Thursday, July 22, 2010

Newfoundland: July 21

Cugina’s gift: stick of stain cleaner; a bag of toiletries. Just the thing for the last seven days!
Here are some things I forgot to mention in the previous blogs.
Edible plants: we are presented with yellow, white and purple pansies on our plates (which, when we become brave enough to eat them, are kind of tasteless); at Twine Loft, we eat a chive blossom, which is really quite spicy. The edible plants grow with wild abandon all over the place.
Boil Up: this is the name of the cook-out, like we had on Sound Island. There, the kettles were black with previous fires, but they boiled up a great cup of tea, according to those who sipped.
Hills: the hillsides here often resemble gigantic cats in repose during chilly weather. Their hind legs are tucked under, so their haunches are rounded, their fore legs are squeezed close to the body, and their heads are flat on the ground. The rocks add features and the greenery adds colour.
Rocks: Some of the rocks are so intricate with colour and lines that the remind me of native masks, as though they are carved out of wood and painted.
Moss: Everywhere we step, the ground is spongy with green and red moss. Varied shades create a multi-coloured carpet, dotted here and there with bluebells, purple irises, daisies and clover.
The People: Friendly, personable, helpful, the Newfoundlanders have chatted with us, smiled, assisted with directions, served efficiently and cheerfully, and generally shown us a wonderful time. They’re proud of being Newfies and don’t care if we use that word as a description: they feel sorry for the rest of Canada, because we don’t live here. The thick Newfie accent is being lost, but it’s still prevalent off the beaten paths; the lyrical notes of their speech are immediately captivating.
Some of Chris’s stories (from Sea Whale Adventures): Sometimes, a moose will lean too far over the cliff trying to reach a tasty leaf and will end up having to swim back to shore. Some of them actually don’t survive the fall. The bald eagles sometimes drown if they capture a fish that’s too big for them. It seems that their claws will not unlock until they land, so if they have a big one in their clutches and can’t get the momentum to fly, they have to swim. Or sink, as the case may be. Talk about your eyes being too big for your stomach.
Shrinkage: I don’t know why, but my clothes have been shrinking right there in my suitcase.
Heritage: During their excellent adventure while the rest went whaling, Rita and Mike happen upon the village where Rita’s great-grandparents were married. It’s called Open Hall and she is thrilled. No other members of the family have visited here. She can’t wait to share the pictures.
Back to the Adventure:
We say good-bye to Trinity and drive to Elliston. It’s raining and about 18 degrees. The vistas are still lovely in the mist.
We stop at a national park and walk up a pathway through the rock and grass. On the other side of the hill, an incredible view spreads out before us. Huge rock formations and outcroppings have been carved out of the land – I guess from wind and water and storms that have bitten off chunks of the rock, but such violent beginnings have created an artistic landscape that is both peaceful and wild. Outcroppings, crevices, small canyons and rocky islands surround the arm of land upon which we stand. The wind blows relentlessly, but the air has turned warmer again, so our jackets keep us toasty.
We cross over a small bridge that overlooks a beach where the stones have been washed smooth and round. Now we arrive on a huge flat cliff top, carpeted with green grass and multi-hewed moss. On the enormous outcropping in front of us, the cliff face is covered in birds: puffins galore; gannets (which we mistake for sea gulls), murres, and real gulls. We meet a photographer from Germany, Gerhardt, who is here to capture the hatching of some black guillemots. He points out the nest and the two little black and white birds sitting guard.
Below us, waves pound white against the shore, gusts of seawater salt the air. The view and the sounds are breathtaking, though the mist and rain are not making photography optimum. Bluebells, daisies, clover, and deep green grasses lead us back to the cars.
