NEWFOUNDLAND (Part 2)

This will cover 3, 4, and 5 July.

===============

3 July

Up at the crack of dawn and hit the road because even though I did not have far to go, I had stuff to see.

One thing I’ve noticed in addition to the thousands and thousands of lobster pots is the sheer volume of firewood stacked up along side the roads. Looks like they are set up to dry inland then dragged out near the coast and piles are further separated from each other for a year or two to dry more. Then the chainsaws come out, they are cut and the splitters split them. Thousands upon thousands of cords. Chatting with locals indicated that anywhere from 4 to 10 cords a winter are used in each home with a stove or wood heating system.

It turned out to be a cloudy and VERY windy day all day. So once again the weatherman was wrong.

Crossing a bridge near Hawkes Bay I saw a bunch of guys standing around looking in the river so I stopped, too. They were checking it for salmon and down below were about a dozen of them fly fishing for the fish. Actually got to see a couple and they were good sized … 10-12 pounders. There was a rock falls on the opposite side of the bridge and a local told me sometimes in the evening you can see them jumping them in order to go upriver.

He also told me winters here can be brutal with strong winds most of the time and temps averaging about 14 degrees and occasionally below zero. He did also say that the snow is mostly gone by April.

The winds I can attest to both personally today and the fact that many of the trees are stunted and growing sideways.

Got to Port of Choix and paid $5 for a gallon of gas. What amazes me is the distance these folks drive and most of them have 3/4 ton 4x4s. How they afford them is beyond me.

Port au Choix Historic Site was discovered by accident in 1967. While putting in a basement for a theater, bones along with weapons and some tools from ancient peoples and cultures were found. Archaeologists digging the site the following year found cemeteries and dozens more skeletons. A scientific determination was made that these people to the Maritime Archaic People who were hunter/gatherers and lived along the North American eastern seaboard 3200 to 3700 years ago.

P-au-C is also a place where you can find information about the four different cultures that used to live here: Archaic Indian, Dorset Paleo Eskimo; Groswater Paleo-Maritime Archaic (whatever THAT means) and current Indians.

Quite close by, in Phillips Garden, remains of the Dorset People were found and also nearby is the Pointe Riche lighthouse. You can hike down to the beach and follow a path back into town. I did not choose that option.

I did, however, have an adventure with my gas camping bottle a night or so ago. I kept awaking at night smelling this odd smell and not being able to pinpoint it. At first I thought it was related to a wood pulp facility but as I drove I get occasional sniffs of it. So I sniffed all around the inside and then outside the van (thinking it was a dead critter.) The bed, my clothes, the cooler, the carpet, under the seat, etc. Nothing.

Then something, who knows, made me sniff the gas bottle. The top must have vibrated loose just enough to squirt a bit out every once in a while. I re-tightened it but left outdoors overnight … just in case …

Turns out that was the culprit as the odor disappeared. Given that when I camp out I close all the windows, this could have turned ugly had it been just a bit looser.

I also used my mosquito screens for first time last night as I opened up the windows to cool off the interior while parked. I keep them in place with magnets and it pisses off the mosquitoes. Of course, once back inside I have to spend a couple of minutes killing the ones that managed to fly in.

I also noticed that villages and towns here have little business acumen/sense. Especially the ones with lighthouses or other “attractions.” Plus they don’t advertise themselves with GPS sellers like Garmin. I’ll punch in a village and there will be absolutely nothing listed for food, hotels, etc. Yet when I get there it is full of motels/cottages/bed and breakfasts, etc.

Anyway, several times I go to find lighthouses and drive all over creation looking for them. No signs anywhere in the towns to speak of.

Another example is Lark Harbor where they had a re-creation of the viking ship used in the Outlander movie. You’d think a place would have a sign along the main road and in the town itself to attract people to maybe stop and see and, if lucky, they’d stop at a cafe or ice cream shop locally.

Just weird.

