Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Newfoundland: July 19-20

I forgot to tell you another story from Woody Island – this time from Loyola’s brother Gary. Gary has a lyrical accent and tells his tales with such alacrity that some of us have a hard time following. But it’s about a priest (Father Carricioli we think – never mind the spelling) who loved to swim every day, no matter what time of the year. Sometimes he’d go out in his long black robes and was almost mistaken for a seal once or twice. Even in the winter, he’d cut a hole in the ice to go for a dip. He lived until he was 98. All that swimming, Gary tells us, is the reason the priest died so young.

We arrive back at Garden Cove around 3 p.m. and pile into our cars. The drive to Trinity is beautiful, surrounded by trees on all sides, but when we actually get to the little town, we are smitten on sight. Trinity, the Bay, is enormous, a huge rectangle open on one side to the Atlantic. Along its coastline, there are towns with names like Tickle Harbour, Come by Chance, Little Heart’s Ease, Heart’s Delight and Heart’s Desire. It has a rich naval history because of its size and the protection is offers from the open ocean. All of the settlements have been therefore shaped by the sea.
Trinity, the village, is so beautiful that I find it hard to believe it’s not Whistler-built: artificially constructed to be perfect. But it’s not: the homes are old and have stories that go back centuries. Trinity is nestled in a little cove, surrounded by fingers of green land and blue sea. The trees are so numerous and straight as they climb the hillside that they look like giant asparagus tied together in a bunch.
Mike, Rita, Carolyn and Jim are housed at the Artisan Inn, which is right next door to the Twine Loft dining room (which used to be a fishing store) and overlooking a sliver of water. Cugina, Dennis, Vince and I are going to spend the two nights in a house, a lovely two-bedroom clapboard home that faces another spit of water and land, where the lighthouse perches, still fully functional. (In fact, Vince wakes up in the night to catch the gentle light turning toward us, then away, a silent sentry.) It overlooks the Sherwink cliffs.
The houses are primarily clapboard, which seems to be everywhere in Newfoundland. Since they’re completely surrounded by trees, this makes sense. There is only one brick building, and it was the first brick house to be built in all of Newfoundland. The houses are all different colours, which seem to blend into the landscape with artistic freedom. Deep blue, dark and light green, yellow, rusty orange, they have beautiful lines, with their large windows and slanted roofs, wide wrap-around porches and gardens. Coloured fences, along with the traditional white picket ones, protect blankets of clover, lupin, daisies, buttercups and roses. Clover dots the sidelines with purple or white. There’s always a sweet fragrance on the wind.
The rocks, as impossible as it may seem, add to the beauty because they are every different hue and line. Slate smears through a hill of granite. Purple-tinged, yellow, orange, white and black, the stones and rocks are, of course, what gave Newfoundland its nickname: The Rock. Boats and ships bob on the water between the channels (called tickles) and lobster traps are neatly piled here and there across the landscape. Old churches are plentiful in Trinity: we visit the oldest, an Anglican one, which looks like an inverted ship from inside, the ribs of its ceiling are dark wood and very old. The Catholic Church is the oldest wooden church in Newfoundland. Both have lovely stained glass, and the Anglican church sports lovely painted lines and windows. The gravestones are nearly wiped of their messages time. They have bent over in winds and rains, and some have been glued back together.
The Rising Tide Theatre is a beautiful reddish building right by the inlet. There are shows on all the time, but we choose not to see one, since we’re booked for a dinner theatre on Wednesday.
We have a delicious, leisurely dinner at the Twine Loft, after which Dennis and I are sitting on the dock when an otter swims by. He is sleep and brown, his little head just above the silky water. He dives underneath the surface when Vince comes to take a picture of him.
We have a fairly early night, tired out from all the partying!

July 20
The next morning, we have breakfast early and set out on the Sea Whale Adventures trip. We meet Chris, who is young, enthusiastic, and glad to see us. He tells us up front that he loves his job, that every trip is different so it’s never boring. We use the washroom at his Grandma’s place. She’s frail and sweet. Later we find out that she’s the one who, when Chris was searching for meaningful work, told him, “It doesn’t matter what you does, as long as you loves it.”
We climb into huge red coveralls called Helly Hansen flotation suits, designed to keep us dry and warm. Chris also hands out toques and gloves. Once attired, we all agree that we look simply gorgeous.
There are eight of us – Vince and I, Cugina and Dennis, Carolyn and Jim, and a couple from Kitchener: Gary and Lisa. We climb aboard a blue 25-foot Zodiac. We are particularly graceful because of the suits.
On the first leg of the journey, we spy some minke whales cavorting in the bay. Chris steers us near a waterfall, which is where he says young men take their girlfriends and their mothers. We see a huge adult bald eagle take wing from the rock face. He shows us their nest, high on a cliffside, but the baby has snuggled down and we can’t see him very well. Chris promises to come back.
We see a few more minkes, smaller, sleek whales that are busy feeding. Only their shiny backs are visible at the surface.
Chris has a musical voice that radiates his excitement. He is “hooked” on whales and, in fact, on nature in general. He has an instinctive way of teaching, as he shares his experiences and stories, as well as information about the whales. He tells us that usually he follows the adage, “Love the whale you got”, but asks us if we want to go in search of humpback and fin. We give him a resounding yes.
Just as we reach the mouth of the bay, there they are: two of them – fin whales. They are prettier than the humpback, with lovely smooth black and white skin and a thick, sturdy fin. Chris tells us they are “hard workers”, less showy than the humpback, but also a less common sight. He advises us to love the whales we got, and we do. There are two of them, feeding on capelin along the shore. We follow them as they dip below, graze, and come puffing to the surface. They are so beautiful that we scarcely notice the rain beginning to pelt our Helly Hansen suits; we simply draw up the hoods. The rain doesn’t last very long and once again, the sun struggles to shine.
Chris tells us how to differentiate male from female, but I forget, so I just dub them female. They chase the capelin into shore by flashing their white bellies, which for some reason frightens the fish. (I would have thought the sheer size of the whale alone would do that.) The fish race toward the shore, where they are suddenly swallowed up by a giant mouth. Chris comforts us by saying that the whales could also swallow our boat in one gulp.
Once our fins are satiated, they come over to say hello. We gaze in wonder as they swim leisurely around us, leaving a flat oval of water when they dive deeper. Suddenly, there she is: about ten feet away, surfacing right beside the boat, her enormous body dwarfing our not-so-little Zodiac. She puffs, as though in greeting. We are all silent in amazement and reverence for this gorgeous, gentle animal, who could indeed swallow us, but who comes to play instead.
Soon after this encounter, it’s time to reluctantly return to shore. On the way, we stop again at the eagle’s nest and there is the baby, sitting proud and fat and strong on the cliff. Vince gets some incredible pictures.
We have lunch at the dockside restaurant and then stroll around the village for the afternoon. It’s a lovely day once again; we have been so lucky with the weather! There are many pretty gift shops and historical buildings in Trinity. Vince and I meander together; he gets a ton of unusual shots. Quite a number of tourists are walking around enjoying the sunshine.
Later, we have Happy Hour at our house and then head back to the Twine Loft for dinner. Afterward, everyone comes over for our own kitchen party, which really turns into a rousing game of cards. Before we know it, we’re all yawning and ready for our comfortable beds.
When we wake up (July 21), the fog horn is sounding a mournful warning out on the bay. The prognosis for the weather looks good, however. Amazing! After breakfast, we’re off on another adventure. Each time I ask, how could this get better? And then it does.
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