Archive for the ‘Newfoundland and Labrador’ Category

… Moreton’s Harbour, all around the circle

Friday, August 15th, 2008

We awoke to pouring rain, and it continued throughout the morning. We took that as a sign that this would be a lazy day, and we’d stay at Dildo Run for two nights. Also, looking at the map, it was a 50+ km round trip to Twillingate, and that isn’t much fun in pouring rain. We had a relaxing breakfast under the picnic shelter near our campsite, and even got to make toast! (thanks to the loan of a campstove toaster from Trevor – he and family were also using the shelter to avoid the rain).

By 1:00 pm, Scott was bored. Yesterday he had been singing “I’s the b’y that builds the boat” all day, especially the part about “Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour, all around the circle”, so despite the rain (now downgraded to a “steady rain” from “downpour”), he decided to ride out to Moreton’s Harbour. Becky decided that staying in the tent with a book was a much better idea, and at first Scott was thinking she was probably right.

It was a very wet ride, but he made it to Moreton’s Harbour, and there was an unexpected bonus at the end – a museum! And not just any museum, but one which served a traditional Newfoundland “Mug Up” in the afternoon: tea, toast and jam, biscuits, molasses cookies and more. He was in heaven!
After being plied with goodies by Angie, Gordon gave him a guided tour of the museum – lots of artifacts from the 1800s and early 1900s showing how the folks in Moreton’s Harbour lived. Beautiful dresses made from dyed flour and sugar sacks, lacework and crochet, improvised tools as well as lots of antiques. Until recently, this entire area was only accessible via water, with the “CNR Boat” providing mail and freight service.

It was also interesting to hear about the Schooner Fishery from the other side. At Battle Harbour we heard that the schooners had it much easier, since they could go out and find the cod, even offshore, and got to live in much more hospitable climes than Labrador. From the Moreton’s Harbour perspective, while the schooners were effective, it did mean fishermen were away for weeks and months at a time, and if a schooner was lost, it was a major blow to the village, since few men would survive to reach shore or another schooner.

It was a neat little museum, and nice to see people working to preserve their heritage. (There’s a similar sort of museum back home in Nepean, but have we ever been there? Nope. Makes us wonder if there’s similarly interesting information in that museum…)

It was also interesting to get a perspective on housing prices in rural Newfoundland. Angie and her husband have recently moved back from St. John’s, and were able to buy a good-sized, recently-built house for less than $25 000! That seems like a pretty good deal, even if it did need some work. This area isn’t even that remote. It’s less than 1 hour to Gander, and a few hours to St. John’s, but there isn’t much work available. They were originally from the area, so they knew what they were moving back to, and it does seem like a great place to raise a family.

Elevation Profile
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Bond vs. Ranger – how to get to Goose Bay?

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Becky awoke at 7 am and figured she’d go for a walk around Cartwright rather than wake Scott up. We wanted to be at the ferry terminal when the office opened so that we could get on the appropriate wait list for the ferry. When she got to the terminal, she discovered the office didn’t open until 9 pm, so she went for a wander-around town.

Becky soon came upon Debbie, whom we had met the day before in our wanderings. Debbie was standing on the porch enjoying a cup of coffee, so Becky asked if she could possibly have a cup. Debbie invited her in and she had a great visit with Debbie and Mik. Debbie and Mik live in Goose Bay and were in Cartwright visiting Mik’s sister Sharon who works at the weather station in Cartwright. Mik grew up in Paradise River – this was interesting because both Adrian and family (where we stayed last night) and Barb (at the B&B in Port Hope Simpson) grew up in Paradise River. We were amused by the number of people we met from Paradise River given that it currently has a population of 18!

We had not yet decided which ferry we were going to take. One option was to take the Northern Ranger to Black Tickle, and then up to Goose Bay. This would mean departing Cartwright at about 5 pm and arriving in Goose Bay at 10:30 pm the next evening. If we could get a cabin on the boat, the trip to Black Tickle would be interesting and give us a point of comparison from our trip on the Nordik Express up the North shore of Quebec.

