Whitehorse, with over 85% of Yukon's total population it is the biggest Northern Canadian City. I stayed with Jenny and Anthony for a day to put together my bike and buy food for the next two weeks.
Then I somehow had to hitch hike with my bicycle and all my gear, 1500 kilometers north, to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories where my ride will start.
I rode down the Alaska Highway until Klondike HWY forks off, then I found a suitable spot.
Ever since I first stuck my thumb out on the road in August, 2013 I have met such amazing people. It is a game of patience and it can take a while, but its always worth it.
Some 30 minutes later, Ken from Pelly River stopped and offered me a ride to the next town.
I was at Carmacks waiting for a ride for 4 hours. Sadly most people leaving Whitehorse have their cars packed with groceries or people. I see a white pickup, looks empty and big enough to fit my bike, I stuck my thumb out.
LOL. Police... They didn't stop.
Just before I was about to pack up and look for a spot to camp a fully loaded pickup stopped. Jon, a miner from Dawson managed to fit my bike and me in it.
"You need a gun and a dog. A handgun and lots of bullets, or the wolves will get ya." -With only 30 thousand people in such a vast territory this land does not belong to man. It belongs to the wild. I was only armed with a bear spray and a small knife but I was hoping that animals won't stick to the highways.
"Would you rather walk on the snow or on the road?"
"On the road," I replied
"So do the wolves."
Jon worked in the mines of Dawson and in the winter he would move somewhere warmer.
He dropped me off at The Dempster Junction at 10pm. It was time to set up camp.
It was cold. I woke up to the howling of the wolves at 4am, not the morning alarm I was hoping to fear. The good news it that they were far in the distance and what good would fear do me anyway?
I was up and ready at 7am, but no cars came by for 4 hours. Only two oil tankers.
3pm, only 2 non-local traffic cars. Well, I just loaded everything on the bike and got going. There is an interpretive center 70km up the road, maybe I can stay there.
The road was very rough and my bike was overloaded with food. Few more cars passed me by but nobody stopped. The trucks often create a cloud of dust lasting for 3-4 minutes, another one is approaching, I took my camera to get a good video of the dust but the truck slowed down. It was a lady trucker, she waved and continued south to Whitehorse. There goes my opportunity for a good video!
No ride today. The lodge was closed but I could set up beside it to camp and get good cover from the wind. The only thing that stood in my way was 50m of fresh snow.
The morning silence was broken by woodpecker in the distance, crows, birds and a chipmunk. Then later again by a truck and a pickup who both stopped but had no space.
By 5pm there were only few oil tankers and few other trucks that didn't stop. Would I have to wait another day?
A truck pulled over, and the trucker grabbed the radio.
"Gordie, do you have a space for a bike?"
Hitch hikers are known as "Bear bait" and cyclists as "Meals on wheels", I guess I was both.
"Those showers are only for truckers.", "The wi-fi would be five dollars extra." -Eagle lodge, the only place to stay for the first 500km on the Dempster was surely taking advantage of that. I didn't bother to look at the menu but they were nice enough to hold a bag of my food supplies until I got there.
Their Motel rooms were probably ridiculously priced but that didn't matter. I had a first class camp spot at the rear of a trailer.
Finally in Northwest Territories I just needed to find a ride for the last 200km from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. Bob, the driver had to stop at Fort McPherson to make some deliveries. Unfortunately for him, when the folks at Whitehorse packed his truck, they mixed skids going to both cities. He stood behind trying to organize it and I got into Gordon's truck who also had another passenger: Jackie from Newfoundland, she moved here last year and is now hoping to start driving the Dempster.
Gordon is 74 years old and had been driving up the Dempster for over 50 years. He had a lot of amazing stories including saving RCMP officer in -60C and blizzard. There was also another one:
"So I am driving in the area just before Eagle Plainis and I see a shadow down the road. When I get closer it was a black bear and there was a cyclist ahead of it. I blew my horn and scared the bear and then offered him a ride but he refused."
And that was it. I was now in Inuvik, a community of 3500 people and the hub for Arctic Canada.
It was 2pm and cloudy but I still had to hitch a ride to Tuk. I should have explored more, my last visit lasted a mere 5 hours but I will do all that touristy stuff on the way down.
"It's a big house with a dog" -that's what Gordon told me last time I was here. I was looking for Bill Conley's house. Him and Gordon let me stay with them in their motel room at Eagle Plains Lodge last year and I wanted to visit and say thank you.
"Lots of big houses with dogs here," said a local. But when he heard the name he gave me the direction. I left a small gift for the two carbou hunters with Bill's daughter and then...
THE ICE ROAD
Built on the Mackenzie River itself and later the Arctic Ocean, this highway connects Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik. The construction on all-weather road has already began and this would be one of the last few years that people would be able to drive (or if you are crazy enough like me: bike) this road.
I rode the 30km to the Aklavik turnoff and only few cars passed me. So far north the small communities often carpool and bring stuff for each other. that meant that there is often no space for a cyclist.
"Hi, can I get a ride? I can go at the back if needed"
They looked puzzled, there aren't many cyclists here and somebody trying to hitch a ride with a bike is even more rare.
"Yes, that's OK, you don't need to ride in the back. We will make space."
They were driving home to Tuk and managed to squeeze me in.
Not going to lie, if I had the money I would have flown to Tuktoyaktuk. But I would have never met such amazing people if I took the plane or learned about the life in Northern Canada, first hand.