Day 35-38, 15-18 August 2008: To Canada, rain & bordertowns
It was time to leave our friend named Alaska and meet another partner for the next few months, named Canada. We had so many good times and many bad times. It is funny how even a fictional line on a map can define a relationship. We felt like we had to say goodbye to family…
We had stayed another day in Tok, it was just too perfect to camp for free, behind a 24/7 gasstation and next to the supermarket. We had to take care of our belongings as there was a group of drunk locals nearby. We have noticed this often lately: small groups of native Americans, who walk or sit around with paperbags or just with a bottle of scotch. It is a sad sight and a result of many bad political decisions in a long row.
We met a few other travelers who stayed the second night on the same camp; a young cyclist from Quebec, who was on his way home and a couple from Argentina (www.amunches.com) who were at the end of their 6 year journey. It was nice for Ivana to speak some Spanish and to drink some mate, but also interesting to see that they were clearly tired. Tired of travelling, tired of telling their story. The next morning they left early, but they had left Ivana some rainpants, though they were not really suitable for cycling as we would find out soon..
We left with dry weather, but quickly the hills and the rain started. Ivana’s pants ripped and one leg came off. We stayed at a very wet campground near a lake that probably was very pretty if you could see it. Only a few days later (fortunately) we read the report of fellow cyclists Tim & Cindie, who had seen a bear while camping here. We had been less ‘bearanoid’ as we had simply not seen any bears in Alaska outside Denali park, which in some ways is more like the Serengeti than the ‘real world’…
The next day we were completely soaked again and Ivana was ready to quit and fly home to sunny Argentina… Just in time we passed a visitor centre for the Tetlin National Wildlife refuge. Two ladies, who lived all their life in the native village of Northway and worked as volunteers, came to the rescue. They gave us tea, let us dry our clothes and even prepared a few delicious sandwiches with salmon. Just before we left, they even gave some chocolate. It is people like these that we will take with us in our heart when leaving Alaska..
We passed a small building where visitors have to check in when entering Alaska, but strangely enough the customs office for Canada was another 20 miles away. Or rather, 32km, as we were now back on metrical grounds as we had passed the official border. Somehow we had the unrealistic idea that we could leave the bad weather in Alaska, but alas, the clouds passed the invisible line without needing a visa.
These 30 km in ‘Krakozia’ seemed endless as the rain came down, taking all view away. Moreover we met up with an old friend: the gravel road. Some parts were unpaved. It can be very annoying to see more than 5 signs announcing the gravel patch. Don’t announce it, fix it!
The last 10 km were on a straight road, but we could not see much of it. We were completely and fully soaked when we finally arrived at anothe rbuidling that looked like a toll-booth. There was a STOP sign and tired and wet Ivana did the one thing that Thimble had warned us about not to do: she ignored the STOP sign to park her bike a few meters ahead.
‘Where is she going?’ The lady in the window asked furiously. Great, I thought, now we are going to be sent back. At this point we did not care in which country we would get soaked, but the idea of having to cycle 30km back to Alaska made me desperate. So I put on a charming smile, asked how she was doing and that we were fine except for being cold, tired, miserable and wet.
‘Do you have any arms or weapons’?
‘No’. At least she did not ask about our bearspray. We knew that this was considered a weapon and that you were not supposed to carry it across the border, but we could plead European/South American ignorance in this matter. We needed it and wanted to keep it.
‘Do you have any mace, or pepperspray?’. Damn, she asked it. I do not like lies, so I casually said ‘just bearspray’, while looking innocently down on our passports as I had never seen those stamps and visa before.
She ignored me, which was good, as she did not ask for the spray to be handed in, stamped our passports and told us to continue. We were in Canada!
Beaver Creek was just 2km ahead on the same road, and we entered the first motel we saw. I would have paid for a room as we would need a dry place this night, in order to dry our stuff. When I asked the friendly lady if she knew where the school was (as cyclist Thierry had told us you could camp there), she said that if we really wanted to camp in this weather, there was a better place: the ice skating rink was not in use and had a large roof. We checked it out and it looked perfect.
I had a fight with our stove, when a completely drunk native girl passed by and almost out, but could fix it while mostly ignoring her; and while the rain pounded on the large metal roof we fell into a deep sleep, thinking about the many wonders of Alaska and the empty book of Canada that lay open ahead of us…
Kowalski, status report!
Just some smaller hills, but in total quite a bit of climbing. We passed quite a lot of roadwork and in one section we had to load our bike in the back of a truck, drove for about 2km and we had to get back out! The ride was nice, but we would have been faster just cycling the bit…
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