Here’s a good question: what is percentage of work force employed by all government agencies in US vs Canada? I think in the US the number is north of 20%. Can’t find it for Canada but it must be high as it seems like every third person here works for the park system, the natural resources board, fire, rescue, maritime, etc.

Drove by Anchor Point which dates back to 1750 and nearby are Deadman’s Cove (where residents dismantle docks for winter and re-assemble in spring) and Eddie’s Cove (Watt’s Point Ecological Reserve where rare arctic alpine plants grow.)

The landscape eastwards to St Anthony is flat and full of bogs. Little grows very tall here. What I did see was an immature male moose. Sucker looked at me with wary eyes as I pulled a 180 on the highway to check him out.

Approaching L’Anse aux Meadows I actually saw icebergs. Chatting with a local revealed that a few days ago all those ‘bergs were just one big ‘berg one kilometer long that broke up due to the warmth and wind. A couple of pieces are grounded but may not stay so.

Got to L’Anse Aux Meadows and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the authentication of the earliest European (Viking) presence here around 1,000 AD.

Also saw the first corvette in Newfoundland. It was a convertible from Ontario.

In the 60s, after much study, speculation, perusal of ancient documents, etc. archaeological excavations began which led to the discovery of an iron smithy, 3 habitations, and various work shops. Many artifacts, like iron and bronze objects were found as well but it was the accidental discovery by an American boy on vacation of a soapstone object used in looms to keep yarn thread separated and weighted down that clinched the deal and proved definitively that it was the Vikings that had come here.

From the Scenic Drives link:

In 986, Bjarni Herjolfsson, a Viking trader, was blown off course on a voyage from Iceland to Greenland. When he finally arrived in Greenland, he reported seeing three new lands to the West, believed to be Newfoundland, southern Labrador and northern Labrador. He and his crew were the first Europeans to see North America.

About 15 years later Leif Eiriksson, son of Eirik the Red, who had grown up hearing the story of unexplored lands to the West, decided to search for them. On his voyage, made around the year 1000 A.D., he was accompanied by 35 men and did indeed discover new land.

He stayed at Vinland – or Land of Meadows, as he named it – for a year, eventually returning to Greenland. His brother Thorvald also came to Vinland and settled in Leif’s house, but was killed by natives. This is the first known interaction between the Skraelings, as the Vikings named them, and Europeans.

Local legend says French settlers discovered Thorvald’s helmet on nearby Quirpon Island in the early 17th century, but it was eventually lost. Thorfinn Karlsefni, another Viking, later led an expedition here, and during this period of colonization the first child of European descent, Snorri, was born in the New World.

During the 1920s, Newfoundland author W.A. Munn in his book The Wineland Voyages suggested the L’Anse aux Meadows area might be the Vinland of the Norse Sagas.

In 1960, Norwegian historian Helge Ingstad, who had been searching for Vinland of the Norse sagas for years, visited northern Newfoundland and met L’Anse aux Meadows fisherman George Decker who showed him what residents thought was an ancient aboriginal camp. Helge and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, excavated the site and found the remnants of Viking sod huts. Subsequent excavations by the Ingstads and Parks Canada uncovered artifacts that proved conclusively the Vikings had established a settlement in North America five centuries before the voyages of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot and other 15th-century explorers.

Today there is a re-creation of various sod huts with a couple of park employees acting out roles. It costs $11.70 to get in.

Right across the street someone put up “Norstead Village” which has more re-enactors and a replica of a Viking ship called the Snorri which was actually sailed from Greenland to here back in 1998. It’s an open ship, no cabins. Everyone slept out in the open for the 87 days it took to cross. Snorri was also the name of the first child recorded to have been born in “Vinland.” The only reason it is known is because his parents were well off and people recorded for history what happened to those folks.

It costs $10 to get in. The government site is actually built in and around the dig site and they give guided tours. Me? I did both.

