As Claudio is due to fly out from Inuvik on the 6th March, we decided, rather than doing more of the same on the return journey, to drive back to Aklavik and then we’d have five days to create part three of the expedition.
Yesterday I cycled 90km in light snow on an ice road from Aklavik to its junction with the famous Inuvik – Tuktoyaktuk ice road. Our aim now is to finish this expedition by travelling from Inuvik to Tuk (as it is commonly called), a distance of almost 200km, visiting Reindeer Station on the way.
It’s a different type of challenge, cycling on ice roads. The surfaces are as hard as asphalt, but the biggest worry is slipping; either when it becomes glare ice or when snow drifts accumulate across the road (loose surface over slippery surface). Using a fat bike with extra wide tyres isn’t a very efficient set up for hard roads, but the extra surface area from the tyres add some stability. Yesterday, with snow settling on the road, I kept the all-wheel drive system on to reduce the chance of slipping.
The distance between Aklavik and Inuvik, as the crow flies, is 55km, but ice roads are built in winter over the waterways which here meander across the Mackenzie River Delta, so the distance between the two towns is 110km. The terrain was deadpan flat following the channels, only the wind changed the level of resistance. Crossing the main channel of the Mackenzie River, itself several kilometres wide, it was interesting to see barges and boats docked and frozen in for the winter.
It was a long grinding day cycling across the delta. When I arrived at the junction at about 9pm I had had enough and there was little daylight left. Claudio took a photo to celebrate the day’s achievement and we headed for Inuvik, about 20km to the south. We had an address for accommodation just to the south of the town, but we had difficulty finding it, eventually arriving at 11.15pm. Bob and Theresa had driven 160km from Aklavik to Fort McPherson to pick up the bus and truck (pick-up) and then drive almost 200km along the Dempster Highway to Inuvik. They arrived at about 1.30pm. Eventually the owner returned from a day off and she provided the last available room for the night – it was a late one with no supper!