Long distance cyclists Pierrre Bouchard and Janick Lemieux have been making Whistlerites feel lazy for over a decade.
In 2002, the former local residents presented the first part of their Cycling the Pacific Ring of Fire trilogy, which documents their 60,000-km “cyclovolcanic” tour around the Pacific Ocean, with a simple slideshow.
Now, with 70 months of cycling, dozens of cramped flights and an endless array of injuries under their belt, the pedalling pair returns to Whistler to showcase the multimedia documentary that tracked their long journey’s final leg: a 25,000-km jaunt that brought them from Jakarta to Vancouver in 2009.
The presentation, which is sponsored by Pedal Magazine, will blend still photography, video footage and an original soundtrack by Montreal’s Martin Tremblay with live commentary from Bouchard and Lemieux.
“We believe in the power of still photography,” said Bouchard. The presentation will feature over 1,000 photographs from the final part of their trip. “Us being there doing the live commentary, I think it makes for a more vivid account of what took place during those 27 months,” he added.
The idea for the volcano tour came when the Quebecers were on an exhaustive trip from Siberia to India in 1997, with Lemieux suffering from giardia — more commonly known as “beaver fever” — somewhere on the Tibetan Plateau in the middle of a frigid Himalayan winter.
“We couldn’t sleep at night during most of those camps. We just threw ourselves into the future in a conversation, and we said: ‘If we get out of here alive, that’d be good. So what next?’” Bouchard remembered.
After agreeing on their shared love of mountains — they did spend a significant chunk of the ‘90s in Whistler after all— the two eventually decided their next excursion would follow the Pacific Ring of Fire, a 40,000-km horseshoe surrounding the world’s largest ocean that is rife with volcanic activity.
“Volcanoes themselves, became almost like our home,” said Bouchard. “If you feel homesick when you’re in Southeast Asia, a bit irritated by the super humidity and the extreme heat, then you would go climb a volcano, start to smell sulphur, see some ash, then that would smell like what you had experienced in Chile, in Papua New Guinea or Northern California. Suddenly, it kind of relieves you.”
It’s no surprise that the twosome encountered their fair share of setbacks throughout the arduous tour, battling everything from unrelenting weather conditions, sleeplessness, broken bones and even a thief in Ecuador, where Lemieux had her bike stolen along with her video camera and 24 rolls of used film.
After enlisting the help of a few local TV journalists, the two quickly tracked down their camera in a Quito market notorious for stolen goods. With the tape still in the deck, they played back the footage featuring Lemieux, Bouchard and the unwitting thieves before getting their camera back. Eventually, the bike was returned too, albeit with a few new parts and a fresh paintjob.
Even with the many hurdles the pair had to face, Bouchard still remembers the nicer moments — those random acts of kindness that got them through the roughest legs of their trip.
“On the road, it seems like there’s always a solution for every little situation,” said Bouchard.
Needing to go to Japan for a few days to sort out some visa issues, an exhausted Bouchard and Lemieux were looking for a place to drop some of their gear, which was over the allowable weight limit.
Noticing the pair’s dilemma, a middle-aged Japanese couple at the airport offered their help.
“They mimed that they wanted to invite us (to their home),” said Bouchard. After getting their English-speaking son on the phone from Tokyo, the couple played tour guide for the Canadian cyclists in Osaka.
“All the family reunited to welcome us and we spent a few days together. They showed us all around, explaining everything before they let us go back on the road, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.”
Bouchard admitted that Whistler has been a significant inspiration for the adventurous duo, who have pedaled more than 100,000 km in 40 countries in all.
“It’s the most convenient place for a nomad that needs to touch base with the more sedentary world once in a while,” said Bouchard.
He and Lemieux have no intention to stop cycling anytime soon, already planning a trip that will take them from the northernmost point of Scandinavia to the southern tip of Africa.
Now that will make anyone feel lazy.
Cycling the Pacific Ring of Fire Part 3 plays Millennium Place Saturday (Nov. 17) at 8 p.m.
The $17 tickets are available in advance online at www.artswhistler.com or at the venue.