August 10, 2009 GMT
Quebec Provence

From Nova Scotia I finally started heading west stopping at the C’mon Hostel in Moncton again then on to Campbellton, New Brunswick. Cambellton is a starting point for the Gaspesie scenic route 132. A circular route following the coast around the Gaspesie peninsular then back through the mountains. I was planning to do the coastal part of the route then continue west for points unknown.

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My Cambellton Home

I was told to expect stunning views of Gaspesie as I approached Cambellton. The last fifty miles were completed in light rain and sea mist so I missed out on that first sighting.

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Cambellton New Brunswick From Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf mountain on the outskirts of Cambellton is a winter ski resort. It offers views of Quebec Provence across the bay from its summit.

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Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Lift

Although not cold, the weather is cooler and certainly much more changeable. I put this down to being further north but a number of Canadians have said this summer is unusually cooler and wetter. I have started using hostels where they are available but am still mainly camping.

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Gaspesie Coastline

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My Forillon Nation Park Dining Room

The Gaspesie coastal route may not be quite as dramatic as Cabots Trail, Nova Scotia. Passing through fishing and tourist villages for a lot of the route it is well worth doing though. At the tip of the peninsular is Parc National De Forrillon, a place I was told, renowned for whale watching. My hostel had great views over the bay and a few Porpoise could be seen from my alfresco dining table in the evening.

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Gaspesie, Quebec Provence

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Gaspesie, Quebec Provence

The next day I went on a whale watching boat trip from Grande Grave within the park. The bay was dead calm, ideal for whale spotting although there was some sea mist reducing visibility to half a mile or so at the harbour. Having booked on the next trip I went for a walk and saw more porpoise and Minke whales from the cliff top footpath. One Minke whale was only a 100 yards or so from shore but it had gone by the time I got the camera out.

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Minke Whale

There were more Minke whales on the boat trip including a good view of one with its head above the surface and water pouring from its mouth. Minke don’t use a blowhole to breath which is why they get their head out of the water. The sea mist thickened reducing visibility and stopped us seeing anything further out in the bay where the larger whales usually are.

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Minke Whale - Just Missed The Head Shot

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Cap Gaspe In The Mist - Forillon National Park

After the boat trip I headed on foot to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsular.

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Footpath To Cap Gaspe, Forillon National Park

The path followed the shoreline where there were more Porpoise and Minke whales in view. The whale watching boat went by on its next trip then a larger whale surfaced sending a flume of water into the air. As the whale swam on the surface and continued to ’blow’ the boat swung round for a closer look. As the boat got close the whale started... er .. having a whale of a time. It was lifting long flippers into the air and splashing them down onto the surface of the water with a resounding crash. Then it dived several times lifting its huge tail well into the air each time. It would reappear coming head first vertically out of the water, turning and splashing on its back into the water with a loud crashing noise that was delayed by a second or two from where I was watching. Most times it would get half its body out of the water but once I could see its head, body and most of the tail.

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Humpback Whale To Right of 48 Passenger Whale Watching Boat. Dark Patch In Front Of Boat Is A Minke Whale. (Taken With Mobile Phone Camera)

The people on the boat would have been looking up at the whale. I was excited at seeing this spectacle which went on for half an hour but I was also wishing I had gone on the later boat trip for a closer view! I met the boat later on as it came into dock and found out it had been a Humpback whale we had seen.

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Cap Gaspe Lighthouse, Forillon NP

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Forillon NP Sunset

The GPS which has been fantastic in allowing me to plan routes on quiet, scenic roads played a trick on me during the next leg of the trip further round the Gaspesie peninsular. It said there was no fuel stations on my route for over 100 miles. It seemed very unlikely as there were a number of villages on the way but I decided to play safe and detoured to Gaspe for fuel. On returning to the planned coastal route there was a fuel station within ten miles and several further on that weren‘t in the GPS database.

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Gaspesie Roadside Rest Stop

Arriving on the St. Lawrence river side of the Gaspesie peninsular I stayed in a hostel on the beach. It was a bit of a party hostel with young French Canadians camping on the beach, staying in the hostels teepee and yurts as well as the ’Sea Shack’ hostel. A DJ was playing mainly reggae until the early hours. I had a few local beers and left them to it. The next morning sitting on the veranda with a cup of tea overlooking the St. Lawrence bay I was tempted to stay another night but the wild west was beckoning.

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Gaspesie Sea Shack Auberge Festive

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Auberge Festive Beach Bar

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My New Dining Room Table

I have been travelling for four months now but still get a kick from crossing a new border or reaching particular landmarks. St. Lawrence Bay marks the end of the planned part of the trip. Up till now I have been heading for places I have wanted to visit with a couple of days travelling at the most between them. Now I just have a vague notion of heading west by the most northerly route I can find to Alaska. There isn’t time to get to Alaska before the cold weather sets in and by all accounts Canada is very good at cold weather! For the time being I will keep heading west and see what alternatives present themselves. Most travellers crossing Canada take a more southerly route passing into the USA several times enroute. My aim is to avoid cities where possible which the northern route does. I also want to taste if possible the wilderness and great open spaces of Canada. If it gets too wild I can always head south. The northern route isn’t much further north than the USA border anyway.