The other option was the overnight ferry (the Bond), which left at 7 pm and arrived in Goose Bay at 8 am. This is the same boat that would take us to Lewisporte on Tuesday. When I called from Port Hope Simpson, the reservation agent told us the boat was sold out and we couldn’t make a reservation even to walk on. When talking to the locals, they all said we would have no trouble walking on, but it was highly unlikely we would get a cabin. Given the fullness of this boat, the Northern Ranger looked like a more interesting option.

The Northern Ranger arrived at 3 pm, and we looked into getting on it. Unfortunately the purser could not guarantee us a cabin and we would not know for certain until after the boat sailed. The boat did not have a decent loading ramp, so we would need to load our bikes by lifting them over a 4 foot gap between the wharf and the boat. In addition, a lot of the folks from the boat entered the Northern Store in Cartwright and proceeded to clear out the beer, wine and liquor section. This did not bode well for a peaceful trip to Black Tickle. Given that, we decided to pass on the Northern Ranger.

In the end, we had no issues with getting walk-on tickets for the Bond for the evening sailing. We were very low on the room list, so we knew we needed to find our own place on the boat for the night.

The boat (MV Bond) has a very negative reputation with the locals, but we didn’t find the experience too bad. The food, however, is awful. If you plan to take this boat, also plan to bring enough food to last your journey. It was good that we only needed one meal on the way to Goose Bay.

We spent the first part of the evening hanging out in the bar with Kraig and Kara from BC. They were on a two month road trip visiting all the provinces for their honeymoon before Kraig starts practicing medicine, and Kara goes back to her Physiotherapy clinic. Scott got creamed by both of them in crib, while Becky took advantage of the free wireless Internet to do some blog updates. The free wireless on the boat will come in handy during the 36 hour trip to Lewisporte. At one point in the evening Becky noticed an iceberg in the distance. It was really cool to actually see an real iceberg. Unfortunately, it was rather far away, so it was difficult to capture in a photo.

We didn’t have a cabin, so we setup the tent on the upper deck and slept in it. It worked out pretty well, except we foolishly moved it around with a bag in it (so it wouldn’t blow away). The rough deck surface and the heavy bag made several small holes in the floor, which we now need to repair. For some reason we thought it would hold up OK without being anchored. Given the winds on the deck, that was a foolish assumption. After setting it up, we tied it down to various pipes and benches, but it still flapped a bit. Next time we’ll anchor the corners down before setting the tent up.

We slept quite well on the deck and awoke to the smell of bacon. Unfortunately we had placed the tent a little too near the galley exhaust. For the next trip – if we don’t get a cabin – we’ll need to find a better location. There is a ton of deck space, so we shouldn’t have an problem finding a better spot. We’ll have two nights on the Bond on our way from Goose Bay to Lewisporte.

Farther from Paradise

Friday, August 8th, 2008

77 km, 6 h 30 min ride time

We awoke to a few isolated bouts of rain and a collection of mosquitoes clinging to the outside of the tent at about 6 am. It appears that Labrador has mosquitoes in addition to black flies! It wasn’t nearly as warm as yesterday. Scott hoped that the rain would make the bugs go away – Becky knew better. The flies began to swarm us the moment we got out of our tent.

We gobbled down a quick snack and jumped onto the bikes. We were riding by 7 am – a record for us. Once we were moving the flies released their grip on us, and it was quite pleasant. Becky was still getting bitten occasionally under her head net, so Scott offered to trade. That only lasted about 30 minutes before he decided to actually fix the net, rather than suffering as Becky had been doing. Just after he stopped, another car stopped to take photos of us, and a lady with much nimbler fingers helped him re-feed the broken elastic through the channel. Re-tied, it was good as new.

We had been told by Cyril and Barb of a spring by the side of the road at around the 90 km mark, and were starting to run low on water, so starting at 90km were keeping a close eye. At 100km we were afraid we’d missed it, but fortunately Scott spotted it – signed by a rock with a white hardhat and orange spray paint. (for future reference it’s at N53.03909 W57.43160). We filled up all available water containers, since we weren’t sure if we would be camping tonight. This added an extra 8-9 litres to Scott’s load, which helped to slow him down on the climbs.

