After a great two weeks of seeing family and a few friends, the second phase of our year out began with a 5 hour flight from Dublin to St John's, Newfoundland. The worst part of the preparations was having to repackage the bikes, trailer and bags into three small boxes in order to meet Westjet's requirements. Thankfully Stephen (Andy's nephew) and Kathy have a large deck area and live only 10 mins from the airport.
We spent our initial two days in St John's with Joy, a member of the Warmshowers network for touring cyclists. It was great having a source of local information on tap. It was Joy who suggested that we should cycle the 'Irish Loop'.
After doing a lovely hike around Signal Hill and visiting the cycle and hiking shops in St John's, on day 3 we set out to cycle 180 miles over five days. The scenery was very reminiscent of the west coast of Ireland but much less populated. There were whales frolicking in some of the bays and the ever-present hope that we might spot a moose or caribou. We met lots of very friendly people and kept being fascinated by the Newfoundland accent which certainly has Irish in it but also a lot more.
The first night's camp was in a busy provincial park campsite where Fran managed to stand on (and break) her glasses. Luckily she has some contact lenses and prescription sun glasses so all is not lost.
The southern end of the Irish Loop was particularly wild and beautiful, but the headwind was viscous. The latter, combined with the hills led us to wild camp in a gravel pit on the second night, the most unscenic spot in an otherwise beautiful landscape. Subsequently we collapsed into a great B&B in Trepassey after just 20 miles on day 3.
Following a tour of ancient fossil beds (600+ million years old) we set out on day 4 with Andy dosed up due to knee pain (never mind the multiple fly bites and saddle soreness). Thankfully a repositioning of his foot on the pedal seems to have helped this. Night 4 was another wild camp in woodland where we fell asleep to the calls of coyotes. The final 50 miles of cycling involved an arduous 20 miles of dirt road full of potholes which just exacerbated our aching limbs. We celebrated our arrival in Placentia with a dinner of scallops and pizza, and fought with the wind as we errected our tent on the hill top campsite. The following day we awoke to thick fog which is often present all around the Peninsula but which we had amazingly not experienced until then. The next 18 hours were spent on a ferry heading to Nova Scotia, thankfully one of the calmest ferries we've ever been on.