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Parc Du Bic, St Lawrence Bay, Quebec Provence

Turning up at Trois Pistoles for the ferry across St. Lawrence Bay I was fortunate to arrive 45 minutes before the last trip of the day.

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St. Lawrence Bay Ferry

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Beware Skidoos!

My journey followed routes 178 and 167 to Chibougamau then onto route 113. On this section there was a sign warning that there was 191km to the next filling station. Not a problem but an indication that it is time to start keeping an eye out for refuelling opportunities.

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What's At The Bottom Of Your Garden?

There was very little traffic on these roads and with long distances between any sign of habitation it began to feel like I was reaching the edge of the vast wilderness of northern Canada.

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Lakes And Trees, Typical Scenery In This Part Of Canada

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Nothing Behind....

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....And Nothing in Front

Taking a right turn onto route 397 took me onto a 70 mile section of dirt road, a well surfaced two lane highway. I was heading north of La Sarre to pick up route 652, another stretch of dirt road about 90 miles long. I was expecting another smoothish two lane highway but joined a very uneven stoney stretch that had to be negotiated in first and second gear. Assuming it would improve I pressed on until I came to a collapsed bridge. There were some ATV tracks running down the soft sandy side, through a small stream with a rocky bottom and out, up another soft sandy ramp. I rated my chances of getting through at 75% but if I did get stuck in the sandy sides I would probably have needed assistance to get out.

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Uneven Bridge On Quebec Provence Unpaved Road

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Time For Lunch

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Collapsed Bridge, Normetal, Quebec Provence

Taking the collapsed bridge as an indication that the road wasn’t in use and wasn’t going to improve I reluctantly turned round to take the more southerly paved route through Matheson to Cochrane and Ontario.

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Lakes And Trees..... Lakes And Trees

Posted by at 07:41 PM GMT
August 31, 2009 GMT

Daily mileage has increased now that I’m in semi wilderness. The aim is to cross Canada keeping to the most northerly roads available. The activities on offer are primarily, fishing, hunting and boating. Messing about in boats would be nice if the opportunity arose but I’m not keen on fishing and wouldn’t know one end of a gun from the other if it hadn’t been for Hollywood. The scenery, varied roads and virtually no traffic make for good biking though.

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Queens Trans Canada Highway 11 Northern Route On A Wet Cloudy Day

Heading west on route 101 to Matheson I then branched off to an unpaved road for 70 miles before joining route 11 to Cochrane. The unpaved road ran parallel to the main road, veering close enough to see it at times and was two lanes wide in good condition. No dramas and a steady 50mph was easy to maintain. I had thought of stopping to camp at Fushimi Lake Province Park. By the time I got to the campsite turnoff it had been raining for a while. A sign said it was 13 kilometres down another unpaved road. Not feeling like getting the bike caked in dirt by riding in the wet and having to back track down the same road in the morning I decided to press on hoping the rain would stop.

There were a number of camping options further on and if the rain persisted a few small towns that might offer accommodation. I eventually stopped at Hornepayne Bunkhouse on route 631 south towards White River. The bunkhouse had a closed sign displayed but I spoke to the owner who was there for the weekend. The property was being renovated and wasn’t due to be reopened for a couple of weeks but he let me stay providing I didn’t mind that the builders still had a few jobs to complete. At 8pm on a wet evening I was delighted to have a roof over my head!

The next morning I passed through White River whose claim to fame is that Winnie The Pooh came from there. A WW1 soldier, Captain Harry Colbourn bought a bear from a trapper when his troop train stopped at White River. He called it Winnie after his home town of Winnipeg and brought it to England as the troop mascot. Before being shipped to the WW1 action in France Harry gave Winnie to London Zoo. A. A. Milne’s son was enthralled when he saw Winnie in the zoo and this prompted the author to write the Winnie The Pooh stories.

I had taken the longer route to Thunder Bay dropping south from route 11 to route 17 for the scenic road along Lake Superior shore. Unfortunately heavy fog concealed the view for most of the way.

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Lake Superior In Mist

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Lake Superior In Yet More Mist

The day had started cold with light rain, then there was the fog but I arrived in Thunder Bay in 33o C heat wearing my waterproof oversuit on top of my biking clothes. Talk about melting!

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Thunder Bay, Ontario

Travelling west on Trans Canada Highway 17 I crossed from Ontario into Manitoba. Not too far from the border I came across a sign denoting the start of the Central Time Zone. In Manitoba the time zone changes on the 90o West Meridian. As I started the journey more or less on the Greenwich Prime Meridian I have now travelled quarter of the way round the world. Having completed 9683 miles in four months the world felt extraordinarily large as I stood straddling the meridian line.

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Central Time Zone, Longitude 90o West And Quarter Of The Way Round The World Marker

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Trees And Lakes

Not far after the time zone change another sign stated that I was halfway across Canada. Roadworks prevented me stopping for a photo.

