You quickly learn that there is nice and there is Newfie nice. The first is typical good manners, maybe someone going out of their way to lend you a hand. The latter is an intense, oh my goodness, I can’t believe this total stranger just volunteered to run home and grab my daughter a book. In Cow’s Head (pronounced without the h), we turned that offer down. But time after time people here have proven there well-earned reputation in everything except for in their use of initial consonants. That plus their accent, a strange combination of Gaelic and Appalachia, makes every conversation a bit mystical in the sheer impenetrability of it all. In Trout River the three of us got a bit lost and were immediately approached by a burly man yelling and waving his arms at us. He just wanted to help us find where we wanted to go but in doing so he almost whistled the daily news (a sad story about a man who lost a loved one and then passed just a few months past). The damp day, the sincerity of the man, and the effort it took us to understand him really underscored the overall sadness in the moment.
We have been on this island like no other for just a few days. In that time we have explored a few villages (mostly colored homes pressed tight against the ocean and leaving little room for sidewalks, shops or pretty much anything else) along with a quiet arm of Gross Morne National Park. We headed north yesterday, into a part of the island that regularly gets polar bears floating in from visiting icebergs (and after taking the ferry I have to think that is probably the way to go). Closer to the town of St. Anthony we began to notice isolated garden patches just off the side of the road and in the absolute middle of nowhere. Later we found out that in building the road tons of dirt where imported from elsewhere and that in these road beds is some of the more fertile grounds in the entire province. It is worth then a trek into nowhere to harvest ones vegetables (scarce and expensive at the always very small grocery store) to both eat and to share with neighbors.
We also continue to make interesting friends such as the musician from Czechoslovakia and his girlfriend making their way from Vancouver Island (where they lived the past two years). With a leaky tent and suspect car they ply their way east. At the same campground we also met Anthony Germain (host of CBC’s St. John’s Morning Show) and his lovely wife Doris (a teacher) who filled us in on what we needed to see on the west coast and into St. John’s. Sarah, the young ranger (again, Canada is mostly run by college students) also bonded with us over our mutual love of Menchies (there is one in Corner Brook and two in St. John’s) and theatre. There also was the couple we met in the Table Lands who sailed from Lake Ontario up the St. Lawrence Seaway all the way to Newfoundland. They had a few tales to tell too. The impressively squared off mountains and bay just pick up every mood of the sun and for most of the time there everything radiated good vibes. Conversations were easy.
There is more, much more, but for now I leave you with photos. Noel