By 11 am, we were hungry and in need of a break. We came upon the intersection of the 516 and 510 (where the road will go to Goose Bay when it is complete) and found ourselves a flat place to set up our tent and have a cooked breakfast. Scott boiled the water while Becky set up the food inside the tent. It was nice to escape the bugs for a few minutes. Scott even found some ripe blueberries, which made a nice treat.

During lunch we had an animated discussion about how to proceed. Becky suggested that this really wasn’t fun and that we should hitch a ride with the first truck that could take us. We had only been passed by 3 vehicles all morning, so the options were limited. Scott wanted to keep riding, thinking we might make it to Cartwright if the road leveled out, and if not, at least we had enough water to camp and make dinner and breakfast, leaving a short ride tomorrow. At this point, Cartwright was still 90 km away, so we had a fair ways to go yet. We agreed to keep riding until 4:00, and keep an eye out for vehicles which could pick us up – leaving things to chance.

After our lunch break, the wind picked up and the flies fled. It was nice to ride without the bug nets over our heads. It didn’t get any flatter though, so riding to Cartwright today looked pretty unlikely.

At one point Becky said to Scott “I feel like Paradise River has been 10 km away for the last 5 km”, Scott replied “That’s because it is still 11.5 km away”. At that point, Becky almost lost it, she was exhausted and getting frustrated with the slow pace on the dirt road, and the inaccurate road signs.

At 3:30 pm we passed a grater on the road. The fresh grade took the good road and made it not quite as nice for us on bikes. The road was smoother, but it meant that the road was more uniform and the soft spots and hard spots were not distinguishable. It still wasn’t as bad as the road yesterday, but further dispirited Becky. At 4:00 the grader operator caught up with us in his pickup truck. Once Becky spotted him in her rearview mirror, she stopped her bike and stuck out her thumb. “Peter the grader guy” stopped and was happy to give us a lift into Cartwright. Paradise River was still 10 km away and Cartwright was an additional 42 km from there. In his pickup truck we didn’t make it to Cartwright until 4:45 (just before the gas station closed). This was Peter’s last week as a grader operator, since the company he is working for lost the contract for road maintenance. He’s hoping the new company will need to hire him – there aren’t many people living here year-round who can drive the heavy equipment, but it’s the company building the road to Goose Bay who won the contract, and he hasn’t heard anything from his application yet. Good luck Peter!

Peter dropped us off at the hotel near the ferry, where we hoped to get a room for the night. Cartwright is a rather spread out town, covering more than 5 km of roads. There are two hotels, one near the ferry and the other a full 5 km away at the airport. Unfortunately, Kraig and Kara (folks from British Columbia on their honeymoon) took the last room just before we arrived. We called around to the B&Bs, but they were either closed or full. The other hotel only had 1 smoking room left. After our experience with a “just cleaned” smoking room in Oswego, we figured sleeping in our tent was a better option.

After an OK dinner at the Mug Up café, we hung around town visiting with various people and talking about our bikes, trying to kill time until it was late enough to set up our tent in the ferry terminal parking lot. When we mentioned our plans to Adrian and Joy, they invited us to camp in Adrian’s family’s backyard (now his brother Brian’s home). We were happy to accept a place that was a little more private than the ferry terminal and gave us a shed to store the bikes and some of our gear for the night. As an added benefit we had tea and a delightful visit with Adrian, Joy, and their little daughter Madison.

Elevation Profile
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Caught my eye… a blackfly that is…

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

72 km and 6h 30 ride time.

Today we began something of a crazy journey, riding our bikes from Port Hope Simpson to Cartwright. The road is 195 km long. The only sign of civilization along the road is Paradise River, which is 40 km outside of Cartwright and has a population of 18. Per usual, we started late. We didn’t leave Port Hope Simpson until 1:00 pm, after visiting more with Cyril and Barb. The weather was sunny and hot – a bit of a challenge when you need to cover up to avoid the flies.

The road continued to diverge dramatically from what Google and the Topo Maps told us. We have no idea where they got their information, but it was clearly incorrect. See the GPS track below if you’re interested in where the road actually goes…

Update:The road shown below is from the Google Maps API, which uses TeleAtlas data. It turns out to be much more accurate in this instance than http://maps.google.com, which uses NAVTEQ map data. Here’s some commentaryabout the differences.

