Menu

Previous entry Next entry

Nick & Tim’s Travel Diary

Monday, 22 Sep 2003

Location: St John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Map9953.3 km

We made it! Our journey is complete after 112 days on the road. Although we are considering riding around in circles to make it 10,000km. We can't ride East any more because that's the Atlantic. We're now closer to London, England than we are to Vancouver.
The final week was not without pain or joy. Newfoundland is a beautiful place, but it did seem to want to prevent us from finishing our journey. That made the final week one of the most trying, but also more fun.
After typing up our last update in Deer Lake we went to buy lunch at the supermarket and met Cathy. She wanted to show us the scabs on her leg, and told the whole supermarket that we knew the crocodile man. What she wouldn't do for his email address, did we know it? No. So we quickly left Deer Lake, straight on the trail. The trail took us 30km over some fairly loose gravel to what Nick has named "The best campsite of the trip" and Tim would have trouble disagreeing. A beautiful beach on a beautiful lake, for the first time in forever no bugs. The stars were out in force and it was warm. Just the occasional coyote call to wake us up and remind us we were far away from it all.
Not so far in fact, that morning we got into the town of Howley fairly quickly and stocked up big on food and water for a wilderness crossing. Yep, that day we were heading away from roads and civilisation and into the topsails - a big plain interrupted occasionally by these amazing rock mountain things. Our guide book described them as big Ayers Rocks, we beg to differ. In fact, they didn't really look like the topsails of a ship either. They looked a bit like nipples. So we named em the Newfie Nipples. They were, despite this name, spectacular. They would want to be, with the arduous trail to get to them! Loose crushed rock, not an ideal surface for biking. We only had to ride 100km of it to get to civilisation. Add to this the fact that some kind of freak weather hit Newfoundland this week and the temperature soared to over 30 degrees, we had a tough time of it. Worth it of course. The scenery all day was fantastic. Rivers strewn with reddish coppery rocks. Ferns in layered colours. The topsails themselves. More scary trestles. Twice we welcomed some cold springs, the second being so cold that the water caused our bottles to get covered in condensation. In the heat that water tasted fantastic. We were lucky the hunters around were not hunting that day due to the heat, instead they were showing us these springs - nice.
The day wore on and we were unable to find anywhere suitable for camping. We needed a place with water, and a falt space for a tent. Nothing. So after a very long hot day on crushed gravel trail we pulled into a provincial park campsite well after dark. We rode 130km, and our average speed was 16.3km/h. The trail was so bad that the top speed the speedometre recorded was 27km/h. Oh well, it was worth it!
Next morning we were not up so early, and we made a very satisfying stop at Tim Hortons in Grand Falls-Windsor for bagels and muffins. Then it was onwards for the trip to Gander. More painful trail. Some sections our guidebook had rated fit for wheelchairs. Nothing could be further from the truth! We went via one town that had resurfaced the trail by spraying it with tar. So now, the bits of rock that flew up onto us and our bikes stuck to us. Nice. We did however get shown around that town's fire hall by a proud townsperson. The whole town was out in force for the Targa Newfoundland tarmac rally. A car rally going through the island. Not the first time we would come across it.
Gander is a small town with a big airport in Newfoundland. Famous for the airport which is good for flights coming in from the Atlantic. We got there that night and camped. It was here that we pretty much decided that we'd end in three days. Making for a Saturday night arrival in St John's.
The trail around Gander actually improved somewhat - the only good bit of trail in Newfoundland! But soon deteriorated for our long trip to Port Blandford. The scenery was okay that day - lots of lakes and trees, and a nice town called Terra Nova. We got to Port Blandford and decided to press on to Tuckers Campsite on Thorburne Lake. That damn campsite was closed. Another 130km day on gravel and in heat meant we weren't keen to go on to the next town in the heat, so we snuck into tuckers thinking no one would mind. After swimming at Tucker's beach and generally feeling refreshed and ready to camp, Tucker's caretaker arrived. Instead of hiding, we decided to do the right thing and ask him if it was alright for us to throw up a tent for the night. Tucker was a grumpy sh-t. "What are you doing in here?". Despite us telling him we are no trace campers, and we were very tired, he would not have a bar of it and ordered us out. Thanks Tucker. The worst part of the whole affair was it put that Tucker's Daughter song in our heads for the rest of the trip.
