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August 10th, 2013 | Canada

North Sydney and a Change of Heart…

The few days I spent in North Sydney at the Heritage Home B&B were both pleasurable and frustrating.

 Heritage Home, a stones throw from the shores of  Syney Harbour Sound..

Heritage Home, a stones throw from the shores of Sydney Harbour Sound..

Pleasurable, because I was made to feel at home by the owner Juana, who went out of her way to make my stay as comfortable and interesting as was possible. She gave me tidbits of information that helped me plan my days there; made her personal lounge area available to me where I was able to do some writing in peace and quiet; and provided breakfast spreads that were both lavish, and sumptuous enough to set me up for the remainder of each day…

I ate enough at the breakfast table each morning to carry me through to dinner time each evening ! My heartfelt thanks go out to Juana who made my stay here so memorable.

If any of my readers ever find themselves in North Sydney, and are looking for accommodation, look no further than Heritage Home on Seaview Drive.

Tell Juana that the Gypsy Biker sent you… I have a feeling she will remember me !!

My thanks also go out to Juana’s housekeeper Helene, who, on the morning of my departure, presented me with a large package of Canadian treats and curios which I will always treasure and make use of… The umbrella hat has raised eyebrows wherever I have worn it, Helene !! Thank you so much for your thoughtful going away gift… Your unexpected generosity will remain with me always…

Juana's beautiful Heritage Home Bed and Breakfast, best one in town !

Juana’s beautiful Heritage Home Bed and Breakfast, best one in town !

But my stay in North Sydney was as frustrating as it was pleasurable…

For two days solid, gale force winds lashed the coast, and this, combined with heavy rain, meant that I was effectively prevented from leaving town. The wind whipped the waters of the bay across the road into a maelstrom of “white horses”, driving waves up onto the shore that sometimes splashed onto the road…

The weather finally broke on the third day of my stay and I was only then able to move about more freely on the bike.

 View from the front porch while the storm raged around us.

View from the front porch while the storm raged around us.

 I'm thinking I might qualify ! Where do I sign up ?

I’m thinking I might qualify ! Where do I sign up ?

For a few hours the previous two days, and in between heavy showers, I was able to ride down to the harbor area to try and find out more info on the ferry saga. I was told that traffic to and from Newfoundland was so backed up, that they had stopped taking bookings online and instructed all vehicles to get to the harbor and join the massive queues that wound their way around the entire harbor area and out onto the highway outside it.

The weather which extended across the entire north Atlantic, was battering Newfoundland too, and was set to hang around for days to come according to all available weather reports…

I had heard that riding Newfoundland was an experience that few wanted to miss if given the opportunity, and I befriended many local bikers (who seemed to hang out at Tim Horton’s every afternoon) and they provided me with invaluable information on the conditions there, provided that I could make the six hour ferry crossing to Port Aux Basques.

The longer 14 hour ferry ride to Argentia, which I wanted to do, had been cancelled due to one of the three ferries servicing Newfoundland having collided with the sea wall…

These bikers spent much of their time regaling me with stories of collisions with moose on the island. Apparently the moose on Newfoundland outnumber people by as much as twenty to one !! I was told how they sometimes picked a fight with the huge trucks that ply the road to St Johns, and that I should not ride the Big Fella during the hours of darkness.

We parked in the little fishing harbour and watched the Newfoundland ferry being loaded for yet another sailing... At this point I was still keen to give Newfoundland and Labrador a bash...

We parked in the little fishing harbour and watched the Newfoundland ferry being loaded for yet another sailing… At this point I was still keen to give Newfoundland and Labrador a bash…

“And if you see one alongside the road, the last thing you gotta do is honk your horn !! That just plain pisses them off, and they’ll come looking for whatever it was that was honking at them !!”, said a grizzled old biker who I assume had enough experience of riding in Newfoundland to impart his advise with some conviction.

Rollies is a very popular eatery on the northern edge of the harbour.

Rollies is a very popular eatery on the northern edge of the harbour.

I spent a great deal of time checking routes that would take me through to Labrador, and then began asking around if there was anyone who had made this ride from Red Bay on the Atlantic, through to Goose Bay on Lake Melville, and on to Churchill Falls.This would to my mind be my last big challenge on my ride, one that I had never really planned to do, but circumstances had presented the opportunity to me, and if it was at all possible, I wanted to take advantage of it…

The news and advice was not good however.

I was told not to attempt the ride alone, as the area was far more inhospitable that the ride to Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska was. There was precious little traffic between Red Bay and Goose Bay, and the entire distance of almost 500 km comprised of a dirt road in various stages of disrepair, depending on weather conditions… The trans Labrador highway was not for the faint of heart…

“If it has rained up there, you don’t want to take on that road on your own. If you take a fall, you might well have to spend hours waiting for someone to come by and help you…”, I was told by one head-shaking biker when I explained what I wanted to do…

Not the first time I have seen a salon with this name, but still makes me smile.

