Day 8: Dempster Highway (NWT)

2008-07-16

07h30 Whitehorse
12h30 Dempster Highway start
23h30 (00h30 local time) Inuvik!!!!!
1230 KM

Today was most difficult biking day of my life.
Nothing to report from Whitehorse and Dawson City apart from a few kilometers of hard gravel and a few scary animal crossings! I tried to follow a group of GS’s but I quickly to overtake them and continue on because the pace was a little slow.

Around noon, I get to the Dempster Highway start. At 12h30 after filling up at 1,75$ per litre, I finally start what I’ve been dreaming of for so many months!!!

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 002

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0092008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0162008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0382008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0412008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0442008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0262008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0392008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0252008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0302008-07-16 Dempster Highway 034

The road is superb. After 5-6 km, the pavement gives way to a compact and hard gravel so speed is still good.

After 40-50 minutes, I pass in front of Tombstone Provincial Park. The landscape is simply breathtaking. It looks a bit like the Argentina or Chile but much more green. It soon gets to high mountain conditions (a little bit of snow in the rivers). However, I am lucky: the weather is perfect including a nice 25 degrees celsius.

My hottest day to date occurs in the Arctic!

It is difficult to drive 5 km without stopping to contemplate the horizon and grab a few pictures.

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0522008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0552008-07-16 Dempster Highway 0492008-07-16 Dempster Highway 068There are very few cars. Sometimes I spend an hour without crossing anybody. It’s fun but scary at the same time. If I have a breakdown or an accident here, I’m alone for real! I can easily ride comfortably at 100 km / h but I am very careful for obvious reasons!

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 057

 

All this would change … Fast.

North of Yukon, just before arriving in the Northwest Territories, the road deteriorates quickly and I almost lose control in a thick gravel spot, The soft road takes me by surprise. Scary.

A little later, I cross the boundaries of the Arctic Circle. Tourist picture and lets go because it’s a little late.

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Fatigue is obvious. I have to concentrate to be able to spot and find difficult areas to avoid loosing the bike. And they seem to be increasingly frequent because I have to drive standing up most of the time.

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 109
Two ferries in one hour. After Fort McPherson, the road deteriorates to the point that my speed always reduced and I have to be standing on the bike all the time. If I fall here, I do not even know what would happen!? It almost happened 5 or 6 times but I managed to save the day.The last 300 km must be done standing up at 50-60 km / h. A test of endurance, determination and driving skills.
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The landscape changes from mountain to tundra conditions. It’s late and I have to work hard to keep the bike on the road. A loss of control here is serious because the road was built on permafrost, so they had to make a 3 or 4 meters gravel base on top of the ground so if I leave the road, I fall down 4 meters !
2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 078
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I am overtaken by a few trucks which create a dense dust cloud. If a car would be following these trucks, they would never see me! Fortunately, it’s late and I’m alone on the road …
Fortunately?
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23:30, 16 hours later, here I am in Inuvik! Safe & Sound!

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 113

I go quickly around town and decide to sleep at the campsite located 2 km before the entrance of the village. This night will be my best night to date, despite the midnight sun!

I will stay here 2 days because I don’t want to drive tomorrow, I’m too exhausted and besides, I am entitled to a free night at the campsite because I arrived after midnight!

This road was quite an experience and above all, a test. Luckily I had installed tires TKC80 (off road) on the bike.

The return will be different. I intend to take my time, photos, drive more slowly (or so I thought).

The bike is so dirty. As soon as I touch it, I’m dirty as well. I’ll do a wash tomorrow because my clothes are still contaminated with bear spray!

2008-07-16 Dempster Highway 114


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