Ecuador

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The border crossing into Ecuador from Colombia was a breeze. We stopped on the Colombian side to get our passports stamped out and I handed in the import permit for the bike. Five minutes later we were on our way to Ecuador, I prepared for the normal onslaught of “helpers” but there were none to be seen. After parking the bike we had our passports stamped at immigration and I imported the bike which only took half an hour. The girl in the customs office never asked for any photocopies either, instead she took photos of my documents with a digital camera, Ecuador was making a good impression right away. The whole border crossing procedure for both sides was all completed within an hour, a breath of fresh air after Central America.

Ecuador’s landscape is as diverse as Colombia’s except the Ecuador is smaller so the changes in scenery seem to happen more quickly and in addition Ecuador has a lot of volcanoes. From the point where we crossed the border into Ecuador we traveled south through Ibarra and bypassed Quito heading straight for the Pacific coast and a town called Puerto Lopez. It took us three days to get there, rode through the mountains to new heights of 4000m where I had to use my heated grips again for the first time since the USA in November. We had heard that there is an island close to Puerto Lopez called Isla de la Plata which hosts multiple species of bird wildlife and Franziska thought it would be nice to visit for some photography so that was basically our main reason for visiting Puerto Lopez. The other reason was that we were looking for somewhere to burn time before returning to Quito to meet up with my cousin Asa who was coincidently in town on business from London but wouldn’t be available to meet for another few days due to work.

Puerto Lopez turned out to be a pretty dirty and dusty pseudo tourist town. It became blatantly obvious after a few days of riding through Ecuador that they have a problem with people littering everywhere. Motorways as well as back roads, large cities and small towns are dotted with signage saying don’t litter or don’t throw your rubbish out of the car window. Fair play to the government for trying to tackle the problem but it still exists as we found out multiple times when riding behind a car and rubbish started flying out of the window and bouncing along the road. Some made the effort to pack it all in one large bag before throwing it out which made it more of a hazard for a motorbike. It just strikes me as odd that it suddenly becomes a problem when you cross the border into Ecuador. We never saw any carry on like that in Colombia or signs telling motorists not to litter.

Anyway back to Isla de la Plata, it was interesting but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit it unless you’re passing through Puerto Lopez. It is sold as a bird paradise on the tourist leaflets and states that the Albatross nests there. We found out later that this statement is technically true, the Albatross does nest there, two couples nest there during some months in the year but when they do the island is closed to visitors. So obviously we didn’t see any but we did see the island’s two other bird species the frigate bird and the blue footed booby.

As well as being dusty and dirty Puerto Lopez was also boiling hot with a lot of mosquitos, it was 36 degrees Celsius as far as I remember and I had 36 mosquito bites to go with it. We stuck it for a couple of days and then started heading back inland towards the mountains. Next on the agenda before visiting Quito was a visit to the tallest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi. The nearest town to Cotopaxi is Machachi so we rode there and searched for accommodation, Machachi is definitely not on any of the tourist trails so hotels and hostels are at a minimum. We struck out with a bargain room at what seemed to be a funeral parlor hotel combination. The downstairs was open plan with rows seating for people to come and take part in ceremonies while the upstairs had around 10 hotel rooms for mourners who had to travel long distances to get there. Probably two of the best night’s sleep we’d had in long time. When we decided to visit Cotopaxi we were disappointed to be turned away at the park entrance the ranger told us that motorbikes are not allowed into the park because they bother the birds. I wouldn’t mind but they allow cars in no problem, I suppose somewhere there is a bureaucrat or environmental activist that really doesn’t like motorbikes. This was the first national park on our trip that we have been denied entry into in any country. It was also a little frustrating as we had driven on unpaved roads for an hour just to get to the entrance.

 

Another odd difference that exists between Ecuador and Colombia is the coffee. In Colombia the coffee is great, when you order a black coffee there you get a brewed cup of the local crop. When you order a coffee in Ecuador they bring you a cup of hot water and a jar of Nescafe! This happened to me on several occasions but to be fair never in Quito it was always in smaller towns around the country. But still, you have some of the best coffee in the world growing just north of the border and you serve Nescafe?

