The Rock – Hello and Goodbye Newfoundland, and a wee bit of Labrador

Hello folks. As of yesterday, all the Highway signs on the roads we travelled said Trans Canada Hwy West. Yes, yesterday morning we left Twillingate on the eastern shore of Newfoundland and started heading west. Tomorrow, August 23d, we take the ferry back across Cabot Strait (a 6-hour trip) to North Sydney. The next day we are headed to Fredericton, then Montreal, Ottawa, and Prince Edward County in Ontario, then 3 days across Ontario and the Great Lakes, then to Estevan and Dilke Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Jasper, the Okanogan if smoke is ok, and then back down to the coast. Estimated ETA to Gibsons, September 7th.

Well, I’m three weeks behind in my blog. But that’s the time we have been in Newfoundland. Finding adequate cell and internet service especially up north was impossible. I decided I would cover this wonderful land all in one go when I had access to adequate internet access. Today, we are at JT Cheeseman Provincial Park campsite at Cape Ray near Port Aux Basques on the southwest coast of Newfoundland. As I said, tomorrow we leave Newfoundland. Today we have set aside for me to catch up on the blog and for Guy to finish off his paintings. Later we will have a hike through the tucamore  forest here and up to a viewpoint that overlooks the sea.

We have done and seen so much here since we arrived on August 1st. I am not doing my typical day by day entries in this blog post.  I’m  just going to write and let the pictures do the talking. This great land needs a more general and generous overview.

My last blog entry left off on July 30, 2018 with us sitting by the fire with Guy’s son Brenden on our last night together before he flew back with his aunt and uncle to Vancouver. With a little sadness, the next day, we dropped Brenden, Caroline and Alex off at the airport. After saying goodbye, we set off to North Sydney where we were staying the night before we caught the ferry the next day to Newfoundland.

The trip across the Cabot Strait was uneventful. The ocean was as flat as a pancake the day we sailed. On the ferry, I occupied myself with writing while Guy started and finished his painting “Joy of Green Gables”.

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This painting is inspired by a photo of me walking in the Haunted Woods wearing my orange sari when suddenly I felt the need to lift it up behind me and let it blow in the wind.  When we looked at the picture later, we realized that would have been something the dramatic Anne would have done.   Guy superimposed the image of me onto a painting with Green Gables in the corner.

On the Marine Atlantic Ferry, we also occupied ourselves with talking to the people who stopped by to see what Guy was painting.  He had literally taken over a table in the little cafe and sat there all day.  People did rounds of the ferry and often came back to see how his progress was.  It was a lot of fun.

 

 

When we saw the shores of Newfoundland in the distance for the first time, we were gobsmacked. We couldn’t believe we had made it this far. The harbor welcomed us, much like we imagined it. Small colorful houses dotted the cliffs as we came into the misty port.

 

As we drove the short distance to our campsite, Guy and I couldn’t stop saying to each other “Wow, I can’t believe we are in Newfoundland”. We spent the first night at JT Cheeseman Provincial Park near Port Aux Basques. The next morning, we had beach time before heading north with our friends Bill and Joka. Guy and Joka braved the cold Cabot Strait for a swim. This would be one of the few swims in this part of the country. The water is just to cold and wild most of the time.

 

 

We spent the next three weeks traversing the island, up to the northern peninsula and across to Labrador, then over to St. Anthony on the northeast tip, back down to Gros Morne, then southeast to St. Johns, back the same way but east,  and then south to Port Aux Basques. I’ve attached a picture of our route on a map below.

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A highlight of our three weeks on Newfoundland was our time at Blow Me Down Provincial Park, not an hour away from the pleasant town of Cornerbrook. What a gem out on the Humber Arm. The campsite itself had wonderful trails and a nice beach where we had a very quick and cold swim the first afternoon.

 

The next day, we hiked the Cedar Grove trail nearby that took us through an enchanting forest and down to a beautiful cove. It felt like you were millions of miles away from everything.  Guy was inspired by my random yoga pose near the cliffs on our trek.  He took a photo and planned to do a painting based on it later.

 

One of the small seaside fishing villages near Blow Me Down Provincial Park was Lark Harbor. This town and the area around it felt like the true Newfoundland; fishing boats, little houses, lobster traps, friendly folk.

 

 

We really enjoyed our couple of days here. We met tons of great people travelling around the Maritimes too at our campsite including some from Canada and the States.  The general greeting when someone introduced themselves from the states was “Don’t hold it against me”.  They were fed up generally with “Orangy” and couldn’t wait for change.   We plan to keep in touch with a few folks. While we were at Blow Me Down, Guy finished his painting, “Moon, Man and Mist”.

