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getting a move on

Eventually, I drag myself away from the revitalising waters of the springs and go back to my bike which I have left hidden in the bushes on the roadway.

I have been tarrying the last few days, in Stewart and here in the Nisga’a valley, and I feel the need, now, to cover some miles. I cycle back through the Lava Bed Valley to the road towards Terrace watching a storm running up the valley before me. A rainbow arches over the road.

Rainbow over the road.

Rainbow over the road.

I notice now that almost all the road signs in the valley have been altered, the English text carefully edited out. I am impressed by the skill, dedication and thoroughness with which this task has been completed and I wonder if the original signs had stated the local names first, with the English names subaltern and parenthesised, the same person or persons would have bothered with it. I suddenly recall Fred mentioning that road signage was a contentious issue in local politics.

After the turn off to Terrace, the road runs along another pretty valley with numerous pools and streams of  milky aqua water to both sides. The quantity of water means the valley doesn’t offer a wide choice of camp sites and I ride until I arrive at Lava Lake where I decide to stop at the picnic ground despite prominent signs prohibiting camping. It is dusk and still quite wet so I figure no-one will come to bother me.

Water on both sides of the road make camping a bit tricky.

Water on both sides of the road makes camping a bit tricky.

I am unpacking my food pannier, deciding which of my three staple options – pasta, cous-cous or lentils – I will cook tonight, when a car pulls up and a group of youths tumble out, shouting and laughing. The picnic tables are amongst trees and screened by bushes and as one guy starts up the path towards me he is clearly startled by my presence which wasn’t betrayed by a car in the parking area.

“Bikers?” he says. It is a query, I think. I am grateful for the assumed plural even though there is no evidence of my phantom companions. “Yes,” I reply, firmly and calmly. He backs away and returns to his friends. “Bikers,” he repeats and manages to make the word carry the same impact as if he had said “Vipers!” his voice laden with a wary distaste.

The kids laugh and shout raucously for while around their car but nobody approaches me again. I set about cooking my dinner mentally preparing a story about my friends who will appear now any second having finally repaired their flat tire. My bear spray is to hand. However, the kids soon jump back in their car and leave.

The traffic along the road is quite heavy and cars continue to pass regularly. The local communities seem very well resourced with cars – favouring sporty numbers in red or white. The vehicle’s sinuous interlocking curves and sleek angles are strangely reminiscent, it seems to me, of the various creatures represented in the carved totem poles.

Totem poles on a bridge.

Totem poles on a bridge.

I eat dinner and put up my tent and then light a fire as an alternative to an early night. I’m still slightly anxious about my exposed campsite but there is not much to be done about it at this stage. It starts to drizzle again and I go to bed. Sporadically cars pull into the car park – to use the outhouse, I presume – and each time I wake, wary and tense. It is Friday night, I realise.

The following morning I set off and it starts to rain again. I arrive in Terrace early in the afternoon soggy and cold and stop at a bike shop to replace my break pads. The ones I put in at Bell II, on the front, have not lasted well and back ones also need attention. Bike tended to, I then retire to the internet café to see if I can organise some accommodation, hopefully in Terrace, but also in Prince Rupert, tomorrow’s destination, and on Vancouver Island.

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