Maybe tree planting was taking its toll on me and I was longing to return on the road again. From the block I could often look south and see the snowy peaks of the coastal range. I knew where I wanted to go next.
We finished the spring season early, that meant 10 days off. What better way to rest than to cycle to Bella Coola, British Columbia. It was time to see those mountain peaks up close and I do recall a woman I met in the Yukon last year saying:
"You can't ride your bike on those roads"
The following morning I stumbled upon a journal of a back-road route from Lillooet to Bella Coola. I recreated as much of the route as I can through google maps, leaving me with few great opportunities to get lost! By noon I was on the side of the road with my thumb up, Lillooet was some 510km away.
Robbie was just getting ready to retire, his retirement plan, as he put it was:
"Fuckall, play!" - he will be spending the winter in Mexico.
Day 1: 120km
From the journal I recall seeing low daily distances (30-70km at times), if I want to make it to Bella Coola, I need to average 120km per day. For the first time in my life, I packed up 8 days worth of food, I wasn't expecting a grocery store or a restaurant until I rejoin the Chilcotin Highway. I left Lillooet in the afternoon in a hurry for my first date with the switchbacks.
It's not my first time cycling when the sky changes color and the night takes over but there is always that feeling of gloominess. The loneliness that overtakes when you can barely make the outline of the road, the uncertainty of whether or not I will be able to find a spot to set up my tent and the fear that I may have an unexpected visitor at night, after all I was in bear country.
At night, I woke up to the thundering sound of wild horses.
Day 2: 73km
...and I did have a visitor to my camp spot after all, but it was a pleasant encounter.
Two panoramic shots and few hours later I made my way down just to see what was ahead of me. I guess It's time for a second date!
Not only was it steep, but the loose gravel/stones made the climb even harder. That's okay though because I knew that a good view was waiting for me at the top!
Okay, maybe not this one...
DAY 3: 92km
And then... PIRATES!!!
They were actually pretty nice people and gave me lettuce from their garden to nib on while I face the next monster hill...
"We were camping and sleeping in the car with our feet hanging out on the tailgate..."
"Oh no, don't tell him that story"
Yup, the topic was bears! I heard there would be more on the other side, this will be my 3rd and final crossing of the Fraser River.
I later took a wrong turn on the 3100 FSR (forest service road), I met somebody who told me that there is a through road.
"Go straight until you hit the 2600, then keep going the road will change to 2200, 2100..."
DAY 4: 99km
It poured rain all night, I was happy that I was dry but a little worried about the condition of the logging roads & ATV trails that I will have to take.
Then for a moment I forgot all about it, there was a bear near my camp!
Few hours later I met an engineer who was doing safety checks on bridges in the area, he let me take a picture of his PDF maps and I decided to take what appeared to be a shortcut.
The road was bad, but that was okay, I would be saving a lot of time anyway. about 15 kilometers and two hours in the fallen trees started appearing.
I kept going, lifting my bike over them or going around thinking the road will get better.
Spending nearly 4 hours just to be at the same spot must be one of the hardest things I've done. I finally reached the 2000 FSR where logging trucks had right of way. It was very dusty (bottom right) but a quick downpour solved that problem (bottom left).
At night I heard the high pitch howl of coyotes, reminding me that I was in the middle of nowhere and that I wasn't at the top of the food chain.
DAY 5: 105km
I was finally making progress toward the snowy peaks which brought me here in the first place
DAY 6: 104km
I stumbled upon Talko Lake Lodge (fly-in wilderness resort) and I got a chance to learn a little bit more about the area. When asking for directions for the ATV trail I was left with the impression that people didn't want me to go there. Bobbi, who had spent most of her life here told me that the locals don't want too many tourists here, that would explain why the roads are poorly maintained.
While I think its great to enjoy nature, that is true, the moment there is a paved road an army of RV's will roll in.
But doing it on two wheels or even horseback (some locals are riding their horses for a week to reach the Williams Lake Stampede) is a great way to enjoy this beautiful back-country.
DAY 8: 161km
I was back on the Chilcotin Highway for most of the day but riding on pavement wasn't nearly as interesting as the logging roads and ATV trails I've taken so far. Up ahead was a stretch of gravel road and a 25km descent to the Bella Coola Valley
Here is a short clip of the descent on the hill:
The van behind me drove the last few switchbacks on the rim, there is no space to pull over on the hill. The young kid managed to take out almost all my stuff from my handlebar bag while I was helping, haha
DAY 9: 68km
Rain clouds rolled over the mighty peaks but I was able to see barren peaks and glaciers through the clouds. At times I hoped for some sun but it wasn't the destination, it wasn't even the journey, it was all about now and enjoying every moment of it.
After I reached Bella Coola I continued on, the imminent rain and the fact that I had to start hitchhiking back to Prince George for summer work made this final ride less triumphant. I reached a park at the end of the road where some of the locals were celebrating the life of a passed away relative. Chris shared a native song with me (great to listen to while reading on)
Just as they were leaving it started pouring rain.
"Do you want a ride back to town?"
I ran down to the shore. This is Bella Coola. I don't need the sun to appreciate the serene beauty of the Pacific Ocean, the Coastal Mountain Range and the hospitality of the locals.
I'VE MADE IT TO BELLA COOLA
But the adventure is far from over...
DAY 10: 23km
Chris certainly made Bella Coola my home, he shared his food and house with me. He took me on a tour of the ancient rock carvings and after that drove me for 3 hours toward Prince George.
I suddenly felt terrible, how could I repay or pay-forward such kindness? I have certainly received way more than I have given on my travels.
Like a happy ending in a Hollywood movie this story will end somewhere on a lake, staring at the sunset.
o o o
I jump head first into whatever wild adventure I can come up with. I often get myself into difficult situations and have that stupidity/stubbornness/naivety but I know deep down in my heart that things will somehow work out.
Maybe sometime they won't but until then my home is on the open road
I recently received my visa for the USA and meanwhile I have been getting some ideas...