Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Part 2: through Newfoundland, into Labrador
Thanks for your interest! Here is more.
Saturday, June 14.
The night on the ferry was quite comfortable. I had a four-berth cabin all to myself, able to spread my junk all over, take a shower and get dressed in peace. Considering that an overnight cabin substitutes for a night on a hotel, the extra cost is certainly worthwhile in my eyes.
A motorcyclist takes probably more things into a cabin than a car passenger: riding gear, helmet, all luggage needs plenty of room. A private cabin allows all that to be laid out and easily repacked. The ability to walk to ship's restaurant, locking all possessions behind, is great for the peace of mind.
On daybreak, the poor riding conditions of previous afternoon were easily forgotten: the wind and waves calmed down, high clouds let the sun peek through. Coast of Newfoundland appeared on the horizon.
In a short time, the ferry was closing in on the colorful buildings lining the harbor of Port aux Basques.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador! A new land to me; the adventure continues!
All motorcycle and ATV riders waved goodbye to each other as we headed up the hills from ferry landing. Everyone assumed their own pace and very soon I was back riding by myself, working through the light car and truck traffic.
The first big town where I stopped in Newfoundland was Corner Brook. It was located in a valley, with snow-covered mountains in the background.
It was very strange to see snow, particularly just a few days after experiencing the mid-90's spell back home. A quite definite indication that the climate in Newfoundland is not the same as in New Jersey!
The town itself was an unmistakable center of logging or paper industry. It also appeared to undergo a sort of renewal based on governmental and educational institutions.
This was a good thing: it meant that I could find a café! And I did. As in all my trips, I immediately sampled local coffee. Ummmm... Good!
It is easy to satisfy me...
I continued north from Corner Brook, following the Island's west coast. While my new friends from the ferry battled rain and wind on their long ride east to Saint John's, I have been lucky to sneak underneath, experiencing only alternating periods of sun and clouds.
When I reached one of Newfoundland's treasures, Gros Morne National Park, the riding conditions were just about perfect for a long-distance tour: the right combination of cool temperature and sun, gently sweeping empty roads.
The realization that the trip is now 100% on is dawning on me. I am doing the BIG RUN! Beautiful vistas, good weather... Adventure! This calls for a double ADV salute!
I am also getting more and more impressed by the snow in the mountains - just a few days before the Summer Solstice. Isn't it exciting that in only a few days of riding one can enter a completely different climatic zone?
By now, with changeable weather and temps in the 50's, I have been wearing my rain suit for warmth. Underneath, I had the riding suit's liner zipped in, with two sets of warm underwear below. I left the heated vest in the side case - it is a bit bulky and uncomfortable with all those layers - but it was ready to be put on at moment's notice.
And yet, I came across a family collecting mussels in the frigid waters. It was warm for them!
This reminded me very much of our vacations on the Baltic coast. Good summer weather meant then a nice walk on the beach, wearing a windbreaker or woolen sweater. All kids wanted to hang out in the water as much as possible, of course, but after only a few minutes we would have to run back onto the hot sand, blue-skinned and shivering.
The day was setting; I followed down a coastal road to Rocky Harbour, stopped at (probably) the only motel in town and was relieved to find an available room.
The motel was actually much nicer inside than appearing from the street: modern facilities, good restaurant and Wi-Fi would charge me up with the feeling of comfort in advance of less sophisticated accommodations in upcoming days.
While pulling in, I noticed a Goldwing trike parked near the entrance. Very soon I became acquainted with the riders, an interesting couple from the UK - we talked across tables at dinner and retired together for some drinks in the pub afterwards.
Graham and Elaine are very serious about touring the world on their trikes; they have one back home for European destinations and store another one in the US for North American rides. Their travels took them all over Europe, to Africa and across almost all US States. I was pleased to find that we have been touring in many of the same locales worldwide and the rest of the evening was spent comparing our experiences. It was great to be knowingly nodding when the conversation turned to, for example, the British party-goers overrunning Riga, Latvia.
I was very impressed, in particular, by Elaine. The couple covered some tremendous distances in their months-long journeys, over all kinds of roads and weather - and yet she did enjoy the travels. I know how much more boring and uncomfortable it is to ride pillion; my hat goes off to her!
Sunday, June 15.
Still under clear skies, I continued north along the coast, stopping from time to time to enjoy the beautiful views. Although rather calm that day, these can be very difficult and treacherous waters.