Got to my B and B, now called Jenny’s Runestone House (used to be Marilyn’s Hospitality House) and found it to be very nice. Jennifer is a great hostess and can give a guest lots of info about this area. Back when the ruins were discovered it coincided with the precipitous drop in the fishing industry here so the husband of the former owner turned this home into the first bed and breakfast in the area. Tourists were coming and they had no place to go. Times were tough back then, too, because the road was all dirt (hundreds of kilometers) and some people arrived by boat, instead. The only way to get from here to St Anthony not so long ago was by boat as there were no roads to L’Anse. Jennifer told me that one of Marilyn’s kids (or maybe Marilyn’s mom’s kids) needed to get to St Anthony and the boat trip took too long and the baby died. Sad. And life continued to be brutally harsh…even into the 70s.

Jennifer and her husband, Dave, run the place for about 4 months and then return to the mainland for the winter. They run anti-freeze in all the water pipes to keep them from freezing and close the house up. I imagine lots of others do the same.

A special treat: icebergs were visible in the bay from her back porch. I got pictures of two that looked like a viking ship and a submarine.

Waiting for everyone else we shared a little white wine and chatted about all sorts of stuff. We are both appalled at the state of the education system especially given she was a teacher. Parents seem to demand little of their kids and prefer blaming the teachers. Just like the U.S.

She does not like guns and was horrified to learn I like them. I tried explaining to her and David that it’s in our culture. Canada got its independence via a piece of paper. We had to kill a lot of people to overthrow the oppression of a tyrannical king who, after his loss in the war, probably took a different approach to how it managed its subjects in Canada. I also pointed out that for reasons like the one in Calgary where the cops used the registration lists to go into peoples’ homes and take their guns, we will not allow registration.

For dinner we had moose stew (yummy), red wine with dinner and one hell of a “stream of consciousness” conversation. The dinner discussion took a turn for what I believed to be a parallel universe as somehow we got on to haunted houses, spiritualism, ghosts, and religion. Then it drove itself straight off the cliff and into the bizarre. I loved it.

There were 5 of us in all. Two more couples and a single gal opted out of the dinner and stayed in their room. So we had 2 from Windsor, 1 from Alberta, one from BC and me.

Dave is an artist and specialist in Japanese art and artifacts. He’s also been either curator or guest curator for various exhibits. He travels around the US to antique shows, too.

4 July

Had a great breakfast and met the other guests.

Let me tell you something about BandB’s. Don’t coop yourselves up in your rooms. If you want to stay in your room get a hotel or a cottage. BandBs are best enjoyed trading stories and experiences.

Then I headed to St Anthony. Of course, the weatherman was wrong again. It was partially overcast and VERY windy. We were getting the smoke from the fire in Quebec Province. A monstrous fire that’s burned many thousands of acres.

Stopped in at the Dark Tickle Company which is just down the road a few clicks in St. Lunaire – Griquet. They sell all sorts of jams, jellies, artifacts, souvenirs, etc. I asked what it stood for and was told “tickle” is a word to describe two land masses separated by a tickle of water too wide to wade and too narrow for a ferry.

The “dark” part of the name was because it was situated between two hills and never got sun.

Having already purchased partridge berry jam I looked for and found bakeapple berry jam. The fruit’s name has nothing to do with baking or apples. It’s a bastardization of the French phrase for inquiring about the name of it: “la baie qu’appelle” (the berry named…..)

St Anthony is an interesting little town with a fascinating history and known for the heroic efforts of Dr. Grenfell:

The exhibits at the Grenfell Interpretation Centre commemorate the life of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, who single-handedly tackled the medical plights of people in coastal Labrador during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dr. Grenfell also established co-operative stores in several communities, encouraged women to produce handicrafts for sale, started a sawmill which eventually failed, and established orphanages, schools, agricultural stations and other invaluable social and economic endeavours. Today, the centre houses Grenfell Handicrafts, which provides training and a marketing service for beautiful, hand-embroidered parkas and other unique products that can be purchased.