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Beware Of Moose

Posted by at 08:33 PM GMT

I had intended to skirt round the north of Winnipeg to camp on the west side of Lake Winnipeg but more rain was forecast so I headed for Winnipeg and stayed in a hostel. Winnipeg was the largest town I had ridden through since starting the trip. The Ice Hockey Arena takes pride of place in the centre of town.

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Drying Tent And Tarp Before Arriving In Winnipeg

Checking the weather forecast, thunder and heavy rain were predicted for the following afternoon and for several days after that. The next morning was supposed to be cloudy but dry. I decided to make an unusually early start and hopefully escape the heavy rain. Awaking to more rain was disappointing but at least it wasn't particularly heavy. Whilst making breakfast someone had put the TV weather channel on. The forecaster was warning of imminent severe thunder storms for Winnipeg and helpfully pointing out that these kind of storms can and sometimes do turn into hurricanes. The weather was clearer to the north so I opted to try and outrun the storm.

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Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba

I had intermittent rain until mid afternoon but it then cleared into a hot dry evening as I travelled north from Winnipeg on routes 9, 68, 6 and 60 towards The Paz and Flin Flon.

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Manitoba, Lake And Fewer Trees

Being roughly in the middle of nowhere I decided to wild camp and turned down a track off route 60. Exploring an area of open ground I got stuck in deep gravel whilst trying to turn the bike round. Having taking the luggage off to reduce the weight I then found an old discarded wooden door. Digging the gravel out behind the bike I got the door positioned so that I could pull the rear wheel onto the door and was then able to ride back to terra firma. No major drama as the ground was level and I knew I would get the bike out one way or another. In hindsight, there was firmer, wider ground ahead. I should have kept going and turned on the firmer ground. All adds to the excitement though!

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If Your Stupid Enough To Get Stuck In The Gravel At Least Be Smart Enough To Do It Beside A Discarded Door!

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Manitoba Wild Camp After Being Stuck In Gravel

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Manitoba Lakes And Trees

Posted by at 09:39 PM GMT

I crossed the border into Saskatchewan at Flin Flon. This mining town was established by the Hudson Bay Company who asked the residents what they wanted the town to be called. When no reply came a message was sent to the residents stating that unless they responded and chose a name it would be called after the fictional character Flin Flon. This was probably said in jest but when the residents failed to come up with a name the Hudson Bay Company registered the town as Flin Flon.

West of Flin Flon I hit my northern most point so far in this journey across 'Northern' Canada. I had passed a sign marking the 54th Parallel which didn't mean much at the time but assumed it to be significant for somebody to go to the bother of erecting the sign. That evening I checked the World map to see just how far north I was compared to my more familiar Europe. Somewhere in Norway, Denmark, Iceland maybe? Er... no, I was exactly in line with Newcastle upon Tyne, my home town in England. So much for the intrepid adventure traveller!

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Nipekamew Sand Cliffs, Highway 165, Saskatchewan

From another wild camp at Nipekamew Sand Cliffs I headed for Meadow Lake Provincial Park not too far from Alberta. The route consisted mainly of unpaved roads with a couple of short paved sections. The unpaved roads varied from smooth where I could do a steady 50mph to rutted loose gravel and sand that made 15mph exciting. After a long tiring day I had to detour 40 miles for fuel before camping. I had travelled 420 miles without seeing a fuel station. I was a little concerned at how much the lower gear dirt roads would effect the fuel range. However on refilling there was 5 litres left so the bike could comfortably do 450 miles between refills. When I finally arrived at the campsite they actually sold fuel so the detour was unnecessary.

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Greig Lake Sunset, Meadow Lake Provincial Park

I spent a few relaxing days here and started thinking more about where to spend the winter. I had planned a loop North to Slave Lake but decided to head straight for Edmonton and start the search for a winter residence in Alberta.

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Meadow Lake Provincial Park Campsite

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Campsite Deer, Used To Being Hand Fed I Suspect As It Walked Right Up To Me

Whilst riding on a dirt road within the park I finally saw a moose. There were two, an adult and a younger one standing in the middle of the road. I couldn't get close enough for a photograph though. They were off into the trees as soon as I tried to approach.

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But They Are All Good At Hiding

I was on my way to the start of a walk where I saw plenty and varied ‘scat’ and footprints. One clear bear footprint dwarfed my hand. The wildlife itself stayed well out of sight though.

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There Be Bears Lurking In These Woods

Heading towards Alberta, the first 70 miles were on unpaved roads within Meadow Lake Provincial Park. The parks are big and Canada is VAST!

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Beware Skiddoos

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Lake And Trees

A couple of minor problems have cropped up. I suspect the dirt roads are the cause. The fuel tap in the Touratec second fuel tank developed a leak. Tightening the retaining screws has stopped the leak but the O ring is dislodged so I will need to drain the tank and remove the valve to effect a proper repair. The pump on the petrol stove has packed up which means I can’t cook anything. I had some spare parts for the stove but naturally, not the one I need. I will try and get the part in Edmonton, my next stop.

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Trees And Lake

Posted by at 10:18 PM GMT

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