McCarthy’s Party Newfoundland Tour Meet & Greet Aug 20, 2014

Glynmill Pond

Glynmill Pond

Our day got off to a leisurely start as we had all morning before meeting our tour people at the Deer Lake Airport at 1:30 p.m.  Last night we sorted through our belongings to decide what will come on tour with us and what will stay behind in the car. Surprisingly we had a great deal of stuff left in the trunk, but our suitcases seemed pretty full – both of us had to open the extender on the suitcases.  The morning got off to a good start with some blue skies but that ended very soon and the rain and cloud moved in and remained all day. We left early to get to the airport and were there long before we needed to.  We had driven out the previous day to get a heads up on the lay out etc. We spoke to the parking lot attendant who mentioned the lot might be full today but assured me she would find somewhere for us. Upon arrival the lot was indeed full.  She ensured we got a spot in the Employees parking lot and arranged a driver to pick me up and take me to the terminal, despite the fact it was walking distance.  I had already dropped Brian and the bags off so had only a purse and umbrella to carry. Very thoughtful people!

We had a few hours of waiting so we sat and read and had lunch at the on sight cafeteria.  The café was surprising as it had a generous menu and was reasonably priced.  No pre-wrapped food here. Eventually the rep from McCarthy’s Party came into the terminal. He had to wait for two planes to land so we went to the bus where our bags were tagged and loaded and we board the bus to wait for the rest.  There was 4 people already on board and bit by bit we became a group of 15 or so.

Ski Hill just outside of Corner Brook

Ski Hill just outside of Corner Brook

Several people had come in early and had been at the hotel for a day or two and several others were coming in the evening.  We arrived at the Glynmill Inn just before 3 and quickly dispatched to our rooms. Tonight we had a meeting to meet our fellow travellers and review some details of the trip.  Looking around the room, we are a very senior group including some with mobility issues. I do hope there will be an opportunity for some exploring for those of us who can still do some hiking.

The Inn is built in a Tudor style and has been declared a heritage building.

Glynmill Inn - as seen from the pond

Glynmill Inn – as seen from the pond

It was built in 1923 for the Armstrong Whitworth Co of England who built the pulp and paper mill here. They built the hotel as their senior staff needed living quarters and later became an executive guesthouse for the NFLD Pulp and Paper Co.  They added to the building in 1974 but kept the addition to the back and kept the exterior to form as much as possible.  We dined in the dining room this evening and it is a very nice elegant old building complete with creaky stairs and floors.

This afternoon to chase away the cobwebs I took a little hike on the nearby trail, over to Glynmill Pond. It was a nice walk despite the light rain and was refreshing. Tomorrow we start out with a tour around Corner Brook then on the Gros Morne National Park.  We are starting the tour with a big bang.  Hopefully the rain will let up allowing for some great photos.

Took this photo at the pond - the lighting provided a mirror shadow of the swan and her neck - almost forming a heart shape.

Took this photo at the pond – the lighting provided a mirror shadow of the swan and her neck – almost forming a heart shape.

Corner Brook to Gros Morne and Plum Point Aug 21, 2014

Last look at Corner Brook taken from Captain Cook look out

Last look at Corner Brook taken from Captain Cook look out

Let the tour begin. Bags out by 7 a.m., breakfast then hit the road at 8 a.m.  We spent a brief amount of time touring Corner Brook and learning a bit of the city’s history. In the early 1900s a pulp and paper mill was built and in order for the mill to have the needed electricity, the company built a power plant as well. At one time  Newfoundland had three mills but the demand has dropped and the other two mills closed. Krueger Pulp & Paper in Corner Brook hung on – one – they have their own cheap source of power – two – the province provided  $19 million to keep it open and provide jobs. Recently when Newfoundland suffered a power shortage with rolling blackouts, the Company diverted power into the provincial system, the least they could do for the 19 million bailout.  Our first stop of the day was the Captain Cook lookout, overlooking the city of Crook Brook. Captain Cook using rudimentary tools, mapped out the entire shoreline of Newfoundland and when compared to today’s maps are almost spot on.