After the Cotopaxi attempt we set our sights on Quito to meet with Asa. For the next 5 days we explored Quito together, ate well, drank well, went to a local football game, and visited the equator line tourist attraction called Intinan Solar Museum. There is a huge monument marking the equator which you can also visit but the funny thing is that it isn’t actually on the equator. After GPS was invented they realised they had missed the mark by 200m to the south so the Intinan Solar Museum is now able to boast having the “real” equator line running through it. They run a little tour explaining a bit about the native Indian tribes of the area and facts about the equator. We learned how the natives had a custom of making shrunken human heads and wearing them as status symbols. Usually the victims were enemies defeated in battle, they would promptly have their head removed then the skull removed from the head leaving only the skin and scalp this would then be shrunk by a process of steaming and later filling it with hot stones. Where did they come up with this idea?

Quito is quite a nice city to visit it seemed less hectic than other large cities that we’ve been to and it has a very international collection of restaurants to choose from. A nice break from the Latin America standard of a plate consisting of white rice, a small portion of salad, and a piece of chicken or beef. In fact we went to the same Indian restaurant three out of the five nights we were there because we enjoyed it so much, it was so nice to taste some spices and flavor in our food again.

We left Quito with another biker, Greg from Minnesota. The last time we met was in Bogota and before that Costa Rica and El Salvador. He had caught up with us due to our detour out to the coast and waiting to meet up with Asa. As he has the same general direction as us we decided to ride together for a while. Next stop was the town of Banos which was nothing too exciting. It is one of those tourist towns which offers mountain biking tours and rafting tours to backpackers looking for the extreme experience. All good if you’re just visiting Ecuador but as we’ve been through Central America and Colombia already we have seen it all before. San Gil in Colombia and La Fortuna in Costa Rica come to mind. One novelty that we found interesting was something labelled the world’s scariest swing or something to that effect. Someone hung a swing from a tree at the top of a mountain about 2000m high and you can swing in it for a dollar. The view is supposed to be amazing but we wouldn’t know because the day we visited it the whole place was surrounded by a cloud.

Banos was really just a stopover on the way to our real next destination Chimborazu which is a dormant volcano and the highest point on the planet. That’s right the highest point is not actually Mt Everest if you want to stand at the closest point on Earth to space it is in Ecuador at Chimborazu. The reason is that the Earth is not a perfect sphere and it bulges in the middle around the equator, the radius of the Earth measured from the core at the equator is actually around 21km thicker than the radius at the poles. Taking that into account the summit of Chimborazu is around 2.5 kilometres closer to space than Mt Everest. So obviously we had to go there.

We rode into the carpark at Chimborazu at 4300m and were told yet again that motorbikes are not allowed to go further into the park because they bother the wildlife. Who came up with this rule? Meanwhile cars and pick-up trucks are driving up and down the road we are not allowed drive on up to the mountain lodge at 4800m which we had hoped to get to. So we settled for 4300m, it was pretty cold and the peak was obscured by cloud except for about five minutes when the wind seemed to clear an opening. When it did we ran for a good spot to take a picture which was a bad idea because we were at 4300m and the air was thin. It took about ten minutes to catch our breath again after a ten second run.

Photographic Impressions of Ecuador

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With Chimborazu ticked off the list we set our sights on Peru and began riding south west towards the lower coastal plains of Ecuador. Within three hours we descended from 4300m to 150m and the temperature increased from around 8 degrees Celsius to 30-35 degrees. The landscape at lower altitudes near to the coast is packed with banana plantations and looks very similar to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica and Panama. We rested for two nights in two separate towns on our way to the border with Peru. On the second night we stayed in a small mountain town called Celica, I only mention it because of our experience trying to leave Celica the next day was let’s say interesting. We checked into a cheap hotel and when we asked about parking for the motorbikes the owner brought us to a gated car park across the street. She said it didn’t belong to the hotel but we could park there and it would be included in the price that she would pay the owner. Everything looked fine so we went ahead and booked the room and went to eat some food, rice, a bit of salad, and piece of meat of course.

