NEWFOUNDLAND (Part 4)

8 July

Wasted no time leaving the campground. It was nice and had showers, etc. but it was hot last night up until about 9 PM. Then some thunderstorms kicked up a few miles away, the wind started to blow and things cooled off. Fortunately there were no mosquitoes to speak of so I could have the large vent windows open as well as the passenger sliding door up until I crashed.

The CG was called Malady Head. It has no services like electric, sewer, etc. So it was a lot quieter. To get to Trinity/Bonavista I needed to go back past the camp HQ which had wi-fi 24 hours a day and caught up on email and most importantly, checked weather. Today it was to start cloudy and get “brighter” in the afternoon.

Interesting Newfoundland road numbering feature: you can tell you’re headed east because the highway numbers decrease. On the west coast they are in the 400s. Here they are in the 200s. Near St John’s it’s 100s.

A bit of good news: no smoke in the air!!!!! I no longer feel like I am on Mars. This bodes well. But the clouds have taken their place. Trying to get news on the radio stations here is like trying to make a mohair sweater using ass hairs….impossible. Lasts about a minute and is repetitive.

My first stop was Trinity. It seems like all I ever read were comments about people saying, “YOU MUST GO TO TRINITY!” And why should I know go to a place that has the same name as my grand daughter?

So I did.

A little background:

The little town of Trinity is a gem, a national treasure. It’s a must-see on anyone’s calendar. Most of the old town is a national heritage community, and there are several provincial historic sites as well. People interested in Newfoundland history will find plenty here.

Four years after Cabot’s voyage, the Portuguese explorer, Gaspar Corte Real, explored Newfoundland’s coastal waters and, according to legend, named Trinity because he came across this section of the coast on Trinity Sunday in 1501. Much later, Trinity became an important fishing and mercantile community. The English considered it so valuable and prized a harbour, they built a fort here. The remains of the fort are accessible along the road to the lighthouse. In 1615, Trinity played host to the first court of justice in North America when the British admiralty tried to bring order to the constant raids and thieving that were a blight on the migratory fishery for many years.

What strikes you right away about Trinity is how solid the houses are. The 19th-century styles of architecture seem derived from an earlier era. This was a prosperous town, and a progressive one, too. In 1798, Dr. John Clinch, a doctor and minister, administered the first smallpox vaccine in North America. Get out and wander around Trinity. Narrow lanes weave in between the houses. Stop at the community museum, which is chockablock with exhibits, and has community records dating to the 1600s. Or drop in at the Green Family Forge, once an important part of the town’s commercial life. Its decorative iron products are sold in the craft store.

Additionally, the movie, “Shipping News” was also filmed here and the place is a great base for whale watching.

A places to see is St Paul’s Anglican Church. Also here is a Catholic Church built in 1833 and is the oldest wooden church in Newfoundland.

For those so inclined, theater is available and the Rising Tide Theater comes well recommended.

By now it’s 9:30 and still cloudy so off I went to find Trinity East and the hostel. Met up with Dave, who runs the place and all is confirmed so I told him I’d be back about 4.

Made my way to Bonavista but first stopped off at Elliston.

If seeing puffins is your thing, then Elliston, at an area called The Neck, is your destination.

If checking out root cellars is your fancy, Elliston is also the place.

The puffins were everywhere. Hundreds of them at an island very close but inaccessible. And about a dozen came to where the viewing is allowed. Some got as close as 4 feet. Cute little bastiches. It was foggy but picture taking was still very good given that most were close-ups.

puffin

 
Bought more jams and jellies at the local info center and saw lots of root cellars. If the doors are open you can walk right in them. People kept apples, root veggies, etc. in them over the winter to keep them fresh because the cellars never froze.

The Bonavista Cape (where the lighthouse is located) was the point where John Cabot first landed here in 1497. A replica of his ship was built for the 500th anniversary and the queen showed up for it’s launching. It sailed nowhere and was built just for that event. It now resides inside a purposely build shed to protect it from elements. For $8 you can get a guided tour. From the vantage joint there I was able to see 5 whales blowing and diving. They were too far away to photograph well so I just watched.

