Day 14, it’s nearly over!
It rained and rained, all night. I was freezing and got about 3 hours sleep. The rain on the tent was liveable but my old mates, the crows, started squawkfest 2014 once again. I’d hung my food bag up a tree and kept hearing noises in the night too, all still there thankfully.
It was futile trying to sleep but I tried, I was really tired and knew the more rest I got, the better.
I got out of the tent at 7:30 and began boiling water and packing up for the day ahead. Today’s exquisite breakfast was spag bol, actually pretty good first thing!
It was a massive chore packing away the tent. It was soaked, got covered in slugs in the night and pine needles were everywhere. Plus I was getting drenched too.
Everything was packed and ready to go, I just needed to speak with the people at the West Coast Trail office for last minute checks on my route, they didn’t open until 9am.
They didn’t know the route, which surprised me. They didn’t have any detailed maps either. I wasn’t keen on trusting my gps route without local confirmation so I headed back to the campsite office.
A guy there recommended a route which I wrote down, for a change. It would save 3 hours and avoid having to go to Lake Cowichan.
It poured with rain all morning so it wasn’t long before I was soaked through my rain gear. It gets to a stage where you get wet but can stay warm from maintaining a decent tempo. But this was the worst rain I’d had all trip.
I zoned out in the rain and missed the first turning. It cost me about 10 miles, that was annoying but my fault for not paying attention.
I rejoined the correct road and found today much tougher going. The first part with its sandy bits was like riding in cement. My gears were covered mud already. They were making horrible loud grinding, squeaking and clunky noises. No way could I put up with that all day so I stopped to put lube on them and adjust them.
That worked for about 5 minutes until they were caked in mud again. Sand and grains making their way around the chain, it made for painful listening, all day!
The garmin kept turning itself off too and losing the map display. This wasn’t a good sign, it reminded me of those days trying to get from Port Alice.
It stayed off for 20 minutes before coming on again, it took another 15 to find a satellite. Rain really must be getting in or it doesn’t like the banging around from the road.
I get to the junction to Lake Cowichan and Nininat, my instinct is to go to Cowichan but the route is straight on, so that’s where I go.
It’s about 10 miles and I get to another turn to Caycuse road. The sign has a cross on it, the road veers steeply off to the left. It’s also more overgrown, which looks worrying.The map says this is the way, it corresponds with the directions I was given too so I head off up there.
I’m feeling anxious immediately. It was just like roads I got lost on last week. Grass and moss growing in the middle of the road, bushes and trees leaning into the me as I ride past.
I start to see lots of bear poo, lots more than bear poo alley last week! I also see two lots of cougar scat. This is worrying, the road then kinks left and heads up and up.
I’m brushing past bushes to get through and hear a huge crashing right next to me, within feet. I immediately jump off the bike and let it fall to my side. I let out a gasp and go straight for the handlebar bag where the air horn is kept. I get it out and sound it in the direction of the bush 3 short times.
It’s REALLY loud but does the trick. I can hear it rustling further into the forest and away from me.
All of this happened in about 10 seconds. My heart was pounding and I just acted. I assume it was a bear judging by the toilet antics down the road. I felt bad for sounding the horn, it was probably an overreaction. But the proximity of the noise, the overbearing bushes and forest around me just made me panic.
After that I kept shouting ‘I’m coming through’ and had the horn in my jersey pocket ready.
The road got rougher and rougher. Bigger rocks and less road, more forest. It then ramped up to around 40%, it was like looking at a wall. With that I decided enough was enough. The map showed 20km of windy roads to come, I assume all like this. No way was I getting stuck up here, not on the penultimate day. I had to be in Victoria tomorrow!
I headed back down the road and was completely gutted. I’d wasted hours getting here. It was 2pm, I knew Port Renfrew was miles to go, no way would I make it tonight.
My only other choice was to head to Lake Cowichan after all. There is no feeling like it, heading back down a muddy, cold and bumpy road you’ve just been down. The feeling of being defeated. I was in a foul mood and really disappointed about not getting to Port Renfrew.
The turn to Lake Cowichan finally came, I had no idea how far it was. My garmin map wasn’t working again, my phone had no signal. I just had to go for it. It was 3pm, I was getting hungry and tired.
The road to Cowichan has to be the worst road I’ve ridden on. I was being bounced around all of it. It was riddled with pot holes. Pot holes would multiply in front of my eyes. Pot holes became holes, holes became death traps. There was no escaping them. It made progress so slow, having to try and find a line that was the least uncomfortable and safest.
My chain came off loads of times. It was fed up. Not only were my legs tired, but having my bones shaken on this road for 4 hours reminded me what I had for breakfast. My hands, wrists, arms, back and shoulders were taking a hammering. It was hard to focus on the surface sometimes, my eyes were being shaken around too much. All I could see was a blur of gravel, puddles and holes.
If you go too quickly, you’d risk bursting a tyre, more chain off and make for a rougher ride. Go too slow and you prolong the hammering you get and it takes you longer. I was swearing a lot by this point, I had a lot thrown at me during this challenge but this road was the devil’s work. I was so close to walking and seeing if anyone who passed would give me a lift, but I refused to give in, despite how treacherous it was.
When cars did go past, they would have to go into potholes themselves. All of them filled with coffee coloured water which made it’s way onto me as they drove past. To get out of the way, I’d have to tuck into the side as much as possible. Easier said than done when you’re often looking down a few hundred meters drop into a river or steep mountain side.
This road went on for miles. When would the potholes ever end! Eventually something good happened. I came to the junction where I could head on the north or south shore road around Lake Cowichan. I choose south.
That road just went up and up. Lovely views but the last thing my legs needed. I could see the other road on the opposite side, it was pretty much at water level all the way. Why the wrong road again!
The lake just went on and on. I could have taken dozens of photos and should have taken in how beautiful it was. But I was desperate to get somewhere warm, dry and get some food.
Hill after hill was accompanied by swear word after swear word. I told each and everyone one of them exactly what I thought of them!
Please just hurry up and get there! It was 6pm and I had no idea how far I had to go. But it did stop raining. That’s one tick in the box at least.
The sign for Lake Cowichan appeared with a 20km marker, I was within grasp of something to eat. I hadn’t anticipated it taking me this long to get anywhere today, so only took what I thought I needed. But those roads just ate my energy, not just legs.
I told myself that when I arrive in this town, I’ll stop at the first place that sells food and drink.
Those last few miles were tough, but the road finally turned to Tarmac. I still felt like I was being shaken about because is been riding on tough roads for nearly 10 hours.
The town finally came into sight! The first food place was an A&W fast food drive thru. I wasn’t precious at this stage, I was hungry so wolfed down a burger and several glasses of root beer.
Today was epic. It now means I’ll have to change routes into Victoria tomorrow as it would be too much in one day to get from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew to Victoria.
I clocked up 93 miles and nearly 5,000ft. I’ll check my garmin for ascent data when I can. It felt a lot higher than that!
Despite the day I’ve had, I’m still glad I did it. I pushed myself today, went through a lot of rough roads and battered my body in doing so. It’s nearly done. One last day and that’s it.
Please donate what you can. Thanks to everyone who has already. A few ££$$€€, whatever you can afford to two great cancer charities here in British Columbia and Norfolk UK.