The next morning when we were packing the bikes an old lady approached us in the carpark and asked us for money for parking the bikes there. We explained that we were with the hotel and it was included in the price. Actually Greg said that to her because his Spanish is better but the strange thing is she just ignored him. She asked again for the money, and again and again and again. Greg told her she just has to speak with the hotel (5 metres away) and they will clear up everything. She walked off and paced around mumbling and then continued to ask for the money again. We figured out that she is the cleaning lady and we reckoned that the owner had asked her to collect money from the people that own the motorbikes before they leave not knowing that we were staying in the hotel. No matter what we said she would not believe us, at one point she walked outside the gate and stood there for a minute or two (now only 3 metres away from entering the hotel entrance). I could see her the whole time, then when she walked back in she said she had been over to the hotel and they said that we had to pay which was a total lie. Don’t worry we are quite capable of distinguishing crazy from old and frail and this lady was definitely the former. Our continued refusal to pay her and her refusal to believe us and talk with the hotel led her to move aside momentarily and have a conversation with herself out loud kind of like Golem in lord of the rings. Luckily for us she did this conversation Golem style because we heard her say “Yes I’m going to close the gates and lock them in”. As soon as we heard that Greg who was almost ready started the bike and rode over to the entrance and stopped in it then I followed and we both rode outside. We rode off to the tune of her threatening to call the police on us. What a lovely start to the day.

The border to Peru was only an hour away, we rode through some fantastic scenery with winding roads. It was quite common to turn a corner and one lane of the road would be covered by debris from a landslide caused by heavy rain or there would be an animal standing right there chewing on something then dart off at the sight of us. We had chosen an off the beaten track border crossing in the mountains to avoid the crowds and the heat of the coast.

The last thing we did before leaving Ecuador was to get a full tank of cheap fuel, regular cost around 40 US cent a litre (or $1.50 a gallon) probably the cheapest fuel we have had on the whole trip. The border crossing was almost as easy as the Colombia Ecuador crossing the only thing that delayed us was that the official entering our data into the computer on the Peruvian side was super slow at it. He was an older colleague of two, the younger one was standing behind him and apologising to us through facial expressions every now and then because the process was taking so long. We also had to buy insurance for Peru which cost 35USD for one month as opposed to 8USD for a car. That is the most we have paid for insurance for one month on the whole trip. In under two hours we were out of Ecuador and in Peru. We had been warned by many Colombian riders that Peruvian drivers are the worst in South America, we took these warnings with a pinch of salt but didn’t ignore them so we rode on cautiously towards the low plains and about 1000km of hot sandy desert ahead of us.

Right now we’re in the town of Huaraz in Peru and the plan is to ride south through Lima towards Nazca, then inland to Cusco to visit some Inca ruins and after that onwards to Bolivia. Unfortunately yesterday when we were riding off road my rear shock packed in and all of the shock oil leaked out. This is a direct result of the “service” done to the rear shock absorber back in Guatemala City. Normally the nitrogen should be recharged in the shock absorber with a special tool but the service agent in Guatemala didn’t have the right tool so he drilled a hole in the pressure chamber and installed a Schrader valve which is a valve like the ones found on a car tyre for pumping it up. Ever since this bodge job which I was never consulted over the pressure chamber has leaked the pressurized gas back out over th period of a few days to a week. So yesterday when we were riding on unpaved roads the shock absorber oil found a way out somehow and I’m presuming it had something to do with there not being enough pressure in the chamber to keep it inside the shock. We were 50km from paved roads when it happened so I had to ride extremely slowly to try not to damage the suspension anymore by bottoming it out. I have to say though I am impressed with how well the bike still performs just relying on the spring alone. With two of us on the bike and all of our luggage we were still able to ride another 150km without much trouble although slower and more cautious of speed bumps. Next stop is Lima where I’ll search for someone to fix it…. Let’s see what happens.

 

Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico

Fuer die deutsche Version bitte hier klicken.

 

 

It was a short ride up to the town of Hurricane in Utah from Las Vegas. I for one was excited to enter the mainly Mormon state, wondering if I would notice any major differences. What we found out is, the people are friendly, towns are clean and roads are in good condition nothing supernatural about Utah. In fact it had very impressive landscape for a European to see. Up until now aside from the desert area in California just before Nevada all of the various types of landscape we have seen are similar to different parts of Europe. But when you get to Utah you’ve left the familiar and entered something completely new. It would be like driving to the Middle East and visiting countries like Jordan, that’s how I imagine it anyway. Hurricane was our springboard into Zion National Park, this is a must see park if you’re ever in the region check out the pictures for a better idea. Once out on the other side of the park we had to decide whether or not to drive north to Bryce Canyon or turn south towards the Grand Canyon. Due to the fact that Bryce would be a significant gain in altitude for us and temperatures there had recently been in the 5 to -5 degrees Celsius range we opted to skip it and instead hopefully visit it sometime in the future.

