Farewell Canada: Cycling Canada to Argentina

cycling Canada to Argentina

After spending almost 6 months in Halifax, I couldn’t believe the time to leave had finally arrived. From Halifax we were starting the next leg of our world cycle tour: cycling Canada to Argentina!

Being a Haligonian!

When Michael and I arrived in Halifax we had good intentions of maintaining our level of fitness – yeah, that last about a day! With me working in a chocolate shop and constantly getting free chocolate, as well as it being freezing cold and there being so many craft breweries to try out, there was little (read “none”) fitness going on.

Come spring we were two relatively unfit cyclists, ready to hit the road and start cycling Canada to Argentina. Unsurprisingly, we felt the consequences! My butt hurt, my thighs hurt, my arms hurt, even my back hurt – and we were struggling along doing almost half the pre-Halifax cycle distance. Admittedly, it wasn’t just down to our lack of fitness or the extra shit we were hauling along – the weather also had a large part to play in our lack of kilometres.

Goodbye Haifax

When the day finally arrived to leave Halifax, it was snowing and not just a little bit. There was still a tonne of icy snow of the floor that had yet to melt and it was bloody freezing! I’d never cycled in the snow before, and to tell you the truth, I was slightly excited about the thought of it. The novelty soon wore off – about 10 minutes later.

We cycled for 2 hours in the snow and finally stopped in at a Tim Hortons to warm up. Eventually the snow eased and we were back on our way.

cycling Canada to Argentina
Snow cycling in Nova Scotia! And they call this Spring???

Cold nights and friendly people

Our plan for the first night was to camp at a provincial park in chester, however when we arrived it was still closed for the season. It was supposed to drop down to -7 degrees Celsius overnight, and we were already shivering and it wasn’t even sunset yet. Would we freeze to death overnight? Luckily, we never had to find out.

While we were contemplating our sanity and deciding whether to set up camp in the provincial park,  Joan and Rob (two friendly locals) spotted us, and took pity on us. They invited us in, gave us a warm place to stay, and fed us some amazing food. We got to spend the evening sharing some stories – which was much more enjoyable than shivering away in the tent. I’m forever grateful that we never had to discover just how cold camping in -7 degrees Celsius is.

Keji National Park

From Chester we headed to New Germany, then onto Keji National Park. The cold weather and snow hung around, but at least the sun was out… well for a couple of days at least.

When we arrived at Keji, the visitor center had already closed and the rangers had left for the day. Lost for what to do, we decided to head into the park to Mills Falls and camp in the emergency shelter. It was still extremely cold, even with the wood fire we got cranked.

Overnight, there was freezing rain, crazy winds and more snow. The snow continued on into the morning, so we decided to stay in the shelter to wait it out. After lunch the freezing rain had turned to light snow, and we decided it was time to make a move.

To get to Mill Falls we had to ride down a dirt road – overnight this dirt road got covered in snow. We had the fun job of pushing/ riding out in the snow – which I actually found quite enjoyable, though it was quite slow going. Luckily we discovered that all other roads had been cleared, and it turned into quite an enjoyable ride to the Bay of Fundy.

From Keji, we had originally planned to make it to New Brunswick via the Digby ferry, the same day. The snow and bad weather slowed us down, and we only made it as far as Annapolis Royal. Stuck for what to do, we did what any normal person would do and headed to the pub. This turned out to be a great idea, as at the pub with met Brian, who came to the rescue and invited us to stay at his place. Perfect – this meant a good night sleep and time to explore the town in the morning.

cycling Canada to Argentina
Snow cycling in Keji! I did cycle some of it… well the downhill parts anyway.

Saint John, New Brunswick

Eventually we did make it to Saint John, New Brunswick. We only had a short cycle day to get to Saint John, but I was totally shattered on the ferry and slept most of the way. Once we did arrive, it was already dark. It turned out that the ferry port is 5km outside of town. After much confusion we eventually made it to our warmshowers hosts’ apartment – it only took us a shocking 45 minutes (I have no idea how I managed that).

We spent two nights in Saint John – awesome city! I was delighted to have a day off the bike – the cycling was really taking out of me. It was clear that my fitness was not what it was 6 months earlier.

More cold weather

After resting for the day, we were (semi) ready to hit the road again! From Saint John we got on the highway to the border. A crazy headwind and cold rains greeted us. This slowed us down, and instead of making it to the border town, we only made it as far as Saint George. Soaking wet and freezing cold we decided to book into a cheap hotel.

One thing about riding in the freezing cold, it’s just about manageable, until you stop riding! I have no idea how the long distance winter cyclists do it! What about breaks and stopping for lunch when there is no shelter, not even a gas station? We stopped for a minute at a time to eat some food, but there was no way we were stopping for longer than that. It was way too cold! This was probably one of the coldest and most miserable days we’ve cycled in the Americas – it was not fun! Luckily the hotel was pretty nice and the hot shower was one of the best of my life.

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Headwinds are the worst things in the world – no joke!

We woke up to sun – and another headwind! But, it didn’t matter because it was about 10 degrees warmer, so I was happy. We continued on the highway to Saint Stephen, dropped into the Superstore to spend the last of our Canadian coins, and then crossed into the USA – with surprisingly little hassle!

So after spending the best part of 2 years in Canada, it was finally time to say farewell! I don’t think we could ever repay the kindness we experienced during our time in Canada – it truly is an amazing country (despite it’s cold winters) and we will definitely miss it!

We were finally on our next leg on the trip, cycling Canada to Argentina. Woohoo!

Liked this video about cycling Canada to Argentina? Check out more of our cycle videos here!

