we pitch our tent, a campervan joins us. Besides drinking water the friendly couple offers us so much water, that it even allow us to take a quick shower with our water bag.

On the next day and after a long downhill run we can spot the Yukon River, which means Great River, for the first time. In the next bend, we can get already a first glimpse of Dawson City and soon after that, we reach the riverbank of the Yukon River. We are waiting for the ferry, and we are wandering what new adventures the city will offer us.

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Let’s go to Chicken!

After the spectacular ride along the Denali Highway, we picked up our first food parcel in Paxson and pitched our tent just beside a clear creek. We took a very refreshing bath in the fast running stream and warmed ourselves beside the fire.  Next morning we continued cycling north. The landscape was still spectacular and we were very lucky with the sunny weather, so even we faced mostly a strong head wind, we did enjoy the ride very much.We arrived in Chicken, which was called Ptarmigan before.. However, the spelling could not be agreed on and the name Chicken was used to avoid embarrassment. You will not believe but Chicken, with a population of seven people by 2010 has its own post office! Chicken is a community founded on gold mining and is one of the few surviving gold rush towns in Alaska. Even you are not looking for gold, this village is worthwhile a visit. There are several active gold dredges in this area, and you can still see folks digging for gold. In Chicken, we supposed to pick up another parcel with food and we also excepted a bigger parcel with urgently needed spare tires and Ortlieb bags.  The day we arrived at the post office, it was pouring rain.

Robin, the postmaster explained us that all the parcels will be delivered by a small airplane to Chicken. That is very convenient, but when it is too cloudy, it is too dangerous to fly. That means for us, no parcel today. :-(  That gave us some time to explore a bit the surroundings and taste some delicious cinnamon rolls in “downtown”. Finally, the weather cleared up and Robin informed us that the small airplane is on the way. “You want to come with me to the airstrip, to pick up the parcels?” she asked. “That would be great!” Monika answers with a big smile on her face.  When we arrive at the small airstrip, the airplane just arrives.

We help to unload the airplane and recognize immediately our urgently needed parcels. “It feels like Christmas in summer, so many parcels”! Robi screams exited. 😉 Thanks to Linda&Angie, our lovely hosts from Anchorage, who arranged to send the parcel forward and a big thanks to Ortlieb, who equipped us with new waterproofed panniers and dry bags.

Back in town, we mount the new tires and pack the brand new Ortlieb bags. Even it is already late in the afternoon, we decide to continue further north. That is wonderful about summer in Alaska and northern Canada. You got almost 24 hours of day light! Our next goal is the Top of the world Highway, where we plan to cross the border in to Canada. But more about this adventure in the next blog entry. ;-))

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Rolling homes

We choose to cycle the Denali Highway. The majority of the road is unpaved and can be a challenge, especially in rainy conditions, but we did not regret it and were reward with an amazing landscape. We are cycling along the breathtaking Alaskan range. Snowy peaks and huge glaciers accompany us all the way. The first day, we were already challenged with some steeper uphill’s.


On a small plateau, we reach a beautiful lake where we want to spend the night. Because the sun was shining the whole day and we are still sweating from pedaling uphill, and so we decide spontaneously to jump into the lake and have a little swim. We are not the only people, who choose to stay overnight at this wonderful location. There is already a bigger camper van parking there. We knock at their door and introduce ourselves. Jill and Martin, a friendly English couple in their fifty’s, opens the door. “Hello” is Jill greeting us. “You want to have a cup of tea?” is she asking and invites us right away in their RV. Beside tea and a wonderful dessert, we have an interesting and long conversation. We find out, that they are also traveling around the world. When their children left their house, they decided to realize their dream. They sold their house and set off for an adventures journey around the world. They have a great humor and so we laugh a lot together. It is getting late, before we leave the cozy van and go back to our little home. This is precisely the beauty of travel, you meet some great people and they tell you their interesting stories. Two days later, we meet them again. In a longer uphill, they just pull over and invite us again for afternoon tea and cake. What a nice surprise!All over Alaska, Canada and the USA, you can see motor homes everywhere. Some are RV’s others are Campers, Trailers, vans or pick-ups, some are small, big, old, or new, some are owned others are just rented for a short or longer vacation. Many of them are huge, like buses, which even toad a car or a boat behind! The big ones are often owned by older retired couples, who sold their house and got a rolling one instead. We met a few owners and we can say there is not a typical caravan owner at all. Everybody is different! They can be young, old, single, a couple, families, and a lot of them travel with their dogs and cats. We get a very different view from the caravan or RV owners, how they call them here in Northern America. Some of them just hit the road for a few weeks but some are traveling for several months or years. A few have taken a longer holiday or an extended vacation for a few months. Some have enough from the stressful western life, or others like to break out their regular daily routine.