We spent the night in Kanab southern Utah and the next day drove to the Grand Canyon through the worst gusting winds we have encountered on the trip as of yet. Weather was again definitely beginning to play a role in our decisions for where we would head to next. We had failed to notice during our planning that northern Arizona and New Mexico are both quite high in elevation. It’s like a giant plateau averaging out at about 1800m between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque New Mexico which is where we are now. As a comparison when we were driving through the Canadian Rockies via Jasper the highest elevation that the road reached was only about 900 metres. So everyone knows the higher you go the colder it gets and you feel it on the bike. Therefore we opted for the fastest route to Albuquerque from Flagstaff to visit Elise an old friend of mine who we promised to stop by and say hello to when we are in the area.

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It has now been roughly a week and a half since we arrived. We spent the first night in Albuquerque with Bronson and Karl, two lovely people my cousin Asa put us in touch with. But otherwise we’ve spent a lot of time with Elise, her husband Chris, and baby Iris who is 6 months old. I used the time to place some orders online for bike parts and tyres which were then shipped to Elise’s address. I ordered a new front sprocket, front and rear brake pads, a new thermo switch, new front and rear tyres (MEFO Super Explorers) and, heated grips. I didn’t install the sprocket or brake pads as the current ones aren’t worn out yet but I thought it’s better to order them now than try to get them in Central America. Installed the heated grips, changed the oil, changed the o-ring on the gear selector sensor which had been seeping oil for the past 2000km but not enough to warrant a job of its own, and most proudly I changed my first front tyre by hand. It was some job for me though because I chose a tyre with an extra heavy duty side wall, it was not very flexible and quite difficult to get onto the rim. Hopefully this new tyre will last until South America, I haven’t changed the rear one yet because it’s not worn out yet. We’ll carry the new rear one for another 2000km or so before mounting it.

We have been contemplating leaving our camping gear here in Albuquerque. We noticed that in the USA that it costs 25-30 dollars a night for a tent spot in a camp ground when it costs 30-40 dollars for a Motel room and Motel rooms are far more abundant. Not only that but when I say it costs 25-30 dollars for a tent spot that is only when you’re lucky enough to actually find a “campground” that allows tents. Most campgrounds say no tents, RVs (massive campervans) only. It’s a little frustrating that these RV parks call themselves campgrounds online because when you type in a search you get a lot of hits for campgrounds but fact is most won’t allow tents. You can of course camp with your tent in National Parks but most of the time we haven’t been in or near one when we’re looking for somewhere to bed down. This scenario got us thinking and I checked with some others who have travelled through central and south America by motorbike whether they used their camping gear or not. The feedback was unanimous in saying don’t bring it, it’s not necessary. This would work out great for the ride and handling of the bike, dropping 10kg and two cumbersome bags from the side panniers can only be a good thing. Anyway the decision hasn’t been made yet, we’ll see.

Albuquerque is the home of the TV show Breaking Bad and we arrived on the tail end of a huge fan fest. I have to admit I’ve never watched the series but it seems everybody else on the planet has, Elise and Chris used to live just around the corner from the main character Walter White’s house (at least the house where he was supposed to live) so one day we went over and chatted with the owner (see pics). When we arrived Netflix were filming a documentary outside, she told us people come every day and sometimes try to throw pizzas on her roof but all in all she seemed to like the attention.

We have been on several hikes around Albuquerque including one to Tent Rock National Monument about an hour north of the city. Also as we are in New Mexico which is home to the development of the first nuclear bomb there is a museum of Nuclear Science in Albuquerque which was worth the visit. It was pretty strange to walk around it and view all of the various types of nuclear ordinance which has been developed over the years. The Trinity Site which is where the first nuclear detonation took place is about 3 hours south of Albuquerque but its only open to visitors once a year in April.

Next on the schedule is Mexico, we haven’t made our mind up yet where to enter and whether to travel down the east or the west coast. Sometime over the next two weeks we should be crossing the border, if east then through Texas, if west the San Diego or Yuma. Whichever way the wind blows.

