(For those reading this for the first time, you might want to look at “About” before continuing)
Well, we’re on the boat heading back to Nova Scotia after a sad farewell to Newfoundland. We had a great final two days seeing the sights we missed on our arrival.
Newfoundland is a place for all the senses. The beautiful green 1,968 to 2,600 foot (600-800 metre) high Long Range Mountains, the northern extension of the Appalachian Mountains, that run up the right side of the highway when you first disembark from the ferry to L’Anse aux Meadows. You can sit and watch the clouds flow over the peaks like water. Not far from Port aux Basques is Wreckhouse where, because of the wall of mountains, the wind can get up to 125 mph (200 km/hour). When the train used to run, boxcars were, at times, blown right off the tracks. And of course the wildflowers – lupines, wild roses, harebell, cow parsnip, yellow buttercups by the acre rolling down through the colourful saltbox houses to the azure sea.
The profusion of flowers creates a bouquet for the nose. Clover flowers so thick you can smell the blossoms (my mouth’s watering again). The smell of peat and warm juniper, spruce trees and poplar, the ocean shoreline and the not so pleasant smell of thousands of seabirds nesting on small islands just off shore.
Newfoundland is most remarkable for what you don’t hear. No industrial noises, few airplanes, little traffic. In the small shoreline towns at night you might hear the waves running up on shore or the wind in the trees. In the morning you are awakened by seagulls and terns instead of an alarm clock. You may hear the fish boats leaving the harbour or the bells on the buoys or occasionally a foghorn in the distance, the baaing of a blessèd sheep or mooing cow. With a population of less than 500,000 and an area of 43,008 square miles (111,390 kilometres squared), the ratio of cars to roadways is very small so traffic problems aren’t an issue.
It is also a land of contrasts from the high tabletop mountains and 800 metre Gros Morne to the flat limestone shelves of Phillip’s Garden. You have the rugged Oregon coast-like shoreline in Bonavista to the sandy beaches at Cape Ray. The dense (though short) spruce/birch/poplar forests of the interior to the windswept barren plains of the west coast. The heritage of cold blooded Vikings and hot blooded Basques. The sand dunes being re-sculpted every day and The Arches made up of some of the oldest rock in the world, rock that should be buried deep within the earth but due to cataclysmic forces have been forced to the surface giving geologists the first concrete evidence of continental drift.
And of course Newfoundland wouldn’t be Newfoundland without it’s special people. A quality of people not too dissimilar to British Columbia inhabitants. Perhaps it is the isolationism of Newfoundland being an island and British Columbia hiding behind the barrier of the Rockies. Friendly people who will stop to talk and within four sentences be willing to tell you their life story and often do. Waitresses who call you ‘my darling’ when they serve you and will often give you a reassuring pat on the arm. The men who like to discuss the fishing situation and, of course, tell of their moose encounters. These are people who have to make do and have struggled hard to subsist but instead of making them inward and selfish they are always willing to give you advise or help you out. As the sign in the small town of Bonavista says, “We have been welcoming visitors for over 500 years.” But, there is also a sadness to the people as we talked to many of the adults. Time and time again, when discussing children, we found the common thread was that their son was in Edmonton or their daughter was in Ontario. There is little or no work for the young people and they have to move away. There is concern now that many of the small outpost communities will not last much longer as fishing becomes harder and the young people don’t return.
When you talk about the people you can’t ignore their figures of speech and accents. Quite amazing to listen to little kids who often have a stronger accent than their parents. It was really strange the other day to be in a restaurant listening to an Oriental woman with a strong Newfie accent.
So . . . I am so glad that the Man and Lady persevered and made the last push to this wonderful island. The Man says that if there are any future trips it would be to fly directly to Newfoundland, rent a RV and stay for a couple of months. Even then there would be so much more to see.
By the way, the miles/kilometres we have driven from our doorstep to Cape Spear are 8,894 miles (14,824 kilometres). The Lady and I were looking at the Man the other day and realized that either he’s been in the car too long or he needs better quality shirts. Both of his favourite shirts have a dark diagonal line down the front where the seatbelt strap lies. The rest of his shirt has faded from the sunlight.
Today we’ll be in Nova Scotia. We will drive up towards the Confederation Bridge which we’ll take to Prince Edward Island instead of the ferry. Probably a quick tour of PEI and then the return home. Most likely faster than the trip out!
One last ‘funny’ before signing off. The other day as we were checking out we were talking to a female acquaintance we met where we were staying. She remarked to us giggling, “Isn’t it funny, all our rooms have started with the number 2.” The Man didn’t have the heart to tell her it was because they always stayed on the second floor.