They sold everything and among them, there are many, which left their home countries and explore other parts of the world. Many are retired and could finally realize their long held dream to travel around in a luxury motor home. Additionally there are the species, which live their whole life in their rolling homes, thus moving from one place to another and do not want to settle down. Nothing is right, nothing is wrong. It’s just different and that makes life interesting! On the entire route from Alaska through Canada, we got stopped again and again from very amiable fellows, who invite us in their cozy motor home and offers us coffee, tea, snacks and a couple of times even Swiss chocolate! After such wonderful treat, we were ready for the next hill. 😉

We would like to take this opportunity to thanks all this friendly people. Grazia fitg,vile Dank, Merci beaucoup, mille grazie. :-)

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Where is the pump?

On the road again! After a big hug we leave Ella, Till, Mike, Snoopy-dog and Daisy-Duck’s cozy home.
We felt very welcome and comfortable at their home. When we roll off, it feels we are leaving home
a second time. Ella&Till, thank you very much for your warm hospitality. For two weeks you were like parents for us! The sun shines bright in our faces as we pedal along the Parks Highway. In spite of all the comfort, it feels good to move on and to be outside again. The first day is only a short stage, because we have started quite late. But the first overnight surpasses all our expectations. We pitch our tent directly on a small jetty pier in a stunning location on a beautiful lake. A breathtaking panorama of mountains is reflected in the water just in front of us. A million dollar view and truly an amazing spot!Only one thing makes us a little nervous, the fact that we will be travelling for quite a while in bear country. The next day is full of surprises. We start early and we have great weather again. We just cycled about 40 kilometers, and right after we spotted a Moose, we are alert by an unpleasant noise! Oh no, the second day on the road and we got already a flat tyre. Normally that’s not a big deal, but when Moni wanna grab the pump, but there is none! She shakes her head and Robi won’t believe the fact. Right away they know where it is. The missing pump is still in Chugiak, at Ell&aTill’s home! It lies on the wood pile in front of the house, just where Robi pumped the tires, before we left. :-(

What shell we do now? “Why not trying to stop a car?” says Robi. But how do you recognize a driver’s car with a bicycle pump? We focus on cars with a Bike rack, but that drastically limits the number immediately! So finally Robi stroll with the whole wheel along the road, hoping to find someone with a pump…
A short time later, Robi returns with a stranger. Dan is the pastor from the church, just around the corner. He doesn’t have a pump, but he kindly offers Robi a ride to the gas station, where hopefully he will be able to pump the patched tube. A little bit later the two are back again, gladly with the pumped tyre. Dan is very interested in our journey and he asks as to visit him at the church and have a little chat.

It’s already late afternoon and the weather doesn’t look to promising, so we ask Dan if we probably could camp behind the church. “No problem!” answers Dan. But you can also sleep insight the church, there is plenty of space, a hot shower and if you like you can use also the kitchen! That’s is really generously! In the meantime we have informed Ella& Till. They offer us, to bring the pump to Willow, first thing next morning. That are definitely very good News! We bring our staff into the cozy common room, have a nice hot shower and fell soon asleep. The next morning, we wake up early and prepare as usual a big breakfast. Soon after that, our friends arrive with the missing bicycle pump. The joy of reunion is great, because who would have thought that we will see each other again, after only two days. Dan joins the illustrious group and makes us an interesting proposal. He likes to take us in the afternoon for a Kayak trip down on the willow river. What a great oppurtunity!
Moni has concerns and informs Dan that she has not much Kayak experience on rivers. Dan answers: “the river should be easy to navigate and there are only very small, harmless rapids”. We believe him and short after that, we are driving in Dan’s car towards Willow river. It feels formidable to float along the peaceful river, especially in this sunny weather. The nature around us is magnificent and we pedal slowly forward. The Kayak glides quietly and leisurely through the calm waters. We can spot huge salmons and it’s a joy to watch them as they swim effortlessly upwards the stream. Some of them, even jump out of the water! Moni notes with discomfort, that the river is running faster. Huge logs float in the river or reach way out of the water and block the stream in some sections. With great difficulty we can pedal around them, but not for long. Especially Monika feels not comfortable anymore and soon she got stuck on a tree trunk. The next moment she slowly tilts to the side and the Kayak flips over! Lucky she can manage to get out of the Kayak. She tries now desperately to cling to the kayak so as to regain control over the whole situation. But she isn’t able to hold the Kayak and finally it slips away. Dan tries to help and grab after the Moni’s kayak too, but then he also flips over, what a mess! Moni and Dan reach exhausted the shore. A moment later Dan get into his kayak again and together we can get Moni’s Kayak and all the paddles. As Moni has overcome the biggest fear, she goes bravely back into the kayak. She never gives up so fast! And indeed after the first big dip, she feels more and more confident and can even more enjoy the ride along the beautiful river.