Leaving Corner Brook we head north through the Humber Valley, past the local ski hill “ Marble Mountain.”  The Humber River is well known for it’s great salmon fishing. The river is 120 km long which doesn’t seem that long, but is one of Newfoundland’s longest rivers. You can take a boat cruise up the river from Corner Brook and given the scenery of the Humber Valley, it would be a wonderful scenic tour.

Reflections in water

Reflections in water

Our tour guide Joe is quite a character and has quite the sense of humour. He tells a good joke and keeps us informed as the miles pass along. Joe is a native “Newfie” and has shared his experiences growing up and living in Newfoundland. Nfld has many remote communities  and he explains how they continue to survive and the government’s efforts to relocate residents giving them better access to health and education. One lady on our tour asked how people heated their homes and the answer was “wood.” Most of the land in Newfoundland is crown land. Each family is allowed to cut 10 cords of wood for their own consumption. As we drive along the road we frequently come to see piles of logs.  We are told these are harvested for this winter’s consumption. Some homes supplement with electricity and some home still have the oil furnaces but oil tanks are being phased out.

Joe tells us we are likely to see moose in the next few days.

North Western Coastline

North Western Coastline

Moose are not native to Newfoundland but 4 moose were brought over in the early 1900s and have flourished. For many years the moose were hunted for their massive racks but now they have a controlled hunt and moose is a valued meat source for the locals. They believe the current moose population to be around 140,000.

Joe is teaching us some of the local language and here is a small sample

  • Newfoundland Air Force  – sea gulls
  • Tuckamore – a small evergreen tree that grows despite harsh conditions like wind, rain, snow and salty air.  They can be 100 years old but only 3’ high
  • Scoff – a big cooked meal
  • Scuff – a dance
  • Scoff & Scuff – dinner and a dance!
  • Mug Up – tea or coffee with a biscuit or light dessert

Tuckamore

Tuckamore

Today we entered Gros Morne National Park.  The park gets it’s name from the French words for “large mountain standing alone.” It’s part of the Long Range Mountains and a outlying range of the Appalachian Mountains. The park provides a rare example of the process of continental drift where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth’s mantle are exposed. As we are driving the Viking Trail along the coast, the mountains are visible off in the distance, and today shrouded with low cloud and fog.

This afternoon we stopped at Port au Choix where historic remains were found in the 60s by a man digging a basement.

Port Aux Choix - a very desolate location

Port Aux Choix – a very desolate location

The remains are thought to be in excess of 3000 years old.  They found no evidence of disease and it appears if one survived past the age of two, the person could expect a long healthy life. The skulls were examined and  indicated the people of this time had good dental health, although the teeth appeared worn from excessive chewing ie: softening hides.

We met most of our fellow travellers last evening. Today we are a group of 32, I think. We have four Americans, 2 from London England, several from Ontario,  six of us from Alberta and even two delightful ladies from Newfoundland.

We frequently see fishing equipment in the middle of no where along the coast

We frequently see fishing equipment in the middle of no where along the coast

It’s puzzling to me why people would pay a good deal of money to take this tour, then spend the day reading a book or sleeping as the stunning scenery passes by. I seem to be the keen photographer with only a few others taking occasion pictures. We do however have some keen souvenir collectors on tour.

Tomorrow we continue north to St Anthony and L’Anse aux Meadows – home of Lief the Lucky and the Viking people who settled the area. Tomorrow evening we will be treated to a Newfoundland style “Kitchen Party.”

View from the back of our Plum Point Motel

View from the back of our Plum Point Motel


Round trip–Plum Point to L’Anse aux Meadows to St Anthony and return to Plum Point Aug 22, 2014

shoreline scenery

shoreline scenery

On our way to L’Anse aux Meadows, we stop at a local craft store where we are treated to a video demonstrating the old ways of treating seal skins, ending with a product called “bark seal.” The methodology is labour intensive and takes many many weeks and hard effort to get the final product – seal hide completely stripped of fur and fat – then hand stitched into mitts and boots.  Years ago the seal hunt was very important to the northern people of Newfoundland. It was the first fresh food source in spring and provided the first income of the year. So valuable were the skins that when the hunters went out in ships to harvest seals, the pelts were stored in the belly of the ship while the men ate and slept on deck at the mercy of the elements.

