So we’re finally here – in Newfinlan, affectionately known as The Rock. It takes exactly five minutes to figure out why – this island is built to last. After we landed in Port au Basques, our first destination was Gros Morne National Park – about a four-hour drive up the western coast. There is a fair bit of road construction going on and I imagine the going is a little slower than other parts of the country. Now these are rocks – we drove for about 50 km. beside these massive boulders, and watched two-storey drills trying to break them up.
We’re camping about 6 km. from Rocky Harbour, one of the Park’s main little towns.
Rocky Harbour offers all the staples one might need – ice, basic groceries, liquor and fudge. A number of “home-cooking” restaurants feature notable Newfoundland specials such as moose burgers and stew, toutons (deep-fried bread), and cod au gratin (pronounced gratten). Newfoundland is not noted for its delicate or innovative food – this is a cuisine based on what is available – anything that can be fished, hunted or grown. It is basic scoff served with walloping sides of hospitality.
Rocky Harbour also caters to the souvenir-hunters:
Our campground is very well-equipped, with spotless showers and washrooms, laundry and a shelter with big wood stoves and twin sinks for washing dishes. We appreciated the shelter the first day, as it poured rain for most of the morning.
There is no wifi at the campground and I’m writing this from the Visitor’s Centre, which is a bit spotty. Wifi is an issue on this coast and will get worse the further north we go. My next couple of blog postings may reflect that with fewer photos and less narrative.
Gros Morne Park cannot possibly be “done” in just four days, but as an advertising blurb goes, “we’ll just have to come back.” It is a staggeringly beautiful area – I felt a little choked up on our hike yesterday; it is a privilege to be here.
Gros Morne was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique geological features, and while there are a number of museums and local festivals, most tourists are here for the great outdoors.
There are over 30 trails, ranging in length from 1-16 km. as well as a multi-day backcountry hike. We managed to fit in five of them.
Green Point was a remarkable site. We were lucky to run into tourists from Virginia who could explain the rock formation in layman’s terms. Basically, the earth tilted and went sideways (millions of years ago), and shoved up the many layers of rock into the air. This was once the bottom of an ocean, and is the world geological benchmark for the start of the Ordovician period. (and no, I have no idea what that means).
The simple act of driving in the Park is a delight – there are no bad views. Motorcyclists are in heaven – they are nimble enough to dodge potholes and often have the road to themselves. We spoke to a man from Scotland yesterday – he was taking three months to ride his bike from Nfld. to Vancouver Island.
The skies are pure drama. We’ve been lucky with the weather in our four days – three out of four have been clear. Weather forecasts are almost pointless – you know what weather you’re getting when it arrives. Clouds like this are a good indication that it’s time to pull out your raincoat.
If it is picturesque fishing shack photos you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. They are abandoned…
…and in full use.
We went to Norris Point on our first morning here, in search of an indoor activity, since it was pouring rain. The Bonne Bay Marine Station was a hit; a young biologist took a group of us around the tanks to see blue lobsters, explain how crabs regenerate missing claws, and showed us tiny jellyfish (that grow to 100 feet in the ocean). As we left the building, the rain was just letting up.
Norris Point is one of a number of towns with this designation. I like it – it matches perfectly the appearance of most towns – not fussy, not overdone, just…tidy.
We took a hike out to Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse. It is so quintessentially East Coast, it looks Photoshopped.
It is the original light keeper’s home and has been redone to demonstrate the heritage of the place – right down to the (new) wood stove from Elmira, Ontario! One of the park staff brought out an ugly stick and encouraged one of the spectators to hold the songbook so she could sing and play. A stout stick has dozens of beer caps attached, with a rubber boot on the bottom and a Carnation milk tin on top – the player bangs a stick on this contraption and sings, and bingo – a kitchen party.
We headed south to hike the area around Woody Point – about an hour’s drive away. By the time we got there, the skies had closed in and the winds were picking up, so our plan to hike the 9-km. Green Gardens trail was cut a little short – we did a total of 6 km. – didn’t quite make it down to the beach, but it was still a fantastic hike. In many places, the trail was very steep and muddy, so it was our most challenging hike.
The highlight for us was the Western Brook Pond hike and boat ride. Western Brook Pond is a freshwater lake with billion-year-old 650-ft. cliffs. , accessible only by a 3-km. hike in, on lovely soft paths and boardwalks. On either side of the boardwalk is peat – five meters deep.
The boat has 99 passengers, but only room for 45 on the upper level, so we lined up in order to make a rush for the stairs. We had a perfect view, and for two hours listened to our guides talk about various points of interest. It was a mesmerizing experience.
The guides were fantastic – on the way back one of them pulled out a guitar and got the crowd singing and clapping. One woman leaped to her feet and danced a jig for the entire length of “Eye’s the Bye” . Someone called out and wondered where all the moose were, and the quick-witted response, ” If you’re not a Newfoundlander, they’re not interested in you.”
So that explains it. We’ve had eyes peeled since we arrived, but have seen nothing more exciting than a chipmunk.
Our last hike today was a lovely coastal stroll for 6 km. – first through a forest canopy.
All too short a time here, unfortunately. I suspect that will be the case wherever we go. We pack up camp tomorrow (in the rain – it is raining right now) – to make our way north to St. Anthony’s. We’ll check out the Vikings, and hope for whales and iceberg sightings.
See you again soon, wifi permitting.
11 thoughts on “Life is sweet on The Rock”
Snatny you mean! Had our best seafood meal there. Isn’t it amazing? Loved the Viking experience. Are you going right across? Great post again.
Linda, you’ve lost me! What is “snatny”? We’ve had great fish here – all local. Yes, we’re leaving St. Anthony’s tomorrow and beginning the drive to St. john’s. Here for another 10 days, and it’s not nearly long enough. LOTS of stories and photos coming.
Wonderful job, Ginny. Don’t see anything on here about Screech!
I’m saving myself.
Ginny, If you go to Twillingate– and go to Crow’s Head– drop into the Crow’s Head cafe and say a big hello to Ted & Kate from Dona and Eric.
Hi Eric and Dona! We will do that – we’ll be in Twillingate in just over a week. We’ll be sure to look your friends up.
A grad of ours, Caroline, is cooking at the Hungry Heart Cafe a social enterprise restaurant for Stella’s Circle in St John. I think she runs the kitchen. Look her up and tell her I sent you. She is a great cook and is passionate about food and helping people. Love her. Will visit one day.
For sure we will look up Caroline at the Hungry Heart. Thanks for letting us know about it.
Love sharing the journey with you! Your blogs should be on CBC….(or in a book??!!)
Thanks Kris – there may be a book in this, for sure. it would have to be a series, as we will spend years travelling in Canada and never see it all.
btw, i thought of you and Gord the other day when I nearly wrecked our brakes coming down a hellish hill. I sat on the brakes rather pumped them (I do know better), and when we stopped for gas and started up again, it sounded like we were scraping metal on the ground – quite scary.
Anyway, it all sorted out, brakes are fine and was a good reminder of a) I need to drive properly on steep hills and b) you two did those hellish hills on bicycles. Incredible.
I found the picture taken when you were at Green Point fascinating. It’s hard to believe the force of nature at times. It’s even harder to conceive that was once the bottom of the ocean. Such a rich and varied landscape the two of you are experiencing!