Monday, 13 July 2015

The Bright Lights of Watson Lake

Location: Watson Lake, YT Y0A, Canada
It's always a good idea to have an aim while touring and since leaving Terrace our goal was Watson Lake. It would be an emotional time because it would see the end of "Team Baby Bunnies" but it would also mark Soph's and my northern most point, a landmark moment. But we still needed to get to our next campground, Boya Lake, before we were in striking distance of Watson Lake.

We headed out of Dease Lake along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Being on the road for less than 30 minutes we arrived at the site of the road accident that had closed the road the day before. Skid marks, torn up pavement and discarded latex gloves were the only reminders of the tragedy that had befallen this stretch of road. Moments later Justin spotted a fox and out the corner of his eye also noticed a black fox but couldn't be sure. None of us had heard of a black fox but could it have been a wolverine? Happy that Justin had seen a wolverine we carried on further and further north.  We also happened on a Rabid Grizzly, thankfully it was just a rest stop and not the bear kind. 

Doing longer days and a lot of days back to back takes it toll mentally and physically and as we headed towards Boya Lake we were all feeling fatigued from all the riding. To break up the repetitive riding Justin set us riddles such as:

  • A car pulls in front of a hotel, a woman screams and a man loses all his money. What's happening?
  • A man is dead in a field with a bag, how did he die?
  • Jack and Jill are lying on the floor dead. They are surrounded by water and glass. What went down?
  • There is a room with a closed door. In the room is a light bulb. Outside the room there are three switches. One of the switches turns on the light. With only opening the door once and going in, how can you tell which switch turns on the light?
These helped us to take our minds off the negative emotions we might have been feeling and helped us to focus on something different; it was a really nice touch. 

As our afternoon break we decided to check out food at Jade City. We had it described as a tourist trap but none the less a place we should stop at as we are passing through. After a bit of confusion regarding where to get food we headed to the cafe. The waitress was a happy soul and showed us to our places. The prices, which we were expecting to be high, were really reasonable but since it was just a snack time Sophie and I shared a sandwich, while Melissa ordered the soup and Justin a loaf of freshly baked white bread. Our food came and Sophie and I were surprised to see two plates, half a sandwich on each and both with a healthy serving of fries. Although all eyes were on Justin's bread, he offered around a taste and I for one was experiencing the dreaded food envy. We order ice cream and the waitress, who we found out was called Randy, had a very heavy hand when it came to portion control and we all were extremely satisfied with our stop. About 500 metres outside Jade City I had a blow out on my rear tyre.  Checking it over we all figured that it was now a dead tyre, thankfully we had a spare folding tyre as a replacement but it was frustrating to say the least.

Soon after we met two separate groups of cycle tourists. The first were two guys from Alaska heading to Boise, Idaho. They had a homemade trailer with a dog in the back and the first guy was wearing flip flops, they were far from your usual cycle tourists but they were loving it. They had loads of enthusiasm and were so positive about their adventure. The second group were a man and wife couple from Birmingham, UK. They had the same make bike as us, Thorn, but had a different model. We exchanged stories and after mocking the colour of our bikes they told us they were heading to a wedding on Vancouver Island. I always have mixed feelings when meeting other cycle tourists. My first reaction is generally really positive "Woo other cycle tourists!!" My second reaction is normally much more sarcastic "oh, other cycle tourists". I want mine and Soph's trip to be special and unique, which I know is ludicrous since we did research about other peoples routes and journeys, and seeing other cycle tourists just highlights to me that what we are doing isn't this wild, wacky adventure. It's just a thing that people do.

After a long day in the saddle we finally arrived at Boya lake. After setting up the tents we all took a dive in the crystal clear lake. The water was cold but our bodies quickly adjusted and we were all able to enjoy a few minutes faffing around in the water before heading back for food and sleep. The next morning we decided against an early morning swim as the weather wasn't great so we settled into our relatively short day over the border into the Yukon and our exciting destination of Watson Lake. We were so excited about the town at the end of our long northern journey. We talked about splitting a motel room (maybe it'll have a hot tub?) and we all wanted pizza as our treat. We just needed to get past our next bear sighting, which actually was the most impressive, and we'd be there. This bear encounter was pretty cool, it wandered out just in front of Justin and I so that we both had to slam on our brakes. After watching him for a while he noticed us but carried on his journey down the road. A couple of blasts on the air horn just seemed to pass the bear by and still he carried on. He looked at us again and stopped. It wasn't scary but it was different to the other bears. We both started talking to the bear and clapping. This seemed to register with the bear and he very slowly went back into the bush, well he started to but stopped to check us out again. Then a quick back scratch and he was gone. It was cool because he just didn't seem to care about us. Everybody was just going about their business. And our business was the bright lights of Watson Lake.

The disappointment of Watson Lake was very upsetting. There was no pizza (there were frozen pizzas reheated for $25, therefore no pizza). The rather poor excuses for motel rooms were a similar vein to the pizza, $130 for a dark, smelly, small room. We settled for a burger at a gas station watching the wind howl and the rain pour trying to figure out a place to set up camp. After dinner we headed to the supermarket for desert and ate on the sidewalk. It was the first time I really noticed that I lacked a place I call home.

Long story short (I know too late right) we found a camp site round the back of a gas station and had a frustrating rest day wrestling with super slow WiFi and expensive groceries. As Team Baby Bunnies had our last supper together: barbecued sausages with courgettes, onions and salad and prepared to say our goodbyes in the morning. Watson Lake had not been what we wanted but we enjoyed the time with Justin and Melissa immensely and both Sophie and I commented that the entire section from Terrace to Watson Lake was made richer with their presence.

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