California

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Pictures at the end…

We’re camping tonight just at the edge of Death Valley, the weather is mild enough to sit outside after dark and use the time to catch up on the blog. That’s all there is to do here actually other than sit and listen to distant camper’s conversations. Needless to say there is no WiFi or phone signal here but it hasn’t stopped the elderly woman a few tents over from searching for her ‘Android’  she is sure she brought it into the tent but can’t find it, the husband is helping now I’m sure they’ll find it soon. This is nothing compared to the drama going on over at the tent spot to the left. From the darkness I’ve listened to a five minute moan from the husband to the wife about how he can’t wait to get back to civilization away from this rubbish food and finally order a good quality hotdog. He went into a very detailed description of the perfect hotdog and now I feel hungry too. Ok, back to motorbike travel stuff.

We drove through a section of Death Valley today, officially now we’re out of it as far as the map is concerned but the scenery and environment is exactly the same. Speaking of the scenery, it is the most impressive scenery I’ve seen on the trip so far. It might have something to do with the fact that I have never been in a desert before but still it is absolutely breathtaking. It’s pretty cool to think that right now I’m sitting on my fold out camping chair on the bottom of an ancient ocean writing this.

It’s not a standard sand covered desert but here and there you can see huge dunes in the distance. They’re often labeled recreation areas, which are areas where people can bring their quad bikes or dune buggies and rip around for a small fee. After passing a few we decided to turn off the main road and check out one of these areas. We had to drive offroad for a few miles to reach the dunes but weren’t disappointed when we got there. They were an impressive sight, so impressive that I didn’t notice the road under us had gradually turned into deeper sand and the bike did what all overloaded adventure bikes at slow speeds in sand do, it dug in and flopped on its side. No injuries or damage as we were driving quite slowly, it was just an inconvenience. Heavy lifting in Death Valley heat is not the ideal pastime either but luckily two guys came our way from different directions who had seen me drop the bike, one was in a truck and the other on a quad. We had it up in no time and the two of us were on the way again. As we drove back out to join the main road I kind of felt like I’d been spanked by the dunes for being over ambitious as I watched them stare me down and mock me through my rear view mirror.

It is more or less two weeks ago that we were in Oregon visiting the Spruce Goose at Evergreen Aviation Centre. The day after that we joined the 101 coastal highway in Oregon and continued our trip south towards California. The Oregon coastline reminded me a lot of the coastline of the West of Ireland from the Dingle peninsula southwards. In fact to best describe the drive along the Pacific coastal highway in the USA to Europeans I would say imagine driving on a road hugging the coast starting on the west coast of Ireland in Dingle and driving continuously south around to Cork then jump over to Northern France and keep going all the way along the coast until the Algarve in Portugal. Oregon has a section of dunes, just like the ones you see in Bordeaux, the area of California known as Big Sur is extremely similar to parts of Portugal especially the lower part of the country in the Aljezur area.

All that is just to give an idea of what it’s like to ride the 101 and 1 in general. The fact is that Europe doesn’t have a road hugging the coast for the distance that the Pacific highway does so to ride it was an experience we’ll never forget. Also in keeping with our experiences up to now we met some great people along the way too.

About an hour into our day we randomly decided to stop in Bandon Oregon and walk down to the harbor to check it out. We ended up talking to Ray and his friend Rich along with Ray’s son and brother who were crab fishing from one of the jetties, they ended up inviting us to eat their catch with them later that evening so we checked into the same guesthouse and took them up on their offer. It’s one of the perks of not having to stick to a set schedule. Later that evening Ray showed us how to dismantle a crab, pointing out what to eat and what not to eat. It was interesting but I found out I don’t really like to eat crab, Franziska however couldn’t be dragged away from the crab feast.

We burnt rubber the next day riding away from a rainstorm and soon enough we entered California. Things changed almost immediately, most noticeably a sales tax was being added to everything but more importantly the climate changed, warm and dry… finally!

