The one thing that is a bit of an issue when visiting Newfoundland is the ridiculously long time needed to cross a relatively short piece of water, a mere 182 km, from North Sydney to Port Aux Basque will cost you an entire day, and of course another to cross back.
must arrive two hours before departure, so an 11 45 departure means that you
book in at 9.45 and then arrive at the other end at 6 p.m. and that’s not the
time that you’ll actually disembark. You can also take the ferry to Argentia, relatively
close to St John’s, but that’s 18 hours crossing time. The ferry itself is
fine, and you could even book a berth, but that would be a bit of a waste for
me, especially as I am are doing the daytime crossing. You can cross at night,
which would probably involve less waste of time, but a loss of sleep instead,
as you arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Maybe time for a nice long
bridge? Be that as it is, Newfoundland is definitely worth the ferry rides. I
will certainly be back.
|Ferry, from the ferry - North Sydney|
Due to some technical issue it is after 7 p.m. before we finally manage to get off the boat. After a brief stop at the tourist information office, I head out on the – yes it is here too – the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH). I am looking for a place to camp as there is zero accommodation available in town, everywhere is fully booked.
The map from the tourist office indicates
a camping facilities in the Codroy Valley area. I take what I think is the
turnoff, but after about 5 km I realize that I must have taken a wrong turn.
There has been a guy on a motorcycle riding a few hundred yards behind me, he
pulls up next to me and asks what I’m looking for, so I tell him that I’m
looking for somewhere to camp for the night, he suggests, with what I think is
a leer, that I should just camp next to the river. Now I have seen Deliverance, and at a fairly
impressionable age, so I decide to just go back to the TCH and look for the
right turnoff. Now I am sure that the guy was just being helpful, I tell you that
Newfoundlanders are the nicest and friendliest people you could hope to find,
but I did want somewhere with some facilities. A few Kms down the TCH and
there, well signposted, is the turn-off to the RV and tent camp site.
|Arriving in Port Aux Basque|
I pay $25 for my spot and start to set-up camp. The sun is setting so it is not a moment too soon. My site includes a picnic table and a place to make a fire, it also includes a small but vicious swarm of mosquitos. I apply the insect repellant, liberally, to every exposed piece of skin, but clearly these guys have not read the label and are not in the slightest repelled. So everything I do is accompanied by lots of slapping.
I end up slapping my ears
so hard there is ringing that lasts about ten minutes. I have some tinned tuna
that I could have for supper, but there was a sign at the reception for ‘Fish and
Brew’ for $6. I’m intrigued, so I buy it. It’s shredded cod and shredded white
bread that has been dampened with cod flavoured water. They warm it up in a microwave
oven, it sounds a little gross, but actually it is quite good, like a fishy
bread pudding. I make some coffee with my primitive stove, which is a wick
spirit burner in a tinned vegetable can, cleaned out and with holes cut in, it
actually works pretty well. The sun sets and weirdly the mosquitos seem to lose
interest in me... maybe it’s the fish.
|Two Midget Tent|
As the camp quietens down, and the bad singing from a group of RV’s comes to an end, I get to enjoy the evening and the stars. The stars alone make bearing the mosquitoes worthwhile. I turn on my torch to locate my towel and tooth brush and get to see a little fox trotting along the edge of the campsite. Finally, I crawl into my two midget tent and into the sleeping bag, a good quality one that I bought for the trip. I am lying on a ‘mattress’ it’s little more than a yoga mat, but way better than nothing. I sleep, but confess that I’m not used to camping, so can’t claim that I have a good night’s rest. I’m awake at 5 a.m. and make coffee, which restores some semblance of coherent thought. The showers and toilets aren’t exactly luxury, but they are clean and adequate. I can see maybe three tents amongst the RV’s. The RV’s with names or perhaps brands, that evoke the wilderness, like Wild Thing, Freedom Traveller, Eagle Wind and so on. The humble caravan has morphed into literally driving around in a house. Some of these things are as big as a Greyhound coach, and they sometimes tow a car behind them (sometimes a boat as well) and when they stop and make camp little rooms pop out, like in a Don Martin comic. They hook up to water and electricity and even sewage, seriously, how to camp and not be camping at the same time. Maybe I’m jealous that the RV campers are all enjoying a good sleep on Sealy Posturepedics and I’m grumpy from an uncomfortable night on a yoga mat and up at the ass crack of dawn because I can’t bear to lie down any more. Still these monsters are a pain in the ass on the road. Riding behind one on a bike is as bad as riding behind any large truck, they trail a wake of turbulence that blows you all over the road.
I pack the bike and head north. I plan to stay in the Gros Morne area and see some of this famous National Park. After not too long in the saddle, I stop for breakfast at a gas station café, Crabbe’s River Restaurant and without hesitation order the ‘Truckers’ Special’, I’m hungry and the effects of the cup of black instant coffee I had at the campsite has worn off.
This part of Newfoundland is mountainous, and let me say achingly lovely. I had expected a bleaker topography from this province, but here at least it is mountains, ocean and forest. The forest is mostly evergreen conifer, but I spot a scattering of deciduous.
A word about mountains, I think I have mentioned how much I miss real mountains in the flat land of Ontario. There is something about mountains that helps a person to keep perspective in life, especially when you live close to mountains and can look at then everyday. They remind one of how utterly trivial your issues are and when you are dead and totally forgotten by everyone, the mountains will have hardly changed at all, yet they too will finally be ground down to nothing. Indeed, all the striving and struggling of humanity that has taken place, and will ever take place, is within barely a moment on the time scale that mountains measure time by. Of course mountains are just gorgeous to look at.
It’s getting to mid afternoon and the small town of Rocky Harbour is in sight. It’s in an enclave of non-national park land a real tourist spot, with lots of places for tourists to stay. I am tired from my previous night of not sleeping well and have decided that Rocky Harbour is where I will stop. My idea is to have a nap, then do a bit of exploring on the bike, have some supper, the Truckers’ Special has negated any need for lunch, then get an early night. But the no vacancy signs on every establishment is not encouraging. Perhaps it’s another night on the yoga mat in the two midget tent. I know I should man-up do the camping, at least in the interest of economy, but I am a bit of a baby when it comes to creature comfort. I spot a B & B that doesn’t have a no vacancy sign up, and check in. It’s more than I want to pay, but they discount the rate because they are not offering breakfast for tomorrow. So they are actually just a B, suits me, I’m happy with the discounted rate, and the room is really nice.
After the promised nap, I ride up to Lobster Cove Light House, which is an interesting museum, about when this was a working light house and not just a tourist attraction. It’s nice, and there are some lovely walks in the area with stunning views.
It is time for some additional executive decisions. Labrador is not on the cards for this trip. I have realized that the Trans-Labrador Highway is a bit less substantial than the name lets one think. There is a 565 km stretch that is gravel and the condition of the road is unpredictable. There is also nothing along that stretch, so if I do get into trouble I will probably have to abandon the bike. So whereas I’m fine to ride a road like this, but this trip should be considered more like an expedition than a casual ride, it is best to do it in a larger group or supported by someone with a truck. I have been experiencing a few niggling issues with the KLR, it has been cutting out in the wet, which tells me that I’m definitely not prepared for the Trans-Labrador Highway. Call me chicken if you want, but as mentioned elsewhere in these chronicles, discretion is the better part of valour. Tomorrow I will ride up to Daniel’s Harbour, which will be the end point of this trip. Daniel’s Harbour will mark the furthest point away from home, when I turn around there, I will be homeward bound.