Bound for Tuktoyaktuk
North by bicycle
Fort Simpson (Feb 25/00) - As of Sunday, Nobuhiko Kawaguchi had cycled from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson and he was still finalizing his plans to reach Tuktoyaktuk.
The 25-year-old Japanese tourist from Yokohama told the Drum Monday that he's eager to see Fort Good Hope, Deline, Tulita and Norman Wells. However, he's aware that the winter road heading north comes to an end at Fort Good Hope.
With a destination of Tuk firmly in mind, his options are either to fly to Inuvik or pedal all the way back south through the NWT, into B.C. and then up through the Yukon.
"I'm thinking," he said in his limited English, later acknowledging that the ice road from Inuvik to Tuk will almost definitely be out by April. "I don't like mountain (through the Yukon). I like flat, river and culture -- Dene and Inuit."
Kawaguchi has been cycling his green Japanese-made Alps bicycle since Jan. 30, living out of a small dome tent with only a radio, a gas can, a fuel motor, a cooking pan, a thermos and cup, limited rations, writing paper, his camera and, of course, toilet paper.
"It's important," he said laughing, when mentioning the last item of inventory.
A part-time cook and horseback riding coach in Japan, Kawaguchi has been surviving on a diet of sweet tea, oatmeal, rice, nuts, lard and meat. He also takes a vitamin to compensate for the lack of fruit and vegetables in his diet.
"Winter camping experienced," he said. "No problem."
The trip has had its share of obstacles so far. Averaging 50 kilometres per day and 90 kilometres on a good day, he has had no less than nine flat tires from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson. Finding spare tire tubes has become a necessity, he admitted.
Although he said he retires by dusk, vehicles passing by at 100 km/h during the day are still menacing, he admitted.
"It's a danger," he said.
He said he experienced muscle soreness during the first leg of his journey from Yellowknife to Fort Providence, but has been feeling fine since then. The cold weather was expected as he has visited the NWT three times. Once, he fell through some thin ice while hiking across Great Slave Lake and would have drowned had he not unzipped his jacket and let his heavy backpack sink to the bottom of the lake.
He has also cycled in other parts of the world such as Vancouver and Los Angeles. Seven years ago, while riding his bike on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, when it was -20 C, he said he was struck by a car, but sustained few injuries.
"I'm a lucky boy," he said, smiling.
Next year, Kawaguchi has an even grander adventure in mind. He hopes to ride his motorcycle from Vancouver through the northern United States, up into the Maritimes, then head back through Canada going north to Alaska.
Why does he do it?
"I like people and nature," he said.