So, after a day-and-a-half of sluggish jet-lag recovery and really not doing much, our cycle tour begun in earnest on Monday when we decided to make our way out of Calgary towards Cochrane, where our next obliging CouchSurfing host awaited us. After a great deal of fiddling and re-adjusting of the bikes and our panniers (in spite of our trial runs, the sheer weight astounded us and we were forced to logistically ‘jiggle’ the contents around in order to spread the weight more fairly!) we finally set off, quickly finding the cycle path alongside the river Bow which would lead us out of the city.
What a ride.
We followed the Bow river through Calgary and then out west towards the mountains, and the ride was positively beautiful. So many aspects of the ride captured my imagination and sparked my interest that my words couldn’t possibly do the day’s events justice, however, due to our ridiculous (!) lack of pictures (I blame Matt- he’s the one looking after the camera!) they are practically all I have to offer.
The first thing that truly struck me as we weaved our way through the city towards the river was the sheer space around Calgary. As a thriving and busy city, Calgary has a reasonable population and is renowned as being a bustling and busy urban area. On speaking to a few locals, I gather the sheer pace, the traffic, noise and the crowded nature of the city is something many would strive to avoid, which of course, I can identify with. However, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Calgary and our own city of ‘bustle’ in the UK- London, where Matt and I visited only recently. What a stark difference.
The houses around Calgary- and indeed, many of the shops and offices, even in the very centre!- have their own space. Front yards, borders, a garden to the rear. Driveways and a grass ‘buffer’ between the house and the public pavement. Breathing room, almost. I looked back to my time on Brick Lane with my sister- to the cramped, terraced buildings, stacked and squished amongst one another any way they could possibly get away with it- the endless scene of brickwork, of stainless steel, of grey and brown and metal in lifeless, suffocating manner. Here, trees were scattered at regular intervals throughout the city, dotting the city skyline in an almost paradoxical manner that seemed almost surreal, false. Oh, I’m not saying London lacks green- there are some truly wonderful parks and areas in Britain’s capital that do the city proud. But the general feel of Calgary was far less…compressed? It’s a city life that almost felt healthy, and actually, I began to question why so many seemed eager to escape it. Admittedly, however… due to our reclusive state, we didn’t get to see as much of Calgary as we had originally hoped and anticipated, so perhaps I shall reserve judgement until/if another visits grants me the chance to get a true feel for city life.
However, the ride itself, for a first day’s cycling experience, really couldn’t have been better. The path was almost completely flat, smooth and quiet, and followed the most beautiful scenery. The weather was absolutely incredible also- clear blue skies and a warm sun, but a nice breeze to keep us cool as we pedaled. We actually begun to curse those who had put the fear of the weather into us; in our lined Craghoppers trousers and winter layers, we were ill-prepared for such glorious sunshine and quickly had to strip down to the bare essentials! As we sailed past the Bow- a brilliant, bright blue river that stretches the length of our route through Alberta- with the mountains up ahead and the blue skies above, I knew this was the reason why we had opted for the craziness of cycling in the first place. With regular stops for lunch and to let Theo run around a playground for a while, we were able to go at a nice, steady and slow pace without pushing ourselves too hard- a blessing for our first day. Only one slight negative to the day… the breeze meant we underestimated the power of the sun and by the end of the day, we both had, well… ‘colour’. Me especially. And unfortunately, that ‘colour’ followed the lines of my sunglasses… so yes, look at the photos and laugh, because I now have the very worst ‘panda-eye’-style tan lines I’ve had in my life. That’ll teach me.
We arrived into Cochrane 31 miles later, evening time, and had a lovely evening with our hostess, Natalie, who cooked us a lovely meal- and whose own two children (&their toys!) kept Theo happily entertained for the duration of our stay- although Dade, Natalie’s little boy, seemed highly unimpressed with Theo systematically emptying out every single toy he owned onto the floor!! Unfazed, however, Theo joyfully pulled out every single bus, train, car and truck he could lay his hands on- and caused even greater distress when spotting a fire engine and shouting with glee, “MY fire engine!”. His poor ‘friend’ practically cried in frustration as he tried to argue otherwise. Still… it’s great for us that Theo can continue to have other children to play with whilst we travel, as he lready seems to miss the bustle of nursery.
Unfortunately exhaustion claimed us both before I had the opportunity to post so forgive my lateness in publishing; we had truly underestimated the force jet-lag can have upon your physical capacity, especially when combined with cycle touring! Note to self (and any other future touring cyclists out there!): allow time for recovery and adjustment- especially if you have small children.
All in all, however, a wonderfully successful first day.
Miles today- 31
Total miles- 31