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NEWFOUNDLAND - More Friendly, More Rocky, and More Windy!
Getting off the ferry at Port Au Basque, NL was as exciting as getting of a plane in England and Lord knows, for a western Canadian, the trip is just as far and probably more expensive.
The Atlantic-Maritime's Highlanders Ferry was deluxe - 9 decks, 3 restaurants, a bar, TVs, movies, WIFI etc. We boarded in North Sydney, NS and motorbikes were allowed to move to the front of the line and board first - finally, a little respect! We chatted with all the other riders about where they had come from and where they were going. We've been on ferries with our bikes many times before, but only the small lake ferries in B.C. where you don't actually have to tie-down your bike to the deck to prevent them from flying all over the place in high seas. We nonchalantly watched all the other riders tie down their bikes first and then copied what they did. Sandra was much faster at securing her bike with the tie-down straps than Jordan, she also seems to be quicker at loading and unloading her bike, but that is another story… 5 hours later, we disembarked to craggy shores of cliffs and fog - it was stunning and exactly what we were hoping for!
A short ride north on the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) we found a campsite run by Alice and Dennis in the Codroy Valley which, in NL, is pronounced CAD-RAY Valley. Exceptionally friendly, great facilities and a dinner recommendation - the Wreck Haven Cafe where you sit in the kitchen of the house and are offered two choices for dinner . With a 'when in Rome' attitude, we jumped in and enjoyed the traditional 'Jig's Supper' of salted beef, pea pudding, and boiled vegetables followed by extremely delicious molasses cake (although it was called a molasses bun) & tea.
We road north on the only highway available (TCH) which was not a great road to ride, but it was practical and got us to where we anted to go - Gros Morne National Park. We booked two nights in the park and our first was exceptional! We stayed at Green Point Campground which has WIFI (!), though no electricity, which caused a kerfuffle when our neighbour decided to run his generator all evening. Thankfully, the amazing sunset drew us away from him for a number of hours as we played on the beach with our cameras and enjoyed tea and chocolate.
The following morning, the best site in the campground opened up - it was perched on a ledge, out of view from all the other campsites and overlooking the sea… we could watch crashing waves and look at a cute fishing village all for $15 / night. After walking our tent and things over to our new site, we hoped on Jordan's bike and rode 2-up to hike The Lookout trail and explore the Tablelands - an area where the earth's mantel is exposed due to the uprising of an ancient ocean seabed some 470 million years ago. As one of the only places on earth to study the earth's mantel directly, it is of geologic importance and has been named a Unesco Heritage Site http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/419
Once back, while making dinner, it was clear that clouds were on the move, it was going to rain and we needed to deploy our tarp. We do not argue very often, however when we do, more times than not it involves putting up a tarp, so we've agreed never to do this together. With this in mind, Jordan proceeded to put it up while Sandra continued with dinner prep. The tarp looked great and we were happy to have a place to sit and be dry during the rain. Or so we thought… The rain came in sideways, blowing right off the ocean and effectively making our tarp nothing more than decorative. We spent the rest of the evening in the tent.
The pounding wind and driving rain lasted all night. At 5am, the tarp broke free and was flapping around creating an unbelievable racket. Too much noise for us to sleep, let alone hear each other discuss our options. Now, we may not have had 100% foresight when we were lured by our sea-front site, but we did manage a few good choices, like bringing in our rain gear to the tent with us. Jordan put his on and went out to fix the tarp (such a nice guy…). In hindsight, he should have just removed it because the vicious wind took it down again an hour later. The worst part was that the rain was blowing in under our fly and into our tent. Water was puddling, Jordan's bedding was wet and neither of us were sleeping.
Sandra bumped into a park ranger, Harold Snow in the loo (literally) and in trade for the free show, he suggested we use the campground's cooking shelter to dry our things. He even provided us with fire wood and got the wood stove going making it warm and dry and allowing us to hang our soaking wet tent and sleeping bags to dry from the ceiling rafters. We sat there all morning until the rain subsided. We made our coffee and toasted bagels on the wood stove and chatted with Harold. It is true, we still smell like campfire weeks later, but we were grateful for the his help and the ability to dry our equipment before packing it up again. Thanks, Harold! We stayed in a hotel after that experience to get a good night's sleep.
Originally, our plan was to travel to the east coast of the island and visit one of Jordan's friends in St. John's (thanks Lynette!), however, with heavy rain in the forecast for another 4 days and Sandra's back tire needed attention. Our plans had to change. We knew that the tire would need to be replaced fairly soon after leaving home, however with the extra weight of all our gear and the daily milage, it was wearing much faster than anticipated. It was more or less bald, with no discernible tread in the middle of the tire, not good, especially considering all the rain in the forecast. With this in mind we opted to forego the extra 890 kms and get on with heading south.
Since this was a new, last-minute decision, we could only book tickets for the midnight ferry off the island. We spent our last day riding the Port au Port peninsula to Cape St. George - an Acadian Heritage area - and the most westerly point in NL. We found beautiful rock formations, an outdoor bread oven (we should have packed dough) and even alpacas and llamas http://deja-vu.ca/TheCapeStGeorgeConnection.htm Sandra was coaxed by the farm hand to feed grass to an alpaca mouth-to-mouth - she insists this is a better way of being inducted to NFLD than kissing a cod or worse, a puffin's ass - which are two traditional ways Newfoundlanders get their kicks abusing visitors.
Our final ride off the island was memorable, indeed. The entire time we were on the island, we heard about 'the moose problem'. Moose are not native to NL and were introduced to the island in the early 1900's. They are now overpopulated as there are no natural predators and pose a real threat to highway users. As one local GS rider (ADV handle: NewfieRider) we met in a parking lot put it, "meeting a moose on the highway could really ruin your day". No kidding.
We ate at a diner prior to the evening ride to the Ferry - waitress's last words? "Watch for moose.", which we did. We felt like a cylons from Battle Star Galactica - scanning back and forth for animals. We also continued to fight very intense winds (we saw a sign warning of up to 120kmph winds in the area), and managed more road construction. Shortly after leaving that diner, we were riding from the top of a hill and could see brown movement at the side of the road - a moose! We slowed down and sure enough, after looking both ways, the [smart] moose crossed the road just a few meters in front of us and disappeared almost immediately into the forest on the other side. They are REALLY big up close, especially on a motorbike. The poor moose we saw at the side of the road a mere 10kms further did not have such a happy outcome. Being on high alert, Sandra saw something else along side of the road at one point and advised Jordan of a "deer" up ahead. As they passed, it turned out it was a DEERE - a John Deere tractor. Haha - paranoia will destroy-ya!
We boarded the Ferry after a bit of a wait at the terminal, shared a few drinks with a group of fellow riders in the bar and called it a night. 7 hours later, we were back on mainland.
NL: we're sorry to have cut our trip short, but we'll be back.