“Where ya to?”, my host inquired
“Off and awa’”, was my reply
"I know not where I’ll wander to
But I ‘spect I’ll get there by and by."
Today was one of those perfect riding days. Perfect weather and no agenda. The day felt curious, free and joyful. It was full of discovery and delightful surprises.
I got up just before 6:00 a.m. expecting the morning to be quite cool, but it was very mild. Despite the fog over the water down the street, I threw some clothes on and woke Fury up to go and see if we could find puffins.
I found the site described to me by Rashid with no difficulty. The fog was dense enough that I didn’t see the sun rise, but the light that it cast over the landscape with the fog made the green of the vegetation and the colours of the rocks so vibrant it was rather surreal as I walked the short trail to the puffins. And find them I did! Hundreds of them on a rocky outcrop across a narrow chasm of ocean. Only a stone’s throw away from the rocky outcrop I was standing on. They are funny little birds and quite fascinating to watch. Much smaller than I expected, they were about half the size of a big seagull. Like the northern murres, their wings look too small for their bodies, so they flap them like crazy when they fly so their wings look like windmills. But then they skim over the water smooth as silk before diving for fish. When they come in for a landing, they look like miniature penguins. I saw them much more clearly than the pictures from my phone achieved and I spent a good deal of time just sitting in the quiet morning watching them. Couldn’t help but think how Tracey would have loved these quaint little birds.
The fog made for some pretty scenes and I took several pictures on my way out to the puffins and on the way back. Elliston is also known for its root cellars, and there was one to see at the head of the trail as well, so I investigated it. With the lack of soil for gardens in Newfoundland, people made compost from all sorts of organic waste to produce soil to grow things in. At harvest, they would store the produce in the root cellars created in the rocks of the island. If rocks were money, Newfoundland would be the richest area in the country!
Heading back to the B&B for breakfast, I had a visit with a couple of other guests that were there from Ontario. I also had a nice visit with Maila as I was loading up the bike. We have similar philosophies in life and so it was fun to be smarter than the rest of the world for a while. 😊
Riding towards Cape Bonavista, I stopped briefly at the lighthouse, but was more curious about the Landfall Memorial Park that was right beside it and I had not known about. It has a striking statue of John Cabot and a plaque that states the case for believing that this is where he first made landfall in North America in 1497. I suppose after several months at sea, even this rugged, inhospitable shore must have seemed welcome. There is no questioning the beauty of it. Whether in blue skies or fog, the rocky coast is magnificent – so beautiful and dramatic it makes my heart hurt to take it in.
I travelled back towards the small community of Bonavista. This little town has the biggest cemetery I have seen in such a small place, spanning both sides of the road, headstones of all ages and styles. It is very striking and oddly reassuring. The folks there must be content. I filled up with gas and toodled around the town a bit. It has so many erratic, windy little roads that I think you could wander around it all day and never figure it out. It reminded me of what Maila had said about the older areas of Ontario – that the houses were just built wherever and footpaths were used. When roads came, they were built around the houses instead of the houses built around the roads, with the result that nothing is on a grid and the town seemed all higgledy-piggledy and labyrinthine. For someone like me, with an appalling sense of direction, it could spell disaster if it were any larger than it was!
I made my way out of Bonavista and headed down the coast, peeking into little side roads along the way. I rode into Upper Amherst Cove which was very pretty. This was my first sight of massive table-style rocks jutting out into the ocean. Leaving there, I continued along Hwy 235 until I arrived at the sign for Tickle Cove. Maila had said to go in there and see the Arch Hole. It being only about 8 kms off the highway, I took her advice. What a treat! About halfway down the road, I was surprised by vast expanses of startling pink rock! My photos don’t even capture the “pinkness” of it. I continued to Tickle Cove and followed the road to the end of the pavement and then a bit further up a mildly sketchy gravel hill. I was rewarded at the top with a view of the ocean with a large outcrop of this pink rock jutting out into the ocean – with a hole in it like a door. Very cool. Fury, being a girl, insisted on stopping on the way out to have her picture taken in front of the pink rocks. 😊
Having dawdled the day away into the early afternoon, I stopped at Round da Bay Inn for lunch. Had an amazing lunch of fish cakes and salad and pickled things, and dessert of apple torte with caramel sauce that was to die for. Still undecided about my final destination, I had a couple of conversations over lunch. Eventually, I decided to head for Grand Bank, determining that I should arrive by about 6:30 p.m.
I stopped briefly in Clarenville for a drink of water and while there, a lady returning to her car noticed my license plate and the ensuing conversation made me smile for a long while after we parted.
(Insert the more Irish-sounding of the Newfie accents for her part).
She: "You never travelled all the way here by motorbike?!"
Me: "I have, and logged almost 24,000 kms visiting every province and territory of Canada".
She: "You never did! And by yourself?!"
Me: "I have".
She: "God love ya girl, you've got the nerve!"
I laughed and thanked her for the compliment. It was the emphatic statements in this fabulous accent that kept replaying itself in my head and making me smile.
The ride south had more beautiful landscape – reminiscent of Prince Rupert, BC and of Nunavut in places, but all its own personality. Mountains to flat lands with low vegetation and vast expanses of water. No matter what any of the other provinces say, I’m pretty sure Newfoundland could take them all in terms of water per square kilometer. Strong crosswinds accompanied my ride, but nothing unmanageable. Pulling off for a quick break, I met half a dozen guys out for a ride. We chatted away for 5 minutes or so before I carried on to finish the last hour and a half to Grand Bank.
Arriving in Marystown, I stopped at the Visitor Centre and met Marianne and Betty. Very friendly ladies, we talked about all sorts of things and decided that all in all, people were pretty decent. I enjoyed our visit very much and probably should have taken that as my cue to stay in Marystown. But I filled up with gas and continued on to Grand Bank.
The ride to Grand Bank was uneventful until the last 15 kms or so. Construction. “Well, so what – you’ve seen that before”, you are saying. The signs said “Fresh tar”. I had seen that before too – lots of it. Fresh pavement with recently dried tar. So the signer waves us forward, telling us to carry on, but go slow. Ok. Off we go. I’m about 3rd in line and the tar is a bit wetter than I’ve encountered before. And then it gets really wet. The whole road is tarred – both lanes – and traffic is travelling normally in both directions. I’m thinking about the mess this is going to make of Fury, but there’s no help for it – we can’t turn around. This goes on for at least 3 kms and we can finally see clear road ahead. We get to the clear road, but there is still construction and they have torn up sections of the highway – clear across! – and laid fresh gravel down across the entire width of the road!!! Predictably, this is not much fun with a motorbike because now my tires are covered in tar and heavily marbled with gravel. The few kms remaining into Grand Bank did nothing to improve their condition. Finally arriving at the hotel at 7:30 p.m., I unloaded Fury and checked out her shoes. Confirming my suspicions, there is a layer of tar around the entire circumference of both tires and gravel embedded into it. So instead of touring the south peninsula tomorrow, I will be engaged in attempting to remove the tar from my tires so Fury is safe on the road. I’ve identified a shop in town that I will go to first thing in the morning and ask for their confirmation on my course of action to remove it. I might even get lucky and they will do it for me so I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff that I won’t want to take with me.
In the end, my perfect day ended somewhat less perfectly than it began. However, as I review the pictures and think about all of the days’ captivating moments, I can’t let the last hour of it be what is left in my mind. So, thanks to all of you for engaging with this blog and giving me the chance to re-live the best parts - after all, those are the only ones that count!