Friday, 7 September 2012


The other North Sydney (Nova Scotia)
Newfoundland Ferry
The smooth crossing to Newfoundland from North Sydney to Port aux Basque was only five hours but the loading and unloading of vehicles takes another three, so we took the day easily, and had time to plan the next part of the adventure. Newfoundland is a large island nearly 1000km north to south and the same east to west. 
We landed at Port aux Basque drove north to past Corner Brook and then east to St John's. We caught the ferry at Argentia which is near Placentia.
We camped that night just north of the port at a Provincial Park (State Park) and in the morning took a look at the Gulf of St Lawrence. My first impressions were of a wild, sparsely populated, rocky, pine/spruce/fir covered mountainous place. As we went on, lakes and bogs, low growing windblown shrubs with thick moss-like plants, covered the highlands and plateaux.
Most people, originally from fishing families live along the coast. Rocky harbours, pebbly beaches, and a few sandy ones show all the signs of glacial wear. On the west coast there was a shower most days and a few days it rained most of the day, but generally we had fine weather – the warmest summer according to the locals, for many years (at 25C, too hot for some)!
On the road with Jane and John
We continued our travels up the coast with Jane and John who enjoyed similar sites and activities.

Overnight camping at Walmart in Stephenville
Stephenville was a sizable town with an antiquated Air Force base. We took a walk to the petrified logs along a brook and drove the French Peninsula to Cape St George. With other towns along the way such as Lourdes, Petit Jardin and Black Duck Brook??, how could it be anything else?
Petrified log in the stream
We learnt about the English d’espatchment of the French from Nova Scotia and checked out a bread oven that was being fired up for cooking. Just too early for the baked product. 
Largest wooden church in Newfoundland
The largest wooden RC church in Newfoundland had beautiful interior carved woodwork, but is now rarely used, (small attendance, cost of heating).
2 Ipads, an Iphone and a laptop at Tim Horton's coffee shop - they are everywhere in Canada
The next major town was Corner Brook, set on the Humber River (along with the paper mill) and high mountains all around including the Marble Mountain Ski area. 
Marble Mountain Ski Area Corner Brook - in summer
Capt Cook had mapped the Newfoundland coast in the 1760’s over 3 or 4 summers. The main lookout has a large bronze of him with information boards and some of his maps. We took the Captain Cook drive out to the Blow-me-Down Prov. Park at the Harbour entrance to camp the night. 
Lark Harbour which normally freezes in winter, (except for the last couple of years), was very pretty, just one of the many fishing villages along the coastline. 
Stairs in the rock
Lark Harbour
Bottle Cove
We walked up 600m (via some interesting stairs) to a lookout in the morning before continuing to Gros Morne N P, 1987 World Heritage Site, where we spent the next three days.
Gros Morne Tablelands
We had intensive and interesting geological and geographical lessons. The Tablelands, orange-brown rock called peridotite, is one of the best exposed mantle material in the world, and early ideas of plate tectonics developed here. 
700 year old growth "forest" at Gros Morne
We did a morning walk in the rain with the ranger and our overpants and boots earned their space in our luggage. Jane’s hot soup for lunch was much appreciated. Very little grows on the mountain range. It is high in toxic minerals not conducive to plant growth but the rocks must be a geologist’s delight.
Gros Morne Mountain
All the way along the coast are fishing villages, many established before roads and electricity were available. 
Broome's Head fishing camp
One cottage in the National park supported three brothers and their families, from 1941 to 1975, for the six months of summer each year.
In cod we trust
They would fish for cod (which they dried and salted), salmon (which they canned) and lobster (which they supplied to the gaols before it became generally popular). It certainly was a hard life and they barely made enough each summer to cover their costs. The house, contents and all their fishing gear was given to National Parks. It was a fascinating “museum” made very interesting by the ranger who demonstrated the many uses of their gear.
Wooden lobster traps.  These have been replaced by steel mesh traps that don't need extra weights like the wooden ones
The Arches National Park
We walked to another lighthouse at Cow Head, later stopped to view “The Arches”, worn by pounding waves and the Effie shipwreck further north. Now we were close in latitude to London and the days averaged around 20 C. We were waiting for a better forecast to do the 2 hour boat trip on Western Brook Pond with 700m cliffs gouged by an ancient glacier. 
Track to Western Brook Pond

