Mistaken Point & Cape Race
The Irish Loop is a popular ride for motorcyclists on the Avalon Penninsula. Roughly 300km of coastal scenery, the Irish Loop consists of dozens of communities settled somewhere between the mid-17th and early 19th centuries by Irish Catholic immigrants. Perhaps due to the length of the ride, most people don’t venture off the main roads when doing this loop…which is a shame, because there are fantastic places to see if you choose to venture off the beaten path.
September 28th was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day. The wind was light and out of the north, making for a great ride up the Southern Shore. I wanted to visit Mistaken Point, so named because of the many shipwrecks that occurred after sailors had mistaken the area for Cape Race and turned northward onto the rocks. The area has been in the news over the past several years because of the multitude of fossils in the rocks. Not just any fossils, but some of the oldest complex life forms on the planet, from over 500 million years ago. The Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve is on the “tentative” list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its treasures are finally protected…to some degree at least.
To see the fossils, you have to book a guided tour in advance. It’s a 4km hike to the fossil site, and you have to wear booties over your shoes as to not damage the fossils. We didn’t do the tour this time, but it’s definitely on my radar for next summer.
We took the main highway from St. John’s to Portugal Cove South and then turned left onto a road that quickly changed to gravel. We stopped and took pictures at Mistaken Point (not the ecological reserve) and decided to continue on to Cape Race.
There’s an old saying: “He who knows nothing fears nothing.” This is very true, and had I known about the infamy of the “Drook Hill”, I would never have suggested going to Cape Race. How can I describe it? If you’re familiar with St. John’s, picture Barter’s Hill…covered with 3-4″ of very loose gravel. When I realized that I was well beyond my skill and experience level I froze, unable to continue down the hill OR turn around.
Mark had to ride his Versys down to the bottom of the hill, then walk back up the hill and ride my Vstrom down. Once that little crisis was averted, I looked at the next hill and wondered how I would get UP over it. Mark’s advice: “Keep your speed up. If you stop, you flop”. To my relief (and surprise!) I made it up over the hill best kind! I’m slowly getting used to this gravel thing!
After the Drook, the road was pretty good, right to Cape Race. Over 20km from Portugal Cove South, Cape Race is located at the south-easterly tip of the Avalon Peninsula. Its claim to fame is that its wireless station received the Titanic’s distress call in 1912, with the Titanic now resting 350 miles south-southwest of the Cape.
We spent some time wandering around, had a look in the Myrick Interpretation Centre, shed some layers, and headed back towards the main road. Mark rode my bike up the Drook Hill, and all was well on a beautiful fall evening.
Now that I think about it, it’s pretty ridiculous that this road is in such bad condition. Cape Race is a National Historic Site, and Mistaken Point is almost a World Heritage Site…and the road really isn’t fit to drive over. Even if they paved just the hills it would make a huge difference! The government here spends so much money on tourism, but they seem to forget that even if they succeed in convincing tourists to come here, they still have to accommodate them WHILE they’re here.
The season is winding down now, the days are shorter and colder and I’m faced with the reality that my riding days will soon be done for a few months. What will get me through the winter is planning trips for next year!
Posted on October 6, 2013, in Roads of Newfoundland and tagged adv, Cape Race, Drook, Irish Loop, lighthouse, Mistaken Point, motorcycle travel, Newfoundland, Portugal Cove South, Titanic, UNESCO. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.