Our progress was slow. Becky used the excuse that we spent most of the day climbing – but the road also didn’t help. It was a nice gravel road without much loose gravel. Most of the time we found a solid track, but gravel is still much slower than asphalt.

A few kilometers outside of Port Hope Simpson, Isabelle (who we met in Battle Harbour) passed us. She and her daughter Katie were headed to Charlottetown and just stopped to say hi. Her son David and his friend are riding their bicycles from St. John’s to Vancouver, but they weren’t foolish enough to ride the Trans Labrador Highway.

Once we passed the Charlottetown turnoff, there was very little to distinguish one section of the road from another. There were a few muddy trickles which crossed under the road, various mounds of dirt and quarries from the road construction, and one logging road. We were excited to see a trailer parked on a small side road at one point, but no-one appeared to be home. The only other sign of humanity was a road Grader parked in a pullout.

The sun and heat made the road a bit dusty, but fortunately most vehicles slowed to pass us, and there was enough wind to blow the dust clouds quickly off the road. We were only passed by 20 vehicles or so – not much traffic.

Late in the afternoon, Becky broke the elastic strap in her head net, which made it much less effective. Now, instead of keeping all the bugs away from her head, it kept most away, but then trapped any that did get in, so they were stuck close to her head. It was an interesting experiment, and verified that Labrador Flies will indeed bite more than once. (Not an experiment we need to repeat).

At about 7 pm, we stopped at the side of the road for a food and rest break. The bugs were so bad that we needed to set up the tent just to eat. We did a quick setup and climbed inside for a snack. It was good that we had lots of prepared food, so we didn’t need to cook.

We were back on the road for 8 pm and rode for an hour. By 9 pm we had to stop, as it was starting to get dark. We found a flat mound on the side of the road and set up our tent for the night. We were surprised by how quiet it is here. Back home, we would have heard birds and animals scurrying around in the night. It was pretty close to silent with the only sound being the swishing of trees in the light wind.

Unfortunately we discovered that a fly had bitten Becky right on the edge of her eyelid, and it was starting to swell. It was itchy, but not bad enough to prevent her from sleeping.

When Becky got up for a mid-nighttime bathroom break, the sky was still clear. There were many more stars than we can usually see and you could clearly see the Milky Way. You could also see the clouds starting to form … it wasn’t to remain clear.

Elevation Profile
GPS Track

Dirt versus gravel

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

54 km, 5 hours ride time

We left Battle Harbour with some sadness, since it has been a very relaxing respite, but it’s a bit expensive for our budget, and if we ever hope to get back to Newfoundland we need to tackle the Trans Labrador Highway again.

We discovered today that there is a significant difference between a freshly gravelled road and a dirt road. In the towns along the coast, there are many dirt roads (hard packed dirt with a bit of gravel), which are usually quite pleasant to ride on – all you need to do is avoid the potholes, and at the speeds we are going this isn’t a problem. Fresh gravel is an entirely different challenge. All of the of the Trans Labrador Highway is gravel once you get north of Red Bay.

The gravel today is better than the stretch from Red Bay to Mary’s Harbour, but in many parts has been recently resurfaced, which makes it nice for cars, but not so pleasant for bikes. The resurfaced gravel means there are no “tracks” where the road is dirt, rather it is all loose stones. That made for a slow and bumpy ride.

The road from Mary’s Bay to Port Hope Simpson is very scenic. The landscape completely changes a few times as you approach hills or corners, which helped keep us entertained as we rode.

At one point a car passed us, then stopped. A couple of people got out and quickly took a few pictures of us. We were both rather amused and happy to oblige people with a pose for a picture.

We had been warned about the big trucks on the road and the dust and rocks they throw, but every big truck (in either direction) slowed right down before passing us and usually honked or waved hello (of course we’re usually waving too). We did have a couple of smaller cars pass us a little closer or faster than they should, throwing rocks and dust at us. Everyone else, including the pickups were very polite. Fortunately, there is very little traffic on these roads – just enough to feel safe, but not so much that you are breathing dust all day.