Over the next days we rode through various towns and scenic routes, one of which was the Avenue of the Giants where we saw some Redwoods up close which were quite impressive. We opted to leave the coastal highway and head inland just before San Francisco to drive through the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions where most of California’s wine production takes place. When we arrived in San Fransico we looked up Jeff who we had met in Ontario months before. We ended up staying with him, his wife Tracy, and daughter Sam for two nights. During breakfast on the first morning we met Tracy’s mother who told me how much she liked to watch the Inspector Morse series but was disappointed now because she had watched them all. I told her to check out Inspector Wexford of Ruth Rendell Mysteries and David Jason in A Touch of Frost. The next day she had a spring in her step and told me that she’d downloaded the entire Ruth Rendell series last night and couldn’t wait to get stuck into it.

We did the tourist thing in San Francisco including meeting Stefan a friend of mine for dinner in Chinatown. On our departure day Jeff joined us for a ride up to Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Boulevard in the hills west of San Jose which is a hot spot for Californian bikers. People approached us asking how the hell we found it, we just told them “the best way”, by asking a local. A quick detour through Silicon Valley and we spent the night in Santa Cruz.

Next we headed down highway 1 again right along the coast through Big Sur, epic scenery and curving roads ensued for the rest of that day until we stopped to find a campsite. Like always we could have stopped anywhere but we ended up at a restaurant where I got talking to an interesting guy called Geary who teaches people how to perform Shiatsu massage on Horses. He joined us for dinner and we talked about non horse related subjects. After we finished he said we could stay at his ranch if we wanted but that it was about 10 miles inland and off-road to get there (he was on a Suzuki V-Strom which was parked outside). Due to the fact it was late and the sun was setting I opted out of the 10 mile drive as it would have been dark soon and I didn’t know the road. As a conciliation Geary showed us a nice spot to camp around the corner which was only about one mile off-road inland, we followed him and got our tent up just in time before darkness set in. Although the site was good and free! It was hard to get any sleep mainly because of the wind, all night it felt like there were four guys on each corner of the tent shaking it in unison. But also because when we unpacked the camping gear we found one of the sleeping bags was soaking wet. We had no idea how this happened but we were left with one sleeping bag that night. All I had was my inflatable pillow, I blew it up and lay down, 30 seconds later my head was touching the ground. My pillow had a hole it. No pillow now either, typical. Took me 4 days to find a replacement.

Fast forward to Los Angeles. Los Angeles traffic is suicidal, 40% of people are either texting or talking on their phone at the same time as driving. That’s not an exaggeration. At one stage I had to pull over on the highway and stop to let the engine cool down because it was overheating in 30 degrees Celsius heat in a traffic jam caused by a crash and probably by somebody not paying attention to what they were doing. After driving roughly 15,000km so far through North America I can safely say that LA drivers pay the least attention to what’s going on around them. Other than that we enjoyed LA, we stayed one night in Santa Monica, checked out the beaches and Hollywood before getting the hell out of there and riding for the desert.

Edit

Obviously I couldn’t upload this out in the desert because I had no connection but I can now because we’re in Las Vegas! We’ve decided to take a few days “off” and treat ourselves to a nice hotel room. We rode here via the Old Spanish Trail and visited the China Ranch along the way.

Next: We’ll be heading East / North East. We’d like to visit it Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley before ending up in Albuquerque New Mexico. Not sure in what order we’ll do them but we’ll figure it out along the way.

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Leaving the China Ranch and heading back to the Old Spanish Trail

Click to enlarge

Farming in Northern Alberta

For English scroll halfway down and you’ll find the pictures at the end.

German by Franziska

Farmleben in Nord Alberta:

Nun sind wir schon seit 2 1/2 Wochen bei Brad auf der Farm in Peace River und die Zeit vergeht wie im Fluge.

Das Farmleben ist sehr interessant und wir verleben eine schöne Zeit mit Ken, Judy, Curtis, Brad, Jessica and Florine. Unsere Unterkunft für die Zeit hier ist ein abgelegenes Gästehaus mit Blick auf den Peace River.
Jessica, die für die Pferde zuständig ist, hat mir alle 14 vorgestellt und mit Curtis fuhr ich einen alten “International 560 Traktor” auf das Feld der Bisons um sie mit Getreide und Heu zu versorgen – gewaltige Tiere, die wenn sie mit den Hörnern zusammenstoßen, um um den besten Futterplatz zu kämpfen, ganz schön furchteinflößend sein können ( es sind fast 100 Bisons auf der Weide ). Florine aus Frankreich lebt und arbeitet für 4 Monate auf der Farm. Sie absolviert zu Hause ein Landwirtschaftsstudium. Meistens helfe ich Brads Mutter bei allabendlichen Dinnervorbereitungen  ( für 7-9 Personen ) und beim Ausprobieren neuer Rezepte. Besonders gut kamen deutscher Apfelstrudel, Kartoffelpuffer und Pfannkuchentorte ( mit Bolognesesauce ) an. Neil hilft Brad beim Verladen und Transport der ca. 2000 Heuballen, die auf einem Feld, das 1 Fahrstunde entfernt liegt, verteilt sind. Außerdem reparierterte er das ein oder andere Teil auf der Farm ( z. B. defektes Autoschloss, Wasserhahn, Fernseher..).

