July 03, 2010 GMT
British Columbia (Northbound)

Arriving in Victoria on Vancouver Island from Washington State by ferry was like entering a different sunnier world compared to the wet temperate rain forests of Washington State. First impressions are how green and English it all looks with its imposing ivy clad hotel, lawns and red double decker buses. The top portion of the British Columbian flag is taken up by the Union Jack.

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Victoria Empress Hotel

The one thing that was very un-British were the seaplanes taking off and landing in the harbour. As the towns have evolved around the harbours the seaplanes are landing a few minutes walk from the centre of towns making them much more convenient than regular planes and regular airports for the short hops.

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Seaplanes In Victoria Harbour

I bought spare inner tubes and filters in preparation for the 5,000 mile round trip to Alaska. I intend to do the next service myself as I expect to be somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I have been concerned that the BMW mechanics use clever electronic diagnostic equipment during servicing that isn’t available to me but if the bike is running ok then any diagnostic equipment isn’t needed anyway. Out of the four times I have had work done by BMW mechanics three of those times they have put the non standard Touratech fuel breather pipes back incorrectly.

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British Columbia Parliament Building In Victoria

I liked Nanaimo a lot. The only problem I had was that it took a week before I could pronounce it correctly. Nanaimo is north of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

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Nanaimo Gate

Just off the coast at Nanaimo is Newcastle Island named after my home town, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. Newcastle Island was given the name when coal was discovered. Miners and Shipbuilders were recruited from England and Scotland to work in Nanaimo and they formed the bulk of the European settlers.

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Nanaimo Harbour With Newcastle Island In Background

I got the ferry from Vancouver Island to the mainland on the Nanaimo / Vancouver route. The five days I spent on Vancouver Island were hot and dry and you can watch seaplanes taking off and landing in the harbours so it is about my favourite place in the world at the moment. I must have seen 20 or so seaplanes take off or land without mishap so it appears to be a reasonably reliable mode of transport.

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Seaplane In Nainaimo Harbour

Seaplanes must be solidly built as I watched a mechanic standing on a float hitting the plane with a big hammer. You may be reassured to know that the plane was stationary at the time.

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Stanley Park, Vancouver

The Vancouver to Lillooet ‘Sea To Sky Highway’ (Hwy 99) has fast sweeping bends climbing up into the mountains and the day I rode it, the traffic was light enough to enjoy the views and / or the bends. The snow capped mountains got bigger and closer all the time but I never quite got into the snow.

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Whistler, Home Of The 2010 Winter Olympics

I had been riding at my usual leisurely pace as far as Pemberton but decided I had better eat some miles to get up to Alaska and back to Mexico before my USA visa expires.

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Pemberton, British Columbia

Rain was forecast but apart from some showers it was dry most of my first long day. I took a dirt road ‘shortcut’ although it would have taken longer but that’s not the point. The road passed a lake before joining Hwy 97 trundling ever northwards to Prince George where I joined Hwy 16 towards the Cassiar Highway.

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Lakeside Dirt Road 'Shortcut'

The wildlife count along Hwy 16 was a pair of coyotes, a moose followed by a black bear cub. I started looking out for a camping spot about 50 miles from the start of the Cassiar Highway and spotted the bear cub with an immaculate shiny coat jumping around by the roadside. I didn’t see Mum but no doubt she wasn’t far away. There was a bit of a weird feeling in seeing a bear just before pulling over to pitch a tent!

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Snowy Peaks, British Columbia

I had done 637 miles from 7:30am until just before it got dark at 9:30pm with a couple of meal breaks in roadside cafes. The mosquitoes were too bad to prepare or eat food outdoors and I don’t like to have food in the tent in case I have to fight a bear for it.

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These Little Rock Men Pop Up All Over British Columbia

The Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37) from Kitwanga to the Yukon border was another road with little traffic and enough bends to make it interesting. Just after stopping for breakfast a car in each direction stopped on the road so I pulled up behind as a one year old grizzly bear walked across the road to my side. It stopped behind a bush 20 feet away and turned to watch me.

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Yet More Snow Capped Peaks

I saw a second grizzly, bigger than the first one a bit later. I stopped, turned around and went for my camera but it disappeared into the undergrowth before I could get a photo. Towards the end of the Cassiar Highway I saw a third enormous black grizzly right at the road side. I slowed and we were watching each other as I passed. In order to confuse the amateur wildlife spotter black bears aren’t necessarily black and grizzlies come in a variety of shades including black. I finished the second long day in Whitehorse, Yukon at 9:30pm again although I had set off earlier, at 6am and covered 784 miles.

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at July 03, 2010 11:12 PM GMT

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