We are staying at Campbell’s Place B&B, which was new, clean and had private baths – a nice luxury. Becky was tired and went to bed early, but Scott had a nice visit with both Cyril and Barb (the owners) and played with their 9-month old daughter Serena. Barb is of native heritage, and she had some interesting things to say about growing up in this area. She grew up in Paradise River, was 100+ people, now about 18, since many people moved out after the road went in. She has taught Caribou Tufting and Grass Weaving at the Friendship Centre in Goose Bay, which we’d like to go see when we are there. She also recommended checking out “Moulder of Dreams” – a pottery program in Port Hope Simpson, which we may try to do tomorrow.

We also met Dave, a guy from Moncton who owns a freight/logistics company. The job he’s doing now is moving a bunch of logs from the area down to the pulp mill in Cornerbrook, and he has rented a barge which can hold 4000 cords of wood (that’s a lot of wood!). He also has his own plane, which he uses to fly his guys back and forth, since it only takes 3 days to load the barge, and his crane operators are from New Brunswick. Interesting fellow. He offered to let us ride down to Cornerbrook on the barge, and we were definitely tempted. It would have been an interesting transit – 40 hours on the barge, but we are looking forward to seeing Happy Valley-Goose Bay and visiting with Susan’s cousin Joanna.

Elevation Profile

Battle Harbour – Peace and History

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

walked 5.4 km around Battle Island

Today feels more like a vacation day than a rest day. That may be because we didn’t actually ride to get here, or it may be because of the location. Battle Harbour is certainly in the middle of nowhere. To get here, you need to follow the Trans Labrador Highway either 180 km northwest from the Blanc-Sablon or 240 km south from Cartwright. In both cases, there is at least 90 km of gravel highway. Then you need to take an hour long boat trip. If you are looking for a place to get away from it all, this is a great place!

Battle Island is very quiet and peaceful because it is so remote, and is also an interesting historic site. In the 1850s, Battle Harbour was the most populous and important settlement in Labrador. It was the hub of the Labrador fishery until the closure of the fishery in 1993, and many of the buildings date back to the 1800s. It was converted to a historic trust in 1993, and restoration and interpretation of the site has progressed since then. There are daily tours where you can learn about the historical significance of the place and how the fisheries worked in Labrador until the early 1990s.

We spend much of the day lazing about in the cozy wood-heated bunkhouse. Scott attended the full tour and Becky the first half of it until it got too cold and rainy.

Battle Harbour had one of the first Marconi stations in Labrador, and also one of the most long-reaching, so Robert E. Peary stopped here to give a news conference in 1909 where he claimed to have reached the North Pole.

We had some nice visits with various other tourists that were staying and got to know a few of the staff – many of whom grew up in Battle Harbour.

Flat Tire

Monday, August 4th, 2008

5 km ride (most of that was to the restaurant for lunch and back to the road), 40 minutes
85 km by truck

We awoke to another beautiful morning without any wisp of a breeze. It was so calm that the Red Bay Basin was reflecting the hills around it. The view from the B&B was spectacular – we missed it last night because it was dark soon after we arrived.

After breakfast Scott went out on a reconnaissance mission to see how the road was, while Becky caught up on her sleep. Scott stopped to talk to some berry pickers (the Bakeapple berry season has started), and discovered his mistake soon enough. He did not put any DEET on in the morning and the berry pickers brought a collection of flies out of the bog with them. Although Scott had his headnet on, mostly saving his head from bites, he had exposed legs, which you can now play connect the dots on!

The gravel has been about what we were promised – a new layer has just been put down, and not packed by much traffic yet, so it’s slippery under the tires, and would definitely slow us down.

Becky didn’t have a lot of energy today, recovering from too many fly bites and a not too great night’s sleep. We decided to try and hitch a ride rather than ride to Mary’s Harbour. This decision was compounded by the fact that the ride was 90 km of dirt road with a climb up to 300 meters – higher than we have been on any part of the trip so far. We stood not far of the intersection for the road to Red Bay, but got bored after about 10 minutes, so we decided to ride a bit. After about 5 minutes riding, Becky noticed that her pant leg was catching on the chain, so we stopped to find something to tie the pant leg down – just then, a pickup came from behind. We stuck our thumbs out and they stopped. When they asked if they could help, we asked for a ride – however far they were going would certainly help us get to Mary’s Bay before dark.

