Channel-Port-aux Basques, NL – In the deepening dusk light, women shaped like baking-powder biscuits look on disapprovingly, while children on bicycles wave and give a thumbs up. The Multistrada’s basso exhaust note reverberates through the tight winding streets, which serpent across each other in a tangle never un-knotted by city planners. Small square houses and square institutional stores flank them. I recognize this feeling, earlier this year I rode to the Yukon; this is a feeling of a place on the edge.
Freeing the Multistrada from its bondage of straps and webbing, the first thing I do is b-line for the hotel. The second is crawl through town, the late dusk light and the feel of the place is too much to refuse. Especially after 7 hours on a ferry… times, as the saying goes, may vary.
The bike’s kickstand claw-marks on the deck plating of the MV Leif Erikson tell the tale of its afternoon on the car deck. I owe a big thanks to the folks from Marine Atlantic who helped me strap the Multistrada in.
“How bad is it?”
“We’re using six tie downs on the trucks.”
Three hours out, the swells pick up. A rollercoaster of valleys and peaks, ridden in a swaying lurching 18,523-ton cart. Despite having Nordic blood in me, I am a westerner, and watching the horizon slide up to the top third of the window and back down, my stomach follows it. I realize why I stick to dry land. This is a relatively calm day; the winds are only reaching 40kph. I hope my return trip is as smooth.
From the Leif Erikson I catch the first glimpses of Newfoundland. Here, towards the outer bounds of Canada, the coastline is stunningly barren in the evening light. The Vikings called this cold shore Vinland, proving once and for all the Norse had a sense of humour.
The rocky coastline, sparse vegetation, a lack of trees, the feeling is more alien than any I’ve seen on this trip yet. Reinforcing that is learning that the province’s flower is the purple pitcher plant. Yes, I think, not enough countries and provinces have a carnivorous floral emblem.
I’ve ridden over 4,000 kms to get to this “start point” (I’m not partial to the direct route), and now the Sam Whitehead-debacle and the delays it caused are catching up with me. Fall is coming to a close and tonight there are frost warnings across “the Rock”. So the question becomes how much of Newfoundland to explore? How much do I have time for with an entire country to cross to reach my Vancouver home. So the Irish Loop, or the Viking Trail northwards to L’aux meadows… weather enough for one destination.