Saturday, July 17, 2010

Newfoundland: July 17, 2010

After a sumptuous feast of fruit, granola, biscuits, berries and waffles, we hug Bill and Wanda good-bye. (BTW, their house is right across the street from where The Republic of Doyle is filmed, just in case you watch it.) We head off for the Irish Loop, which Cugina's daily schedule describes as "beautiful coastal communities beside a panorama of rugged shore and outport loveliness". It's an apt description. The rocky cliffs ring the roads; the trees are like an old green fence, bent in the direction of the wind. We arrive at the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve near Trepassey for our reserved boat adventure. The sun is warm and the wind refreshing, but as we head out to sea, the waves are high and the ship plows up and then down again, a swing and a dip, which I love.
Our hosts, Anthony, Jack, Captain Al, and Jimmy of Gatherall's, are funny as well as talented singers and tour guides. We arrive first at Gull Island, where thousands of birds huddle on the rocks, slip and slide as they climb the steep sides, fly in clouds of wings above us. Puffins are almost as numerous as the sea gulls; they flap their small duck wings furiously to combat the wind and propel their chubby little bodies. They are beautiful, with their orange beaks and feet. We then roller coaster further out to sea and suddenly we are surrounded by whales, spouts everywhere, Captain Al says there are about 50 in the area. The humpbacks are the most playful.
With a swish and a loud puff of water, two female humpbacks start to swim alongside our ship. Their backs and fins shine like ebony in the sun; they take a leisurely stroll with us as we traverse the waters. Now we have swung about and are following the roll of the sea, accompanied by our beautiful ladies. Then Captain Al spies a male far out to the right of us - he is cavorting and showing off for the two or three boats that have come out to enjoy his antics. We're not certain we can get there on time; the Captain says that they are unpredictable in their play times. But sure enough, our fellow is still dancing in the water: his tail lifts up and out, glinted white and silver, sometimes slipping gracefully under the waves, sometimes slapping a loud tattoo. Then he comes right up to us, proud and joyful, showing us what he can do. Tail up, down, sprays of white foam. Rolling over, fins in the air, first one, then two, then one again. This time he slaps the surface with his fin and the sound reverberates throughout the bay. Then he dives and comes back up, puffing up spray, right beside us, so close we feel as though we could touch him. Hello gorgeous, I say in my Barbra Streisand voice, and he slaps the surface again. Vince and I catch each other's eyes and the emotion of this moment overwhelms us: we both want to weep with the beauty of this animal and the gift that he has just given us. The whale continues to roll and cavort until we have to reluctantly head back to shore. Vince has captured the most incredible pictures. We can't wait to share them.
Back in the cars, we traverse the winding roads of the Irish Loop, old Elvis songs pulsing through the speakers. Rita talks about what we learned at The Rooms yesterday - the interesting history of the Irish immigration to Newfoundland. We stop in Ferryland, where a beautiful flat ocean dotted with verdant islands and ringed by emerald hills waits to teach us about this land. It's an open air archeology site, with signs everywhere that speak of the history and the heritage. We drive up close to the lighthouse on the peninsula, where the air is suddenly cold from the open sea. Driving back down the narrow road presents a challenge, but we manage.
Back on the road again, we are awed by the enormous wind turbines, which looks like giant preying mantises on the hillsides. The warm air is back among the protected hillsides.
We have lunch at Harbourview Restaurant in Fermeuse Harbour, where our server is waitress, cook, and dishwasher. The food is simple and delicious.
Further along the coast, we stop for a short time at St. Vincent's, which is a favourite dining spot for humpback whales. The capelin are numerous here, so the whales come very close to the shore. However, they are not expected for dinner until 7 p.m., so we drive on to Dildo.
The Inn on the Bay - George's House - is a beautiful old house on a hill, a five star country inn. We have the entire top floor, four lovely, comfortable rooms. Ours has a jacuzzi! We have appetizers and wine or beer on the front lawn, take pictures, rest and laugh. Later we head out for the Dildo Dory Grill. Dinner is incredible.
By now, I am exhausted, so Vince, Rita and Mike and I return to the Inn. Wendy, Dennis, Carolyn and Jim head off to a local dance and music fest. I relax in the tub, the jets massaging tired but happy muscles, then sit down to write. Tomorrow we head off to Woody Island, where there is no electricity. So, no blog 'til Monday.
We have a beautiful earth, my readers, let's shepherd it carefully. G'nite.
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