The Grenfell House Museum is fully restored and you can see how Dr. Grenfell and his family actually lived while in St. Anthony. A visit to these sites is a must for anybody visiting the area. Another popular stop is Fishing Point Municipal Park where there are walking trails and platforms to view whales, birds and icebergs.

Dr. Grenfell’s name lives on in several local organizations, most notably Grenfell Campus, part of Memorial University, in Corner Brook. A statue of him was erected near Confederation Building in St. John’s in 1970. His former home in St. Anthony is now a museum.

And in case you did not know, here’s a bit more about the Viking Trail up here:

The northern half of the Viking Trail is also the basis for E. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Shipping News, which has been adapted for the big screen. Proulx invented characters, events, and even landscapes, for her book, which explores how an American, led by his Newfoundland-born aunt, adapts to the land his parents came from after he escapes the madness of modern New England. The movie version was filmed in the Trinity Bight area of Eastern Newfoundland and stars Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore and Dame Judi Dench.

A hiking trail, Cartier’s View Trail, has awesome lookouts over the St Anthony harbor and cliffs surrounding it. I did not go as the wind was BRUTAL. And it was hazy due to the smoke. There is also another, the Santana Trail, which makes you climb 476 stairs to the top of Fishing Point for more great views of the coastline and ocean. I passed on that, too.

Had lunch at a local restaurant and about to leave noticed a boat in the water in the far distance. Then I saw a spouting. Too far to take pictures but I remained patient. The whale slowly made its way in and after about half an hour it was close enough to use the 600 mm lens. Clarity isn’t that great but at least I did not just get water in the picture to which I’d point to an arbitrary location and say, “the whale was here.”

whale

Back at the BandB Dave introduced me to Shin, their Japanese Shiba Inu breed dog. Very cute but had a one track mind for treats. Dave also showed me where he was building a gift shop in the shed located next to the house. “Shed” meaning a 24×36 foot structure! They also had the former owner build them a 500 sq foot or so mini-apartment so he and Jennifer could sleep in and possibly turn the room they currently stay in into another rentable room. They call it the dungeon but they may as well capitalize on the Viking culture and call it a viking cellar or something and rent it out.

The shed will also be his artistic workshop where he has driftwood, antlers, whale rib bones, walrus tusk, etc.

They wanted to celebrate the 4th (they have family who are and family they came from that are Americans) and invited me along to go out to eat. I’d already eaten two big meals that day (breakfast and lunch) but could NOT say no. The magnanimity of their offer was too great to pass up. We were going to go to one place called the Northern Delight but it was pretty full so we ended up at the “Daily Catch.” Along the way we passed the Valhalla Lodge, the place where E. Annie Proulx stayed to write the movie, The Shipping News.

I told them I was buying “cod tongues” as the appetizers for the table but needing a light meal Jenny recommended the carrot and ginger soup. VERY GOOD!

The cod tongues were also good. Damned fish have big tongues!! We discussed some politics, Edward Snowden, Private Manning, Wikileaks, Amnesty International and how the US and Canada are pikers when it comes to KGB tactics, etc. This is something she learned while working with Amnesty Intl. Also talked about our respective families and parents. When the waitress came over with the bill I asked where mine was and they said it was on them. How thoughtful and kind!!

I insisted on leaving the tip and they said, grudgingly, “OK.” Jenny had heard and thought it was the waitress who insisted her dad trim his beard for her graduation. The waitress then explained it was her sister who had done it but then commented how since he had just returned from Florida it wasn’t too thick. Of course, I chimed right in and asked, “Where in Florida?” She said he stays in Port Richey during winters. That’s just about 15 miles south of me. So I got his address and will probably pay him a visit in late fall.