Kathy and Fred from Chicago picked us up and loaded our bikes into the back of their pickup. They had left their fifth wheel (RV trailer) in St. Barbe and came over to Labrador with just their pickup. We enjoyed a visit with them while making our way towards Mary’s Harbour. After about half an hour, Kathy opened her window and noted that it sounded very much like a tire was flat. Fred commented that it wasn’t driving like it had a flat, but after 5 minutes, we stopped to check, and it was very clearly flat, with a 6 inch slice in the sidewall of the tire. It looked like the sidewall had just failed, rather than anything actually slicing the tire. Kathy and I kept out of the way while Scott helped Fred change the tire. Every vehicle that passed by stopped to ensure we were OK, which was nice to see.

Although the flat was unfortunate, we were glad it wasn’t on our bikes! We continue to be very happy with our bicycle tires, which have held up to the roads very nicely.

After about 45 minutes, we were back on the road. Shortly after we passed Lodge Bay (a small community 10 minutes outside of Mary’s Harbour) we spotted a couple of golden foxes on the road. The foxes entertained us for about 5 minutes, laying about and frolicking with one another. We were struck by how white the tips of their tails were.

At around 5 pm, we arrived in Mary’s Harbour, where Kathy and Fred dropped us off. Thank-you very much Kathy and Fred for the ride. We very much enjoyed the time visiting with you.

We arrived in Mary’s Harbour with enough time to catch the last ferry over to Battle Harbour Island. Originally, we were hoping to camp over on the Island; however, they recommended against it, so we booked a couple of beds in the bunkhouse.

The boat ride was a little bouncy. Fortunately, we both survived without any significant queasiness. We had a great opportunity to visit with Robin and John from Goose Bay. Robin is a writer and John is a judge. They both have spent a lot of time with the Innu and Inuit communities in Labrador, so they could answer a lot of our questions and share their perspectives about the culture and social environment among the Innu, Inuit, Métis, and settled communities in Labrador.

Seeing Battle Harbour from the water gave us a flavor of the outports of Labrador. Some of the fishermen’s stages are still along the water, and many of the commercial buildings at the wharf have been restored. As we came closer, it was difficult to tell whether all the people on the wharf were real – some we thought to be real turned out to be life-sized photos, and others gathered around a drum looked like statues until they moved.

We had a delicious dinner in the dining hall above the General Store, and it provided a chance to meet some other interesting people. The bunkhouse where we slept has been restored to a fairly authentic state, with wood stoves for heat and cooking, and a kerosene lamp. There is also electricity and plumbing, so we have a coffee maker (Becky is very happy!) and a shower. Tonight we have the bunkhouse to ourselves, and tomorrow night there is likely to be one other person here. It is actually cheaper than staying at the Inn in Mary’s Harbour!

Elevation Profile

Becky is dinner

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

72 km , 5 h 46 min ride time

It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and the temperatures a little cool; however, there was very little wind. We thought that was a good thing, but soon discovered that wind, even a headwind, is your friend in Labrador.

The road to Red Bay was not long, so we decided to check out the Lighthouse at Point Amour prior to making our way to Red Bay. We left our gear in Mary’s shed, and checked out the tallest lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador. Preparing to leave for the lighthouse, we got our first taste of what the black flies (also called Labrador flies) can be like – quite vicious. Becky decided to try out her head net (over her helmet). We both applied plenty of DEET. Because it was Sunday, the lighthouse tour was free. We enjoyed the opportunity to climb to the top and see the amazing views. The ocean rocks in this area are worn in such as way that they look like fancy interlock. At the lighthouse, we adopted our new mascot – Puffie (a stuffed puffin). With any luck Puffie will be appearing in photos throughout our trip.

After this short 19 km detour, we discovered that all the food outlets (coffee shop and restaurant) in L’Anse-au-Loup are closed on Sundays. It was good that we had made up some sandwiches for the days ride. We stopped at the gas station to buy some chips and use their facilities. To get away from the bugs we had our lunch (sandwiches) inside the gas station shop.

