The persistent rain subsided briefly for my visit to the Cape St. Mary's ecological preserve. Home to a mind-boggling 70'000 avians, the rookery is located on a steep cliff facing south toward the white caps of the North Atlantic. A flock of sheep scatters out of the way as I climb down to the sheer rock wall. The roaring wind makes it hard to take pictures, nearly prying the phone from my fingers. It's a long way down. Murrhs, cormorants and gannetts swirl on the rising air currents like snowflakes. It feels just slightly warmer than a snowy day...but only by a few degrees.
The weather was warm in the 60s and the sun was shining as I waved goodbye to my new friend Murph. Pointing south in Bay Bulls Rd, I soon found myself winding along picturesque fishing communities nestled into coves and harbours. Taking my time and stopping often at the many interpretive signs, it was nice to relax and not be pushing the miles as I'd done many times before.
Around 7 pm, the rain began to fall. I kicked out my campfire and finished the steaming cup of coffee beneath the rain fly and hammock, happy for the shelter. I was dubious of my windswept position overlooking Chance Cove but hoped the weather would haul around from the north. The wind and rain picked up through the evening until by 1:30AM it was blowing pretty seriously. Tied to The swaying spruce trees, the hammock bounced with each great gust of wind. The flap of my fly dispelled wind driven droplets that began to spray my face and sleeping bag. I remained hopeful that things would hold. "Oh please hold strong and fast through the night " I muttered to the shelter. Pulling the bag over my head to stay warm, dry and muffle the flapping sound, sleep nearly returned when the inevitable break of tension came. A stake had worked free sending the fly sailing on the breeze thus exposing my sleeping bag and gear to the elements. "Think. Stay calm" I kept repeating , though unsuccessfuly doing neither. Another quick gust blew the Ruckus on top of me, pinning the hammock and myself below a handlebar . So much for this spot, the beauty of this island depends so much on the weather. Scrambling about clad in a wool sweater, underwear and unlaced soggy boots, I managed to restake the fly but soon found it flying in the wind before I could get the other side in. Quick thinking brought heavy rocks from the firepit to my aid, wrapping their sharp edges with the guy lines. The gusts continue on and I remain hopeful that the heavy rocks will hold the tarp in place despite the winds. on this Unprotected hillside it is much like a sail with no vessel to power. It remains unwise to harness the wind without purpose. If only I brought my tent or had set up in a more protected location. Damp conditions now prevailed inside the hammock but if the fly stays on, I'll stick it out. I may be forced to move before the night is through. But where?
I've had the opportunity to take a load off both mentally and physically (the bike) while visiting with Murph in St. John's. There are a number of sites and places through the area which are worth a day trip and visit. Although downtown St. John's is a lively and colorfully painted city, the many small harbours and coastal communities around the peninsula offer great sport-touring roads and, on a sunny day, spectacular vistas. Below is an assortment of pictures taken while scoot'n around with Murph as a tour guide. I can't express how gracious I am for his guidance and patience with my 48cc stallion on the hills and in traffic. This morning's meal of bacon and brewis is the dense stick-to-your gut kind of dish that keeps a man warm on the road. Although I could stay here comfortably for another week, and was welcomed to do so, the lure of the southern Avalon, Cape St. Mary's and the Burin peninsula calls to me. I learned there is a ferry service from Bay L'Argent to Pool's Cove and another from Hermitage to Burgeo. The ferry is mostly for passengers and freight but can load a motorcycle on the freight crane and sling it into the hold or lash it on deck. The ability to travel by a smaller boat along the southern coast to the picturesque outport communities is irresistible for both the photographs but also historical significance. These are places with no roads in or out, isolated from the outside world except for water or air and retaining many of their traditional foodways, language and customs of the past. After seeing Murph's pictures of his recent exploration along this southern coast, I'm anticipating good weather and friendly smiles along the way.
"Coffee or tea?" "Coffee would be great.". I take a seat and wrap my hands around the steaming mug of coffee while we have a yarn...for the remainder of the rainy day. Immediately, the comfort of feeling at "home" sets in. Throughout the years, his generous and affable nature has welcomed a community of adventure motorcyclists on legendary, and sometimes less than impressive, trips through the island. Having ridden his GSA or K bikes to every accessible road on the island, Murph's mind is a road map of the peninsulas, coves, tickles and bites. He grew up in the house we're sitting in and worked plowing by horse on this farm as a youth. He is of this land and of this people.
I learn that Newfoundland still has an active sealing season during the winter months. Seals were traditionally hunted on ice pans which float down from the north, their fatty red meat a rare treat for natives and baymen who survive on diets of fish and the seasonal caribou herd. Nothing went to waste as the pelts were valued for clothing or tent structures and the bones used to make tools and jewelry. Much has changed today regarding the ethics and popular opinion of the industry yet the seal hunt is still a major economic driver for some smaller outport communities to the north like La Scie on the Baie Verte peninsula. We ride over to the Bid Goods, a charming grocery store outside of town amid farm fields and small communities dotting the fertile agrarian landscape. Inside I'm introduced to a variety of traditional food items.
Murph's now infamous rubric for culinary adventure on the island is a taste of seal flipper pie. We pick up a few assorted odds and ends, bags of chips and return home for dinner. The pie is precooked by the store and we heat it in the oven for an hour while I upload pics to the cloud. The waxy thin crust is more a layer which is peeled off. Encapsulated in the deep brown gravy are potatoes and carrots amid 1" chunks of the seal meat. The flesh removed from the flipper has a stringy tendency of stewed beef but a distinct taste of fish. It is delicious and I scarf down the majority of the pie. This food sticks to the belly and I was well full into the following morning. "I washed the sheets otherwise the bed is still warm from the last guy" he chuckled. He showed me to the shower and gave me my own room with a big fluffy set of pillows on the queen size bed.
In May 2014 I quit my job to ride a Honda Ruckus over 69'000 mi and counting. Wild camping most nights and cooking most of my own meals, I keep the costs low and the landscape changing.