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This painting is a tribute to the 3 or 4  moose we’ve seen on our journey.   Apparently there are 10, 000 moose on Newfoundland.  Moose were introduced to Newfoundland in the 1950’s.  Four moose were brought over from New Brunswick and the rest is history.

We ultimately made our way further up the coast and by August 6th, our 2nd wedding anniversary, we were on the ferry crossing the Strait of Belle Isle from St. Barbe to Labrador. Going to Labrador was on Guy’s bucket list and I was along for the ride.  I’m so glad we went. What an incredible place.  You get of the ferry at Blanc Sablon in Quebec and drive the short distance into Labrador.  As soon as we got off the ferry on to the pot hole laden roads, with the big barren landscape cradling us, we knew we had arrived somewhere very different and special.

 

 

Enroute to our campsite at Pinware Provincial Park, we stopped at a historic site of the gravesite of a young child from 7500 years ago from the Maritime Archaic peoples.   The child was laid under a round stone burial mound 1.5 metres below the surface.  It raises the question, are there more undiscovered burial sites nearby?  And why was this girl special?

 

 

Then we went on to Point Amour Lighthouse, operating since the 1850’s and still operating to this day.  It is the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada and the second tallest in Canada.   We got a tour all the way up the 132 steps to an incredible view of the Strait of Belle Island and across back to Newfoundland.  As we made our way up, our guide  also gave us some history about the lighthouse keepers and their lives that involved contending with the harsh conditions of this lighthouse on the Strait of Belle Isle.

 

 

 

Then we made our way to our campsite where we toasted our anniversary with a bottle of champagne on the beach.  It was lovely.

 

 

After dinner, the fellow in the campsite next to us,  from Ontario, invited us over for some planet viewing.  He had the big telescopes for looking at the  sky. That night we saw Mars, Saturn and Venus.

The next day, we drove up to Red Bay, the farthest you can go apparently before the roads really deteriorate. The landscape enroute was awe inspiring, rockscapes with mini trees, actual subarctic terrain.  In Red Bay, we saw around a Whaling Museum and then were dropped off by boat across the harbor to look around Saddle Island, an old Basque Whaling Station. It was an incredibly interesting spot and we could have stayed there for hours.

 

 

In the evening, Guy finished his painting “Confederation Bridge”.

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This is based picture of Guy and I taken the day we left PEI on the New Brunswick side of the bridge.  Here we are wearing our hats, a very integral part of our travelling uniform this summer.

After a wild weather night of wind and rain, we awoke on August 8th, our travelling companion Joka’s birthday, and headed back to Blanc Sablon to the ferry along the pot hole filled, foggy and rainy roads and got a true taste of Labrador weather after two lucky days of sunshine.

Once off the ferry, we headed directly up the Northern Peninsula to L’Anse Aux Meadows and the St. Anthony Area. We had a terrific day at L’Anse Aux Meadows which is an archaeological site of a Viking Settlement from the year 1000, predating Christopher Columbus,  and discovered in the 1960’s.  One of the first artifacts found was a small bronze cloak pin indicative of Greenland and Iceland people at that time.   It should be noted too that the native peoples of the area occupied, at least part of the time, the same subarctic terrain on the Strait of Belle Isle dating back to 6,000 years ago.   It looks as though this group of Norse/sVikings were there for 3-10 years, some call a failed Viking Settlement.  Hundreds of small artifacts were found but so were the actual foundations of longhouses and other buildings.  The Vikings came to this foreboding land likely to repair boats, do some trade, and look for other resources.  Much of the impetus to find the settlement and others like it in the region were based on Sagas passed down orally and then written down that spoke of travels to this land.   We went through the museum and then on a tour which was very informative.   L’Anse Aux Meadows was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1978.

 

 

Afterwards, we walked along the ocean path and met a woman named Mandy and she walked with us. She was very interested in the plants and berries in the area. We had lunch with her later and found out she was thinking about moving to Newfoundland from Quebec. We said goodbye to her after lunch but would ultimately meet up with her later in St. John’s.

 

 

That night it poured. It was actually torrential. We could not leave our popup the next morning until after 9am. The rain was too intense and wouldn’t stop. We spent a couple of hours that day in a museum to stay out of the weather.  The museum featured Dr. Grenfell, a doctor who travelled the coast by boat around the Northern Peninsula and Labrador beginning in 1892.  He administered medical care to isolated communities and set up nursing stations in different communities.  He was truly a champion of the people and did a lot to buoy people up in the fishing communities where life was extremely tough.  It was interesting to learn about Dr. Grenfell because his history is so wrapped up in the History of  Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula and Labrador.

Later in the day when the sun came out, we had a walk up to a point with a lighthouse and a nice walk at St. Anthony.