Bonavista: there’s no sense my writing what’s already been said so well…

Mention “Bonavista” and people here think of John Cabot, a Genoese adventurer known in his hometown as Giovanni Caboto. History can do strange things, like change your name. Christofo Columbo suffered the same fate. In 1497, just five years after Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean, King Henry VII and the burghers of Bristol, England, sent John Cabot west to investigate what lay in the northern section of the western Atlantic. He was looking for a northerly route to China and Japan that would allow English trade with these Asian nations to bypass the Spanish-Portuguese monopoly of the more southerly routes. Instead, he found fish, lots and lots of fish. The race was on to scoop it up, dry it and ship it to Europe. Countless fortunes have risen and fallen on the fish trade ever since.

But was Cabot the first European to reach Bonavista? History suggests so, but what of the Vikings? Could they have explored this area from their base at L’Anse aux Meadows at Newfoundland’s northern tip nearly 1,000 years earlier? And what of Saint Brendan? He supposedly sailed west from Ireland even before the Vikings. Claims could also be made for the Spanish, Basques and Portuguese, especially the latter. Were the businessmen of Bristol risking their money or betting on a sure thing when they sent Cabot here? Bristol fishermen had claimed to have reached rich fishing grounds far to the west of their home port in 1480. John Cabot’s importance lies not so much in what he did – a sailing feat though it was – but rather as a symbol for the opening up of this part of the New World to European trade and culture.

A reconstruction of John Cabot’s ship, the Matthew, resides here in Bonavista, and you can also visit the Ryan Premises National Historic Site, which tells the 500-year history of the East Coast fishery. For historians, the Bonavista Archive, with its extensive genealogy records, is in the old courthouse on Sweetland’s Hill. In front of the Court House is a recreation of the old Whipping Post where rough justice was administered to lawbreakers in centuries past.

Another must-see spot in the town is the Mockbeggar Plantation Provincial Historic Site, which gives visitors a taste of life in days past. The Big Store on the property is at least 200 years old, but the site, which was once a fishing “room,” has been occupied since at least the late 1700s. In the Methodist Cemetery you’ll find some of the oldest gravestones in the province.

Stop to explore the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse. First built in 1843, it has now been restored as a Provincial Historic Site where visitors can step back a hundred years to experience the isolated lifestyle of a 19th-century lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse is open in summer and staffed by knowledgeable interpreters. Nearby is the Dungeon Provincial Park. There you will see a collapsed sea cave with a natural archway carved out by tidal action. And a statue to Cabot is also near the lighthouse.

That Matthew ship thing? A waste of money as it is indoors and photography is near next to impossible.

The Dungeon Provincial Park was interesting and worth the side trip. It looks like a dungeon because it is a huge hole in the ground created by pounding waves over countless millennia tat wore through softer stone in a couple of places to create large arches.

Came face to face with a cow that did not want to yield the right of way so it was a bit of a Mexican Standoff until it gave up in search of more grass to eat.

cow

By 2 PM the weather was clearing up quite nicely so I headed back to Elliston (the road is horrid) but it was socked in with fog.

Returned to the hostel, put my stuff in my room and headed out to hike the Skerwink Trail.

MAGNIFICENT!!

skerwink

 

Of course, it was sunny. That helped. It is 5.3 KM (about 3.5 miles round trip loop) but if you factor in the elevation gains and losses it felt like 6 miles. My ticker was tocking on some of those climbs!! My shirt was drenched in sweat and I slowed the pace for nothing else than to dry off.

When I got back to the hostel everyone was gone. Had the whole place to myself.

They provide towels and sheets and the kitchen is fully decked. Lots of food items left by others and people routinely take advantage of that.