This is all that remains from a steamship that ran onto the rocks almost a hundred years ago.
By midday the clouds thickened; a dramatic sky very much enhanced the feeling of vastness and desolation.
This is a beautiful part of the world. I have been following the Viking Trail; anyone with a more relaxed schedule would be well advised to reach St. Anthony on the northern-most point of the Island, for yet more spectacular sights. Nearby is another famous spot: L'Anse aux Meadows, site of Viking settlement from a thousand years ago.
Unfortunately, my blitz schedule did not allow for these side trips - I think I need to return here to for another attempt. Instead, I rolled into St. Barbe in order to board M/V 'Apollo', a ferry crossing the Strait of Belle Isle to Labrador.
While parked, waiting to enter the ferry with a small group of cars, I heard incessant barking. Pretty soon I discovered the source - or rather it found me. A large dog dropped a piece of wood at my feet and kept barking.
Then a realized what the game was: I was supposed to toss the wood into the cold waves. The dog ran down the rocks, into the water and retrieved the piece.
He would pester all passengers, but the people in the cars finally had enough, closed the doors and ignored him. I had no such luxury of hiding - the dog found in me a friend for the afternoon! I just wished he would not shake himself out right next to me...
Only after a while I made the connection: ferry to Labrador - Labrador Retriever. Took me a few minutes, but I did get it...
Finally, we boarded the ferry and departed Newfoundland. It takes only a couple of hours to cross the Strait, but as the weather worsened it was easy to see how difficult it had to be for the explorers and the fishermen. An iceberg served as ready reminder that one does not want to spend much time in the waters.
The ferry lands in Blanc-Sablon. This is just the very end of Quebec's northern coast of St. Lawrence, with a nominal section of Quebec Route 138. It pretends to be an extension of Route 138, following the St. Lawrence North Coast for many hundreds of kilometers from Quebec City - but in reality there is no land-based connection.
There are quite a few communities on St. Lawrence shores, accessible only by water or by snowmobile. A passenger/cargo ship, N/M 'Nordik Express', visits many of these little desolate harbors, arriving from Sept-Isles (itself a remote location, some 400 miles northeast from Quebec City). There are some tourist accommodations on that ship - it takes about 3 days each way, but the passengers can get on and off the boat to stay and enjoy the villages and local attractions.
Just a few kilometers northeast from Blanc-Sablon the road crosses the provincial border into Labrador. Although Labrador is a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador province, it is interesting to know that there is still a territorial dispute in existence with Quebec, which (occasionally) claims parts of southern Labrador since the days when Newfoundland and Canada were separate countries - prior to 1949.
This was an important moment for me: it took a lot of organizing effort and of travel, but finally I have reached the mythical Labrador! And the beginning of southeastern section of the Trans-Labrador Highway, called Labrador Coastal Drive.
The environment left no doubt as to the proximity to Arctic. It was by now June 15 and yet there were snowbanks by the road and icebergs floating along the coast.
Even more maritime wrecks bore witness to the dangers of this region.
After some 80km from Blanc-Sablon, near Red Bay, a sign announced beginning of gravel road. That was the real Trans-Lab now; no more pavement for over 1000km.
It was raining a lot by now. The road was covered in very loose, wet combination of sand and fine gravel, with a lot of water-filled potholes. I was having great difficulties, not being used to the front wheel continually trying to wash out to a side. I reduced the tire pressure to 28psi in both wheels and the feeling of control improved.
After 90km of struggling, I was nearing my destination for the night, Mary's Harbour. By now I was very tired from the long day since leaving Rocky Harbour and from the stress of riding in lightly packed wet sand for past two hours.
I knew the name of hotel in town. Pulling in next to an information billboard for directions, I made a classic mistake: I put down the sidestand while in neutral over soft surface and immediately dropped the bike on its side.
Disoriented by tiredness, I struggled a bit trying to lift the machine before I remembered to snick it in gear. Luckily, the soft sand caused no damage. I guess, this marked the official beginning of the Trans-Lab ride, eh?
Riverlodge Hotel offered a welcome relief. The restaurant almost closed by then - but I still managed to grab a bite. It was pure Cholesterol City - with fries to that - but, it seemed, I needed every calorie.
This is a tough land. Even the seagulls are trying to improve their chances with the fatty food - this one shamelessly begged for scraps at the restaurant deck.
- more to come as I am still collecting my notes
rdwalker screwed with this post 07-08-2008 at 10:13 PM