Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Right from the first day that Michael got on his bike in Canada he has seen bears on the road. But those, as he says himself, were mostly in his head. Today Michael saw some real bears. Read his exciting report.
“First I want to tell you about last night when I left the shopping mall. It was raining really hard and I went into an A&W. I ended up having a conversation with the owner; a lovely woman who was kind enough to arrange a free breakfast for me for the morning. More people came, some of them First Nations, one of whom said: “You are the famous cyclist! I have seen you on TV and we saw you bike a couple of times as well.” They were very enthusiastic and all wanted to have their picture taken with me.
When it had stopped raining, I returned to the campground were there were big puddles everywhere. Yikes! I noticed that my tent has been completely wrapped in the tarp. Who did that? Soon the neighbour dropped by. He happens to be Dutch and his last name is Van Beek as well and we might even be related. “Your tarp was blown away completely and there are young kids driving around in cars here. Are you sure that is the right spot for you?” he asked. “Maybe you would like to be closer to us...” Unfortunately it had started to rain again and I was not looking forward to moving everything in the rain, so I decided against it.
I adjusted the tarp in relation to the wind, and all wet I crawled back into the tent and into my sleeping bag. I kept my bags closed as much as possible. I was unable to sleep. It was windy and the tarp was flapping. Every now and then I heard cars driving by, shiningh their lights into my tent.
Around 10 o'clock it was quiet, but it was raining hard and the wind was blowing strongly. No sooner did I doze off or the flapping of the tarp had me wide-awake again. It partially came loose, and I was forced to go out in the rain and tie it up again. Somehow I managed to fall asleep: with my bear spray, my big knife, my cap gun and my airhorn close at hand. Tthe stories I heard this afternoon have put me on edge.
I'm not sure what time it was when I suddenly woke up. Did I hear a big branch break? It was still windy but it had stopped raining. I kept listening for more sounds but decided that I must have been dreaming and went back to sleep. Then suddenly twice I clearly heard a sniffing sound and a minute later a deep exhaling...
I was scared! This was something big and definitely not a dog. It had to be a bear! My heart was in my throat. I had my bear spray in one hand and my Rambo knife in the other. My adrenaline was pumping! I realized that using bear spray inside the tent would not a good idea. I took my toy cap gun and shot it twice and I could hear whatever it was outside take off. I stayed awake for hours after that and every little noise startled me. I realized I was driving myself crazy with i. I tried to relax which was hard with the adrenaline rushing. I did manage to fall asleep again but woke up a few times because of cramps in my leg and sore muscles. At 5 AM I woike up and I had to go to the bathroom. I decide to go right by the tent. Dawn is breaking outside and I notice geese swim and a beautiful mist on the lake. I quickly went back into my sleeping bag.
At 6 o'clock my alarm goes off and I get up. It takes me about an hour in the rain to pack everything up, but I can do this mostly under the tarp.
At 7 o'clock I leave the campground and go to the A&W. The crew is greets me with open arms. I am allowed to order whatever I like. I have another delicious breakfast with some good hot coffee and I also make some sandwiches to eat underway.
I leave when it is dry outside at around 8:30. Soon it starts to become foggy which is not helpful knowing that I'm on a dangerous road, have not slept much and have to bike for around 80 km with big hills...
Thankfully Highway 17 is fairly quiet, but I do have to pay attention. I realize I am pretty tired and that my strength and concentration are not optimal. The hills were managable the last couple of days but today the climbs are bigger again. By 11 o'clock, when the mist is mostly gone I alomst feel as if I am climbing mountains in Austria. It is not going fast and I have to climb for long distances at about 6 km an hour. There is no restaurant, nothing until Terrace Bay. I keep biking but at one point I have to stop. It is too heavy. The temperature is now around 7°C and it is humid.
This is starting to look like a Survival episode on the discovery channel. It is difficult and dangerous because of my tiredness. I am concerned that there actually was a bear at my tent last night and I make up my mind not to camp again! As I start another long climb, a car approaches and stops. It is a contractor. He hangs out the window and yells: “Bears! Bears on the road, look out man!”
Oh no, I can already feel my adrenaline rushing. I am riding in a right leaning curve next to a tall rock face unable to see what is around the corner. When I can see the road ahead again, I am shocked by the sight of a bear on the side of the road not even 4 m away from me. I take out my cap gun and shoot. The bear moves his nose, but stays relaxed. I sense that this little bear is not going to harm me and I quietly bike past it with fast beating heart. I try to take a picture of it as I look back and I notice that it has not moved at all.
Seeing a bear does not make me happy. Once I pass the hill and am back on a straight end, I spot another bear about 10 m away from me. There's a big ditch between the road and the berm but I don't like the idea of seeing so many bears. I realize that these animals are probably not going to get in my way, eventhough I am biking in their territory. There are many bears as I already heard yesterday. There is not enough room for them, so they tend to become more aggressive with each other and are more inclined to get closer to areas inhabited by people. And so they lose their natural fear for people. A little further down I see yet another bear in the woods and I decide to keep my eyes on the road because it makes me feel very uneasy. I am tired and I notice that I'm pretty much done with bears.
After cycling for an hour I am 40 km away from Terrence Bay. I crossed a brown river called Little Pic River. It gives me a little laugh. I almost didn't sleep, all those bears and cycling for 1,5 month I guess...
After much sweat and toil in these truly beautiful surroundings I arrive in Terrace Bay at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I find the motel that had already booked. I hang out my wet things in the sun which has just broken through. Water is dripping from everything, but it dries pretty quickly.
After having a nice hot shower I get dressed. My neck is stiff from sleeping uncomfortably last night and I feel tired and broken. I have dinner at the restaurant by the motel, then I write my blog and then: sleep!!!
Han Schomakers, editor
Translation by Sytske van der Veen