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Feeling Home

Linda and Angie, two lovely ladies in their 60s, who invited us to stay at their home in Anchorage, are very friendly and helpful to us. They take their time and drives us around Anchorage. One day they take us all the way to the 140-acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, close to Gridwood. AWCC’s mission is to provide refuge for orphaned, injured, and ill animals-those that can’t survive in the wild. The center also educates visitors about Alaska’s wildlife.On your visit, we got the chance to see bears, moose, deer, plus caribou, elk, bison, a bold eagle with just one wing, and musk oxen, before we probably meet them out in the wild, when we cycle through Alaska and Canada. One year ago, we met Ruth, a 75 years old energetic Swiss lady. She leaves already half a century in British Columbia, Canada and invited us kindly in autumn 2010 into her home. Ruth told us a lot about Ella, who lives in Alaska. We visit Ella. She is also born in Switzerland and already 52 years married with her husband Till. They both live in a cozy Log house in a wonderful location, up the hill in Chugiak-Alaska. Ella&Till live together with Till’s brother Mike, their dog Snoopy and a duck Daisy.When we arrive at their home in Chugiak, we meet Ruth, who arrived a week ago by airplane from Canada. What a Welcome! Ruth, Ella, and Sonya, a third Swiss lady, who lives now in Vancouver, Canada, cycled in 1959 from Canada to Alaska! Till tells us about his adventurous journey, which he did in 1951, when he hitchhiked with a little monkey around the world. We feel immediately comfortable and warmly received in this nice little group. We have much in common and there are many laughs and anecdotes about our adventurous trips.

Robi mostly gets up pretty early. One morning, on the short way between the Log House and the cabin, he get the chance to see two Black bears playing in the drive way. He calls Monika, but when she arrives, the bears already disappeared. She can only recognize the cracking noise in the bushes. Up here, we get many chances to see smaller and larger animals, something we probably still remain long in our memory. Just before we hit the road, we stock up our food supplies in the nearby supermarket, so we won’t run out of food on our way up north. We pack all the food neatly into our new Ortlieb panniers and put it away in our little hut beside the house.
It has probably spoken quite rapidly among the animals in the woods, that we stashed all that yummy food in our little chalet.The next day we recognize with horrify, that a hungry squirrel has gone to our brand new bike panniers and has biten a huge hole in one of the bags. Robi is in shock and can hardly believe it. Lucky we are able to patch up the damaged bag and so nothing can prevent us from continuing our journey.

We are very fidgety and looking forward to get back on the saddles, to wheel up north, into new adventures, which are waiting along the road.

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Spectacular ferry ride to Alaska

With a laughing and crying eye, we wave back. We will miss the relaxed Island groove, but we also look forward for new exiting adventurer and interesting meetings along the way. Beginning of June 2011, we finally continue our bicycle journey. From the southern Gulf Islands, where we spent the winter, we cycled down to Bellingham. Here we board a ferry to Alaska.

We are so lucky with the weather and enjoy the sunshine and the entertaining boat ride on the Alaska Marine Highway. At the first part and still in Canadian waters, our ship is cruising close to the shore, in breathtaking landscape and trough narrow channels.

The captain makes an announcement. “On backboard (left hand side of the ship) you can see whales!”

Immediately there is activity on the ferry and almost everybody moves to the left hand side. Surprisingly, the heavy ship doesn’t lean to the left. It’s so amazing to watch this huge creatures, how elegant this giants float through the waters. In the next few days, we are passing picturesque villages, inhabitant just by a couple souls. No roads leading to these tiny communities, there are only accessible by boat or water-airplane.

“There are dolphins!” is someone screaming. Really, very close to the boat, a playful school of dolphins enchanted the passengers.

We are leaving now the Inner passage and crossing open waters. The sea is getting rougher and Monika feels immediately the motion of the boat. The poor thing spends now more time in the bathroom, then on the deck and she is happy when we finally arrive at the port of Whittier, where we leave the ferry. From Whittier, it’s just a day long ride to Anchorage, where we can stay with a friendly couple. We use the time and replace important parts of our equipment. Ortlieb, the famous manufacture of sturdy waterproofed panniers and bags is excited about our long bicycle journey, so the offer us to replace the heavy used panniers and bags. It feels like Christmas in summer!

A big Thanks to Ortlieb Germany, and Ortlieb USA.

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