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Nick & Tim’s Travel Diary

Friday, 13 Jun 2003

Location: Penticton, Canada

Map901 km

Well folks, we're in wine country, and that's a good thing in anyone's books. Last time we spoke we were in Hope, about to face the Coquihalla challenge. Well, we met that challenge head on with a three hour slog along 50km of highway rising to an altitude of 1200m. Before this, however, we rode out of Hope through the Othello tunnels. These tunnels are a part of the Kettle Valley Railway - the trail we will be following for some time now. Its an old railway line that no longer runs. The Othello tunnels were nothing short of incredible. The engineers that built them must have been very good at school. We're talking bridges and tunnels interconnected to cut a hole through several canyons in a row. When we get some photos up you'll see what we mean. After the tunnels, we had to leave the railway for the freeway climb of death. Some people acually honked and cheered us from their cars on the way up. Only one setback, Nick got a flat along the only section with no shoulder, so we had to lift the bikes plus paniers over the cement fence and onto the gravel slope next to the highway to repair it. A little scary. At the top the weather turned a little bad and we got rained on for the first time - but that was fine. We went on to do another 50km along flat and slightly downhill that day. The scenery was spectacular, even from the freeway with mountains all around us. Once we left the freeway we were back onto the Kettle Valley. We took the railway to 'The Horse Motel'. This is a nice property in the middle of nowhere run by Bert Sharky. He's a true character. He lives out there with his two horses and runs a 'motel' for the cyclists and horse riders coming through. His luxuries run to a propane fueled, creek water shower, that he built himself. Sounds dodgy, however it was better than any shower you'll find in the British Isles. Bert used to be a trapper when the railway was running, and he decided to claim the land when the railway stopped. His stories were good to hear. Also staying at Bert's were a Swiss couple, Martin and Sylvia. They too, are riding across Canada. We compared some notes and stories, we're sure we'll be seeing them again. We also met a nice Dutch pair, who were over here cycling for four weeks.

After resting up at Bert's we set off for a spectactular day's riding through the Kettle Valley. The railbed is never too steep which is nice and runs through some amazing canyons and forest. A stop in Tulameen for brunch was nice - and allowed us to meet 'Talkative library lady' and 'Super-generous hunter man'. The latter actually drove back to his house and returned to give us a book on the Kettle Valley he thought we should have. The champion. We also met 'Backpacker dude', he was hiking across Canada. The freak. Cycling is perfectly normal, but walking the entire way, alone, come on. From Tulameen it was onto Princeton, a little town with a good Subway lunch! We also got some minor repirs done to Tim's front hub. Beyond Princeton we headed through another long stretch of wilderness and guess what ... we saw a bear! In fact, Tim noticed a large boulder coming down the hill to the side of the track and pointed it out to Nick, who saw a big brown arse bounding up the hill. Cool. We could say it threw the boulder at us and sound hardcore, but really that bear was running from us terrified (which is still pretty hardcore). That night we stayed at Chain Lake. A very nice lake, although covered in RV tourists, it was peaceful.

So yesterday, we rode to here - Penticton. The trail entered into the Okanagan, a very arid part of BC, quite different to what we've been used to. We also encountered the most scary of the wildlife on the trail - a bloody great bull and his harem of cows, just roaming free. We let him go after he snorted at us a few times. We would have preferred a bear. At once stage the old Kettle Valley Railway actually had an operating section of track with the old steam engine on it. This meant we had to take a side path that some genius had decided would be much easier to ride if covered in fine gravel. Riding a sand dune would have been nicer. Oh well, we had lunch at the train station and low and behold we saw 'English Train Spotter', we thought we'd seen the last one of those on a platform in Warwickshire! Next up, we rode into Summerland. A beautiful winery town, with a large rocky outcrop in the middle of it. We saw a sign to a winery and decided we must visit. The Thornhaven winery was at a beautiful location, and had a lovely girl doing the tasting who was obviously chosen for knowledge of wine and not her voluptious looks ('Do you make wine in Australia?'). She was very pleasant however and the wine was delicious. Wine was just what we needed before setting out to do the Trout Creek Trestle, a long bridge with no railings over a canyon, the gap between each piece of wood about 10cm. Lots of fun. Good views too! That led us on the trail to Penticton - a nice little town with a not so nice campground. We slept last night under the airport flight path next a 24 hour wood mill and a freeway. Oh well, its 10am and we're about to head back into the wilderness!