Wow, what a journey. This island, this Rock, this most easterly province has warmed and welcomed us, inspired and awed us, and combined with the friendly folk, stole our hearts. We understand why Newfoundlanders always find their way back home. Each town, village or out port celebrate their “Welcome Home Year” and they come, to celebrate and revel in the love of their birthplace and we get it. There is just “something” amidst the coastal air, stunning scenery and tough environment that brings together each community. Newfoundlanders are filled with pride and LOVE to share their island with you. Whether it is just to chat, offer directions, a hand or a fish and they are never in a hurry or rush to do so…perhaps this appeals to us so much because of its similarity to the Caribbean lifestyle. And we were so blessed to spend time in Springdale, where the transplanted Scottish Albertans landed and where we were able to share and spend time in their beautiful community.
And yet another reason that our time on this island was so special was crossing paths (unexpectedly) not once, twice but three times with good friends Dave & Alex. What fun to explore, adventure and play together.
And so with so many memories to share I have tried to condense it (a tad) but this will be a lengthy read …..
ICEBERGS – yes, we saw some – well officially they were growlers and bergy bits but ìcebergs to us. Impressive and beautiful…we still have some iceberg ice in our freezer that we break out for special occasions.
These iconic images are just a taste of what we found endearing:
- Mummers – a Christmas-time house visiting practice involving masked mimes
- In these winds the wash dries in but minutes – what we used to refer to as the “Dominica flag” now also know as wash day in Newfoundland. It seems to be a coordinated weekly event here.
- Road side garden plots – why toil in the soil and try and dig out a level, rock free plot on your own land – Newfoundlanders take advantage of the tilling already done by road crews. These isolated, sometimes fenced, others not plots are tended and no one touches another’s garden. (unlike my childhood memories of fence hopping and garden raiding!)
- Lighthouses, lighthouses, lighthouses… with 29,000km of coastline there is a need for a LOT of these. We saw and toured many, learning of the lives of past light keepers and their families in these harsh and isolated environments before the age of automation.
- See 3. Above – but think wood! Locals cut and haul wood out in the winter on their snow mobiles and pile it by the roadside. Come spring they cut it to 8’ lengths and often pile these teepee style to dry. Later in the summer, they are further cut, stacked and stored ready for transporting to their homes
- to be split in preparation for winter. Again, no one would ever think of touching a log that was not theirs!
- Jelly Bean Row – these colorful homes run rampart in down town St John’s and surrounding enviros. They appear as numerous crafty knick knack souvenirs in the form of glass sun catchers, mail boxes, post cards, etc etc
- Musicality must run in their veins. There is never a shortage of music in the form of kitchen parties, festivals, plays and impromptu garden parties. We were lucky to take in the Twillingate Fish, Fun and Folk Festival where we heard mandolins, violins, accordions, the “foot” and other assorted rhythmic instruments – as well as great vocals and humorous local folk songs and melodies.
What a history to tell… from the Norse exploration in 1000AD, Beothuk and Mi’’kmaq populations to 1497 and John Cabot’s landing and fast forward to 1949 when Newfoundland joined Canada there is a lot to learn.
CRITTERS, CRITTERS EVERYWHERE
With more moose than humans per square km we were glad not to report a close encounter. Whales, whales everywhere we went… their spouting, hunting and fin slapping never lost its ability to stop us in our tracks. Our first puffin sighting was funny – these amazingly small birds were not at all what I expected and so much fun to watch fly – a mix between a humming bird and a drunken bumble bee. And don’t get me started on the fish fare….. cod, so much yummy, delicious cod, lobsters, mussels…. we were in ‘season’ enough to hit them all many times !
We officially wore out our shoes which necessitated a stop in Corner Brook to replace them. I think we lost track of trails, km, views, vistas and moments of awe. We left Gros Morne National Park on a high with sore feet, sweaty clothes, a feeling of accomplishment and anticipating a few days off to rest our feet!
Geology to boggle the mind and tickle those memories of earth science classes…..fjords, colliding tectonic plates, geologic era divisions, metamorphoses “rusting’ of mantle rock, fossils, erosion, weathering, collapsing….. Newfoundland, the ROCK!
With each climb we were rewarded with stunning views. Whether it was a bite, a tickle, cape, brook, pond, fjord, river, lake… by the end we were finally to make sense of the terminology.
In talking with a fellow traveller (at the laundromat) we tried to articulate the feelings for this island. We discussed and agreed that yes, British Columbia is also a wondrous place – the Rockies, the Kootenays and the Coastal Range, the interior plains and orchards, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands….. but yet there is something different. I think it comes down to two things:
1) the geographical size – being able to drive from east to west Newfoundland in a little over 6 hours as compared to 12hr plus a ferry ride; and perhaps because of the isolation of an island this lends itself to
2) the immense pride and sense of community that exists in all of the villages and even in the big cities on this island. Perhaps the historical need of relying on one another in harsh winter conditions was the origin of this but it lives on today. And with this pride comes a love of sharing it all – nobody is a stranger just a friend waiting to be made.
So having been screeched in – that is kissed the cod (and a puffin’s arse) and downed the screeche we leave the island as official Newfoundlanders and have toured east to west and central to north….
On our last day we find a remote and simple campground and with bright sunny skies and an unusual sandy beach we wash our toes one last time and we bid farewell … with a yearning to return sometime and a desire to share our wonder of this island so that others may be tempted to experience this wondrous place.