Not the first time I have seen a salon with this name, but still makes me smile.

“The last place you’ll see people is at Port Hope Simpson, about 150 km up the coast from Red Bay, and on the last 400 km to Goose Bay, you’ll be on your own, Buddy !! And it’ll take you at least 8 hours to cover that section, and that’s in a pick-up truck. And if you’re thinking of camping, there’s bears and wolves to consider… No way’s would I do it alone !!”, said one of his mates.

“I did that ride in a 4 x 4 a few years ago to do some hunting up there, and man was it tough !! If you can’t find anyone to ride with you, or hook up with a convoy of some kind, I wouldn’t do it if I was you…”, yet another biker chimed in.

From Goose Bay to Churchill Falls, I would have to cover another 400 km or so on dirt, and from there to Labrador city yet another 300 km of rough roads. The ride from Churchill Falls to the banks of the St Lawrence River at Baie Comeau was a total of 1200 km of adventure riding at it’s very best, through the vast Canadian Tundra, and a part of the world that very few people I questioned could tell me anything about.

Canada is such a vast country that it was a rare thing indeed to find somebody who had ridden all of the “north-country” and could give me any decent info on…

All of the advice I received, mostly about concern for my safety, combined with the weather front that had moved north over Newfoundland and Labrador, and the fact that the ferry wasn’t going where I wanted to start my Newfoundland ride, made me consider why I wanted or needed to make this ride in the first place.

This was the route I planned after reaching North Sydney. Taking on the Trans Labrador would have been the final "challenge" of my journey...

This was the route I planned after reaching North Sydney. Taking on the Trans Labrador would have been the final “challenge” of my journey…

I spent a large part of my second day secluded at the Heritage Home, mulling over my options… In the end, after lengthy discussions with Patricia, and taking her own concerns for my safety into consideration, I decided it was not worth putting my body and life on the line for this particular challenge. It was only the second time on my journey that I regretted having to ride on my own. The first being the road from Isiolo in Northern Kenya to Moyale on the Ethiopian border…

I also realized at this point, that I no longer had just myself to think about. I was no longer the “happy-go-lucky” adventure rider, taking on rides to places where I either didn’t care too much about the outcome, or wanted to go to places just for the sheer hell of it… I had Patricia to think about, and she had over the last two years since we had met, showed me that  I was not an island, drifting alone on a sea of constant uncertainty, and that despite my past experiences, still had a responsibility to my family and friends…

Even though had set my heart on it, I reluctantly gave up on my Trans Labrador ride, and made peace with my decision. I had enjoyed the planning of it, and I have to admit it had fired up my enthusiasm to ride, which I had lost a little of over the past few weeks.

On our last day in North Sydney, we went down to the harbour to watch the ferry sail... I stood for a long time watching it sail out of sight towards the open sea. I wistfully accepted that this very spot was the place that I would be turning for home. From here, all roads led back to South Africa, even tough they would be via parts of Canada and the USA. It was an emotional moment for me, realizing that it was the beginning of the end of my last long ride in the USA aboard the Big Fella...

On our last day in North Sydney, we went down to the harbour to watch the ferry sail… I stood for a long time watching it sail out of sight towards the open sea. I wistfully accepted that this very spot was the place that I would be turning for home. From here, all roads led back to South Africa, even tough they would be via parts of Canada and the USA. It was an emotional moment for me, realizing that it was the beginning of the end of my last long ride in the USA aboard the Big Fella…

Nevertheless, with my decision made, I spent a relaxed last day in North Sydney, riding out along the coastal roads and watching the ferry to Newfoundland leave on yet another run to Port-Aux-Basques…

I decided to head east towards the St Lawrence River, through New Brunswick and Quebec, down to Montreal, along the northern banks of Lake Ontario to Toronto, and then cross back into the USA at the Niagara Falls. From there I planned to join Patricia in Brunswick, south Georgia, and spend some time relaxing and taking stock of our future plans.

I rode back to Heritage Home and packed my gear in preparation for an early morning start the following day.

My first task of the day would be to ride the famous Cabot Trail…

©GBWT 2013

1 comment to North Sydney and a Change of Heart…

  • wilbur

    You missed Vietnam on the moto and now Newfoundland and Labrador….! Maybe the three most important flags for the panniers…! You’ve become a timid couch potato…
    The guys giving you advise were Hog riders….of course they must always go in group formation to assist with daily breakdowns…not to mention the drama of a Hog on dirt….The GS is designed for solo dirt track adventure…
    Well, maybe next year….Bullwinkle and Smokey will await….

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