I was nervous and excited to be heading up the ice road on the MacKenzie river delta and the Arctic Ocean.
The plan was to catch a ride to Tuktoyaktuk and point my wheel south from there.
In luck I met a couple of guys headed that direction in the plane.
Until their driver told me it’s against company policy to take hitch hikers. With everybody else already gone I figured I best rig up my bike and head the 11km into town.
The timing couldn’t have been better. I was told Inuvik was just coming up to their annual spring festival, the Muskrat Jamboree is being held for the 54th time coming weekend.
I little cold I headed for the MacKenzie hotel for a warm cup of soup.
That was lucky! Because Natalie & Josh were working. Natalie hasn’t been up here very long, with parents from Colombia and France she’s gorgeous but refuses to have her picture taken. So you’ll just have to trust me on that one.
John is an Ozzie married to a Canadian lady, so lovely to hear that accent again! Natalie was happy to let me crash on her couch for a little while.
It’s pretty slippery I found as my (studded!) tyre slipped underneath me and I landed on my bum.
But I soon found my pace and with this glorious sun and temperature higher than expected (-10 / -15) I enjoyed the ride. And now is the time to do it! As work has been underway and they’re expecting the all-weather road to be completed in 2017.
There will be no more ice road to Tuktoyaktuk then..
I wasn’t planning to head up to Tuk ’till after the festival, but that changed.
I noticed a little dot on the horizon, as I drew closer I saw it was a guy pulling a sled. Than had just walked/ran 500km in less than a week! I’d seen him on my way in from the airport. He’s part of the 6633Ultra Marathon, probably the toughest race on the planet.
It was just about lunchtime and we’d just about reached Reindeer station so we had our lunch together and Than surprised me by casually lighting a cigarette before heading out on his mission to finish the race and raise money to build a library back in Thailand.
I go a little faster on my bicycle, but they go so much longer! I ended up running into all of them the next day again.
The first time a big truck passed me on the ice I got a bit of a fright. I could hear and feel the ice cracking under my tyres, but since the ice seemed strong enough to hold that big load I shouldn’t have anything to worry about.. right?
The days are long now this far north. I love having lots of time to get where you want to go in daylight.
I’ve been told about a small emergency shelter halfway up the river and I found it! It was a little bit of a push to get to it, but with a stove and a gorgeous view it was more than worth it.I woke up in the night and noticed the mesmerizing lights dancing through the skies again. I felt a little sorry for them guys & girls out there in the cold on the ice all night. They only sleep 2 to 4 hours to get where they’re going in time!Now, every time I’m a little cold, or a little tired I just think of what those guys have been doing and I realise I’m not that tough.Also, I sometimes have to remind myself that I am having fun, and this is what I most love doing… It’s only a little hard to remember at times when your fingers are about to fall off… 😉
Lucky that doesn’t happen very often.
After leisurely packing up and having my coffee in the morning I ran into all of them again.
Than was doing well,
he seemed rather cheerful and told me he was expecting to finish at 3am.
When my chain cracked I worried for an instant I might get there at 3 am too. But it seemed possible to keep on riding the next 60km on half a link. I just couldn’t remember if I had a spare somewhere… I never needed it before.
17 km before the town of Tuktoyaktuk I met Daithi.
He’s an Irish Shaman and told me about the hallucinations he’s been having and the fact it’s rather a miracle he’s here and alive. We walked together until we reached the finish line.
He is the first Irishman ever to complete this race. And he was third overall. Finishing this 566km journey is an extreme accomplishment. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it. And I don’t really feel like trying either. I really like my sleep at night… But I’m inspired and impressed by everybody who does!
And especially the shared number one, Sam and Natalie. That’s right, a lady from the UK won this time!
By now my camera battery died. That was a terrible shame as it had been a grey cloudy day all along but just at arriving in Tuk the sun shone on the town and it was all just perfect!
Lucky they had a camera and snapped a few pictures of our arrival. For all the pictures of their final day check out the facebook page
Than made it too! He finally came in together with Hendra from Indonesia at 4.30AM.
It was early the next morning we all headed back to Inuvik and while they moved on back home I stayed to have a look at this Jamboree.
Special thanks to Lynne and Paddy for leaving me with lot’s of their left over travel food! I’ll be sure to get across the Dempster without getting hungry:)
The Muskrat Jamboree is in its 54th year, a fair feat seeing the town of Inuvik is only officially established in 1958. But it has a strong first nations culture that reaches back centuries. It’s Canada’s northernmost town and means ‘place of man‘ in Inuvialuktun. (yes, I did read the tourist brochure..)
One of the highlights of the Jamboree is the reindeer crossing.
Every spring the herd of reindeer that lives up there is herded to an island in the Arctic Ocean, their calving grounds, where they will stay all summer.The herder is actually a guy from Lapland, and for this occasion there were reindeer herders visiting from the north of Scandinavia, and Russia! It was quiet an event and I have to thank Gerry from Up North Tours for inviting me to tag along! (I met him on the ice road a few days earlier)
At night Natalie and I went to see a jigging contest. I had no idea what jigging is. In case you didn’t know either, here’s a little video.
All in all a great and eventful weekend.There were a few nights on the town as well…
Natalie and colleagues know how to live it up alright 😉 So I found myself sipping Martini’s in a hotel lobby… What a difference from a few nights ago!
(not worse or better though! Just different..)
Now I do have to mention that both Natalie & Ray kept picking up my tab and if it wasn’t them it was the boys from the fibre optic cables & Curt so a big thank you to all of them!
Heading out on the Dempster was interesting and a little daunting. The few days of sleep deprivation in Inuvik didn’t help all that much and I found myself almost falling asleep on my bike. My eyes actually closing at times!
But after roughly 70 km I started to wake up and by the time the 130th rolled around I was happy as larry and didn’t feel like stopping.
But I had met Lawrence on the road earlier,and he drove back out to tell me he’s got a place for me to stay if I made it to Tsiigehtchic.
He also made some great photo’s while he was out there!
This Dempster highway reminds me a lot of the Great Central in Australia.
Except for the trees, the snow and the temperatures…
actually it’s nothing like it 😉
But there is the distance, the big skies and the endless horizons!
All of the things I love 🙂
That and my bicycle… they have that in common.