CYCLING THE MARITIMES: PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND AND NOVA SCOTIA

Cycling the Maritimes

Michael’s write up about cycling the Maritimes (Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia), during our cross Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up about cycling Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia

CYCLING THE MARITIMES: WELCOME TO ATLANTIC CANADA!!

We left New Brunswick to pop into Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, and it was definitely a spectacular entrance! The confederation bridge is Canada’s longest bridge at nearly 13km long. Unfortunately it is illegal to cross the bridge by bicycle as the wind gets pretty intense and there isn’t really much space to ride. So we had no choice but to jam our bikes into the back of the shuttle bus and be passengers over the bridge. I was keen to try and pop a wheely across the bridge, but Kelly was having none of it.

Anne of Green Gables – yes, we did!

The cold and dodgy weather continued cycling the Maritimes and into PEI and we were faced with freezing headwinds and rain, but the sun did come out when we reached the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ house, which is actually a national heritage site…for some bizarre reason. I knew little to nothing about the Anne of Green Gables books, but seeing as we had a national parks pass, the entrance was free. So we decided to pop in and check it out along with the hoards of Japanese tourists who apparently come here as some sort of weird pilgrimage!

The staff was cool and let us bring our loaded up bikes inside and lock them in the lobby area while we poked around some odd props and ‘Anne’s house’. She was a fictional character and this house was actually built from descriptions in the book. The author Lucy Montgomery grew up in the area so I guess it wasn’t all made up. I got to try on a luxurious red pigtailed wig, pose outside the house like Anne and stuff my face with ice cream, so all in all it was a good outing!

green gables
Michael of Green Gables

 Confederation Trail

The cycle trails around PEI were stunning routes along the coast and through farmland and forest. We found a good spot to camp at a picnic area on the coast after deciding against setting up our tent in one of the many campsites that were closed for the season. We decided this due to the tales of other tourists getting moved on in the middle of the night by security for illegally camping. Also we rode around one of the closed campsites and it had a bit of a horror movie vibe about it so we didn’t want Michael Myers slashing our tent in the night and making us soil our sleeping bags.

Unfortunately we arrived just outside the tourist season and it seemed like half the island had shut down. Campsites, restaurants and shops were kind of hard to come across until we hit the capital, Charlottetown.

We contacted a Warmshowers host called Lindsay in Charlottetown and spent a couple of nights camping in her backyard and strolling around the pretty port town, visiting the local breweries (Upstreet and Gahan) to sample some of the fine local drops including a spiced pumpkin ale that made me excited for getting to spend Halloween in Canada! We also tried out the ‘world famous’ Cows ice cream that started on PEI and has been consistently voted into the top ten best ice cream places in the world. I felt it would be wrong of me not try it and it was definitely packed full of creamy goodness. Cows’ gets the official Cowgill stamp of approval.

It was a short stay on PEI, but the cold was starting to make it difficult to sleep and we were both pretty burnt out after nearly 4 months on the road and were looking forward to getting to Halifax to explore our new home for winter!

Hello Nova Scotia and crazy, windy storms!

We got the ferry to Nova Scotia and straight into some gale force winds. Unfortunately winds from the hurricane that devastated Haiti were hitting Atlantic Canada and when we camped on a cycle route outside Pictou, they paid a visit to us shaking the tent violently and pounding it with a crazy amount of rain and flooding our delicate little home.

We had previously had some issues with moisture getting into the tent through the floor and ground sheet even in light rain, but now with this downpour everything was soaked.

To add to the tent issues, my Therm-a-rest mattress had developed a gigantic bubble in the centre forcing me to try and sleep with a basketball-sized lump between my shoulders. Not a good night, my spine has never been the same since.

In the morning we shivered in soggy sleeping bags hoping the rain would ease up long enough for us to pack up and bugger off to somewhere drier, but the downpour just refused to let up.

We ended up making a break for it and finding a Tim Horton’s coffee shop to shelter in and try and warm ourselves up and come up with a plan of attack. After filling ourselves with as much hot coffee and muffins as we could, we decided it was not worth the risk of riding in the storm. It was apparently set to get a whole lot worse with 100km an hour winds throughout the day and heavy rain and flooding. Not ideal weather for pushbikes and a leaky tent.

nova scotia sign, Cycling Nova Scotia: Halifax
We made it to Nova Scotia! Still cycling the Maritimes!

Change of plans!

We found a reasonably priced hotel in Pictou called the Auberge Walker Inn with lovely Scottish/Canadian owners who let us dry out all our gear in the basement and warm up with pots of tea. It was thanksgiving and half the town was without power, but we managed to get into the pub before it went out and enjoyed an awesome veggie roast and beer to forget our soggy intro to Nova Scotia.

The freezing wet weather and gear issues with the tent and my mat were starting to get us down a bit and we were now tossing up if we wanted to stick to our plan of riding the Cabot trail in Cape Breton or just call it quits and head straight to Halifax earlier than planned. It was a tough decision as we were so close that it felt a shame to skip what is supposed to be one of the greatest cycle destinations in all of Canada, but we were worn out and just not feeling it at that stage so decided to avoid the cold and skip Cape Breton.

The end – for now!

We eventually drove the Cabot trail a few weeks later with a friend and it was spectacular, but at the time we were just tired and not up for riding and camping in the rain and cold anymore. It was a tough choice but we felt there was no point doing it if we weren’t going to enjoy it.

So all of a sudden our trip was nearly over! We had less than 200km until we reached our final destination! It was a very surreal feeling, but I still think we made the right choice as it gave us more time to sort out our accommodation and get jobs in Halifax before Christmas to help us save up for the next leg of the trip next year! We had finished cycling the Maritimes, but it wasn’t an end to our time in the Atlantic provinces just yet.

