NEWFOUNDLAND --- at last !
The first thing you'd better learn is how to say it right! It's New - fen - LAND !
The next thing you have to be prepared to handle is dealing with only great people! Even in Nova Scotia, Newfies are recognized as the friendliest people anywhere. It's hard for us to see how folks can be friendlier than in NS --- but several of our NS friends (now!) told us exactly that!
We've been pleased with the Ferry setup between our two countries, and the trip between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland is an impressive program as well. New ships, and competent, friendly staff. (Our airlines could learn a thing or two from these folks) The scheduled 14 hour trip actually took nearer 16 hours, due to some active seas.
Max, my ATM (that's All Terrain Mercedes) was anxious to get out. (Some folks have dogs, or cats -- my pet is Max!)
Newfoundland is a half hour ahead of Nova Scotia, or 1 1/2 hours ahead of Savannah, and we're hungry! It's 7AM. After a great breakfast at The Harold Hotel in Placentia, we head out for the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, which is at the southwest tip of the Avalon Peninsula. However the first thing that strikes you about this gorgeous country is the sea, the rock formations, and the wildflowers --- everywhere!
Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve is considered to be one of the most spectacular seabird colonies in North America, and when the fog permits, a great place for spotting whales. The fog doesn't permit today, but after about a one mile hike through sheep mown meadows of rock and grass, we arrive at "Bird Rock". Many of the birds normally seen here have already migrated, but the Gannets are here -- perhaps as many as 70,000 of them! Mucho Guano!
Had enough Gannets? The famous (I'm told) ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson once wrote -- "the birds swirl past the cliff face like a blizzard of snow." A pretty accurate description.
From St. Mary's we proceed along the "Irish Loop" coastline, working our way through fascinating little villages, many settled by Irish immigrants in the 1700s. The countryside here is largely owned by the province, and caribou and moose graze (and wander onto the roads), and where the rolling open spaces end, the fir covered hillsides begin. It is a peaceful scene, but with the ever present coastline that looks out on the Grand Banks, scene of some of the most fierce storms that have ever been faced by men who fish, claiming many thousands of men and ships over the past 400+ years, and the battles over those years between countries determined to control the then most lucrative fishing grounds in the world. Today, countries other than Canada work the waters as close to the "legal" limits as they can, while the Newfoundland fishers have been greatly restricted by their own government, in an effort to see the cod stocks replenished, but leaving many long time fishing families in a most difficult situation. Through it all, though, we found the people to be incredibly resilient and upbeat.
Low tide means new opportunities for birds and horses alike!
Streams and wildflowers abound!
It's a spectacularly beautiful country, and we've just started to scratch around on one little old peninsula! On to St. John's!
This Capital city of Newfoundland has a population of approximately 102,000 people, slightly less than 20% of the provinces population of 550,000. The size of NF is approximately 156,000 square miles. While Nova Scotia has nearly twice the population (909,000), this province is only 14% the size (approximately 21,400 square miles) of NF!
There's much to see in and around the city of St. John's, but while much of its success ties to its position as a port city, the historic fishing villages play a part in the city as well. One of the best known is Quidi Vidi Village, a safe harbor since the 1700s, and still an active fishing community today -- and a wedge shot (for the Fozz) from town!
There's Signal Hill, where Marconi first achieved wireless communication with the European Continent --- in 1901!
The colorful streets of the city!
St. John's is a lively town. After a great dinner at The Hungry Fisherman one night, we walked back to our hotel via George Street, where it's happening!! This area is a bit like Bourbon Street, but the wall to wall bars and pubs seem almost entirely focused on Irish music and entertainment. It's blocked off to all but police vehicles and taxis at night. I can think of a few of my Irish pals who we'd lose there for days --- you'd find it tempting to misbehave, Tip!
We're now off for Gros Morne National Park, located on the west coast, and eventually our goal is to drive to the northernmost tip of the Northern Peninsula, St. Anthony's. The drive between the two coast takes us through a host of small fishing villages along the northern coastal areas of bays and coves and peninsulas jutting out into the Atlantic. Below us, as we drive across, lies the central reaches of this province. This is the largest geographic region of the island portion of the province (obviously excluding Labrador) but while vast, it is a VERY lightly populated area. In fact the southern area is mostly inaccessible, lake-filled woodland. One road leads down to the coast, linking many small, remote villages to the rest of the province.