Our guide Joe gave us more information about the harvesting of wood used to heat the homes in these remote areas of the island.

wood pile - 10 cords

wood pile – 10 cords

As mentioned in a previous blog, each family was allowed to harvest 10 cords of wood for their own use. They harvest the trees in winter when the logs can be moved easier overland using snow machines to pull the logs over the snow. The family’s wood in placed along the road and left to dry in the summer. Late summer the owner comes by to haul his wood by road to his home. The piles appear abandoned however upon a closer look the piles are numbered.  One has to apply each year for the wood permit and these piles have the permit number on them. Government inspectors will stop by these piles and measure them to ensure all the wood from the tree has been used and to ensure only ten cords have been harvested. Being government run you have to know there is bound to be some stupid regulations. I asked our guide what do people do who lack the ability to harvest their own wood.  Up until very recently they had no choice but to stich to electric heat.  They may have had a family member who could cut and haul the wood for them, but it was forbidden to do so!

more coastal scenery

more coastal scenery

Joe also talked about the fishing in Newfoundland and gave a fairly balance account of the fishery in this province.  The lack of fish had many causes – over fishing by large capacity boats, both local and internationally. One boat can now harvest in a matter of hours, what used to take a smaller boat ( usually family owned) several days to catch. The types of fishing methods used in modern day leaves the fish with no escape route so they may mature and reproduce. One interesting loss of fish was due to the fishermen of the area. Trying to assist the local fisheries the government of Newfoundland gave the fishermen FREE gill nets. A boat may put out 8 to 10 nets in hopes of catching the quota, but with free nets, they might put out 20 nets. Once they hauled the quota on board the remaining nets were simply cut loose, trapping the fish which eventually died.  These nets were sturdy nylon and last for years. Long after the practice stopped the floating “ghost” nets continued to trap and kill fish, long after the net had been cut free.

As we travelled along today were learned a bit more “Newfie’

  • splitz – small kindling wood
  • Newfoundland farm – a small garden plot found roadside and about 10 x 10 feet, containing root vegetables for harvesting late summer
  • swamp donkey – a small moose

After the craft store we hit the road to L’Anse aux Meadows. 

L'Anse aux Meadows

L’Anse aux Meadows

Remains have been found proving this area was inhabited about 1000 years ago by the Vikings. The Vikings were looking for resources like wood and fish. The reconstructions of three Norse buildings are the focal point of this archaeological site, the earliest known European settlement in the New World. The archaeological remains at the site were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Exhibits highlight the Viking lifestyle, artifacts, and the archaeological discovery of the site.P1050183 Today they continue to build replicas of Norse buildings.  They build a wooden frame from small peeled logs and fill in the walls with thick blocks of peat.( R value greater than 100) They remind me of the “soddies” built by the pioneers of prairies.

Leaving l”Anse aux Meadows, we head to St Anthony’s. We did not go to the Grenfell Center as we had a medical emergency to attend to. The centre interprets the life and times of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell. If you wish to learn more about this outstanding Doctor and humanitarian you may wish to check out http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/grenfell_wilfred_thomason_16E.html.

We retraced our trip today and returned to Plum Point around 5 p.m.

a silver of ice burg - very rare for this time of year

a silver of ice burg – very rare for this time of year

Dinner was on our own…very funny…the sole restaurant in miles is here at the hotel. We were told not to have dessert as after dinner we were invited to walk to the local church where we would be treated to a “Mug Up.”  The 12 ladies of this knitting guild ( a registered charity) host groups of tour.  They provide dessert and a hot beverage and have their crafts on sale.  All proceeds from these “ Mug Ups” go to their charity where they contribute in many ways to the people in the surrounding area. They provide overnight bags for locals having to make the 12 hour journey to St Johns for cancer treatment, in addition to giving cash to cover the expense of the travel. The donate money and merchandise to the battered women’s society, local volunteer fire department,the local church, food bank and clothing for new bornes as well as other comfort items to those in need. Our guide Joe provided music with either the guitar or a button accordion while the head of the charity joined in with song and dance.P1050227 Both loved to tell jokes and it felt almost like a “real kitchen party” complete with someone playing “the spoons.”

I couldn’t help but notice how comfortable our performers were. They are used to sining at groups with family and friends. This guild of knitters are a tight knit group of women and you can tell they have seen each other through good and bad times. Tonight we were afforded a glimpse of real community spirit and sense of belonging. It’s no wonder, people from this province feel such a strong tug to return to their roots where they belong.