Halifax: Our home for the Winter

We still had 2 weeks before we could move into our apartment that Kelly had organized through Airbnb negotiating a month by month rate with our new landlord and friend, Fred. So we still had to find somewhere to stay for a couple of weeks. Luckily for us there are some pretty amazing people out there and a Couchsurfer called, Jeff came to our rescue! Letting someone stay in your place for a night or two is pretty cool, having someone stay for 2 weeks is friggin amazing! Jeff totally saved us and we spent the next couple of weeks hanging out, drinking around the fire pit and playing card games in his cool rural property in Windsor Junction just outside Halifax. Jeff had also adopted a couple of young German Couchsurfers for an indefinite amount of time so his place kind of felt like a vagabonds sanctuary!

couchsurfing cape breton, Cycling the Maritimes
Our awesome couchsurfer!

In that time we both applied for as many jobs as we could find and rode the 30km into Halifax for interviews for jobs, which we both scored! I would be working at a discount home and clothing store called ‘Winners’ in a warehouse role and Kelly would be working at a chocolate shop in the same shopping centre.

So after 7000kms we had done it, coast to coast by bike!! We ended with a bit of a fizzle rather than a bang, but hey we still had an amazing time and now get to save some pennies, investigate the local brews and prepare ourselves for our next epic adventure, from Canada to South America! Come April time we will roll out of Nova Scotia and into the good ‘ol USA for the second leg of journey and I can barely contain my excitement thinking about it, bring on April!!!

Thank you to all of the amazing people we met across this stunning country. As with our previous trip it’s the people that always make the most lasting memories for us and Canadians definitely are a special breed of humans! We loved cycling Canada and we loved cycling the Maritimes – so thank you!

DISCOVERING NEW BRUNSWICK BY BICYCLE

That sums up discovering new brunswick by bicycle!

Michael’s write up of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle during out coast to coast Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up about cycling in New Brunswick.

NEW BRUNSWICK.…WAY BETTER THAN THE OLD ONE.

Waking up at the border sign between Quebec and New Brunswick we knew our seventh province was going to be a frosty one!

The temperature had taken a sudden dip and frozen our tent solid overnight. We were now faced with the coldest cycling of the trip so far, but we were still happy because the amazing cycle path rolled on!

On our first day discovering New Brunswick by bicycle we managed to smash out 105 km in less than 5 hours, which I’m pretty sure is a record for us. We had decided to stay indoors and treat ourselves to an airbnb in Perth (not our home town in western Australia, a different colder one) and thought we’d make it in plenty of time to meet the owner and pick up the key to the place. That’s before the wind decided to be a huge chilly prick and change directions and the cycle path abruptly ended with a ‘closed for construction’ sign forcing us to detour several kilometers up a bullshit steep hill and onto the highway.

Screw you New-Brunswick-bike-path-dudes. A diversion sign BEFORE the construction would have been handy!

We did eventually make it the last 20km to the AirBnB where we spent the next day defrosting our weary bones and ingesting some local hoppy malt health beverages called ‘beer’ and cleaning all our clothes ready to layer up for the next day of icey biking.

New Brunswick in Fall, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Discovering new brunswick by bicycle – New Brunswick in Fall

Trans-Canadian Bike Trail

The bike path did pick up again and although it wasn’t quite as well maintained as the Quebec side with some sections too rocky to ride fully loaded, it was still nicer than riding the highway!

We had a pretty great day of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle. Riding on the cycle paths, winding through the forest and alongside rivers and lakes where we eventually found an ideal spot to pitch the tent next to a pedestrian suspension bridge over a stream complete with picnic table and amazing sunset views. This one was definitely up there with the best wild camping spots of the trip.

The only bonus of camping when the temperature drops is the mosquitoes pussy out and disappear! Finally some peace!

Bike Troubles

We ploughed on keen to reach Fundy national Park and see one of Canada’s main attractions, the Bay of Fundy. We rode the cycle path where possible, and took quieter roads when the rocks got too chunky. Near Fredericton, we stayed with great Warmshowers hosts, Tracey and Paula on their veggie farm. And, cycled passed the worlds’ biggest axe in Nackawic (and a brewery named after it that was closed causing me to weep uncontrollably). Then, my chain decided to start slipping whenever faced with a hill nearly causing me to fall off and break my luscious face several times.

Fundy national park is an extremely hilly place, so luckily for me the chain problems occurred before the town of Sussex so I could get the problem fixed at the local bike shop before starting the serious hill climbs into Fundy. The legends at Outdoor Elements bike shop helped me get back on the road again and even called up one of their friends outside Sussex who owned an awesome motel and let us stay for $20! Unfortunately on the way to the motel I discovered the new chain hadn’t fixed the issue and I was forced to ride back to Sussex the next morning where the amazing staff changed my cassette and solved the issue just in time to tackle the beastly hills of Fundy!

As well as fixing up my sexy steed, the guys at the bike shop also informed me we were only one day behind a group of German cycle tourists who had been in the shop the day before. Our friends Jacque and Luisa again with some of Luisa’s’ friends who had flown out to ride with them for a week or two. We were hunting ze Germans!

Bay of Fundy

As we had heard, the hills into Fundy were a total bitch! It was all worth it though with the views at the top ranking as some of those most spectacular of the whole trip. The ride down the other side of the hills was an intense experience and made me glad our bikes had disc brakes! We absolutely hammered down the hills and into the picture perfect campgrounds just outside the town of Alma. Unfortunately it wasn’t until we picked up on Wi-Fi at the camp grounds that we realized our German buddies were staying at the other campsite. The one that was several kilometers back up the steep as shit hill we had just hurtled down at 300km an hour. Sorry guys, you’re on you own!

