Saturday August 4th
Whether it was because I had been feeling a bit raunchy the previous morning, or perhaps because of an uncharacteristic moment of restraint, I hadnít enjoyed my traditional Ďon the roadí suppertime beverage, so I was feeling fresh as a daisy until I looked out of the window and saw the flat.
5AM isnít really a civilized time to start changing a tube, but I did my best to keep the clanking of tyre irons to a minimum and because Iíd had practice the previous day, I managed to get it changed and the wheel back on the bike within half an hour. Stuffing the heavy motocross tube in the skinny 3.5 x 18 tyre was a bit of a struggle, but it went in, and more to the point, held air. I put a few pounds in with the hand pump, then slowly rode to the nearby garage where, fortunately, their air line was still working.
One of the many river crossings along Highway 138
Its only 108 kilometres from Havre Saint Pierre to Natashquan and I took my time. Firstly I had forgotten to gas-up in H-S-P so had to take it easy until I could find somewhere open, and secondly, the scenery had changed. The pre-Cambrian hills and sand plain forests had been left behind. I had now reached the sub-Arctic zone.
When travelling Highway 138, its easy to be deluded into thinking you are travelling east - after all, you are heading towards the Atlantic from the centre of the continent. In fact, you are travelling northeast at almost 45 degrees to the equator. Its not far north in absolute terms, since you only cross the 50th parallel on the way - about level with Cornwall in the UK - but environmentally and climatically, you are getting up there.
Endless muskeg, endless road - perfect!
And to provide a sense of scale, when flying to Europe from Toronto, you spend more time flying up the St. Lawrence River Valley than you do over the open Atlantic Ocean!
For some inexplicable reason, I have a fascination with the world of muskeg, bog, low, glacially ground rocky hummocks, little trees, spruce bog, caribou moss and moose pasture. To some, it must seem like the least engaging environment on the planet. It is flattish, open, wind blown, desolate, almost devoid of signs of life - and I love it. Riding along through this wild, low, open empty landscape thrills me. You can tell that the ice sheets only left the day before yesterday. It cares nothing for your life or death. God walks there in silent contemplation every day.
God walks....... - but with wet feet
I had to hang around in the village of Baie Johann-Beetz (population 81) for half an hour until the gas station / grocery store opened at 8AM. I didnít mind - its beautiful. A gorgeous salmon stream bisects the village, flowing over glacially smoothed granite on its way to join the St. Lawrence. I clambered around on the rocks for a while taking pictures before making my way back to where I had parked the bike at the gas bar. Right on time, a young lady arrived to open the shop and switch on the pumps. I filled up, bought some granola bars, shared a laugh over the fact that neither one of us could understand a single word the other was saying, and headed towards Natashquan...........to be continued.