It's not ALL nets and pots -- there are some hoops, too! You probably couldn't pull this off on Main Street! But then, this old boy probably couldn't pull this off on Main Street, either!
The trip to Gander goes through some pretty spectacular country, including Terra Nova National Park. Unfortunately our timing prevented us from visiting the North Atlantic Aviation Museum this trip, BUT we'll be back! Gander served the first transatlantic flights, but is perhaps best known to us in the States because of the role it played during WW II as a major link for planes on their way to Europe. As we continue west the topography shows the increasing timber potential, and the constant flow of pulpwood via truck is increasingly apparent. Still, interspersed are the ever present fishing villages, and while most show little heavy activity, their time is spent in repairing and maintaining equipment with the hope that there are better days ahead!
In the small (300 people) fishing community of Salvage, we nearly back into a Jeep Cherokee turning around on a narrow gravel back road. Their plates look familiar. They should. They're a nice young(er!) couple from Fulton County! Salvage (as in age) is one of those villages that desperately needs to see a fishing turnaround!
We'll see more of this situation as we work our way up the west coast, as well, but for now, the beauty of Gros Morne National Park captures our attention!
--- and Rocky Harbor, a wonderful little fishing community, where we have another terrific experience. We are fortunate to be seated, at dinner, next to a table with 3 generations of the Pittman family who are together for one of their annual reunions. They are as gracious as they can be, and I'm hopeful that when Bob and I try NF and Labrador for a little fly-fishing, that our paths will cross again. Just another wonderful experience with the most down to earth people going!
We head out early the next AM for St. Anthony's -- sort of our quest! We're advised to drive carefully so that we won't put Max in an encounter with a moose! We drive carefully, but it's tough to keep your eyes solely on the road, when you're surrounded by this country!
Like driftwood and pots arranged by mother nature!
More beautiful little fishing communities --
--- and before you know it (well, almost), you're gazing across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Strait of Belle Isle at Quebec, and Labrador!
-- and VOILA ! (for you French types!)
It was also in St. Anthony's where Patty found her pet Polar Bear. These little fellas occasionally work there way down to Newfoundland by taking a 2 or 3 year ride on an iceberg. Even with the packing flexibility with Max, we were a bit short of space to bring him home. You're talking about one disappointed Patty!
Working our way back south to get the ferry back to Nova Scotia, we spend the evening in the village of Port Au Choix. Dinner at a great restaurant at the harbor, called The Anchor Pub. On the way into town we had stopped at The Gargamelle Gallery, a gift shop and start-up museum owned by Ben Ploughman, a fascinating young (40s?) Newfie who tired of working the oil patch after getting a degree in Geology, and decided to return home and start a museum around his first love - the sea, and all that resides therein! Shortly after opening his small shop, a 45 foot Sperm Whale washed up on the shores of Point Au Choix, and Ben was able to convince the city fathers not to destroy the carcass. Instead, he went about extracting the skeleton bone by bone, boiling and bleaching each, and reconstructing the skeleton for his museum. This has been a labor of love for over 3 years, and the bleaching process in the weather still goes on with some of the larger pieces, such as the cranium. (The Sperm Whale has the largest brain of ANY mammal) In addition, Ben is an avid golfer, and has set up a humerous "target" practice course behind his shop. He gave us a demo of his prowess (it was a slow day in his shop!), and we were impressed with his short game skills. Really a character!
After leaving Ben and his bones, we decided to stop in a local market/tackle store for some soft drinks. While we were there a father and his young son came in to replenish their supply of mackerel jigs. The sight was incredible. The photo just doesn't capture it, but just know that for every freckle on this young guy, there was an equal amount of splattered blood on him, and his clothes! His Dad said, "he not only loves catchin 'em, he loves cleanin 'em!" Just seemed like a fitting near final impression of Newfoundland --- family and fishin !
We can now go back to Nova Scotia, fully understanding why the New-fen-LANDers are held in such high esteem by their neighbors. It is a spectacularly beautiful country, with its beauty only overshadowed by the attitude, spirit and friendliness of its people!
WE'LL BE BACK !