We managed to meet up with our friends though for beers and cinnamon buns from the famous ‘Kelly’s Bakery’ in Alma. If you are in Alma and don’t fill your body with as many of these hot gooey delicious cinnamony chunks of pure joy then you my friend are a fool! The date slices and brownies were also pretty sextacular, but the cinnamon buns were like a baked orgasm.

We enjoyed a couple nights off the bikes relaxing at the Headquarters campground that was complete with Wi-Fi and cooking hut – pure luxury! We hiked a few trails around the bay, checked out some waterfalls and rehydrated with beer and fireball liqueur. I was on a bit of a cinnamon high around this period.

Fundy National Park and a Kelly, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Fundy National Park and a Kelly

Hopewell Rocks and more beer!

When it was time to leave Alma the wind kicked into overdrive and we were smashed in the face by the breeze the whole way to Hopewell rocks where we were living it up in another motel. We decided to be rebels and sneak into Hopewell rocks after the gates were closed for the day after several people told us it was generally accepted as fine as long as you weren’t an idiot climbing the rocks. We had an amazing sunset stroll along the beach checking out the crazy rock formations and stunning beach views. I can definitely see why this is such a hotbed for tourists in the summer.

We rolled through the freezing wind and drizzle into Moncton where we decided to spend the night in a hostel. It just so happens that Moncton has a kick ass brewery too…coincidence? No, no it wasn’t.

We checked out Pump house brewery and sampled some fine beverages including the local specialty a blueberry ale complete with floating blueberries in the glass. Saucy!

More friendly people

Our last night discovering New Brunswick by bicycle – Province number 7, was spent with an lovely older couple Bill and Marilyn in Shemogue, There we ate like royalty and I fit at least a kilo of kick ass spinach and mushroom lasagna inside me and exchanged cycle tales over beers and discussed our plans for spending winter in Halifax.

Bill had been a lobster fisherman for over forty years. Marilyn was an artist and showed us her beautiful art in her workshop out the back of the house. Eventually we hopped on our bikes and began the short pedal to the bridge between New Brunswick and, the smallest province in Canada – Prince Edward Island!

Goodbye New Brunswick you tasty minx. You chilled us to the bones, but your stunning parks and coastline made us keen to explore more of the Maritimes by bicycle!

That sums up discovering new brunswick by bicycle! Bring on Prince Edward Island! If you’re a stats nerd like Kelly, you can check out our states here.

Random Shoe Tree, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Random Shoe Tree in New Brunswick somewhere

VIVE LE QUEBEC! QUEBEC BY BICYCLE!

QUEBEC BY BICYCLE

Michael’s write up of our time spent crossing Quebec by bicycle, during our 7000km cycle trip across Canada in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up of cycling in Quebec.

VIVE LE QUEBEC! ROLLIN’ FREE LIKE A WHEEL OF CHEESE THROUGH A TASTY LITTLE SLICE OF EUROPE IN CANADA!

Our introduction to this delicious, cycle friendly, French Canadian beauty was an easy 120km day that flew by like a breeze! 72km of which was on the Prescott Russell Recreational trail. Winding through forests and along old railway lines where we finally cracked the magical 5000km mark!

Every single Canadian cycle tourist we had met so far across Canada had been from Quebec. So we were pretty sure it was going to be a good place to be on a bike and we definitely weren’t disappointed!

Global Citizen Festival

We had a few days off the bikes planned in Montreal where Kelly’s brother Michael was meeting us and had hooked us up with some free tickets to the Global Citizen festival that he was helping organize. So instead of being sweaty cycling bums living in a tent, we spent 4 nights camped out in an airB&B apartment drowning in beer and living like rock stars with VIP backstage tickets to a music festival and all the booze we could fit in our bodies!

It was definitely a different experience and quite surreal being backstage at a fancy pants festival and after party, but it was nice to change it up a bit and break the routine of cycling. Also beer is pretty good stuff and tastes even better when free.

After several days exploring Montreal and pretending we were back in Europe. Sipping espresso and munching fresh baked goods at patisseries. It was time to load our food bloated carcasses back onto the bikes!

I was nursing a large hangover from the after party that we attended until 3am. We had to hit the road again at 9am, but my boozy blues were made more bearable by the scenery and excellent roads.

cycling in Montreal quebec
Montreal, Quebec

Quebec by Bicycle

Camping was occasionally tough as all space along the river to Quebec City seemed to be crammed pretty tight with homes on the waterfront, but we got creative sleeping behind a massive garden hedge on one night and outside a B&B on another slightly awkward occasion. The owner had approached us when he saw us eyeing up a nice juicy patch of grass outside the closed tourist info centre in a small town. He asked us in broken English if we wanted to stay at his house. Of course we did! Score!

When we got back to his ‘house’ we realized it was actually a bed and breakfast and he was in fact trying to get us to stay inside as paying guests. Some awkwardness ensued as we spoke with his wife inside, but in the end they turned out to be cool and let us camp in the garden for free instead of paying to stay inside.

Quebec City and Bicycle Trails

We had another little break in Quebec City, staying with a Warmshowers host Maude in her apartment with a huge garden in the courtyard. Maude was an ‘urban gardener’ and had created a huge veggie garden in her courtyard. She also had other projects around town building gardens in office blocks and government buildings. We were happy because we got to munch fresh veg for a few days instead of instant noodles and pasta!