As we left the party this evening we were treated to a lovely sunset – something we haven’t had in 14 days.

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Plum Point to Labrador–following the Coastal Drive to Red Bay, L’Anse au Clair and L’Anse Amour August 23, 2014

Cool crisp morning drive

Cool crisp morning drive

The very first day of our tour, our guide Joe told us this tour is at a leisurely pace. Well Joe is a much younger physically fit man with a bus load of very senior seniors.  Being out partying till after nine with a 5 a.m. wake up call this morning is not my idea of a leisurely pace! Keep in mind I write the blog at the end of every day, with the writing ending after midnight in yesterday’s case. We were up and at it early as we had to leave the motel at 630 to catch the ferry over to Labrador. 

Morning ferry to Labrador

Morning ferry to Labrador

For the first time in two weeks we had a sun rise. The day got off to a good start with sunny skies and a light breeze and calm seas for our sail over.  It’s a short sail over as the distance is only 9 miles.  There is a great deal of talk and lobbying t create a tunnel across, connected Newfoundland to the mainland with a road system. The proposition is costly but many feel the benefits would outweigh the negative. Having a land connection with lower the cost of bringing goods on and off the island and could potentially increase tourism. The ferry or flight costs are high, so having a road system may open the province to easier and cost effective access for tour buses etc.  Labrador has a huge land mass but very few residents – somewhere near 30,000. It is rich in resources, adding money to the Provincial coffers and the residents feel they get very little in return.

The residents are primarily scattered along the coastal area and seem quite remote to visitors.

coastal landscape

coastal landscape

Certainly the landscape is vastly different to what we have been exposed to over the last days and weeks. It initially appears quite barren but as you move inland you enter heavily forested areas. As we were driving the  Coastal drive today, the view was improved and one could see long distances. Joe pointed out boulders or rocks he referred to as “ Erratics.” The definition of  “Erratic” – is glacier transported rock fragment, that differs from the local bedrock.
Erractics

Erractics

Erratics may be embedded in soil or occur on the ground surface and may range in size from pebbles to huge boulders weighing thousands of tons.

Our first stop today was in Red Bay to visit the Basque Whaling Station. The Basque whalers of France and Spain enjoyed at least 50 years of prosperity off the Labrador coast hunting Right whales and Bowhead whales during the 16th century. They have a great display telling how these men sailed from Spain to spend their summers in the area hunting and killing the whales then processing the whales to obtain a refined pure whale oil.P1050289 Once the oil was processed it was places in wooden drums similar in size to our oil drums and put on board ship to return to Spain. While dangerous and difficult living circumstances, the men were happy to become whalers and they made a good living off the whale oil.

After lunch we head further along the coast to L’Anse Amour to tour the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada and  second highest in the country.

L'Amour Point Lighthouse

L’Amour Point Lighthouse

It provides a panoramic view of the surrounding land and sea, and a glimpse of its historical attributes during a 132 step adventure to the top. I chose to stay close to the ground and take photos. It was a pretty quiet trip back to L’Anse au Clair where we are staying for the night. We are staying at the Northern Lights Motel and it is a busy place. In addition to being the sole motel in the area, it has a full service restaurant which provides take out chicken and pizza.  The outside temp at the time of writing is about 12 degrees and the front door is wide open.  The only internet access is directly across from the open door and the cold breeze is a great incentive to type fast and say little.

Our tour group is really starting to gel. No clicks, everyone takes turns sitting with each other at meals and generally getting to know one another. Joe(tour guide) always has corny and mostly funny jokes to tell so everyone seems to be having a lot of fun. We are meeting people from across Canada, England and two couples from the US. So far I know we have 3 retired nurses in our group of 34.

Bit by bit I find myself learning to speak Newfie. I can put in plurals “whenever I pleases” or drop and “H” here and add one where is doesn’t belong.  For example the stuff on my head is “air” and the stuff I breathe is “hair.”  When I find a delicious dish “ I tells em, that’s some good!” I know longer have coffee breaks but with have a “Mug Up” mid morning. The people we meet are delightful with a keen if not wicked sense of humour – most of it self depreciating.

