Friday, 7 August 2015

Goodbye My Friends

Location: Skookumchuck, BC V0B, Canada
Before the end of this post Sophie and I will have said goodbye to two group of friends we have met along the way.  The first couple, Barbara and Matthias, we waved our fond farewells at the campground in Radium Hot Springs.  They headed back west towards Vancouver along the Kettle Valley Railroad as we planned our day at the hot springs.  With the waving done the four of us, Roz, Sophie, Stan and I headed along the 2km path to the hot springs we had passed the previous day as we raced down from the Continental Divide. The path was rugged in parts but before long we  were floating in the naturally heated, mineral water that was the reward to the long ride we had done the previous day.

As with all rest days, when we got back from the hot springs we had tasks to do so we headed into town to find free WiFi, groceries and white gas for our stove.  The hunt for WiFi is usually a tourist information centre, followed by a library and finally a cafĂ© if all else fails.  Unfortunately the library was closed but we did manage to find the visitors centre and placed ourselves in a back room to work on our blog, contact future warm showers hosts and do some route planning.  While Sophie sat with out little netbook I went in search of groceries and stove fuel.  The main supermarket was next door so groceries weren't a problem, however white gas proved much more difficult.  The last option I had was to visit the gas station that we knew to be not the most helpful from the previous night.  I found the metal tin of gas but was completely and utterly surprised at the ridiculous price but without any option I paid, left and went to find Sophie to head back up the hill to our tent.

The next morning we headed out early with our destination planned as the delightfully named Skookumchuck.  Our first break of the day was at Invermere where we found one of the best bakeries we have been to.  The Invermere Bakery was exactly what we wanted from our first rest stop.  Their baked goods were incredibly tasty and cheap, and their coffee was hot and caffeinated.  We bought a few items from the day old bin and aimed for the back roads down past Fairmont Hot Springs.  As we left Invermere the wind started and before long we were battling a fairly fierce headwind.  After a long hard slog back to the main highway the four of us decided to have our lunch outside of a gas station.  With the winds getting stronger, the temperature dropping and huge, dark clouds rolling in Roz commented that it'd be nice for the storm to hit while we had lunch so that the winds would have died down and the cycling would be more fun.  Wish granted.  As we ate the heavens opened and the roads turned to rivers.  As we ate our granola bars for pudding we watched as the clouds dispersed and the wind vanished. Perfect timing.

This respite didn't last for too long and before long we were battling both the wind and the rain so Sophie and I ducked into another gas station for cover.  When we decided it wasn't going to change we headed out one last time to Skookumchuck.  Thankfully the weather turned more enjoyable as we rolled into the campsite and we were able to set the tents up in the dry. It was nice to get to the campground early since this would be the last night the four of us would spend together but before too long we were once again getting ready for the early start in the morning and preparing for bed.

The campground also had a motel attached and one of the rooms was occupied by Darwin and Penni.  They were two motorcyclists that were having a week long ride around the area before heading back home to near Calgary.  They were great to talk to in the morning and were wracking their brains to think of a way we could get across the Prairies quicker.  They too described that whole stretch of Canada as a boring, flat area of nothingness.  Unable to figure out a solution we asked them to take a photo of the four of us and we all said our goodbyes.  Since Sophie and I rode faster than Roz and Stan we weren't sure if we'd meet again as we headed to Fernie as they were planning on camping at Jaffray.

The riding was nice along the back roads and we stopped for break at Fort Steele.  Fort Steele is a heritage town from the 1890s.  Staff were in fancy dress and Union Jacks were flying.  Inside we found cinnamon buns and hot coffee and as Sophie and I were eating in walk Stan and Roz.  After the brief stop we again say our goodbyes and carry on.  Same thing happens at Jaffray but this time Stan and Roz look for a place to camp as we head further on towards Fernie.  The last stretch to Fernie was pretty but the roads were really busy and we were just looking forward to arriving.  On the outskirts of town we spot the sign to the provincial camp ground but try our luck in town.

We do spot some cycle tourists who are doing the Great Divide cycle tour.  This is the world's longest off-road mountain bike route from Banff to Mexico; it's pretty hard core compared to what were are doing.  They are planning to head to the campground after pizza but we are hopeful of kind locals to take us in (it's Sophie's birthday tomorrow after all), but as a plan B set up a meet at the provincial campground if all else fails.  All else did fail, there was one moment when we thought a kind local would take us in but that never happened so we headed to meet the couple from New Zealand, Hamish and Amy.

We ended up in the overflow sites which was a gravel pit with two picnic tables.  The ranger had commented that these two tables represented two separate sites and each site was $29, but as we were cyclists there was a discount and since we were sharing it would only be $24.  This seemed pretty steep especially if you saw the state of the area that we were told to set the tents up in, but this was a misunderstanding on our parts and it was $12 for each pitch for cyclists but since we were going to share it took it down to $6 a couple; a positive end to the day.

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