Photos and story by Felix Burke
Did you know fried tarantulas are considered to be a delicacy on the streets of Cambodia? What you appreciate is all a question of the circumstances in which you find yourself. Well, for a band of dirty bike-packers, the same principle applies. 7 hours into a hot day of riding, a gas station burrito eaten on the curb is as much of a delicacy as can be.
We ate our fair-share of gas station food last year when we set out on our first bike-packing adventure. Underprepared and overconfident, we travelled from Squamish to Calgary in the first 13 days of July 2020. Despite some awful weather and many, many wrong turns, we had a great time! Such a good time in fact that we decided to set out for another trip this summer. This time, we set out to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. From July 1st to 10th, we covered 1300km around Vancouver Island, exploring the remote industry towns of its west coast as well as the laid-back island communities of the east coast.
Our crew consisted of current and ex-pro racers from the Rocky Mountain factory team. We were Quinn Moberg, Greg Day, Colin Vankervel and myself (Felix Burke). Somewhere along the way, all four of us forgot to grow up, which made for very little serious conversation throughout the trip. Through tired legs, sunburn, and sleep deprivation we laughed the whole time.
The route took us up the west side of the island to the northern-most point, Raft-Cove. From there we would come down the east side on the Island Highway to Campbell River where we would island hop across Quadra Island and Cortez Island before ending our route with a couple days of riding on the Sunshine Coast back to Squamish.
Because the west side of the island is so remote, we had to hire some water taxis to carry us across inlets where no roads exist. Loading up the bikes and our bags on a boat was a unique experience and sailing up the coast was a great way to see the wild and magnificent nature that Vancouver Island is known for.
We decided to make Raft-Cove our turnaround point because we had heard stories of the beautiful beach of white sand and big waves that lay hidden at this distant spot. These stories gave it a mysterious magnetism that we couldn’t resist. Getting to the trailhead after 7 days on the bike was hard enough, but to get to the cove itself we had to hide our bikes in the bush and hike 2km with our camping gear down a muddy and technical trail. All the effort that went into reaching this place made it feel that much more special.
Eccentric characters were met on route. Like Simon, the bear hunter from Zeballos and Martin, the new owner of the Holberg General Store. When we first met Martin, he and his son were setting off to collect a whale skull from faraway beach. We were pretty surprised to find a decapitated whale carcass when we arrived at Raft Cove later that day, its skull missing from the body.
Bikepacking is mostly about letting go of the normal day to day routine. It’s about spending your days outside, on your bike, open to new experiences. With another trip under our belt, it is hard to say whether we are getting any better at bikepacking, but one thing that is sure is that it didn’t take long after we got home for us to start dreaming up the next trip!