Arctic Ocean to Inuvik

Stage One of the ride runs across a road from the Arctic coast that has only been open since 2018. It runs for 148km southwards to Inuvic and offers up short yet horrid little climbs every 500metres or so. Up a nasty little gradient for a few hundred metres, then down again…all day. No land-speed records broken here I’m afraid as the legs are pretty well toasted after sadly pathetic distances each day (50km+60km+38km). But no matter, will enjoy the gob-smacking scenery and just churn out the 50km days across the tundra until some semblance of condition returns to the legs .

My camp out on the tundra south of Tuk. Quite a challenge to find a place that is not soggy. The Nemo 2P tent is smaller than the MSR HubbaHubba and heaven knows how two people might fit into this thing. But the star is the EXPED mattress (very comfortable). Great to be sleeping each day after giving it a bit out on the road, only interrupted by the occasional distant shotgun pop while people blast away at the odd duck.

The midnight sun over the Arctic Ocean at Toktoyaktuk

Not great camerawork but what can I do? I’m a hardcore adventurer, not a cameraman

Top of the Dempster Highway: Tuktoyaktuk, Canada

And so it begins. This crisp clear day in late May finds Buff3y the Hardcore Adventure Cyclist at the top of the Dempster Highway, at the top of the continent of North America. I had a bit of a test ride with the fully packed bike on the way up here to Tuktoyaktuk and regret to inform of a decidedly softish core to the legs. It has been seven years since I last headed out on the long-road and can unhappily report here that the concept of muscle memory is completely bogus; the sweet memory of plowing up Andean switch-backs sadly a very distant one.

Buff3y in silly (but exceedingly warm) hat

The Bear Deterrent (which cost freakin’ C$75) has to be sprayed directly into the grizzly’s eyes or a scene from Revenant will most likely ensue.

Wheel-Dipping Ceremony in Tuktoyaktuk at the Arctic Ocean, Far North Canada

The hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk is nestled up against a still-frozen Arctic Ocean in far-northern Canada (refer video of idiot trying to dip wheels in the ocean). It plays host to the early warning station for tracking in-coming military hardware that might lob in from Russia and land on Canada or the USA. It is also strewn with the remnant tanks and other infrastructure from the 1970’s oil boom. The simple wooden houses are super-insulated and one is a guest house that not only accommodates but serves up a bowl of beef stew to a tired cyclist.

I caught a ride up here after the experimental 50km test ride on the loaded bike out of the town of Inuvik, 148km to the south. The legs go to complete jello after a depressingly short distance along the gently rolling dirt road so am delighted to see John and his magnificently warm Ford something-or-other truck arrive. John is a Tuk local who points out every type of bird and squirrel he somehow manages to see from hundreds of yards away, while we trundle over the smooth dirt highway that will be my route southwards in a day’s time. The tundra is still covered with snow and the sea is frozen in many places and the whole vista is dazzlingly clear and incredibly beautiful.

The ride south will start with the 148km leg back down to Inuvik. Just south of Inuvik there are two river crossings by ferry. It is mid-May so ‘the thaw’ is on and these ferries only start operating after this thaw has done its thing, allowing me further south. The Dempster then crosses southwards over the Arctic Circle and into Yukon finishing just 40km short of Dawson City (a town I remember fondly from previous travels in this part of the world).

After that the plan is to follow the line of the Rockies south-eastwards into Montana and points south.

It’s great to see that people out there in the blogosphere still appear interested enough in the daring exploits of Buff3y The Hardcore Adventure Cyclist to be clicking on the blog despite it now having been three whole months since he concluded his conquering of The Americas.  I would stress here that I remain completely unwilling to concede that the recent blog hit statistics might be due to people searching for ‘pants’ or ‘mariachi’ and being misdirected to the blog of a touring cyclist. That just does not happen.

Tierra Del Fuego

Tierra Del Fuego fence

The sign requests us to protect it, but what the hell is the endangered split-headed-beavertail -asaurus?!
The sign requests us protect it. But what the hell is the endangered split-headed-beavertail -asaurus?!

Yes these are lifesized green toy soldiers taking the Maldivas.
Yes, these are life-sized green toy soldiers retaking the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands)!

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Windy Sign

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Buff3y The Hardcore Adventure Cyclist, having just conquered all of the South American mainland is now forging his way across Tierra Del Fuego towards this ride’s end point; the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia.

Now with only a few days until I arrive in Ushuaia it is curious how the notion that the ride will very shortly be over is just not really computing. Two days and then no more riding!? How can this be? I’ve been packing pannier bags in the morning and heading out onto the road for so long that it just seems silly that this will soon end.

What does one do when there is no more road south? How do you wake up and then go about a beige life without the wind blasting in your face? Without the need to curse Stribog with all manner of florid language? Well I suppose I’m about the find out.

Two days from now I will go from being the hardcore adventure cyclist to merely being just another passenger.

I will be (reluctantly) transformed from one who has enjoyed all the freedom to go and stop when I felt like it; someone who has suffered every mood of the weather and enjoyed all of the road’s joys to one who sees the world flash past a window frame, ignorant of gradient, wind, rain, surface, aching muscles etc etc.

I won’t be earning destinations – I’ll just arrive. I’ll be informed when I’m allowed to board. I’ll be offered tea or coffee. I’ll be told when I can and cannot use the toilet. When all I wish to do is ‘disembark’ like a civilised human being some idiot will no doubt gratingly inform me to “deplane”, as if one can seriously “de-car” or “de-bike”. Great galloping gods! In essence, I will go from being free to not being so. Bugger it.

Somewhat incongruously set against that sobering thought, I’m really looking forward to finishing. I’ve cycled every kilometre of land between Deadhorse Alaska to this point and, quite frankly, I’m a bit tired. Theatrical writing theory tells us that you need to tell the audience anything that really matters at least three times …so let me reiterate: I have cycled every kilometre south from Deadhorse Alaska to this point that is about 220km from the southern most point of the Pan-American Highway. So, just to be clear, I have cycled every kilometre south from Deadhorse Alaska through Canada, USA, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Haven’t added all of those kilometres up as yet but will do so soon. Suffice to say here that its a lot!

Anyway. On-on and twice more unto the bike I go dear friends to reach the end point. Will communicate again from Ushuaia in a few days.