Tomorrow we have a 5 a.m. wake up call so we can catch the ferry out at 7 so perhaps I’ll let the photos speak for the day.

If you double click on a photo it will enlarge full screen for a better view.

Travel day from Labrador to Rocky Harbour, Sunday August 24, 2014

Gros Morne at a distance

Gros Morne at a distance

Today was a travel day as we left Labrador this morning via the 7 a.m. ferry and travel back to Newfoundland and travel down the west coast to Rocky Harbour. We are travelling over roads we covered a few days ago but now I have a clear view of the scenery that was across from me on the first trip. The vistas change so often it’s hard to take it all in. Our sole stop today was “ The Arches” provincial park.  Prior to arriving at the park we stopped at a gas station/restaurant/convenience store where each passenger had the opportunity to pick up a few items for lunch as our guide spontaneously planned a noon picnic at the Arches.

The Arches

The Arches

At this location one finds a naturally occurring rock arch formed when the seas, wind and rain erode the dolomite and leave the gaping holes. The weather was 4 degrees C when leaving Labrador but for our picnic, we had clear skies and a temperature of around 18. It was a pleasant stop and certainly a photo op.

Joe continues to keep us entertained with his stories and was teasing our driver Jessica about leaving her”teeth” at the hotel in Plum Point.  We made a brief stop at the hotel to pick up her dental retainer.  Joe having teased her most of the morning was reminded of a joke.  Joe has a close friend who is Inuit and even personalized the joke for us.  Here goes:

  • My Inuit friend and I were chatting over a beer one day and we started talking about our “misses.”  My Inuit friend is a man of few words. I asked him how he met his wife and later asked, what did you say on your first date? My friend smiled and answered……”nice tooth!”

A pleasant day for fishing

A pleasant day for fishing

Joe also provided us with another Newfie term. It seems when you come over from a traditional meal, you might think the meal is done when the sweets are served, but he sys watch out for a “tightener.” No self respecting Newfie misses is going to let her guests up from the table until they have eaten so much, their belts are tight. Tonight we had a traditional Newfoundland Jiggs dinner with fresh local peas, carrots, salt beef, ( more like corned beef) and roast beef ( cooked to the consistency of shoe leather), pease pudding ( yellow dried beans – boiled and mashed with a few seasonings) a boiled potato and a light gravy. Following this were served a few berry tarts and a few squares. We thought we were done when out came the cheese cake covered in partridge berry sauce……aha…the “tightener.”

The berry tarts are made with local “Bakeapples.”” Bakeapple is from the French, ‘baie qu’appelle…’ meaning, ‘what is this berry called..?’, is commonly known as a ‘Cloudberry’. It is similar in appearance to a rather large raspberry and has what some say a distinct honey/apricot-like flavour. Male and female flowers grow separately with each plant growing a single white, five petalled flower from the tip of the stem. The fruit is red when unripe and turns a soft golden orange at maturity. They are generally ready for picking around mid August. The plants are low growing and easy to overlook. As you get one berry per plant they are costly to buy – $60 gallon. Every dinner we have had comes with a dessert with either “bakeapple” or partridge berry in some form or another. Partridgeberries are  known as lingonberries. Tart in flavour they are high in vitamin C, tannin, anthocyanin, and antioxidants. Put with enough sugar, both berries are quite flavourful but I think it’s time to try something else.

Tomorrow we take a boat cruise from Bonne Bay to Woody Point. We will be spending time in Gros Morne National Park. We will be visiting the Discovery Center and view the famous tableland mountains.

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Bonne Bay Boat Tour, Gros Morne and return to Rocky Harbour August 25,2014

Sweeping vista of Bonne Bay

Sweeping vista of Bonne Bay

After two 5 a.m. mornings it was great to be able to have a bit of a morning “lie in” until 7 a.m. We awoke to sunny skies and a calm day. Perfect weather to take a boat tour. We head off to Bonne Bay not knowing that to expect from our morning outing. Bonne Bay is a part of Gros Morne National Park. Bonne Bay has a population of about 7000 people.

stunning scenery

stunning scenery

It is separated into two sections: Inner Bonne Bay and Outer Bonne Bay. Inner Bonne Bay consists of two arms, one which is South which has wooded coves and beach landings. Outer Bonne Bay consists of the entrance to the fjord of Bonne Bay. Bonne Bay is home to most species of fish and we are told we may see whales, tuna, dolphins and a number of birds including “bald eagles.”
One of several. We watched as one eagle caught a fish only to have to stolen by another

One of several. We watched as one eagle catch a fish only to have to stolen by another

The water was calm with the surrounding scenery reflected magnificently. I don’t believe words can adequately describe the breathtaking surroundings found in Bonne Bay but fortunately I was able to capture glimpses of the beauty.