Quebec was a super touristy town, but it was a nice place to chill out for a couple of days and soak up some of the European vibes, and to relax in coffee shops before hitting the awesome cycle trails again. From Quebec City we opted to catch the ferry to the other side of the Saint Lawrence River and rode along the scenic trails whenever possible. Exploring Quebec by bicycle was what I had pictured cycle touring to be before our first trip from France to China a few years ago. Relaxed car free cycle routes winding through forests with free rest areas to camp.

cycling in quebec
Cycling through the streets of Quebec City

La Route Verte

The Route Verte through Quebec was a definite highlight of our trip across Canada. It made the wet and cold weather a little more bearable, as we always knew we’d find a little picnic spot or even a designated cycle camping spot to pitch the tent at the end of the day. The temperature had suddenly dropped significantly as we were approaching the New Brunswick border and on our last night in Quebec we had by far the coldest night of the trip. We woke up to a tent covered in a thick sheet of ice and all our water bottles frozen solid.

camping and cycling in quebec
Awesome camp spot just off the bike trail in Quebec

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, we got to sleep next to an old world war II bomber in a park on the cycle route and had a fantastic sunrise to thaw out our gear and bone marrow!

It was now time to tackle our seventh Canadian province, New Brunswick and try not to freeze our bits off on the bikes!!

Vive Le Quebec, Vive le fromage and route verte cycle path!! I hope you enjoy Quebec by bicycle!

If you’re geeky like Kelly, you can also check out our cycle stats for Canada.

Ontario by bicycle: “I WAS BORN IN ONTARIO”

Ontario by bicycle.

Michael’s write up of crossing Ontario by bicycle during our 7000km cycle trip across Canada in Sept 2016.  Click here to read Kelly’s write up of cycling Ontario to Thunder Bay, cycling Lake Superior and cycling to Ottawa.

No I in fact was not born in Ontario, but as soon we entered this freaking huge province Neil Young’s ‘born in Ontario’ was playing on repeat in my head. This became our theme song for our epic 32 day stint crossing this huge beautiful beast! I spent the next month exploring Ontario by bicycle, annoying Kelly by constantly singing, humming and playing this song on my speakers. Sorry about that!

To get from Manitoba to Ontario we had to dip into the good ‘ol U.S.A (just the way the road was) for a quick 60km detour through Minnesota and directly into the path of a huge storm that apparently blew some trucks off the road into a ditch. As we were on bikes, and not quiet as heavy and stable as trucks, we took shelter in a bar to dry ourselves off. This is where I ordered the most disappointing snack of my life! Never order cheesy chips in the states. It will crush your soul. Not an actual potato in sight, merely some weird shitty circular corn chips with poisonous orange cheese whizz spunked on top. Saddest day of my life.

I recovered from my shit chip experience and we hopped the border back into Canada to begin penetrating the moist mass that is Ontario!

Emo, Ontario by bicycle

We passed through friendly little towns including the hilariously named (I thought so at the time) ‘Emo’ in which I took a picture of pretty every street sign and advertisement with ‘Emo’ written on it.

We managed to bump into our German friends Jacque and Luisa again! Had fun camping in Fort Francis at a weird massive public park that also doubled up as a campsite next to the train tracks and river. We had a few beers to relax and catch up with our friends in the third province we’d seen them in!

Fort Francis was the point we had to decide if we wanted to cycle the southern side of lake superior in the U.S.A or stick to Canada and take the northern route. After much debate we finally settled on sticking to the Canadian side seeing as the whole trip was supposed to be about cycling the whole way across Canada! It meant we wouldn’t get to visit my friend in Minneapolis, but that was going to be a pretty massive detour and eat up a fair amount of our time, so it was back to cycling as a group again! Jacque and Luisa were heading the same direction so we had some travel buddies for a few days.

On to Thunder Bay

Over the next few days we rode some beautiful but isolated stretches of road together. We slept by lakes, in parks, outside a friendly ice cream van, saw the amazing Kakabeka waterfalls and swam in the freezing water at the end of the day and continued our constant battle with the asshole mosquitoes.

One night we decided to try riding down a long dirt path to see if we could camp near the water on the Seine River First Nations reserve. The super kind people welcomed us is in and let us set up camp at the Pow Wow grounds. They even unlocked the community centre for us so we could have a shower! Cool experience and one of the most scenic spots we camped at in the province.

Finally rolled into Thunder Bay for a few days off the bikes and stayed with the amazing Frank from Warmshowers. Despite being busy organizing a group cycle trip and dealing with a leaky basement and renovations, this champion not only let the four of us stay in his place but also another German cyclist called Mike. 5 people at once in the one house is a pretty generous move!

Camping at the First Nations reserve
Camping at the First Nations reserve

Rest days when on tour

We had a great time together though and spent a few days preparing group feasts, sipping beers and rum, exploring the town and brutally savaging a Japanese buffet to within inches of it’s life!

I had a few bike maintenance things to take care of so we ended up spending an extra night with Frank. Our German buddies left to get a bus for a section of lake superior as they had to meet some friends.

Storms, road works and Lake Superior

We were recharged and ready to rock through the rest of this beast of a province! Just outside Thunder Bay I randomly spotted a brand new IPhone on the side of the road, which started ringing as soon as I put it on charge when we stopped in a park for lunch. I managed to score a $60 reward for returning the phone to the owner! Bonus! Felt nice earning some cash instead of watching it hemorrhage out of my account for a change.

Had some rough days dealing with construction work and torrential rain around Nippigon and didn’t feel particularly safe riding some sections with the lack of hard shoulder, but the scenery definitely made up for it.

Our first glimpses of lake superior left us awestruck and glad we had chosen the mighty northern route. It was hard to believe that was a lake and not a friggin ocean! We spent night after night in spectacular camping spots on the beaches and in the woods around the lake and fell in love with the area. It is a very nice feeling knowing at the end of the day you’re going to have crystal clear fresh water to swim in and clean yourself up after a sweaty day climbing hills on the bikes.  