Western Brook Pond
Far end of Western Brook Pond
The travel brochures made it look stunning. Well the 3 km walk in was quite delightful through bogs and lakes, but it wasn’t the best weather, (cloud on the tops), only a little sun, BUT it could have been much worse! Keen experienced hikers can get dropped off at the end of the lake to do a popular 3 day hike that takes them up onto the plateau.
Although there were plenty of signs warning us of moose or caribou, we have yet to see one!
There are supposed to be over 100,000 of these critters on the island but we haven't seen one!
We agonised over going further north to L’Anse aux Meadows (where the Vikings had established a settlement 1000 yrs ago), but it was more than 700 kms return and we were running out of Canadian summer. Also there was still so much we wanted to see on the east coast. So we parted company with Jane and John, who were heading for Labrador and came back to Deer Lake to book our return ferry from Argentia.
At King’s Point we found the pottery. Linda and David have won many awards and represented their province and country at international exhibitions. Their “Secret to the return of the cod”, tin kettle, mug display was quite remarkable and clever. See  Newfoundlanders have been known to say “In cod we trust”. So we bought a pendant carved from shell for Jen, and celebrated our wedding anniversary with tea and cakes overlooking the lake in brilliant sunshine. 
Anniversary morning tea (Jen's was coming)
The size of all these coastal villages quite surprised us. There seems to be no industries to support a work force. We were told a lot of the young people fly in, fly out of Alberta, month on, month off, to work at the oil fields.
King's Point community RV park
Rattling Brook
Rattling Brook Falls
King’s Point also appears to be very motivated to attract tourists and have established a community RV park on an old skating rink site. When a large female humpback whale was caught in fishing netting a few years ago and subsequently froze (being December), the following March volunteers towed her to the port and cut her up, putting the bones into crates which were then put back into the harbour. The sea critters cleaned them well and now the skeleton of the whale, over 22 m, is on display.
Grand Falls –Windsor originally two smaller towns supporting paper mills are now one sprawling community with no paper mills. However there is a salmon ladder where wild Atlantic salmon can bypass the falls and get upstream to spawn. The bag restriction for fly fisherman is 6 fish for the season using barbless hooks.
Why they needed a salmon ladder
Fish jumping up the "ladder"
Beautiful stream in Beothuk country
Beothuk Interpretive Centre at Boyd's Cove
We stopped to look at an Interpretation Centre on the Beothuk,(Indigenous people of the area that are now extinct) and camped at Dildo Run Provincial Park – seems dildo is an old word for “quiet and calm,” before going into Twillingate – isn’t that a delightful Anglicised name for Toulinguet (French)? We read all the boards of the Titanic Exhibition in the Long Point Lighthouse. Very cleverly, it was presented as an “Inquiry” with comments and criticisms of each step leading up to, and after the disaster. 
Another Titanic Exhibition

Long Point Lighthouse
G&J and Long Point Lighthouse
We caught a ferry to Fogo Island where we climbed Brimstone Head, widely known and proclaimed as one of the four corners of the earth by the “Flat Earth Society”. There were discrepancies in naming the other “corners”.
It's amazing what goes on the ferry to Fogo - and comes off
John Cabot memorial Long Point
Rugged Bonavista coastline
The Bonavista Peninsula had many interesting sites and historical buildings, being the early English settlement over 500 years ago. John Cabot sighted the land here in 1497. Archaeologists have a field day, there are historical houses and the coast is all about the cod fishing. 
Salvage fishing stages
We were thrilled to see hundreds of puffins at Elliston – smallish birds that are chubby and round, and have a “mechanical look” about their flight. 

Puffin at the burrow
The local people also established root cellars, storage rooms built into the side of a hill, where their vegetables (such as radish, turnip, carrot, beets etc) were kept over the winters.
Root cellars at Elliston
Brimstone Head from Fogo - yes, we did walk up to the top

Our "new" friends Dana, Nancy and Darlene who we met walking up Brimstone Head. Nancy and Dave showed us around Halifax some weeks later.

 Just about as far from Sydney Australia as you can get on land. 11.30min behind Sydney
Evening light on Fogo
Brigus waterfront
 St John’s on the east coast is the capital of the Province, with a population of over 100,000.  We’d had really good weather all week and the locals were telling us what a great summer it had been. Like most big cities in the Maritimes, it had interestingly painted wooden buildings. The Commissariat House was “saved” as it had been in use for other purposes during the last couple of centuries. The young guide told us there was only one other such place and he thought it was Sydney, Australia and owned privately. Something to explore when we return.
Signal Hill, long used for defence, observation and communication on the north side of the harbour entrance, has a glorious view of the city and it was here the English finally overcame the French in 1762, and Newfoundland became a colony of Britain until 1949, when it joined the Canadian confederation.  It was blowing a gale and we put on our jackets to read all the information boards.
Signal Hill overlooking St John's

On our way to Pippy Park Campground we drove through the city. In many ways it reminded us of Hobart. It has a wonderful arts centre called The Rooms. One exhibition was by artist, David Blackwood (etchings), and showed winter living in this climate – tough! In the museum we saw caribou and moose and read about them. This sadly, was about the closest we came to the real thing.
So before we left we had to go to Cape Spear Lighthouse, the most Easterly point on the continent. We were only three and a half hours from London and London was closer to Australia than we were. I guess we couldn’t have been anywhere that was further from home.
Didn't see any icebergs in the ocean. This is as close as we came to having a collision with one
The overnight ferry left from Argentia. There was a strong wind blowing and a bit of a rocking and rolling, so after we had something to eat it was back to the cabin for a good nights rest.
Newfoundland sunset

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic photos and a great commentary. Really enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing your travels.