Cugina’s gift: socks, caviar bath salts, and soothing foot lotion. Preparation for the walk through the magnificent Gros Morne National Park?
The next morning, we are able to take the Trans Canada Highway until we get to the Park. It’s smooth and fast. Overhead, dark clouds swirl, and we prepare ourselves for rain. Evergreens and the occasional waterway guide us along.
When we reach Gros Morne, the landscape alters again. The mountains are just suddenly there: towering above us, thick slices of granite and slate that have pushed together billions of years ago into these gigantic monoliths. The roads winds through the valleys, up ad down along the mountainsides. A sea of evergreen blankets the hills, except where the rock sticks its interesting face out to look at us. Some of the mountains look as though they are covered with a green lid. Here and there, like a scar on a human body, a length of light green grass signals a hydro line. There are wildflowers everywhere; the scent of clover on the wind.
I read that the mountains are actually part of the Appalachian chain. On the map, I spot peaks of up to 900 metres plus.
A sign as we travel through the peaks tells us that 20 moose have been killed on this road in 2010 so far. It depicts a huge animal, his antlers tipped toward the crumpled front end of a car. But so far, we have not seen a moose.
When we dip toward Norris Point, we stop at a look-out and there are the Tablelands. These formations are flat-topped and completely naked on vegetation, giving them an eerie yet beautiful barren visage. In the waning light of evening, they look reddish (though we only glimpse this phenomenon once, a little later).
Cugina’s daily itinerary tells us that the Tablelands are devoid of vegetation because of a deadly beauty: the rock peridotite, which contains absolutely no nutrients capable of fostering life.
We check at the Sugar Hill Inn, but we’re early so our rooms aren’t quite ready. At the innkeeper’s suggestion, we drive into Rocky Harbour for lunch at Java Jack’s. The garden in front of this little yellow house is phenomenal and there is its caretaker: in her bonnet and gloves, she makes a perfect picture. She’s talkative and friendly – of course: she’s from Newfoundland. Lunch is served by another Wendy, a quick-witted lovely young woman who entertains as well as delivers a scrumptious lunch.
Back at the Sugar Hill Inn, we find lovely rooms, a whole Astolfo wing in fact, since our rooms are connected by a hallway with no other rooms on either side. Wendy and Dennis have a nice suite and Carolyn and Jim are in the cottage. We spend some time unpacking and resting. There’s a beautiful lounge upstairs and a fine dining area, from which delicious scents begin to waft. Downstairs there’s a hot tub.
Now, sadly, the rain has set in. It’s a bit drizzly at first, but when Rita, Wendy, Dennis and I go out scouting – Neddy’s Harbour, back to Rocky Harbour, into the heart of Norris Point – it begins to pour. Nevertheless, the four of us see the gorgeous harbour towns, the points where all the rivers and the bay merge, the Tablelands flat against the sky. We poke into a few gift shops and a pub where a young man sings to the crowd, until the rain chases him (and them) away. We watch a huge ship operation in Norris Point: an enormous claw picks up road salt from the belly of the boat and transfers it to various trucks. The supervisor tells us the salt is from Nova Scotia.
On the way back to the Sugar Hill Inn, the downpour has really settled on top of us.
Despite the fact that the last ten days have mostly been perfect, we still feel gloomy: here we are in this gorgeous place and it’s shrouded in clouds and rain.
We have a nice dinner at the Pittman’s Restaurant on the bay, then play two rounds of 31 in the lounge upstairs.
If only we could see one moose…