Eine Bootsfahrt die ist lustig…:

Wir gingen auch auf große Kanu/Kajakfahrt auf dem Peace River, bei der auch Pete, ein Freund von Brad samt Hund Foxy von der Partie waren. Curtis brachte uns gegen Mittag mit dem Pickup Truck und den Booten zur Ablegestelle – was wir zu dem Zeitpunkt noch nicht wussten: die Fahrt würde 14 Stunden (ca.80 km) dauern – puuh!! Zelt ( wir wollten einmal entlang des Flusses übernachten ) Proviant etc. wurden verladen und los ging’s.. Es war eine  sehr friedliche Stimmung auf dem Fluss  und wir trafen während der gesamten Zeit nur ein einziges Jetboot auf dem Wasser. Man hört nur das Schreien der Wildgänse, Kraniche und immer mal wieder ein Platschen – wenn uns ein Biber entdeckt hatte. Foxy ließen wir manchmal an Land ein wenig laufen, während wir weiterpaddelten und sie scheuchte für uns einen Biber aus seinem Bau, der dann nah an unser Kanu heranschwamm und wir ein Foto schießen konnten. Bei Abendeinbruch bauten wir unsere Zelte auf einem netten Plätzchen auf, machten ein Lagerfeuer und brutzelten Würstchen am Stock über dem Lagerfeuer.
Am nächsten Tag ging es dann weiter und wir sahen einige Kojoten am Flussufer ( leider keinen Wolf, die hier auch öfter gesehen werden ). Immer wieder hofften wir einen Elch ( engl. Moose ) zu entdecken, doch wir bekamen nur weidende kKühe zu sehen.. Aber dann, als wir fast am Ziel unseres Ausfluges waren, sahen wir in der Ferne einen großen schwarzen Punkt am Ufer stehen ( “wieder nur Kühe” dachte ich mir ) und Pete der schon näher dran war, rief zu uns herüber: “MOOSE!!!”  Nach und nach sahen wir dann, dass es insgesamt 3 Elche waren: eine ganze Familie 🙂 was für ein Glück wir hatten! Wir genoßen den Anblick der Tiere, sie entdeckten uns erst viel später und trabten dann mit lautem Getrappel in den Wald zurück. Abends gegen 20:00 Uhr  kamen wir dann endlich an und fielen etwas später völlig erschöpft ins Bett.

English by Neil

It’s now near to three week  that we’ve been staying at Wine Glass Ranch in Northern Alberta. I don’t think either of us will ever forget the Albertan farming experience we’ve had here with Judy, Ken, Brad, Curtis, Jessica, and Florine. For me personally it was great to try out all of the various pieces of farm equipment that growing up in and around cities I’ve never had access to before or just having the freedom of acres of land around to go off road on using the motorbike or a quad bike. But the highlight of the three weeks so far has to have been our canoe trip down a section of the Peace River which took us two days  consisting of 14 hours of paddling down an 80km stretch of the river.

On the canoe trip we went with Brad, his friend Pete, and Pete’s dog Foxy. Two kayaks and a canoe were loaded on a trailer and Brad’s brother Curtis drove us one and half hours upstream to Dunvegan where we dropped in. Once we turned the first bend and the road was out of sight we didn’t see any signs of civilization again until we reached our destination the next day. There was a moderately fast moving current so we were able to take regular breaks from paddling and still keep moving. During the whole trip we had our eyes trained on the banks trying to catch a glimpse of bears or moose, up to now the only signs of moose either of us had seen on our 7000km trip through Canada were actual signs at the side of the roadway warning you to watch out for moose.

