In the two previous posts, Chris had begun his cycle journey in Vancouver, crossed the Rockies, passed Banff and Calgary, crossed the Canadian prairies and the stunning canyons of ‘the badlands’. After camping in a friendly local’s garden and encountering a bear, the trip continued towards the finish point in Halifax….
Leaving the cities behind us, we headed on to the Northern side of the St Lawrence river. Here we reached a low point when torrential rain and zero temperatures coincided with some ridiculous 20degree gradients.
We were cycling short, sharp hills but the slippery surface made them almost un-rideable as our front wheels kept lifting off the ground. After 40 miles of miserable cycling, we dived into a museum just to get into the dry. In a new low, we found there was no café, but on seeing our faces drop, the museum staff took pity on us and came out with hot chocolate and biscuits as we slowly warmed up.
They kindly offered us a free tour of the small museum and gallery. As we’d experienced so many times on the trip, we were lifted from the depths of despair by an act of human kindness. On the road once again, we braved the elements and cycled on to the nearest hotel to spend the afternoon drying everything out.
We had an unforgettable experience whilst kayaking - as a Humpback whale majestically broke the surface, less than 30m from us, arched its back and dove deep into the ocean depths. We’ll always remember watching this majestic animal and feeling so small and vulnerable in comparison.
Taking a ferry across the St Lawrence River, we entered New Brunswick, where we felt the summer weather return. As autumn approached, we re-joined the trans-Canada trail following old railway track through forests with the leaves every kind of colour with not even a car in sight.
We were entering our final 10 days of cycling and the race was on to make it to Halifax in time to meet our parents and friends. Our bodies sensed the finishing line and started to seize up. Could they make the final push?
Entering Halifax, we were feeling on top of the world. Knowing that we were close to accomplishing what seemed like an impossible task at the start - after 13 weeks and 1 day we would complete our epic journey!
Our final, beautiful 70km coastal stretch would bring us into Chester where we’d be meeting our family and friends and taking some much-needed rest. With a fair few hills and some of the strongest headwinds of the whole trip, it was as if Canada was trying to stop us from leaving.
The last few miles seemed to take forever with our legs and bodies pleading ‘no more!’. We crawled up one last hill (a mere molehill in comparison to some of them, but it felt like Everest)!
At last, we reached our finish line. We dropped our bikes and hugged each other, feeling absolutely knackered, but finishing with an immense sense of both relief and pride in our achievement. We started a round of many celebrations with our family and friends over the next week with our bodies hugely grateful not be sitting on the saddles again for some time. It was the perfect end to a life-changing adventure.
Distance cycled: 7,500km/4,600 miles
Altitude climbed: 36,000m
Total calories burned: 200,000
Average cycling time per day: 5.5 hours
Average distance per day: 104km/65 miles
In our opinion, the best campsites were: Old Woman Bay on Lake Superior and Waterfowl Lake in the Icefields Parkway.
More random camping locations included: Walmart, a vet’s garden, a construction site and industrial estate.
We were fortunate to suffer very few bike issues: 4 punctures each, 1 broken spoke, cracked wheel, a snapped gear cable and 2 broken pannier racks.
You Do NOT need to be super fit or a big cyclist to do this trip. We did average of 104km per day and this is a good amount, but we started a little slower to get used to it. We met people who were doing 150km and racing through and others who had not ridden a bike for 10 years and started off at 40-50km.
Start slow, ease yourself into it and you will find your legs and fitness getting fitter and stronger along the way. Try not to rush too much along the way and enjoy the adventure! Carrying everything you need, you’ll realise how little you actually need to live and you’ll come to appreciate all the things you take for granted at home; a bed, a roof, electricity, a hot shower, clean clothes, a cold beer.
All the generous people you meet along the way will restore your faith in human kindness - we were astounded by how kind and trusting the Canadian people were.
You’ll have good and bad days but the good certainly far outweigh the bad. You’ll be exposed to the elements - heat, humidity, cold and wet. Fatigue will always be a factor whilst hills and headwind can get particularly annoying after a while.
My advice is to eat before you get hungry (it’s amazing how much you can eat and plenty of unhealthy stuff as you’ll burn it off - yummy!) - we both lost nearly a stone in weight.
Finally, remember that those bad days just make the good days seem even better.
Brooks Saddles - how our bottoms love thy hard leather seats! Definitely buy a Brooks saddle. We have the standard B17 model (male and female sizes). About 70% of touring cyclists we met had a Brooks. We gave them a knowing nod - these guys are in the club - they know what they’re doing.
Warm Showers – much like Couch Surfing, but for cyclists, this service is a great way to meet interesting, inspiring and very friendly people and enjoy great nights you have along the way.
www.crazyguyonabike.com – this site is very useful for reading fellow cyclists blogs about the areas you’ll be visiting and has posts about cycling trips all over the world.
The adventure had not ended for us, in fact it was just the start. We said our farewells to wonderful Canada and the bikes and headed off to Central and South America for the next 9 months. Little did we know then that the cycling adventure was just the beginning.
After 6 months of backpacking and taking buses, we missed the freedom, adventure, lows and highs of cycling. We would find ourselves buying second hand bikes in La Paz, Bolivia and hitting the open road once more as we pedalled our last 3 months towards Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Read the next article to find out how we faced altitudes of over 4000m, encountered sandstorms, attempted to cycle the largest Salt Flat in the world during wet season whilst it was flooded, came face to face with spiders, scorpions, snakes, crazy drivers and once again met the friendliest people ever.
Contact Chris for more information on Canada.