 

 

That night Guy finished his painting “Exuberance”. I maintain that it looks like a porcupine attacked my head, but the “artiste” sees differently.

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We spent the next couple of days in the Gros Morne National Park area.  We camped for two nights at Shallow Bay Provincial Park near a town called Cows Head on the west coast.  That first afternoon, we had a fantastic hike out to the lighthouse at Cows Head and then further out to the head of the bay.

 

The next day we went for a walk out to Western Brook Pond and the fjords.  That night, we went for dinner and to a play in Cows Head at their community theatre.  The play was about 17 men in the area who were in the first world war.  Some of them died and some of them made it back to Newfoundland to live out there lives there.  The four male actors portrayed each of the 17 men’s experiences in little vignettes.  It was very moving.

The next morning we wandered the gorgeous beach and sand dunes before we set out for Tablelands.

 

 

 

Later, we had lunch at a place in Woody Point. I was glad to go to Woody Point because it has a writer’s festival there every year that Shelagh Rogers hosts. I would have liked to have stay the week and joined in on the writer’s festival but we couldn’t afford the time. After lunch, Guy had a nap underneath Woody Point lighthouse and I read.  A tour boat came across the bay toward the lighthouse.   I stood up and waved and the whole boat of people started waving at me. A ferry funny moment.

Guy and I pushed on that day and drove late until we reached Gander. The next day, we pushed on to St. Johns. Our plan with our last week, until the ferry back to Nova Scotia, was to make it to St. John’s and tour around and then stop off at points of interest on our way back to the west coast.

St. John’s was great. We stayed at Pippy Municipal Park in the city. It was a reasonably nice campground and was near all the sights. Mandy, our new friend who we had met up on the Northern Peninsula, was there and acted as our tour guide for a couple of days. She had been to Newfoundland and St. John’s 10 years ago so she knew her way around. She took us up to Cape Spear Lighthouse, the most eastern point in Canada.  Did you know Portugal is due east from Cape Spear right across the Atlantic?

 

 

Then Mandy showed us around St. John’s and Guy was able to get his Atlantic water off the shores of St. John’s. The bottle is now full!!!   We also got to say hello to the big Newfoundland and Labrador dog statues in the harbor.  Such good boys!!!  Back at the campsite, we had dinner and a very fun evening of crib in our camper.   Guy won.

 

 

The next day we went to Signal Hill and spent a few hours there hiking around and seeing the sights. Yikes. There are lots of steep hills and cliffs at Signal Hill.  Signal Hill, “With its summit 167 metres above sea level …….. offers a commanding view of the Atlantic Ocean, St. John’s, and the Narrows, a channel through which all ships must pass when entering St. John’s Harbour. This site was important for communications and defence. Its fortifications defended St. John’s harbour for centuries and it was at the summit of Signal Hill on December 12th, 1901 that Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless transmission ushering in the era of wireless communications” (Wikipaedia”).  The views there and the trails are really tremendous.  Yikes, height phobia pushed to the limit!!!!!!

 

 

 

We continued our day out on a little excursion to the quaint little village of Quidi Vidi.  We looked around and saw some Artisans at work in a local gallery and then took a few photo opps.

 

We topped the day off with dinner out to a restaurant in Peddy Harbor called Chafe’s Landing.  In Anthony Bourdain’s show “Parts Unknown”, he highlighted this area in his episode on Newfoundland.  Its a very popular place with great affordable food in a great setting.  Even before Anthony Bourdain’s nod to Chafe’s Landing, it was very popular and doing a booming business.   I had the codcakes and they were to die for.  Just an aside, Alan Doyle from the Newfoundland band Great Big Sea is from Peddy Harbor.

 

 

What a lovely city St. John’s is. It’s pretty with the Jelly Bean colored houses and the seascapes. It looks to be a very liveable city with lots of art and culture and an active citizenry.   And  the Battery Café owned by an Australian guy from Melbourne, makes a great Americano.

 

 

After St. Johns, Guy and I headed up to Bonavista Peninsula just  4 hours north of St. Johns.  Mandy decided to join us. We were going to see the sights and look for Puffins. What a beautiful part of the world. More potholes of course off the main highways but the most precious little fishing villages dotted the landscape all the way out to Bonavista which is a bigger picturesque old fishing village sitting on the Atlantic.

 

 

We stopped in Bonavista at the info centre and then hit a sweet little bakery and picked up Bakeapple Cheesecake and Coconut Cream Pie. Bakeapples are a small berry found in Newfoundland that are delicious and are used in preserves and baking.  Their  latin name, if anyone is interested, is Rubus chamaemorus and they are native to cooler climates.  It has an incredibly different flavor to other berries.  Partridge berry or lignon berry is another berry I enjoyed while in Newfoundland.  It is similar to a small cranberry and is tart.  Yum.  Newfoundlanders are big on foraging berries just like we are on the west coast.  Hope the blackberries wait for me!!!!

