Friday 13th July 2007
The problem with the over heating was indeed an air lock. In the end I took out the fan sensor in the thermostat housing and slowly filled it from there using my camelback. (Water container that fits on your back like a mini rucksack, but has a tube that you can suck from when you get thirsty.) Following that she was rock steady, even at fast tick-over, so I guess that’s another problem solved. Getting all the gear on the bike was a challenge, as I was on the 11th floor, but eventually everything was strapped in place and I nervously pulled out of the car park into the mid morning traffic. Having wasted an hour trying to find the outdoor sports shop to buy a mug and an axe, only to find that it had been open until 9.00pm the previous evening, when I was one street away, and now didn’t open until 9:30, I was keen to get started. The traffic wasn’t so bad, but a bit nose to tail here and there, and eventually I made it to, and past, the MacDonald Bridge Tolls. Now for a few miles the road was easy until turning off on the Cole Harbour Road I’m once more into commuter shoppers for three or four miles. The road slowly gets narrower and the cars fewer and at last I can relax and enjoy the ride. Oh, had I visited 40 years ago, I would have stayed. The space and housing that people live in out here is just wonderful. The countryside is similar to Scotland, as the name Nova Scotia suggests. The speed limits both frustrate and delight me. On the one hand I cannot make up for lost time at 50mph, but on the other I have time to admire the fishing villages and small hamlets along the coast.
Typical river view in Nova Scotia
The weather is beautiful, in fact a little too hot when I stop for a drink of water and a cigar, and the sweat is soon pouring off until I get moving again. I catch the ferry across the river at Sheet Harbour ($5) – (Canadian and US dollars are so close at the moment, so I’ll just say $) Leaving the ferry I reach a Tee junction and a sign says ‘Petrol, 2.5 km’ to the right, but I have to go left. Sure enough about 3 miles down the road the bike falters and I have to switch to reserve. After another 35miles through timber covered hills, with hardly a car passing me from the opposite direction, and none in my mirrors for the last 40 mins or so, I sweep around a bend into Seal Harbour, straight past a little shop with a petrol pump at the side. Making a U-turn, I pull up to the pump and a little old man with ginger somewhere in his grey hair, strolls out of the shop.
‘Do you sell petrol?’ I enquire.
‘Well I gotta petrol pump in the yard, and I didn’t put it there ‘cause it looks pretty!’ he said, with more than a hint of irony and a little belligerence if truth be said.
‘No, I suppose not,’ I chuckled, trying to win him over, ‘I really meant are you still open for a sale.’
‘I cost $100,000 to install so I need to sell every drop I can,’ he replied handing me the nozzle, ‘ here you fill her up, then you can’t blame me if it overflows and ruins your motorcycle.’
After a few more words about Cancer of all things, ‘D’yer get any of it in England?’ seems to be taking off a good deal of his old friends and his wife just had a tumour removed from her eyebrow, his attitude soften when I explain about Christine and before you know it he a) offers me a free place to camp just outside of town, and b) as the land is up for sale, did I want to buy it. Herman Doyle he says his name is, and he’s open to offers on the land. I decline both kindnesses and as there are now 3 cars backed up,
‘Must be the rush hour,’ I jest.
‘No, daughter of the biggest fishing fleet here abouts got married today, they’re having a shindig up at the Community Hall, these boy’s are out of town taxi’s, let ‘em wait. Did I tell you it cost $25 to get a lobster licence, he’s been buying them up ‘cause all the fisherman here abouts are on welfare. Get $6 or $7 thousand dollars during the season, but that ain’t enough for a man to live on.’
‘My son is a fisherman in England,’ I tell him, ‘the license is $12,000 a year.’
He looks at me not sure if he believes me or not, and I shake his hand and drive on to Boyeston, a little happier that I’ll actually reach the Provincial Park and the camp ground. Herman Doyles petrol smelt a little strange, like old diesel does, perhaps that explains the $100,000, he probably had to buy a tanker full at a time.
I pull into the campsite and the Ranger has trouble getting his computer to accept my telephone and postcode, so in the end he cancels it and we start over using his telephone number and postcode, no problems.
‘I put you in number 5 site, it’s opposite the toilets and water tap, but there’s only you up that side, so take your pick, whatever you fancy. Black fly are a bit of a nuisance at the moment though, hope you got some spray.’
‘Yep.’ I reply with the confidence of a chemical weapons expert.