Becky was much more attractive to the flies than Scott, so she continued to wear her head net, sometimes as a full face mask, and sometimes just over her helmet. Scott seemed to be OK with just DEET. The ride out to Red Bay took much longer than when we anticipated. At about 3pm, we arrived in West St. Modeste. As soon as we turned inland and started climbing, the flies attacked with a vengeance. Scott got a number of bites, and Becky got mauled. Becky saw a resort restaurant that was open, and insisted that we get indoors for a break from the bugs. She had a number of nasty bites on her neck. Those Labrador flies can take a real chunk out of you, such that you bleed with every bite. We decided that the bugs make the idea of camping unpalatable (sleeping in the tent is OK, but cooking would be no fun at all). We contemplated staying a night at the resort, but it was expensive and would not put us within reach of Mary’s Harbour (where we wanted to be the next day), so we pushed onto Red Bay and booked a room at the B&B there.

We soon discovered that it was difficult to find places to stop, as the moment you stopped you were swarmed with flies. Neither of us have seen them so bad. Even drinking was a challenge, since you have to lift the head net in order to drink. Not stopping also means that it is difficult to get food in you, and 30 km of hills is really difficult without a snack. At one point, we dug out a bun and some crackers. Becky rode with the bun in her hand, taking bites whenever she was moving fast enough to keep the bugs away (such that she could lift her head net over her mouth). Judging by the amount of bites she received by the end of the day, this was only partially successful!

At the B&B we met Dan and Nancy from San Francisco who were driving around Labrador. They spent a week taking the ferry up to Nain and five days on Battle Island. They highly recommended spending some time on Battle Island, and said that it is possible to camp there. They also confirmed that there are no (or very few) flies on Battle Island and only the odd mosquito. The roads are really nice for driving; however, they are covered in loose gravel, which is not good on bikes. In the end, we concluded that if the wind picks up tomorrow and we are feeling up to it, we might ride to Mary’s Harbour – but more likely, we’ll try and hitch a ride out there, so that we can enjoy a couple of days camping on Battle Island.

Around L’Anse-au-Loup

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

No biking today as our bodies need a rest.

Becky cooked a delicious dinner of crab from the fish plant, broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes which we shared with Mary – our hostess.  She’s an interesting character – 75 years old and still going strong running a B&B on her own.  Some other folks we met had stayed with her 20 years ago, and she remembered them when they went back this summer!  She has 8 children and a mass of grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren.  For her 75th birthday this year (Feb 20), she bought herself and accordion, and has been teaching herself to play – all by ear.  She has a very strong accent, and is often difficult for us to understand – especially when she’s speaking fast, or to another local.

We asked one of the fellows at the B&B who is driving up to Cartwright tonight to call and let us know what shape the road is in. If the road has too much loose gravel we’ll try and hitch a ride; otherwise, we’ll try and ride it.

Since there are very few services on the road between Red Bay (30-40 km from here) and Cartwright, so we do not expect to have Internet for 4-5 days.

The hills of Labrador

Friday, August 1st, 2008

46 km, 4 h 5 min ride time – Deadman’s Cove to L’Anse-au-Loup

Today was definitely a slog, as the hills between Deadman’s Cove and St.Barbe (where the ferry is) provided to be just a warm up for the hills in Labrador. We are glad that we caught the morning ferry rather than the afternoon one, as it took us more than 3 hours to go the 30 km from Blanc-Sablon to L’Anse-au-Loup.  The 100km day yesterday likely didn’t help, since we started tired, but these are definitely our biggest hills to date.

We are staying at Mary Barney’s B&B for a couple of nights, while we rest up and prepare for the bit of pavement (50km) to Red Bay and then the 350+ km of dirt road that will take us to Cartwright.

We ran into Shawn and Kara from Kirkland Lake partway through our ride, and again at the B&B.  They have done a loop through the Maritimes, and are heading back through Labrador and Quebec, which seems like a lot of fun.  They certainly had an easier time of the hills than we did (but they did add a hike to make up for it)!  Kara has been a teacher in Northern Ontario for a number of years, and it was interesting to get her perspectives on schooling for natives – both on-reserve and off-reserve.  She still keeps in touch with some of her first students, in elementary school a decade ago, and even the best of them have gotten mired in addiction and pregnancy in their teens…  It’s a difficult problem.

Kara also spent a year in South East Asia a few years ago, so we’ve added her to our list of people to talk to in detail before we get there.