After a 17 hour ferry, a stop at a fortress, three-hour drive and one more hour ferry we arrived on the land of red sand (PEI). Enjoy the photos.
You might be a Newfie if:
All summer long your clothes hang from the line.
The houses in your town have more color than a box of crayons.
St. John’s is simply called “the town.”
The first time you ever saw sidewalk was when you went to town.
You often find yourself walking in the middle of the road.
You think nothing of wandering into a forest to cut down some trees for fuel or to gather some berries for food.
Your garden is on the side of the road in the absolute middle of nowhere.
A stranger asks you for directions and you end up walking with them for a mile.
Another stranger asks you a question and you end up talking with them for an hour.
You own a small business but go broke because you keep giving things away.
You have no idea what the person from the next town is saying. You joke about that with someone and then realize they don’t understand you either.
You are a fisherman. So was your dad. And his dad. And his dad too. Same with his dad.
Everyone you know is a fisherman.
When you are not fishing you are thinking about hunting a moose.
No one ever calls you a CFA (Come From Away).
Afternoon coffee is a mug up.
When toutons are on the menu.
People often call you kind and love to hang out with you. Your just being yourself.
Experiences in Newfoundland are really a nesting egg kind of thing with a causeway leading to an island whose ferry then leads to an even smaller island which, when you get there, makes all that wandering worthwhile. And the most common adjective used around here is magical with places like Twillingate offering both icebergs and whales seemingly within an arm’s reach of shore. Even the time zone, which is a half hour ahead of the Maritimes, has a bit of a Harry Potter quality to it.
From Twillingate we drove a few hours to Elliston which is known for their root cellars and puffins. The latter hang out an island so close you can almost jump to it. Depending on the time of day, you can either spy them hanging out at their own island or venturing onto the main coast (and then resting a few feet away from yourself). Whales are also common so you might have a bit of dilemma over where to point the camera. Afterwards a beautiful sand beach waits for you to splash around in the waves. Considering the icebergs in the distance, the water really is not that cold.
Making this all the more fun are the over seventy dialects found on the island with many of them able to be traced back to specific hamlets in England, Scotland, and Ireland. This type of linguistic diversity can only be possible if cultivated in isolation and the island offers plenty of that. For our puffin morning, we shared the soft grass cliffs with exactly three other people. At Twillingate, despite the many bed and breakfasts, we were mostly alone when picking up ice on the beach or spying whales from shore. Although easily reached now by good paved roads, they were accessible only by boat up to the mid-1960s. According to an older local, Twillingate did not even have phones until the late 1950s and electricity was not a given anywhere until much later. Tourism for the most part has been slow to gain a foothold on the island and tent camping has been easy with campgrounds filled with new and returning visitors. There is a long tradition here of Americans making friends on the beginning with U.S. servicemen, who were stationed at bases throughout Newfoundland during the World and Cold Wars, returning home with Newfie brides.
So I sit her now at my campsite a little before seven. Corey and Henna are sound asleep but the strong wind has kept me awake. Last night while setting up camp a strong gust blew the tent up and into a low branch. When we plan these trips we try not to get bogged down in the details. Just pick a direction and go (let the wind take us wherever). It was funny watching our tent do the same. Noel
Driving a little over two hundred miles north from the Gross Morn area takes you to, as someone else told me, “the land good weather forgot.” The trees, which are by no means tough and sturdy on the south end of the island, become gnarled, stumpy things bent over backwards by the constant salt winds. The population thins out too but there are enough little encampments of people to support a few tiny grocery stores, some motels, and gas stations. St. Anthony, which rests at the top of the peninsula and served as a hub for Canadian-U.S. military radar installations during the Cold War, is noticeably larger but still possesses that stark frontier feel. Polar bears come in late Spring and are sometimes tranquilized and brought back to Labrador when they wear out their welcome (and for that reason we were very polite to everyone we met). Lucky for us there were a few icebergs in nearby Goose Cove to gawk at. But the main attraction was L’Anse Aux Meadows and it did not at all disappoint.
The Norse (and that is a more accurate descriptor than Viking) landed in North America four hundred prior to Christopher Columbus. We know that for sure because they left their mark near the town of L’Anse Aux Meadows. Excavated there was the imprint of their homes along with a ring, some nails, evidence of a smelt ironing operation, and a few other artifacts. There also were several butter nuts and butter nut wood remnants which are not found anywhere on the island (but are, along with grapes, plentiful in New Brunswick and Quebec). Much of what they found fits in neatly to the sagas recorded by Irish monks some two hundred years later. No bodies were recovered in the meadow, but by the year 1000 (and that is the year carbon dating suggests) they were Christians. They would have boiled or otherwise separated the bodies from the bone and then taken the skeleton to consecrated grounds (like there is in Greenland where a European was found buried with an arrow head near his chest that may have been worn as an ornament or could have been more forcibly put there).
The three of us (two Norse ladies and a wannabe) were greatly impressed by all there was to do at L’Anse Aux Meadows. From the guided tour to the recreated Norse outpost (complete with three awesome actors) it was done with dignity and left us with a much better understanding of just how remarkable this world is. Think about it. A band of maybe twenty five explorers stumble upon an entirely unheard of (for Europeans anyway) continent. They almost definitely had no idea where exactly they landed and seem to have lost interest in the land after a few expeditions (Parks Canada believe that over a period of fifty years they spent maybe ten non-consecutive years in the meadow). But they smelted iron, traded and fought with Native Americans, and slept under the stars of North America. Not bad for a bunch of Scandinavian farmers. Noel
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