More friendly people

We met plenty of awesome people who helped us out. A couple from Germany with a holiday home let us set up camp in the front yard near Jackfish lake. Lloyd, a couchsurfer in Marathon who took us in and gave us a spare room for the night. The tourist information in Winnie the Pooh’s hometown of White river let us sleep outside the centre. And, probably the best of all was a legendary Hungarian Canadian guy called Zoltan and his beautiful family who we met outside a supermarket in Wawa and offered to let us camp on his front lawn.

When we followed him home he then decided to set up his camper trailer for us to sleep in! So we had a nice comfy bed, shelter from the mosquitoes and even got to wash our clothes and have a shower! Meeting kind and generous people like this make the trip so much more memorable and make me thankful we have the chance to travel like this and meet so many cool characters!

ontario by bicycle
Zoltan from Wawa

One night on Batchawana bay we were even invited in to the Wild Rose RV park and given a place to camp for free by the owner. He had noticed us eyeing up the beach for potential spots to pitch the tent as he knew the police would definitely move us on like the smelly bums we are, so he just let us come in and stay for free! Generosity runs deep in Canadians!

 Sault Ste Marie and more awesome people

We were finally pulling away from Lake superior and rolled into Sault Ste Marie where we spent two nights with awesome warmshowers hosts Jeff and Juanita. We ate excellent home cooked meals, tried many kick ass local craft beers and got to try out Jeff’s Recumbent bike. Definitely not for me but I could see the appeal of sitting back like that and cruising along with a beer in each paw.

We decided to spend a night outside the local bike shop Velorution as they have set up a free campsite specifically for cycle tourists! Cool experience and a wicked idea, they had fire pits, furniture that guests had made from old pallets and a box of free gear other cyclists had donated. We even raided the massive stack of old bike parts outside the shop to use a rim and spokes as a grill for our zucchinis! Not a sentence I ever thought I’d be writing!

Hitting the road again

From Sault St Marie we passed through Many Amish communities where we’d stop and buy fresh veg and homemade cookies. We camped outside information centres and in the old fairground at Spanish where the harbor master let us pitch a tent and take a shower in the marina office. In the morning we woke up to see a porcupine climbing a tree next to our tent! Still no moose sighting, but I was pretty happy seeing this spiky fellow doing his thing!

The roads in Ontario were generally in pretty decent condition, but hard shoulders seemed to disappear for stretches. Instead of Ontario by bicycle, it could have been Ontario by pot hole. Road works were constant with crazy fast drivers flying past us and leaving us a little rattled at times. We had a particularly rough day with the roads on one occasion when an amazing lady called Patti saw us looking fed up and broken on the side of the road. She pulled over and offered to let us stay at her place. The only catch was we were shattered and ready to find the nearest park to sleep in. Her place in Sudbury was still 30km away and would have been dark by the time we arrived.

Patti was also a cyclist and had a bike rack on her car, but it could only fit one bike. She wasn’t going to let that stop her though! This amazing person gave up the next couple of hours of her life taking Kelly and her bike back to her home. Unloading her gear then returning to pick me up and take me back to spend the night in her house!! That’s a pretty crazy generous thing to do, make a round trip of 60km just help a couple of tired aussie bike bums out!

Trying the local brews

Even though we’d left Lake Superior, other lakes were still around making the cycling still pretty scenic and enjoyable. The rain not so much. After a very wet muddy day it was nice to meet Warmshowers hosts Mike and Danielle and spend the evening getting tips about cycling in Ottawa and Quebec, having an amazing veggie curry dinner and drinking far too many of Mike’s local beers leaving me with a bit of sore head for the ride next day! I regret nothing. Beer is life.

We were finally approaching the capital of this incredible country, Ottawa! Most times approaching a capital city it can be a bit stressful dealing with the traffic and navigating through the chaos. Not in Ottawa! Mike and Danielle had given us a hot tip about a cycle route that led right into the heart of this beautiful gem of a city so we spent most of the day winding along old rail trails and through the cities’ parks and river front cycle paths before meeting our next Warmshowers host. The crazy bike man of Ottawa, Richard!

Ottawa
Ottawa!

The Crazy, bike man!

Richard had an incredible and utterly ridiculous collection of bicycles. Most of which were homemade crazy contraptions such as tall bikes and a convertible tandem recumbent that he had custom built with segments that can be added so his wife and kids can all ride together! He’d even built a custom rack to carry his full sized wooden canoe over his head for short tours!

We spent several days hanging out with Richard and met a group of local bike nuts from the ‘HPVOO’ (human powered vehicles of Ottawa) group for dinner and picnicked with another group from a local bike organization that provides a free space and tools for people to come and work on their bikes. Also did all the touristy things around town, checked out a street party festival and followed Richard around town on his ridiculous gigantic tall bike. Checked out the markets and used our mouths to investigate many local hop filled beverages.

Awesome Bike Stores and more Awesome People

After my piece of shit EVO low rider rack died way back in Manitoba it had been held together with hose clamps and zip ties, but had suffered a final fatal break several days before Ottawa so I was in desperate need of a decent front rack before we could continue. I rode around town in search of a half decent low-rider rack in vain, only finding either the same rack or something very similar and equally as crappily made.

I got talking to a guy called Rodd working at the Cyclery bike shop. This utter rock star of a human being offered to give me his old Blackburn low-rider rack for free! The shop didn’t have anything suitable, but he had exactly what I was after at his house so gave me his address and I swung by and picked it up rom him! What a cool thing to do! Helped me out so much and this rack will be coming with for the rest of the trip as a new member of the cycle trekkers team!!

ontario by bicycle
Pretty obvious… exploring Ontario by bicycle!