The crowd is different here, too. Usually you think of hostels and drunk young adults. Not here. Most were north of 40 years old. One couple brought their son. Another was a union stooge (had quite a spirited debate with him over how I think unions are now useless to workers and useful only to union heads and union management.) One was Korean who works the aviation industry in Canada. Another was a woman, Leela, who flew in from Vancouver Island, had no car, and got around using the island taxi. From St. John’s to here was only $40. Not bad. Except now she’s at the mercy of people here to take her around.

Saw her earlier photographing puffins.

The assistant manager, Dave, sported the “Che Guevara” look with his commie cap and when I asked what he did for a living he said he teaches ESL around the world. Mentioned he had taught in China and I brought up that a friend’s daughter teaches English there, too, but as part of missionary work. We then got into the China and atheist, Christian killing regimes.

He said he’d heard that the Chinese government covertly funds religious groups because so many Chinese lack a moral compass. Well! DUH!!! They are godless! And it’s no wonder given how Mao ran the place killing female babies and jailing parents who had second children and had been turned in by their neighbor or co-worker. Much like what Obummer wants to do with Federal workers to “stop whistle blowers” and those who knew something was going on but did not report it also faced serious charges.

If someone can’t see the parallels between what Stalin and Mao did and what is happening in the US right now they ought to be kicked out of the country. Or shot. I prefer the latter to keep them from procreating. In China people learned to report their neighbors and now have no sense of moral decency.You need only watch YouTube videos dash-cam videos to see the proof of their lack of respect for life and decency.

Yet he was wearing his Mao commie cap with that stupid red star. When I came back I wanted to engage him in conversation about his hypocrisy in wearing a hat like that given that the man who instituted it killed tens of millions of his own people. But Dave was gone and did not return the rest of the day.

9 July

Couldn’t sleep past 4 AM even though I went to bed at 10:30. Finally got up at 5:15 and crept downstairs to make coffee. I’d spoken to Leela the evening before and said I’d be leaving about 6 or so. As I was headed out she came down the stairs and begged off the trip.

So I set out for Trinity again as the skies were clear at the hostel….but not so much at Trinity.

Remember the info on the lighthouse and the fort from yesterday? Well, that “road to the lighthouse” must have been a “treasure” kept only for locals.

Sure, there’s a sign for it on the main highway. So you are merrily tooling around and after 10 miles or so, knowing it CAN’T be that far, realize you’ve gone past it. I almost did that but my GPS allowed me to see where the town was. I also knew the topography because from the Skerwink trail I could the lighthouse from the opposite side yesterday. Therefore I knew where it was “supposed to be.” And it was (I had to turn around after half a click or so.)

Know what else I saw on the 4 KM long, single track dirt road, with no other roads leading from it? Two more signs telling me to go straight. JEEZ!! There must either be something wrong with me and my navigational skills or these people are truly clueless when it comes to selling their “sights to see.”

Been sitting here an hour and just as I thought the town was about to clear off to my left (it’s to the west of where I am parked, across a small bay) and another bank of fog rolled in. The foghorn is going off again, too. Big tipoff.

Gave up and headed back.

But was able to take this:

am  trinity

Asked Libby about laundry facilities in Bonavista and she said I could do them at the hostel! So I started my load of wash and since she said she’d make sure they got dry I headed out to Bonavista again except I took a detour to Keels (where Libby said the rocks are purple.) Leela decided she’d go along so we hit the road. The weather was temperamental, one minute cloudy, then foggy then sunny for a few minutes.

We found this very interesting old cemetery, unkempt, with wild flowers growing all in it.

cemetery

While in Keels we were taking pictures of a flowery background with a house in the background when the owner there gave us the eye. We drove up towards his place as the Anglican Cemetery was there. On turning around he flagged us down and we thought he was going to chew us out for being on private land. But, no. He gave us a flyer advertising his accordion work in the local area. Invited us into his house and wanted us to have coffee with him and his wife!!!! Incredible. He’s called the “Trouting Newfoundlander.”

That’s his house in the background.

trouting newfie

 
As a side note, just in case you’re interested, in addition to “Shipping News” the film “Random Passage” was made around here and the “Grand Seduction” will also begin filming later this summer. You can read about it here.

