Monday, 2nd June, was the day I left the comfort of Bjorn and Jackie’s home and hit the road. Before setting of we did some last shopping and and I peaked the bike.
Bjorn was coming with me as far as the ferry but that night we were only going as far as Ben Eoin (pronounced Ben Yon). On the way we stopped off in Port Hawksbury to get some bear spray (something tells me the “bear repellant” leaving present wouldn’t cut it in the wild). It was after leaving Port Hawksbury that I noticed my DeLorme InReach GPS tracker wasn’t working any more – more on this later!
We camped Monday night and in the morning after letting the rent dry and heading into Sydney for breakfast it became apparent Thayer I wasn’t going to make the 11am boat. Ishtar we spent most of the rest of the day in the coffee shop trying to figure out how to get the InReach working again and trying to contact DeLorme customer support. We didn’t make any progress with the InReach but I would strongly recommend the Wentworth Perk Coffee House if you’re ever in the area.
After sitting drinking coffee for far too long and using far too much WiFi we headed out to explore downtown Sydney. Now, in still getting used to the look and feel of Canadian towns, they feel like they’ve got far too much space everywhere. I more accustomed to the cosy/cramped English towns. However, Sydney is different once again, it’s more like a spaced out version of a post industrial northern British town that’s trying to reinvent itself for tourism… But it’s not but quite there yet. We also had a “memorable” dinner at a Chinese restaurant. None of the staff looked like they had the slightest hint of Chinese DNA for the last few generations, the waitress asked if we wanted the menu (maybe she mistook us for regulars) and when she put the glasses of water down it was with enough force to make the table shake.
Dinner over it was time to head to the ferry. I had been told that you just need to get your ticket when you arrive at the check-in. Apparently that is the case when there is space on the boat. Unfortunately, the boat that night and all the boats until Thursday even were fully booked! Thankfully the check-in lady asked where I was from (the accent might hinted at me not being Canadian) and where I was going. After a brief version of my story she was hooked on the idea that she had to get me on the boat that night and so called over her supervisor. A hushed discussion involving pleading and phrases “against the rules” and “never again” then took place between them. Luckily I was allowed on the boat that night.
Wednesday morning dawned with us pulling into Port aux Basques on the very south-west tip of Newfoundland. The first views of
I had to get to St John’s but that’s a 560 mile ride and I didn’t intend on doing it in one day. I was also waiting to hear from DeLorme about the InReach. I stopped in Corner Brook for breakfast at a Tim Hortons and to check for emails from DeLorme. Tim Hortons is like Costa Coffee in the UK, they may not be as nice as a local place but they’re everywhere and guaranteed to have free WiFi.
I figured my best bet in terms of both time and chances of solving my GPS tracker problems was to head already two third of the way towards St John’s as there were three shops in at John’s that were listed as selling the InReach. I didn’t expect to get all the way until at 6pm I was only 30 minutes away so decided to press on.
I arrived in downtown St John’s with nowhere to stay and winding what to do next. Back out to the suburbs and Tim Horton’s to the rescue! With access to WiFi I was able to find there was a hostel in town so headed over and book myself in with only 30 minutes until they closed. Back out into the streets to find something to eat and I soon discovered that everywhere seems to close at 8pm or 9pm and it was just after 9 but I found a Poutine place and had the wonderfully healthy Double Pork Poutine.
Thursday arrived and with it came an email followed by a Skype call to DeLorme and a potential solution to my InReach problems. If I could buy a new InReach locally I could then return the broken one when I got to the USA and get a refund. So began my by hunt for an InReach SE in St John’s. Due to the fact I’d ridden across Newfoundland in one day, I had a whole day spare to accomplish this new task. I had three shops to try. The first was no good, they hadn’t heard of the devices. The second was no good, it was in a massive industrial estate but I couldn’t find it. My GPS couldn’t find them third address so back to a Tim Hortons to try my luck with Google Maps. Sitting outside a Tim Hortons on and adventure bike tour guaranteed to get at least one person come and talk to you, this time I had three Harley Davidson riders come over, luckily they were local and knew about the third shop I was trying to get to and pointed me in the right directithe The third shop, a hunting and fishing shop actually sold the devices but were out of stock of the one I wanted. I mentioned the other places I’d failed to find and in an instant the sales man had looked up the phone number, called them up and got me directions.
With clear directions in hand I quickly found HiTech Communications and almost kissed the receptionist as she was waiting for me with an InReach SE with my name on it.
They even got there tech guys to help me sync it once DeLorme had activated it to my account. I owe both DeLorme and HiTech Comms a massive thank you as not having a GPS tracker was becoming a massive psychological barrier to me but they went above and beyond to get me bank on track.
With the rest of the day free I headed to Signal Hill. This is the starting point of the Trans-Canada Adventure Trail. By the time I got there the fog was starting to roll in. Another friendly Canadian kindly took some photos for me, he also said I’d missed seeing a big iceberg by twenty minutes but it was more in the fog but if I went to Cape Spear I may be able to see it, the cape is also the most easterly point in Canada, not Signal Hill as I thought.
Back at the hostel I got chatting with a couple of women. Apparently I’m not very good at pronouncing Canadian place names – I blame my charming English accent! As I was eating out I asked if they’d want to join me, they’d both already eaten but Eleni came with me for a drink or two. Well on George Street a drink or two usual ends up being more, and often involves Screech, a local spirit. It’s made famous by the ritual of “being screeched in”, it’s kind of like doing tequila slammers but instead of licking salt you kiss a cod! Next we headed to the Duke of Duckworth. This pub is the setting for a Canadian TV show, Republic of Doyle, which Eleni knew well as she works for TV Guide Canada and is a fan of the show and if my somewhat hazy memory serves me right there were at least 3 cast members in the pub that night and I may have got us talking to a friend of theirs… But like I say that was after five (?) beers and three Screech’s.
Back to the hostel at 2:30am and I discovered that I had left my dorm key in the dorm and the door was locked. Rather than making a fuss waking everyone up to get the door opened, I grabbed my sleeping bag and mat from my bike and slept in the common room. In my intoxicated state it seemed like a good idea at the time!