Chau Ontatio!

Our time exploring Ontario by bicycle was finally drawing to an end after over a month of pedal powered fun times through this monster province, but we were excited for what was to come. Quebec! Every single Canadian cycle tourist we had met was from Quebec. That has to be a sign that it’s gonna be a sweet place to ride! Thank you Ontario for being so cool and being filled with such helpful generous kind hearted people willing to help two crazy biking fools out! I hope you enjoyed Ontario by bicycle! Now bring on the cheese, wine and maple syrup in Quebec!

Ecotourism Jamaica: Durga’s Den

ecotourism jamaica

Yes, I went to Jamaica! No, I didn’t cycle there, and no, Michael did not go with me. So why did I go to Jamaica? Well firstly, my Canadian work permit expired and with 70cm of snow on the ground, there was no way we were ready to hop back on the bikes and start cycling through the USA. Instead, I decided the best option was to leave the country and reenter Canada on a tourist visa. We’d then wait out the rest of the winter before heading off on the bikes on 2nd April 2017.

If you thought the cheapest flights from Canada to out-of-the-country would be to the USA – you’d be wrong. As it turns out, Jamaica was my cheapest option and I wasn’t complaining. I was missing the sun and the heat – so take me to Jamaica and let’s discover ecotourism Jamaica!

Now you are probably wondering why Michael didn’t go with me. Well, originally he arrived into Canada 6 weeks after I did, which means Michael has another 6 weeks of work before his visa is up – don’t feel sorry for him, he’s off on a lads holiday to Vegas for his “visa run” in 6 weeks time.

So enough about that and more about ecotourism Jamaica!

Durgas Den: Ecotourism Jamaica

I decided this trip was a great opportunity to help out on an organic farm and learn a few things about agro-forestry, sustainable living and ecotourism in Jamaica – something we plan on implementing in our future guesthouse.

I ended up staying 2 weeks at Durgas Den in Colgate, near Ocho Rios (I actually extended my stay by a week, because I loved it so much). Durgas Den is a sustainable, organic farm situated on the top of Breadnut Hill (awesome name). The farm is hidden right in amongst the forest. Though the farm isn’t completely self-sufficient this is something they are working towards.

Besides being a farm, the Den also offers simple accommodation in cabins. Some which have amazing views. The cabins are advertised via their website and on Airbnb – get $50 of free Airbnb travel credit here.

The farm and accommodation is very rustic and simple. One thing cycle touring has taught me is to appreciate the simple things and live with the bear minimum, so the accommodation was definitely not an issue for me – luxurious even.

The farm has compostable toilets, rainwater tanks for the showers and solar panels for hot water. All the fruit and vegetables are completely organic. This means no nasty chemicals, pesticides or herbicides used at all. The only pesticides occasional used are natural ones, such as pepper.

The farm also has a bunch of healthy free ranged chickens, some rabbits (to make compost), a cute goat, a couple of dogs, and a cat (who is really the boss of the farm).

Ecotourism Jamaica Durgas Farm
Helping out on Durgas Farm

The Work

The deal was, I work on the farm for about 4 hours each morning, Monday to Friday. In return I get free accommodation, cheap meals and an awesome experience. I got to learn a lot about the work that went into running an organic farm. On top of this I worked along side locals. This gave me a glimpse into real, local life on the island – not just the tourist world.

Though volunteers have the weekends off, I did decide to head down to Kingston and helped out at the organic markets. The stall for Durga’s Den was swarmed by customers! It was great to see such a great turn out and high demand for organic veggies. I was also surprised to see such a diverse crowd of people. I had an absolute blast before heading off to check out Bob Marley’s house and explore Kingston.

Organic markets in Kingston
Organic markets in Kingston

Reflections

Being self-sufficient and growing our own organic veggies is definitely something we would aim to do in the future. Actually, if we could mimic what Durgas’s Den has achieved then we would be extremely delighted. We are definitely looking forward to checking out some more organic farms once we start cycling again. Thanks Durgas Den for adding to our ecodiscoveries and sharing your ecotourism Jamaica with us.

 

Little Dunn Falls near Ocho Rios
Little Dunn Falls near Ocho Rios

Resources:

I found these two books really interesting. Though I didn’t read the entire book, I did spend a couple of hours relaxing in the hammock and reading through a couple of the chapters.

The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook for Green Building by Johan van Lengen

The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins

Durga’s Den website

Hello! An update from Halifax!

An update from Halifax

Michael and I have been busy little bees this week! After arriving in Halifax a week earlier than planned, we’ve been busy cleaning and mending gear, looking for jobs for the winter season and exploring the awesome city of Halifax! We also got the opportunity to host two of our cyclist friends, Jacque and Luisa. They just finished their 6 month cycle trip across Canada and fly home this week. We met up with them several times during the cycle trip, so saying “goodbye” to them has really made us realise that the Canada cycle trip has come to an end. But as Jacque pointed out;

We’ve also been keeping ourselves busy during those rainy days by smashing out some gear reviews and updating our gear list, typing up and creating TWO ebooks and moving/ updating posts from our France to China trip, which were originally published on a different website. Over the winter we hope to add to this, by creating and sharing some awesome videos of our cycle across Canada, plus adding some more articles on eco-friendly businesses.

If you’ve been following our Canada cycle trip or met me during our cycle trip, then you might also be aware of my eye condition. Well, that is still on the mend, with a potential need for surgery to remove a couple of nodules on my eye (it’s only been 4 months since they first appeared – exactly the reason why you need travel insurance). So hopefully that will also get sorted before we start cycling again in April.

