Posted from Norris Point, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
(Or, There Will Be Fish Cakes)
The accompanying photos (there are many) can be found at the August 2011 Pictures Page.
On Friday morning we said goodbye to our HelpX hosts (and the pigs and chickens) on Prince Edward Island and made our way back across Confederation bridge to New Brunswick. From there we drove to Nova Scotia to catch a ferry to take us to Newfoundland. It was a full day of driving. The ferry left at 10:00 P.M. from North Sydney, and after finding a library (where we uploaded our previous post) and a pizzeria (where we stealthily charged our laptop while eating dinner) we got in line for the ferry at 8:00 P.M. After about a 90-minute wait, we all headed to the ship. The ride lasted about 7 hours and was a new experience for all three of us. There were muted televisions, a cafe that served hot dogs and soup (who needs soup at 10:00 P.M.?), a gift shop (really? on a ferry?), and plenty of other amenities that we did not need nor utilize. We found some seats facing away from the TVs and played gin rummy for a while before trying to get some sleep, which was hit-or-miss. Since we where too cheap to spring for a private room, we got to experience being in a room with hundreds of other people and listening to dozens of them snoring. Gross.
We disembarked the ferry after 6:00 A.M. Newfoundland time. The very peculiar thing about the Newfoundland time zone is that it is half an hour ahead of Atlantic time. In other words, when it’s noon in the Twin Cities, it’s 2:30 P.M. in Newfoundland. We had a five-hour drive ahead of us as we headed to Gros Morne National Park. This was probably the most beautiful drive of our entire trip so far. Not only is the topography absolutely stunning with mountains and trees and streams, but we were also driving and experiencing these astounding vistas during the sunrise on a mostly clear morning. The colors on the mountains and on the water as we drove along the coast were spectacular. There is simply not a superlative adjective to describe it. It was epic. Best. Scenery. Ever.
After arriving at Gros Morne and meeting our friends Jill (who is originally from Newfoundland) and Sarah from the Twin Cities who flew out to hang out with us for this week, we went to our campsite – the only one of the five in the park that did not have showers or hot water but still managed to have free wifi. Hmm. They set up their tent, we opened Maggi, and then we all walked a nearby nice little coastal trail and explored the rocky shoreline for a few hours. The weather was wonderfully sunny and warm, which Jill says happens very infrequently in that area. We had a little dinner of peanut butter sandwiches and pinot noir, made plans for the next day and went to bed. But although we were wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sandals for our hike, we all had on long underwear for bedtime since we were near the coast.
For Sunday morning breakfast, Sarah and Jill made toutons with molasses. Toutons are based fried biscuits of bread dough, and although most “Newfs” make them from scratch, you can buy frozen dough at convenience stores, which is what they did. Traditionally you pour molasses on them and gobble them up. Fully loaded, we headed down the west coast with plans to do a hike or two. The one we chose to start with was called Green Gardens and had a short and long option. Although we are not experienced hikers like Sarah and Jill, we are in decent shape, have appropriate footgear, and are game for the experience. So we all agreed to go all the way on the long trail. Well, this was like no other hike in the world. All told, it lasted about 7 hours and 13.7 km (8.5 miles). The terrain had everything except snow: flatlands, fields (teeming with thistles), steep inclines up and down mountains and cliffs, rivers to be forded, rocky coastal shores, sandy coastal shores, mud, forests, moose droppings – and on and on. The weather ended up being amazing. Although Joe was freezing when we arrived at the hike, he was vindicated later on for his decision to wear shorts and a t-shirt.
The hike was simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting, but it wasn’t without its injuries: after we marked the half-way point, Sarah irritated a previously existing knee condition that resulted in her needing a makeshift cane (tree branch) to go down hills but was able to – and usually did – run up the inclines. It was good for us, because we could pass Jill and Sarah on the downhills and then they would catch up to us on the uphills. But the one thing that kept us all going that day (aside from the fact that there was no earthly choice but to complete it because no one was ever going to come look for us) was the knowledge that we had already decided where we were going to have dinner since a nearby restaurant had recently been written up in the PEI newspaper for their fish cakes, which are like crab cakes but made with salt cod and potatoes and other tasty ingredients. All day long we imagined our first bites of fish cakes.
After seven hours of an intensely grueling but way fun and enjoyable workout, we headed to the restaurant only to discover that they only served fish cakes for lunch and had none left that day even if we had pleaded and/or bribed them. But it wasn’t a total loss: Sarah had a fantastic cod filet (caught that morning) and Erik tried a Newfoundland fish called capelin (or caplin), which was good and reminded us all of smelt. There was also a live harp player performing folk songs, and we discovered Quidi Vidi, a Newfoundland beer that is actually quite good. Curiously, we all seemed to forget that we were 1.5 hours from our campsite – in the daylight. At night time it became 2 hours because of the moose we had to watch out for. But we made it back safely and hit the sack as soon as humanly possible.
Monday breakfast was cooked – yes, cooked - oatmeal (we didn’t want to subject Sarah and Jill to our usual cold oats in cold milk). We packed up camp and headed farther north up the west coast. We stopped here and there in the small cove communities and visited some unique places as we saw them, including a geological formation called The Arches. Our one intentional destination on this day of driving was another restaurant, this one in Port au Choix, that the PEI newspaper article also claimed had tasty fish cakes. Not only did it not have fish cakes – the writer of the article was FROM Port au Choix. Something was smelling fishy. Actually, every place smelled fishy. Going on 6:00 P.M., we arrived in Raleigh, near the northern tippy top of Newfoundland. Toutons were on the menu for dinner, and the long underwear was again donned for the evening.
Tuesday was another very full day. The weather was dreary, cloudy, cold, and rainy. Knowing our plans for the day, Joe left wearing six layers including long underwear and rain pants. (Are you tired of hearing about long underwear yet?) We left in the morning planning to hunt for icebergs as we made our way to L’Anse aux Meadows and then St. Anthony. We didn’t have to look too hard to find icebergs. They were everywhere. And they were amazing. More information on icebergs will be in the next post, but we spent the morning driving around the coves and observing the enormous chucks of what used to be a glacier. These were the first icebergs sightings ever for Sarah, Joe and Erik. Then we headed to L’Anse aux Meadows to see the site of a 1000-year old VIking settlement, the very clever artifacts of its inhabitants, and the historic recreation of a Viking village. Erik, being 100% Swedish, communed with his ancestors. As we headed to St. Anthony for a boat ride that was to take us out to sea to drive around bigger icebergs and look for whales, dolphins, and puffins, Erik realized… the camera battery was dead.
What happened next? Stay tuned.
Next Episode: The hunt for icebergs and fish cakes continues.