The “Random Passage” can be read about here.

From Keels Leela and I went to what is touted around here as a “great place to eat.” It is called the Bonavista Social Club, it’s small, has 4 inside tables and 5 outside plus 4 seats at the counter. They specialize in pizza and moose burgers.

To say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. And it cost me $26 for the experience. Yep! One person. $26. No dessert. No beer. Lousy $6 bowl of pureed potato soup, $10 for a 9″ pizza, $3 for rhubarb lemonade …. and tax ….. and tip. Avoid it. I do not understand how so many people rave about it. I think they feel obligated to do it because they got screwed and they get a certain schadenfreudian satisfaction in perpetuating the lie to make themselves feel better for having gotten screwed. After all, misery loves company. But I can not, in good conscience, send anyone there. For half the price, maybe. Maybe.

Then it was back to Elliston to see more puffins in case the weather was better. I had a bet with Leela it wouldn’t be better given my experience yesterday. Half an hour after getting there I lost the bet. The pictures are SO much better.

Arriving back at the hostel the managers were gone for the evening and a couple of new guests were there. They had a 11 year old or so son and were in Newfoundland to watch their daughter performing in a huge choral concert in St John’s. I’d heard about it on the radio as I was coming in. They are from Minnesota.

I collected my wash which Libby so thoughtfully folded for me and chucked it back in the van. Our earlier conversation revealed she’s 21 years old and plans to go to Italy for a year to be a governess after which she might go to Russia to do the same thing. Then back to Canada to be an electrician. Meanwhile her father owns the hostel and next year another family member will manage it. Great business experience, I think.

Packed it in at 10PM.

Tomorrow I am headed to Carbonear (or so I thought.)

===

10 Jul

Looked like it might be a nice day and the forecast indicated the same tomorrow so I planned on doing a loop that would take me through Dildo, Heart’s Delight, etc. heading north and east and then south to Carbonear to stock up on stuff and ending in Cupids at a campground.

But first I took one more shot at getting a good early morning picture at Trinity. Among others, this one:

am trinity

 
Caught lots of fog on the TCH but it cleared by Arnold’s Cove where there is a refinery and a dock with a large petro ship docked in the Placentia Bay. Funny how those who are ecotards don’t want this sort of stuff and most of them have shiite jobs on purpose because they have no talent or work for government where their incomes are secure. But let someone try and make money in the oil industry and it’s, “the companies are greedy! They screw the workers! They pollute!!” Meanwhile they bitch about the price of gas or home heating oil.

These people would rather we all live like cavemen to protect Mother Earth Gaia. But give them half a chance to make a lot of money and they’re all over it like stink on poop, buying big houses, fancy cars, traveling around the world staying in large resorts, etc. Oh! Wait!! Did I just describe Hollyweirdo actors and Al Gore?

I did notice, though, an overabundance of weird place names so I am photographing them to make a collage.

Got to participate in what true Canadian “union work” looks like. Traffic was stopped in both directions as a loader would empty what amounted to mere shovel fulls of dirt along the roadside i a ditch. It would then back up, go forward a few feet, turn in and spill a few more “shovel fulls” and repeat the process over and over. If they wanted to be efficient more dirt could be dumped, the machine could park itself on the side of the road and the operator could use the scoop bucket to spread and compact the dirt. But why be smart and let traffic flow when you can inconvenience people all day long?

Even on the radio there are programs lamenting how workers are “stuck” in bad jobs and how they can deal with the bad bosses and evil companies wanting to do nothing but make profit. But no mention of the worthless fecks who are in those jobs, facebooking, checking mail, on the internet, making phone calls, etc. instead of actually working.

I shiite you not. That is their attitude (the announcers at CBC, at least.) One even was discussing a woman who lost her job and found another but it meant she had to take a 1.5 hour bus ride back and forth ….. and the evil company would not pay her bus fare!!! WAH!!! WAH!!!!! These frakking whiners really annoy me.