So what’s the plan now. To work our butts off until April! Fix up and/ or upgrade some of our gear. Do some maintenance work to the bikes and prepare for the next leg of the cycle trip. Though we’re looking forward to the break now. I’m sure by the time April comes around we’ll be rearing to go again.

halifax home
Our home for the winter

I mentioned we’ve published two ebooks! Exciting times!

Cycling Canada: Coast-to-Coast Trip Notes” are in-depth notes about our cross Canada cycle tour. The notes are based on our cycle trip and are written primarily for fully loaded cycle tourists, however they should benefit anyone planning a cycle trip in Canada. New Promotion: Leave a review on Amazon, then email a screen shot of the review to info@cycletrekkers.com and we’ll send you a free pdf copy of our France to China ebook.

France to China by bike” is a collection of posts from our charity cycle trip in 2014, where we cycled from France to China. All royalties from this book will be donated towards the global sanitation and World Toilet Day campaigns.

books

These are available on Amazon to purchase.

I’m new to writing and creating ebooks, and both of these books are the first editions. So if you do have any feedback please let me know. I’m always keen to learn how I can improve and will update the books based on any feedback I receive. You can send any feedback to our email info@cycletrekkers.com. If you get the chance to leave a review on Amazon, that would also be awesome and greatly appreciated!

That is about it for our update from Halifax, well for now!

Safe cycle trails!

Kelly & Michael Xx

Cycling Nova Scotia: Hello Halifax!

nova scotia sign, Cycling Nova Scotia: Halifax

Kelly’s write up about cycling Nova Scotia during our 7000km cycle tour across Canada in the Autumn of 2016. Michael’s write up will be available soon.

The storm

Cycling Nova Scotia and the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton was going to be a challenge, and instead of feeling like strong cyclists we were feeling a bit worn down.

The ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia was great! I’m always excited to be on a ferry and this one was no different. Once we made it to Nova Scotia, we headed towards Pictou, made a quick stop at the supermarket, and then headed down the cycle path to look for a camp spot. Our plan was to set up camp before the rain hit. What was left of hurricane Matthew was passing through Nova Scotia. People had told us to be prepared for lots of rain.

We discovered an awesome spot next to the river, set up camp early and started to cook dinner. The rain started as soon as we jumped in then tent, and it didn’t stop.

At some point during the night, we woke to discover water was leaking through the bottom and sides of the tent. We moved our important things and tried to get back to sleep. Neither of us got much sleep that night. Michael had already been having issues sleeping as his mattress had ‘exploded.’ The foam had come away and bloated out, making it a very uncomfortable to sleep on. He ended up just deflating it and sleeping on it like that.

halifax
We made it to Halifax – eventually!

Thanksgiving Day

When morning came it was still raining and it didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon. We waited a little while to see whether the rain would ease off. It didn’t. Eventually, we made a run. Packed up our stuff and the tent quickly, and headed off into town to take shelter in the Tim Hortons. We arrived 10 minutes later looking like drowned rats. The locals even took pity on us. One lady mistaken Michael for a homeless person and offered to give him money for coffee.

When I checked the weather forecast the previous day, the rain was supposed to clear up in the afternoon. The rain however decided to stay, along with winds exceeding 160km per hour. There was no way we were cycling!

An hour later we were checked into a downtown B&B, warming up with some tea and a hot shower. We spent the rest of the day there, sheltering from the storm.

It was Thanksgiving, and the winds were getting stronger. Half the town lost power, trees were blown down everywhere and there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it. We headed out to find somewhere to grab some dinner, and ended up eating a “vegetarian” Thanksgiving dinner at the local pub. It was yum!

Change in plans

The following day we heard that Cape Breton had been hit pretty hard by the storm. Most places had lost power, roads were washed out and things were closing early for the season. That along with our leaky tent and Michael’s exploded mattress would mean a rather uncomfortable 2 weeks cycling the Cabot trail. So we changed our plans for cycling Nova Scotia and Cape Breton! We decided to head to Halifax early.

cape breton canada
Cape Breton – we made it there, just not on the bikes!

Cycling Nova Scotia: the final leg to Halifax!

From Pictou we had less than 200km to make it to Halifax. We could easily do that in two days. So off we set. The following few days after the storm were lovely. If it weren’t for all the fallen trees, it would have been hard to believe the storm had even hit.

The following two days were great. The autumn colours were out, so the valley took on a beautiful red, orange and green colour. We couldn’t move into our apartment in Halifax until the end of the month, so hit up a couchsurfer to help us out. Jeff kindly offered to put us up until we could move into our place. Thanks Jeff, you’re a total legend!

We’ve spent the past week in Windsor Junction, about 30km from Halifax, and tomorrow we will move into our apartment in Halifax! Exciting times!

couchsurfing cape breton
Our awesome couchsurfer!

We made it coast to coast across Canada

7000km on a bike, from Vancouver to Halifax – we made it! The trip we talked about doing 3 years prior, was finally complete. To give you some perspective on the distance we covered – our last cycle trip from France to China was 8,500km. We cycled through 15 countries. This trip we cycled 7000km in one country. Canada is friggin’ huge!

We now have 5 months to save up some cash, survive a Canadian winter and prepare for the next leg of our world cycle trip: cycling across the USA to Mexico!

Cycling Nova Scotia turned out to be only a short stint of the entire coast to coast trip, however we will spend the first week of the next cycle leg cycling Nova Scotia, before hitting up the USA.

Thank you Canada!

Thank you to all the amazing people we met on our trip across Canada. It wouldn’t have been such a great experience without. It truly is the people you meet that make a trip memorable, so thank you for being apart of our cycle tour. If you happened to be in Halifax over winter, then please let us know!

I’m pretty nerdy and like to keep track of our stats – check them out here, if you’re interested!