Camp at Boyleston PP
Number 5 seems just fine and I soon have the tent up and scavenge unused wood from the other fire places and in the best Boy Scout tradition the coffee is boiling and the sausage sandwiches immanent. The atmosphere is humid and dank, and I strip off my Motorcycling gear, don my high ankle shoes and outdoor lightweight trousers, spray my exposed parts with DEET and sit back to enjoy my meal that has finished cooking while I was thus engaged. Isn’t modern lightweight fabric fantastic? It pulls the sweat away from the sweaty parts, keeps you cool, keeps you warm, washes easily and dries so quickly. Mosquitoes love it, they can pierce through its figure hugging layer with no trouble at all, I sat watching incredulously as one did it in front of me. A special feature of my expensive Knox wear, is the mesh that runs along the seams, to allow air to flow and keep you cool, the mosquitoes can’t get through it, but they don’t need to anyway, but the black fly can, and I have tracks up the inside of my arms that the most extreme junky would be proud of. If you are going into black fly country do not buy Knox underwear!!
That evening while the black flies were feasting on me, the fireflies were taking flash photos for the Boyleston Insect Gazette. I have never seen more than one or two of these increadible insects before, and here in front of me were dozens, flashing away in the bushes all around me. Well first day has gone reasonably well, but still anxieties creep in about the bike and my equipment.
Saturday 14th July.
I take the road from Boyleston and more by luck than judgement, (my inbuilt radar again?) arrive at the causeway linking Cape Breton to the rest of Nova Scotia. The day is very hot and every time I stop, I am immediately drenched in sweat. I pass through small communities that until now were names on the map, unfortunately most will be unsure memories of roads sweeping down to harbours and bays lined with well spaced clapboard and shingle houses painted in white and pale blues and greys.
The National Park kiosk appears in front of me and I pull in to purchase a ticket. This gains entry to the park, but camping is extra depending on the facilities. The road is spectacular, but I can’t get my helmet cam to work. I wend my way up and down mountain sides with the sea on my left waiting to pick out one of the camp grounds. The campground I picked out on the map at home has several RVs there, and is like a picturesque car park, so I travel on, maybe come back later if the next couple are not to my liking. The sign for a campsite appears as I cruise out of a left hand bend, and it looks ideal. Set beside a babbling fresh water brook, just a few dozen pitches at most, toilet and kitchen hut, and no one else there, perfect.
I struggle out of my very moist motorcycle clothes, and set to pitching the tent. These ‘Primitive’ sites are self registering, on arrival you retrieve an envelope from the box attached to the notice board, fill in your details, insert an appropriate amount inside the envelope and pop the envelope in a secure letterbox, keeping the tear off tab to display on your vehicle.
‘No fires’ says the sign, now does this mean no open fires or strictly no fires at all. A pick-up arrives with a couple and child, they back up to one of the picnic tables and within minutes a feast is spread out before them, including a billy can on a stove making hot water for the coffee. Right, now I know.
After a most agreeable day and nights camping, I load the bike and head to the campsite at Ingonish. This is a more civilised site with showers and washing facilities. I make the most of it and wash clothes and equipment and leave it to dry while I go for a rideout..
The Cabot Trail
Monday 16th July
The town of North Sydney is very pleasant, as I take my customary, ‘where the hell am I’ tour to get my bearings. The weather is very hot with a clear blue sky as I get into line for the ferry. The clerks always have a slight shocked look when you tell them that you have not booked ahead, but will issue you a standby ticket. With a standby, if there is room after everyone else is on, you get a place, if not you wait for the next boat. Anyway they squeeze me on as the last vehicle and I nervously ride across the steel gratings and ramps to the space indicated. Here they throw me a few straps and tell me to secure the bike, they will not in case it is damaged during the crossing, if it falls, it’s my fault. With the engine crash bars and pannier frames it is dead easy to dog down the bike. I bid her farewell for the time being, and head upwards to the passenger decks. At $68 for a 6 hour cruise, this has to be one of the best value modes of transport there is. After leaving the coast of Cape Breton behind a cool wind springs up and I retire to the restaurant to tuck into a plate of fishcakes and beans. Emerging once more onto the deck I smartly about turn and head for the lounge, it is cold and foggy in the twilight. We nose into Port aux Basque, Newfoundland, to the sound of fog horns and shadowy glimpses of the harbour.
Getting of the boat is chaotic and at one point either we are going the wrong way down a ramp, or those coming the other way are, whatever it is, no one gets excited about it.
Now a word of warning about the roads in Newfoundland. The main road goes up the WEST shore of Newfoundland, but it heads upwards in a north-easterly direction and ends up on the EAST coast, so following the signs for WEST, I end up in a cul-de-sac in the less spectacular part of town. After wandering back and forwards through suburbs of wooden houses and waste ground I find myself back at the docks and resolve to head in the opposite direction. Just out of town I come across the Visitors Centre, park and review my options. It is 11.45, foggy, cold and wet, I am tired and confused. Time for a cigar and a think. After the cigar and think I get out my emergency survival bag, and climb in it at the bottom of a shallow ditch, welcome to Newfoundland.
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