Anyway, the road soon split and I could go north as I originally intended, or south to Cape St Mary’s where there is a MONSTROUS bird sanctuary. I’d read where the weather there sucked most of the time and rare was the day it wasn’t swallowed in fog. It was 70 miles south. My original destination of this morning about the same but a bit further with quite a few stops along the way.

On impulse and gut feel I headed south figuring I could cut north again tomorrow since I’d have to eventually anyway. The roads were pretty good and I took a page from Leela’s book: “the weather will be good. The weather will be good.”

Blasted through Placentia and headed straight to St. Bride’s, the closest community to Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve.

20 miles distant I saw fog banks but pushed on anyway. At St Brides there’s a 13-16 KM long road that barely wide enough for two cars and I was thinking what a blast it would be to drive the Vette here when I almost went airborne in the van. It’s a pretty decent road but has wicked dips (frost heaves?) Anyway, if I had had the Vette it would have been severely damaged.

Six miles away I felt like I’d struck pay dirt. The place was bathed in sun. Parked, walked through the info center (it’s free) and got a hundred yards down the path to realize I’d forgotten my tripod-to-camera adapter. Scrambled back to the van and could not find it. Searched high and low, turned my backpack and camera bag inside out. The ONLY reason I brought along the tripod was to attach the camera to it, extend it, hook up my remote release and hang the camera over the edge of the cliffs (300 feet high) to catch the birds in flight below.

I was PISSED at myself for possibly having forgotten it at the hostel.

Anyway, it’s a 1.25 mile hike in to the rocks and I went, sans tripod.

The weather was SPLENDID!!!! I can not believe my luck.

Or is it something else?

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a nice guy and God is rewarding me …… or ….. I’m an asshole and God’s trying to say, “hey, you can be redeemed yet so here’s a teaser of my Glory” …. or, as an agnostic, believe it is just plain, dumb luck, chance or serendipity.

But it’s happened on my trip to Alaska, my trip to the Southwest and now this one. Great weather. And let’s not forget the Western Brook Pond “fjords.” And before I forget, my trip to New Zealand and going to Milford Sound to see their true fjords on an overnight cruise and having two consecutive sunny days where usually 250 or more days a year are cloudy and few ever mostly sunny.

There’s got to be a message in there somewhere simply because the odds of catching good weather are so low here. It’s usually foggy 200 days a year. Which means the other options are cloudy, partly cloudy, partly sunny or sunny. I asked at the desk and was told the chances of getting a sunny day are 1 in 30.

Makes you wonder how many people TRULY appreciate arriving on a day like today. Hell, I even caught myself muttering about how the light was “too harsh” and immediately realized what a moronic comment that was.

From the scenic drives site:

Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, the star of the shore and one of the great natural wonders in Newfoundland and Labrador. The 13.4-kilometre paved road from Route 100 leads to a view immortalized in the Newfoundland folk song “Let Me Fish off Cape St. Mary’s.” The vantage point, a 15-30 minutes walk from the interpretation centre, overlooks Bird Rock, the third largest – and most accessible – nesting site for gannets in North America, and offers a spectacular opportunity to photograph these gorgeous, golden-headed birds with the two-metre wing span from only 15 metres (50 feet) away. This is also a nursery for thousands of murres and kittiwakes. During the summer months the cliffs are alive with seabirds. The waters here are a great place to see whales and the whole area is filled with the sound of raucous bird voices.

The preserve has the distinction of being the only one in eastern North America where so many birds can be gotten access to so closely by humans. The mainland preserve appears to have no trees on it but it does. Except they are so stunted by the winds they look like low bushes called tuckamore.

gannet

 
The murres “swim” underwater to get their food. And they live pretty long: kittiwakes live 9-14 years and the other two 15-25 years. There were quite a few babies to be seen, too. The various colonies numbers in the tens of thousands. The smell is noticeable right away, almost like a chicken coop. And the raucous noise can not be ignored.

But I saw no whales.

And as soon as I was back at the van I found that tripod piece. Truth be told I would not have been able to use it in the manner I had wanted. Catching one of those birds in flight proved next to impossible.

