Big Canada And Little Ole Me

Well howdy doody Blogg-er-ers. After 10 days in the land of Canadia, I thought it was high time I filled you in. First things first, this country is massive. Not just a little bit bigger than I’m used to – I’m talking, pile that thing sky high, charge me $5 extra and slap-a-cherry-on-top, super-sized. And it takes some getting used to.

Here’s a quick run down of the top size shockers:

The Roads

Huge. Our favourite phrase to hear from a local has come to be “S’Gotta should-er" – meaning that there’s a hard shoulder wide enough to drive a bus down at the side of the highway. Where the roads do narrow, to say, the size of the A4 but with far less traffic, there are big flashing signs “WARNING NARROW WINDING ROAD FOR 5KM". We snigger, bathing in the luxury of space as locals tighten their grip on the steering wheel, braced for the onset of claustrophobia. 

Yesterday, in the middle of the wilderness, having not seen a car for over an hour, the road suddenly opened out to a 3 lane highway. Why? Because it could. Alas, this sense of scale works in the opposite direction too – we found that ‘it’s a real quiet, small road’ means it’s pretty much the A3 – albeit with an ample shoulder to poop ourselves on.

The Bike Lanes

Massive. And more often than not, equally as wide as a standard space for a car in Britain. Riding around Vancouver Downtown, I’ve never felt so safe. It’s almost like the roads were built with both motorists and cyclists in mind as equals – imagine that?! The lanes are so wide and protected, that the government doesn’t even need to paint them a different colour to give the illusion of space. I can only assume this is saving the Canadian economy millions.

Luckily, thanks to a 20 mile unplanned detour (following which, Garth the Garmin and I had a domestic – its cool, all strong relationships have their tough times) we got to ride on more of these Bike paths than intended, and they’re a joy.

Should your beloved cycle lane ever disappear, you’ll be sure to find a ‘share the road’ sign not long after, or even one instructing ‘motorists yield to cyclists’ (my jaw dropped). Both of which are usually followed by Lyds and I chanting ‘share the road biaches!’ (you know you’d chant it too).

The Waters

I’m a big fan of the ole wild swim. Show me something shimmery and wet and I’ll be midway through a cannonball before you’ve even got your trunks on (or off – your call). So it gives me great pleasure to say that we’ve swum every day since being on Vancouver island. Because, quite frankly, there is water EVERYWAH. I now wouldn’t dream of dipping my toe into anything smaller than the Serpentine (dahling), and those are puddles compared to the pools larger than Lake Geneva, where I’ve been dunking my sweaty little bod over the past week.

Being here its impossible not to feel like a Borrower, in awe of what greets my greedy little eyes at every turn. Far from making me feel insignificant, I simply believe I’m one very lucky bugger. It’s like Mother Nature is standing right in front of me, beating her grand chest and saying “Check it out – aren’t I just fabulous? Look at my snow capped mountains and lakes. I’ve been here for thousands of years – what took you so long?“

GREAT CENTRAL LAKE

Heading back from Toffino on the West coast, we rolled up Great Central Lake Road, looking for a shortcut North. As the road unexpectedly turned into a logging track (this happens a lot), we stopped in to check out the lake. What happened from there on in was an odd little dream. While taking a swim in full cycling kit – as you do, we were offered a beer by Daryl and to join him and his family on their floating ‘party island’. It floated. There was a party going on. You get the point. 2 hours and 3 beers later, we’d been offered a camp spot, and a hour after that were at the opening of the communities’ ‘Bob Marley Jerk Shack’ (run by Marley’s 3rd cousin, once removed, of course). We ate and drank for the rest of the night, and were gradually introduced to all the other families and friends who use the lake as their second home. I was in no doubt that we’d stumbled into a little piece of paradise. 

GC Lake is 27 miles long, and this friendly little community were the only ones using it. It stretches out beyond the horizon, winding through mountains in the distance like an infinity pool. Leaving in the morning I couldn’t quite get my head around the day before. It felt like we’d gone through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia, and that if we went back tomorrow, there’d be nothing there….

GARY & LORI

We met Gary (logger and all round cool biker dude) and Lori (Jonny Cash fan and friendliest person in the world) in a Diner on the road to the surfing town of Toffino. They were travelling in the same direction on a Harley, and gave us top tips about the road ahead. We then happened to pull into their campsite 2 days later (I smell fate at play…) and following beers and chats, we ended up camping in Lori’s garden a few days after that, and in Gary’s back yard up the coast 2 days later. They took us for dinner, lunch, made us AMAZING brekkies and drove us up to see the highest point on the island, Mount Washington. We chatted politics, music, families, travel and jobs as I learnt more about life in Canada than I could from any book. 

Above all, I’ve been utterly blown away by their kindness. This is the stuff that makes the world go round, and I only hope I can repay the favour to them on a visit to the UK one day.

And that’s your lot for this week. We’re headed off the island now, over to the mainland again and up to Whistler. We’re averaging 65 mile days and the going is tough, especially in 32 degree heat. I worked out that with body weight, bike and bags, I’m lugging 108kgs up the hills (no comments on the body weight, kids). My legs are getting stronger and I’m starting to wave goodbye to the chub. The tent now feels like a palace, and I’m totally down with the daily nosh routine of porridge, noodles, beans, and fish. I am absolutely loving it. This place is amazing. The people and the scenery make it, and doing it on a bike with your lungs burning like a beast, has to be just the best way to soak it all in.

Until next week…. Adieu.

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