Our second stop is Landfall Municipal Park, the site of John Cabot’s landing (although his real name was Giovanni Caboto). A huge statue of him overlooks the bona vista. And what a miraculous vista it is! Deep caverns lie far below us where the sea rolls and crashes against the shore. Currents are sucked into the gorges, then swell back out again, swamping the rock formations. It’s addictive, standing out here in the mist and wind, listening to the sounds of the birds, the moan of the foghorn, and the puff of whales in the distance. Dennis and I use the outhouses and he takes a picture of me just as I exit the little brown building. Not fair and not one for the Facebook profile!
But we get on the road to our next destination – the Bonavista Lighthouse. Built in 1842, it was a highly sought-after position to be keeper here because of its location and a road that went into Bonavista even back then. We take a tour, led by women in 1870’s dress, and learn a great deal about life back then. Keeping the light going, having to adjust the timers every two hours every single day, must have been exhausting work. We’re lucky enough to be able to climb right up into the old lighthouse itself. The fog horn is loud here; the new lighthouse does the work electronically. In the early days, they used whale oil and coal to fire up the glass candles for light and to create warmth in their little stoves. The rooms are exquisitely restored with furniture, carpets and even toys from that era. A sample of how the rugs were hooked sits on the second floor. This family was comparatively well off; the wife of the keeper was Margaret Ryan – a daughter of the very rich James Ryan. Lighthouse keepers were paid $400 cash a year (everyone else was on the barter system) plus all their supplies, and of course their lodging. There were no female lighthouse keepers; the job got handed down from father to son. No son, and you were replaced.
In the town, we stop at the replica of the Matthew, the ship on which John Cabot traveled over the Atlantic. We all agree that we wouldn’t have wanted to do that. It was built in 1997 to mark the 500th anniversary of the voyage. On the way out of Bonavista, we drive through the town, which is fairly large and very beautiful. Vince and Dennis met a crab fisherman on the dock who said “You wouldn’t want to be here in the winter”, but now the sun comes out and it’s hard to imagine. There’s a theatre here and the Bonavista Memorial United church glistens in the sunlight, brown lines on white paint, gorgeous stained glass windows. The sea laps on the shore behind it. There’s a huge fishery too. This is a place in which we could spend more time. Maybe next visit.
As we travel toward Newtown, a myriad of beautiful coves appear around every bend in the road, each one as lovely as the last, blue water and coloured rocks, fringed by evergreen. Between gasping at the sight of the little towns, we sing songs from the 50’s and 60’s at the top of our lungs as the fluffy white clouds sail by and the wind whips in from the sunroof. We see villages like Amherst Cove and King’s Cove. Plate Cove West is somewhat larger; the water is flat and dark blue; the sun dances over its placid surface. Summerville is tucked behind an arm of land; protected from the wind, the harbour is still and peaceful. Most of the houses in this area are white, which seems apt: their milky surfaces shine pure and lovely against the blue and green backgrounds.
We stop for lunch at The View Golf Course, where Mike and Rita came on their wanderings yesterday. Rita is right: the view is mesmerizing. We sit on the porch overlooking the sea where we went whaling. Mike and Rita saw us go out from here! We leave the hills, trees and sea reluctantly, but just as we are leaving, the bald eagle flies right overhead, saying so long. We tell the owner we’ll stay longer next time.
Our last stop before Newtown is a gas station in Gambo, another beautiful spot, spread along a finger of land between the ocean and the river. It’s famous for two reasons: Joey Smallwood was born here and this is where Rita’s grandparents lived.
Now we head as quickly as we can (and still drive safely) toward the little town where we’ll enjoy a dinner theatre experience. Newtown is right on the ocean at the largest northeastern point of the Island. It's called the Venice of Newfoundland because it's a series of connected islands and it lives up to its name in beauty, as the sun sets over the channels and a gorgeous half moon arises.
Our accommodations are two cottages in Lumsden, a nearby village. They are small, but cute and comfortable.
The dinner is a great country fare, self served. The play is called Petty Cash: The Has Been Who Never Was. It's well written, the actors do a good job, especially the one who plays "Pablo". When we leave, there's a myriad of stars hovering above us. I get up some time in the night, and they seem to have moved even closer. Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket...See you tomorrow.
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