We found our very basic campsite at Elliston Municipal Campsite with the most beautiful view of the Atlantic and the cliffs.  It was $15.00 for the night for the 3 of us including two vehicles.  Once we set up, we headed a mile down the road to the cliffs where the puffins hang out. It’s a very pretty walk over huge rocks out to ocean. We sat on one of the rocks and looked across to where the puffins were living on another big rock island. It was so cool to be able to watch these cute little orange footed birds hunt.  Life is tough for them though. As they hunt, they have to fight off the seagulls to keep their catch. The seagulls just sit there lazily on the rocks waiting for the puffins to come in with their catch so they can steal it.

 

 

The next day we went and saw our puffin buddies again and then saw around Bonavista and went up to the lighthouse at the point. We had no idea it was International Lighthouse Day so getting in the lighthouse was free. Bonavista is the spot on Newfoundland where Giovanni Cabato (John Cabot) first hit land in 1497 and name it Bonavista, “beautiful view”. We walked out to the statue of John Cabot and then had a quick picnic nearby.

 

 

Afterwards, Mandy took us to the Dungeons, some huge rock structures along the ocean worn away over time. They and the landscape around them were striking.  On the way, we said hi to some cows.

 

Afterwards, we walked around Bonavista.  We were just walking along the ocean and a guy yelled at us from his boat if we wanted to go cod fishing.  We declined but asked him where we could get some cod and he said he’d bring some back to us if he caught anything.  Of course, by the time he came back we had moved on but this just demonstrates how friendly the Newfoundland people are.  We ended up back at the tea house in town, our new favorite spot only how many miles away from Gibsons, where we had an afternoon snack of coconut cream pie as the bakeapple cheesecake was sadly sold out.

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Aftetwards, we hunted down some cod and I made curried cod and rice for dinner.   While I was cooking, Guy finished his painting “Sand Eagle”.

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Then after dinner, the cribbage match continued.

Mandy set off back to St. Johns the next morning. We headed up the east coast further, a 4 hour drive again,  to Twillingate.   Before we left the Elliston area, we drove a mile or two down the way from Elliston to the little hamlet of Maberly.  Maberly used to be a busy little fishing village back in the day with fishing and gardening.    People occupy the houses that are left but it is quiet.   Maberly is so typical of many little towns in Newfoundland that have seen their ultimate demise after the end of the cod fishery.

 

 

Its so pretty here on the wild Atlantic. You can almost feel the ghosts of the people of the past.

Oh, I forgot to say that Elliston advertises itself as the root cellar capital.  Even Maberly has some decent root cellars.   When I first read that before coming, I laughed. But it’s true. Everywhere in the hills, you see little doors to root cellars.

 

 

At Twillingate we stayed at Dildo Run Provincial Park. They  might think about changing the name.  It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous place in spite of the name.

 

 

The next day we toured around Twillingate including the local lighthouse.  We also were treated to a humpback whale display, 6 of them,  just off some random cliffs we walked up.  In the second picture on the right, you can see the spray.

 

 

That night Guy finished his painting “Ellliston” based on a picture of a simple little white house with a colorful door and window panes.  In front was a puffin inspired outdoor chair.    The painting is a tribute to these most interesting birds prolific in this area.

 

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The next day,  we had an early morning and were on the road by 7am.  We stopped in Cornerbrook for groceries and some more canvasses for Guy. We got to the campsite about 5pm, set up and went on a nice one hour hike on some trails near the campsite with some incredible views of Cabot Strait and the coastline.

 

 

When we got back, we had dinner and a fire and Guy finished his painting called “Tabletop” based on our hike around Tabletop in Gros Morne.

 

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This morning Guy painted and I blogged. Then this afternoon, we had a gorgeous hike through the magical hills around here that ended up at the beautiful sandy beach. We had a swim in Cabot Strait and dried off in the sun on the beach. We both felt like we properly said goodbye today to this incredible place called Newfoundland.

 

 

These are the words that in my mind remind me of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Mysterious, Daunting, Desolate, Beautiful, Isolated, Lonely, Wild, Moose, Whales, Puffins, Foggy, Woodpiles, Lobster Traps, Tucamoor Forests, Sand Dunes, Erratics ( big rocks left over from when the ice receded), Mist, Wind, Waves, Friendly, Welcoming,, Laughter, Lightheartedness, Rocky, Hilly, Cliffs, Graveyards, Cod, Wild blueberries, Bakeapples, Fish and Chips, Pea Soup.

 

Bye Bye Newfoundland!!!!  May we see your shores again!!

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