Unfortunately we didn’t see any that day either but we did see plenty of coyotes, geese, frogs, marauding insects and beavers. Stopping only for a coffee break we paddled for around 5 hours on the first day until it became time to search for a campsite. Spoiled for choice it didn’t take too long before we found one and proceeded to set up camp. The site itself was a dried up section of river bank which the river floods in the spring after the ice has thawed, there were plenty of animal footprints imprinted into the hard mud and an abundance of dried wood which we used  to build a fire with.

As the sun set a herd of cranes roughly 50 in total glided down in a long silent spiraling movement to land and rest for the night on the opposite river bank.  During the night I could hear all sorts of noises but it didn’t bother me, especially when I needed to go to the bathroom at three in the morning. I just started undoing the zips on the tent to get out when while opening the outer zip and my hand was sticking outside,  a wet nose pressed up against it and heavy breathing could be felt coming from it. For a split second the adrenaline pumped but then I remembered Pete’s dog Foxy was with us  and I emerged to her sitting in front of the tent and offering me the paw.

At around eight o’clock next morning everyone was awake and sitting around the fire warming up. It got pretty cold during the night and a cloud of fog hung over the river which didn’t fully burn away until near midday. By nine o ‘clock we were back on the river and paddling downstream. As the day progressed I became more and more aware of basically how I wasn’t really able for this amount of paddling, I was getting pretty tired and so too was Franziska. Pete and Brad were on the other hand well able for it. I thought about it and the last time I’d paddled in a canoe or kayak was over ten years ago and now probably due to a combination of wrong technique and not being fit enough I was beginning to pay the price. We swapped modes of transport with Pete and Brad to change up the movement we were doing, they took the canoe and we took the kayaks. It was a welcome relief for a couple of hours but I eventually switched back to the canoe.

We stopped for lunch and had a couple of coffee breaks during the day and soaked up the silence and the scenery. By five in the evening we were only about 45 minutes from home and the sun was starting to go down when suddenly we saw a cow on the river bank up ahead. As we approached for a closer look another cow four times larger than the first one also walked up to the waters edge. It was apparent when we saw the second one that what we were actually seeing were moose. Finally.. moose and a mother and calf in the wild at that. We tried to paddle silently towards the shore and then let the current take us by so as to not startle them. They began to return to the forest before we were in range to get a good look but the stopped and a male moose joined in and started heading down for a drink while the others waited. We were lucky to see a family all together in the wild like that neither Pete or Brad had ever seen a family of moose before and they’re Canadian. We drifted right past him around twenty metres from the shore carried by the current of the river trying not to make a sound. I’ll never forget the look on father moose’s face when he finely noticed us way way too late. If we were hunters they’d be dead and it looked like he knew it. He stared at us with open mouth and wide eyes, water was dripping from his mouth and his tongue was half sticking out like he was waiting to receive holy communion.  The whole family bolted into the woods, the male was so large that even after he had disappeared out of sight you could still hear and see small trees being knocked down by him as he bulldozed through the woods. After our moose encounter the batteries seemed recharged and before we knew it we had reached the end and were waiting to be picked up by Ken. It was a strange feeling to go back to the guest house that night and enjoy all of our modern luxuries including WiFi.

Alberta is definitely the Texas of Canada, it’s like an engine running off the oil fields in the north. Practically every business has a help wanted sign outside, the locals will tell you business is booming and they just can’t get enough people into the province to fill demand. It;s definitely very different to all of the other provinces we’ve visited so far.

Although it’s supposed to be the richest province, it has the worst roads. I was rarely overtaken on the motorbike by cars or other vehicles across the other provinces but here they overtake me far more often. Everybody seems to be in a rush, I’ve never really experienced anything like it. I can only relate it to the rushing around everywhere mentality you might find in a city like New York but this is the countryside. I heard from a local that this rushing around mentality doesn’t cross over into the action part of the task. People say they have no time and rush everywhere but then when it gets down to completing the actual task at hand they saunter and drag their feet. This was quite frustrating for this local as he had no time and really needed to get things done.

What can I say, Alberta has been a blast so far and it’s not over yet. In a couple of days we’ll begin heading south then west over the Rockies towards British Columbia and Vancouver.  Looking forward to hitting the road again.