Day 87/88 Pt.1 – Ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland, then to Cupids

Day 88 – The wind blew so hard as we waited to board the ferry on Thursday afternoon that taking a photo would have risked ditching my bike on its side. We were waved on first with the motorcycles, and the gusts blew me from the right hand side of the metal boarding bridge across to the far left, with me leaning hard into the wind the whole time. Crazy.

  • Today’s Distance (miles/km): / 8km
  • Time in saddle: 
  • Max/min temp (°c): °/°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 
  • Calories used: 
  • Cafe time: 

Map buried somewhere in my panniers – I’ll up date this when I find it.

I had two good views of our boat before we boarded; the first from the road into North Sydney as she was coming into dock (on the right):

…and then from a great coffee place I found behind a new outdoor gear shop. The couple who owned both the store and the cafe were very friendly, and took regular long-distance walking holidays in the UK. They were thinking of trip to an area I know well, East Anglia, so we looked at maps together and I raved about the north Norfolk coast, of course. They had been to Cambridge and Ely before, but never east into the Broads, or Norfolk proper.

After checking in at the ferry gate I sat for ages, dozing and reading in the terminal, before they lined us up for the windy boarding. There were many cyclists on this crossing, including Lisa from Wisconsin (sorry to have said that you cycled from there – wrong! Vermont, I should have said), and I spoke with Jocinda (sp?) and Sam who had come from Vancouver. A family of mum and dad and two lads were also heading over to explore Newfoundland. The lads were really excited, as any right-minded person should be when waiting to board a ferry on a bike, and I loved seeing their uninhibited thrill at it all. In charge of your own vehicle, boarding a major form of transport. You could see how much it meant. However, it transpired that because they were under eighteen they were not permitted to cycle aboard, so had to stand around waiting for a van to portage them across. Their time will come.

I got upstairs quickly after strapping down the bike on the car deck, and grabbed a nice selection of surfaces in the forward lounge to call my own for the next sixteen hours (the ferry is really not that busy so I needn’t have hurried):

Until quite recently I had no flight booked home and no ferry booked over to Newfoundland. Once I could safely guess my return date I booked them both, but it was too late to get a cabin, so I knew that I’d be sleeping on the sofa wherever I could.

It was a nice big lounge, with a bar and a dad-and-daughter country music duo playing on the stage once the ferry got underway. “We’ll be here ’til eleven, so kick back!” Cue some country classics, original compositions from the daughter (not bad) and a less great medley of Elvis numbers. (As they headed towards the end of their last of three sets, I looked up from my book to see that a couple had been doing the ol’ mum-and-dad-dance, rocking gently around together in the middle of the half-empty lounge, in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence, to a slow, maudlin number about being unlucky in love. It was a very touching sight, from a couple who looked to me like they’d probably been pretty lucky in love.)

I’d brought food with me, so got a beer and ate, read, put my watch forward by half an hour – one of very few places in the world that make this time change – and stared at the sea through the cabin windows. Despite the wind, it’s actually no worse than a normal Dover-Calais run. You know you’re at sea, but this is a big ferry and isn’t really bothered by a gentle swell.

After the band finished I took a late stroll on deck in the dark before trying to get some sleep, thinking about the many nights on deck with the English Chamber Orchestra on the week-long Music Cruise we did almost every September for the twenty years I was with the orchestra. We would play a concert before the formal dinner (there was a bit of work involved) and then be free for the evening. John Mills and I would settle in to a table on the rear deck after dinner with an ice bucket, a bottle of white and several glasses and just see who turned up. The Mediterranean would look gorgeous under the night sky, often with a scenic Greek, Turkish, Italian or African coastline twinkling in the distance, and we would talk about whatever rubbish entered our heads. If you got peckish and it was after two, you could nip down to your cabin, order room service then carry it back up on deck for everyone to snack on. When the casino closed we would be joined by the slightly worse-for-wear gamblers, often with their change cups worn on their heads like a fez. This was always the sign that a confused and indiscrete conversation would follow, protected by an unspoken ring-of-trust. If you thought about going to bed, that meant it was probably time for a jacuzzi, also on deck, where you might be joined by the celebrity soloist from the concert earlier. For a musician used to admiring a virtuoso from the relative safety and distance of the orchestra, this could be an unnerving experience. Maxim Vengerov, violinist extraordinaire, loved a jacuzzi. The bar had shut one night (so that was a really late/early one) but he had the solution: “Champanski!” he cried, before dashing to his cabin and returning with a bottle of a Russian champagne for everyone to share. If you did a blind test, you’d honestly have said it was very cheap sweet cider. We asked him what the name on the label, in Cyrillic script, meant -“Hmmm….means…’Playful!’ ”

I think you can guess the kind of night’s sleep I got, but I did at least get some. The cafe was open all night, with CNN playing on the TV (maybe turn off the sound after, say, 2am?), so when I woke at 5.30am I got some coffee and breakfast before taking a stroll on deck again to watch the sun rise. I’ve been scouring the seas (and the St Lawrence River) for a glimpse of a whale’s fluke at every opportunity, but no luck yet. I’ll keep at it until the plane’s at thirty-five thousand feet. The Music Cruise offered regular porpoise sightings, and the occasional dolphin family. When someone spotted them, the whole ship dashed to the rails to catch a glimpse. A large school of them surging out of the water alongside the ship was not a sight to be missed. One last Cruise story – the music often had to compete with some pretty special scenery out in the Med for the attention of the audience. I was sitting in the audience of a superb recital given by the great violinist Gidon Kremer one afternoon, when a spectacular island appeared through the portholes.