So back on the bikes we got for an extra 10km to Shoal Harbour where our guidebook said there was a campsite. Of course there wasn't. We ended up sleeping in the ball park in one of the team shelters. Nice.
We were awoken by a man taking his dog for an early morning walk. "Holiday Inn huh?" He said before leaving and then returning later with a thermos of coffee for us. What a champion. He restored our faith in Newfoundland. We never even got his name, but we left a note with his thermos. Leaving Shoal Harbour we got back on the trail. Still bumpy, crushed gravel. Looked like we were going to end up doing 800km of the stuff. We got to a town called Come By Chance. The store there had closed, so it was chips and pepsi for luch again from a vending machine at the town hall. We were lucky enough to meet the mayor there. She was in campaign mode and we got given some Come By Chance pins to prove to people the town exists.
After Come By Chance, the trail conditions did not improve, however, the scenery did. Lots of rocky hills and grass with not many trees, barren but very spectacular. A nice ride despite the gravel took us into Whitbourne where we bought nearly an entire convenience store out of hunger. Whitbourne had no campsite either, and we weren't eager to repeat the park bench incident, so in the dark we travelled along the trail hoping for a place to set up the tent. Low and behold for our last night of camping, the perfect spot appeared. Hidden away from the trail and next to a lake it was ideal.
In the morning we got up for the final day of the trip - a very weird feeling. We only had 90km to go to get to St John's so we figured we'd be ending on an easy day. Oh no, the trail of doom reared its ugly head. From Whitbourne we travelled to Avalon, where they decided to leave the railtracks on the trail for prosterity (and train rides in summer). From Avalon we rode on to Holyrood, the guidebook describing the trail as improving by the minute to St John's. UNfortunately the trail was being used by kids on ATV's and was being ripped up daily. More ruts, bumps and gravel. Tim had the final stack of the journey as an ATV overtook him and forced him into deep gravel. Nice.
At Holyrood the trail hit the coast, some nice views were unfortunately paired with a roaring headwind. That plus the trail had our speed down to 9km/h. We had to go on road, or risk not finishing for another month. A quick lunch and then back on trail (now that it was away from the coast). The guidebook had said ideal biking conditions. We rode through the thickest gravel yet to a town called paradise. Little punks on ATVs staring at us like we were mad. We probably were, but all we could do is laugh. Finaly the trail became nice at PAradise. We know how the town got its name now. The final 14km into St John's were a breeze. Arriving in St John's we were kind of delerious. We feel like we've been riding forever, and now its all over. We rode to the top of Signal Hill and officially ended (of course this hill is particularly steep!) We were pretty damn happy. 9953.3 km is a long way to go.
We then head into town to get a hotel room - a celebration was in order, for we had made it and it was Tim's birthday.
Of course, there were no rooms to be had anywhere in St John's. A Psychiatrists conference and the Targa rally had booked em all up. What could have been a crushing blow, turned out alright after we befriended the girls on the front desk at the Quality Inn and they found a cancellation for us. Thanks girls!
That night it was out on the town - we had been told that George street is the place to go with a huge amount of pubs, and that Trapper John's in was the place to go to get Screeched in. This we did - it involved drinking Screech (Newfie rum) and kissing a puffin amongst other things. Next it was onto the Sundance lounge for as much debauchery as St John's could dish out.
So we're done - finito, its sad but also a nice feeling of accomplishment. We have a flight booked for Vancouver and the whole thing will be reversed in five hours, depressing.
Of the 112 days that we travelled, we rested 19 and cycled 93. So on average we cycled 107km per day. We ate approximately 400 tons of cookies and a bit less pasta. We wore the same shoes for the whole trip, rain hale or shine. Most importantly we had fun and met some incredible people. Who we'd like to thank, for helping us out and making the trip fantastic.
We'll probably put some more photos up later and some stats, so don't go away just yet. But for now, we are going to unfortunatley face reality and ... work. Unless there is some wealthy philanthropist willing to sponsor the "Nick and Tim Trans World Cycle"!