On the return I took l my time and stopped at Gooseberry Cove Provincial Park. It’s renowned for its purple rocks and there were people sunning, playing catch baseball, running dogs, etc. The path to the beach is lined with wild rose bushes and it smelled so good.

On any other day the drive from Placentia to the Cape would be rather featureless. But on a sunny day it is stunningly beautiful. Rolling, up and down hills, winding around like a snake and catching drivers unawares of the slope and angle. A couple of times I had to come down hard on the brakes to keep from running into the ditch. Not that I was trying to speed but that the declines were so steep you picked up speed fast you never really notice it. Plus it’s hard to stop two tons that WANTS to keep rolling downhill.

Kept driving up the coast a bit and went back through Placentia:

Placentia is built on a large beach near a coastal forest area. In the early days of the 17th century this was the French capital of Newfoundland. Colonial French land and sea forces, aware of its strategic position, established a fortified base on a summit overlooking the ocean arms of Plaisance, as the French called it, in 1662. On the commanding site of what is now Castle Hill National Historic Site, the French erected a fortification called Le Gaillardin in 1692, a year of intensive English campaigns. The areas adjacent to the park at the northern point of Placentia Gut and east of the town, were previously defended by Fort Louis and Fort Le Vieux, both of which have long since surrendered to the elements. From their fortified position at Placentia, the French attacked the English capital at St. John’s three times. Each time, they were forced to retreat, but only after they had captured the main fort twice and burnt the city down.

The British moved into Placentia after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1762) its defenses were upgraded to aid in the recapture of St. John’s, which – just months previously – had been taken by the French. With British supremacy assured, Placentia was soon outranked by St. John’s, which became the capital of the colony.

Then I took a small detour on Route 102 to Ship Harbour. About 4 KM of dirt road takes you to the harbour area, where, right off shore here, in August 1941, about the USS Alabama, FDR met with Winston Churchill and the result was the Atlantic Charter. Churchill had arrived on the HMS Prince of Wales.

A monument was erected at the end of the unpaved road. There are anchors there that were used to string up mines against submarines and the plaques tell you lots of stuff about the local role in the war effort, U-Boats, etc.

Got back on the TCH rather than follow Highway 100 around to Cataracts Provincial Park. It didn’t look like there were any campgrounds so I headed back to pick up the route I meant to do today.

And, of course, the first place I came to was Dildo. How can you NOT go to a town called Dildo? Even if it’s out the way you have to go. And why did they name it Dildo? It was late in the afternoon and places were closed/closing so I could not stop in any gift shops and pick up a “souvenir.”

Regardless of how it got its name, the people there have a sense of humor:

dildo

 

Finally found a campground. No showers. No bathrooms. It’s for RVs but the owner let me stay in between two motor homes which were not occupied. They provided great shade from the late sun (remember, sunset here is not until almost 9:30.) I can’t tell you the name because he does not want it advertised.

Tomorrow I hope to continue the Bacallieu Trail and eventually end at La Manche Provincial Park campground. If I get a chance I will go whale watching at Witless Bay and if they are near the coast might even take a boat tour.

Given the good weather I could end this trip sooner than I thought. Which then will necessitate contact the ferry lines and changing my booking. Not sure if that will be allowed. If not I will have 3 days left over to screw around. May go back to Gros Morne and hike to the top (it takes all day, return.)

Continue reading Part 5.

4 Responses to NEWFOUNDLAND (Part 4)

  1. thirdnews says:

    Hmm ,my comments are lost but I’m reading your trip adventure

  2. McMurdo says:

    Another Great read Vilmar, you are great at telling a story or adventure. Thanks!

  3. antzinpantz says:

    Thanks, Darrell.

  4. redneckgeezer says:

    Kept reading how hot you were and wondering how you’d fare on the boat with me when it was 100+ out. Remind me not to go in July very often. Then again, I had a great time! Great read so far, and I’d sure like to get there someday.

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