“Stromboli!” someone shouted, and the audience got up almost en masse and abandoned the music for a photo-opportunity on deck. The few of us remaining enjoyed the rest of the recital, which continued seamlessly, complete with the comical raised eyebrows of the deadpan soloist as his adoring public left at speed.

For the second time on this trip, I found myself a massage-chair. The last one was in a shopping mall somewhere – anyone remember when, cos I don’t?! This was in the ‘library’, the kind most big ships have. Tables and chairs for reading with nice bookcases full of fake bookends. Why? Real books, please, or even a second hand book-share system. Anything rather than the depressing sight of a wooden painted book.

I put my “toonie” in (two dollar coin) and got the longest workout I’ve ever had from one of these chairs. I thought maybe it was broken, but no – I’m heading right back as soon as I get hold of another coin! Such a good asset for a cyclist, or anyone on the road for that matter.

Nothing could have prepared me for the staggering beauty of this approach to Newfoundland by sea, with mountains and hills rising out of the water like a Bond villain’s lair (which one is it? Christopher Lee I think. Man with the Golden Gun?):

The car deck was heavingwith motorcycles and bikes, but I’ve learnt something on this trip – don’t wait to be told or asked to move to the front when you dock, just go, smile and wave and thank anyone you see.

They always have far more important things to worry about and just wave you through and smile back, wishing you a safe journey. So I had Argentia, Newfoundland briefly almost to myself:

I’ve had many days when I felt pretty good on the bike on this trip, and a few when I didn’t, but just one or two when, for no obvious reason that I could think of, I felt fantastic, sort of bullet-proof. Whether hilly or flat, wind or not, you just can’t wait to get going and could ride all day. That’s how I felt as I rolled into the first hill today which came the moment I left the terminal, and no-one was more surprised than me after my patchy night’s sleep and lack of serious miles recently. I think my body just had a power-pack ready when needed, and decided to hand it out today. I felt like I could have climbed every mountain, searched hi.. (that’s enough – Ed).

The beauty of the terrain helped, as did the tail-wind. I can’t think of a single stretch of riding that I’ve enjoyed more thoroughly than this morning’s first 45km:

(End of the world-type hill)

This was all on Highway 100 that led me back to my old companion, The Trans-Canadian Highway, where I stopped for a second breakfast in, you guessed, Tim Horton’s. Here I met Lloyd, a designer of oil-rigs and much else besides, who has led projects all over the world including a long spell designing and building one of South Korea’s biggest rigs. He had spent a long time in Seoul, a city I’ve often had concert tours in, so we talked about how much it has changed in a fairly short time. It used to be a fairly grim city but is now incredibly cosmopolitan and vibrant (especially if you like Japanese food and saki! Walking back to the hotel after an evening in a saki bar, a colleague of mine, I can’t remember the name, tripped on a very, very low bright yellow-striped speed bump as if he’d been shot. I’m laughing again now thinking about it). He was driving happily west with his canoe on the roof for a bit of R&R, but we chatted at a booth for some time. Then I cycled the last 20km, sadly in a headwind, to where I met my host this evening, Stuart Wilson. He’s a good friend of Susie’s Uncle Jerry, and they have worked together on projects in Ontario. We loaded my bike in his van (he’s dropping me back here tomorrow so it’s an easting “pause”) and he gave me a guided tour of the stunning surrounds of Cupids, probably the oldest British Settlement in the whole of North America. 1610 is the important date here, when the first successful settlement was founded.

We stopped by the house of an old friend of Stuart’s, Jim, who told me all about the local berries, the summer they’ve just had which most agree is the best in living memory, his land behind the house, and the stretch of water he owns, including the jetty, stretching conveniently out in front of his property. The boat in the second picture I took a bit of a shine to. I’ll need one for all my deep-sea fishing that I generally (three strikes – Ed), and this is for sale, probably around $130-180,000. What a beauty.

We had a dinner appointment to keep, so drove back around the bay to where Stuart and his wife Elsie have their beautifully restored summer home (I can’t upload the photo for some reason but will try again)

…with a plaque for an important award their restoration won for them:

After showering I joined Elsie and Stuart on their fine deck, which is to a design inspired by advice from a certain Jerome Markson, I’m told…

more to follow…

4 thoughts on “Day 87/88 Pt.1 – Ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland, then to Cupids

  1. Hi Ben – this is an amazing achievement and what an adventure; the pictures are amazing and this will surely stay with you forever. I have Bridget staying with us and she has followed you all the way. By strange family co-incidence I too support sos childrens villages so must find your just giving site. All the best. Cousin John

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s