On return I saw the “submarine iceberg” right outside their place and took pictures. It was getting dark but it still came out pretty good.

sub

 
5July

At 4:30 I was awake and could not go back to sleep. For reasons unknown to me a thought popped into my head about when I would square the bill with the owners and I envisioned her telling me, “OH! We don’t take charge cards.” I began to freak out because I KNEW I did not have enough cash on hand. Although I knew there were places here that were cash only I could not recall.

So about 7 AM I walked into the living room and started chatting with another guest, Ted. His camera pooped the bed and he was resorting to his cell phone camera. Since the evening before I had just finished pulling a few dozen pictures from my stack of local area pics and put them on Dave’s laptop, I asked Ted if he had a thumbdrive onto which I could load some from my west coast stack. He didn’t so I left him my address and he’ll mail me a drive and I’ll mail it back to him.

Having a cup of coffee waiting for the other guests I went to Jenny and said I’d like to pay my bill. Pulled out my credit card and she said, “OH! We don’t take Visa!” I was mortified and my moment of mild panic at 4:30 in the morning exploded into reality. I was extremely embarrassed. Very close to calling my son and asking him to next-day-air a cashier’s check.

She did say there was an ATM a little ways up the road in a convenience store and I recounted how my ATM card had not worked before. That is when she said, “don’t worry, just send me a check when you get home!” I was slack-jawed at her trust.

Getting ready to go to the ATM and she said to wait until after breakfast and not 5 minutes later she came to me and we talked a bit and worked everything out. I was much relieved.

If you don’t stay at this B and B you’ll be the one who’s sorry. What a great place! What fantastic owners! What service!

Heading out after a delicious partridgeberry pancake and sausage breakfast. She also does real oatmeal (porridge), yogurt, fresh fruit, etc. Just lovely.

Departing the L’Anse aux Meadows/St Anthony area left me with a long drive to Grand Falls/Windsor in order to set up the next scenic drive.

L’Anse was about 40 degrees. Where I was headed, Grand Falls, was to hit 86!!

Given got a late start I skipped the small detour off the TCH to King’s Point on Route 391 which promised a beautiful trail with great views plus a whale skeleton in town and some local pottery. The weather was crap and the air full of smoke, too. Maybe on the way back to the port.

Wiped out a bird today. A sparrow. Don’t feel too bad as there are so many of them. Just a little thud.

The area there is called Exploits Valley (from the scenic drive guide) and is laden with Beothuk history:

The Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland were called “red Indians” by early European explorers because they painted their bodies and possessions with ochre. The coming of Europeans to Newfoundland several centuries ago, disrupted the Beothuk’s traditional way of life in a tragic way. Gradually, they were squeezed out of their summer coastal villages by newcomers with superior military technology. There were clashes with settlers, often based on the mutual misunderstanding of each other’s cultures. By the early 19th century the Beothuk were teetering on the brink of extinction, cut off from the coast and wracked by starvation and European diseases against which they had no immunity.

In 1819, one of the last known Beothuks, Demasduit (Mary March), was captured near Red Indian Lake. The following year, ill with tuberculosis, government officials tried to reunite her with her tribe. They were too late. She died in what is now Botwood, and her body was transported to Red Indian Lake.

The last known Beothuk, Shanawdithit, died at St. John’s in 1829. She had been captured with her mother and sister in 1823.

Made it into Grand Falls by 5 PM and opted for a hotel room instead of camping since it was so warm.

Continue reading Part 3.

3 Responses to NEWFOUNDLAND (Part 2)

  1. McMurdo says:

    Once again a great read Vilmar. I hope I don’t forgrt to send you an emaul asking for that other story. Your stories are much appreciated Vilmar, I really enjoy reading about places like this that I will never be able to see and hear about myself. Cheers, Darrell

  2. redneckgeezer says:

    I’m getting more jealous by the paragraph. What a great trip to add to your repertoire of travels.

  3. antzinpantz says:

    Thanks, Tony.

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