Kayakers enjoying the entrance of a "tickle"

Kayakers enjoying the entrance of a “tickle”

During our boat tour our group was brought together for an official “ Screech In” ceremony. There are four requirements for a “Screech In Ceremony” You need a natural born Newfoundlander to preform the ceremony, a real fish, a Sou’Wester fishing hat and a bottle of Screech. One of boat’s crew conducted the ceremony and this man has an unforgettable face but one should not take this man lightly. 

Reg Williams - owner of Bonne Tours and member of Anchors Away Band

Reg Williams – owner of Bonne Tours and member of Anchors Away Band

He is Mr. Entertainment himself.  Reg Williams is continually clowning around and is so much fun. What you don’t see is a very astute business man and one of the most successful on the island. He owned the hotel we stayed in, plays in a very successful band, and has his hands in several other businesses including our tour boat(owner). The Screech In ceremony was such fun. After reciting the Newfoundland Pledge, we all downed our screech. As we are a large group of 40 today, the kissing of the cod is next, but only one member of our group “Kissed the Cod.”
The needed "screech"

The needed “screech”

I was disappointed the cod was rubberized, but it was a hoot just the same. After our ceremony we were treated to some music and it ended our boat tour on a high note. Our tour ended at Woody Point just as the sky started to cloud up.

Our group was exhilarated from the unbelievable beauty of the morning as we head off for lunch in Trout River. Tour guide Joe promised us a tasty lunch and told us how in Newfoundland, you would complement a woman on her cooking. You just tell her the meal was so good she could likely “fry a fart and still make a tasty gravy.”  Our noontime restaurant was tastefully decorated with hand carved artwork, and photos of the family who have run this establishment for two generations. In addition to the artwork, several antiques and local implements were on display including an “Ugly Stick.”

The "Ugly" stick

The “Ugly” stick

We have been told our evening get together would include a demonstration of how the “Ugly Stick” was put together and how it is used as a musical instrument. It is a very intriguing looking device and hard to see how thing thing could make a melody. After a delicious lunch we availed ourselves of a little walk. Some of the local ladies will put out their crafted goods for sale when they know McCarthy’s Party is coming to town.  As soon as one of us stopped to examine the knitting ( in most cases) the lady of the house would come out and have a chat. During our travels we notice many many homes dry their clothes on a clothesline.
Drying clothes the old way

Drying clothes the old way

It’s been several years since I have seen clothes waving in the wind and it seems very nostalgic and from a period gone long ago.

Today we finally get to see Gros Morne up close and take a short break allowing us to walk the “Tableland.” the road we drive along splits the vista in half.  On one side you have steep slopes covered in lush greenery and  trees, while the other side is barren and rocky.  The rocks appear yellow/orange as a result of the exposed minerals forming a rusty crust.  Captain James Cook named the tablelands when he explored and maps this area.  Indeed the top of these mountains appear much like a “tabletop” as if someone with a mighty saw, cut the tops off to make a smooth surface. 

The Tablelands - Gros Morne National Park

The Tablelands – Gros Morne National Park

How I would love to return one day, to hike in the glorious area.  We stopped at the Discovery Center of Gros Morne National park to take in a video and learn more about this unusual rock formation. It was quite amusing to see our bus of mostly seniors being put in a comfy seat, with lights dimmed having just had a full meal. Staying awake during video was a challenge for most of us.

Tonight dinner is on our own and followed by a performance in the bar of a local band. This band performs here Mon, Wed and Friday nights during tourist season. Two of the performers –Reg Williams and Wayne Parsons, were known to us, as they worked our tour boat this morning, including Reg Williams. 

Anchors Away - preforming to a packed audience.

Anchors Away – preforming to a packed audience.

The cost of admission was $28 and by the end of the evening, we realized we had a bargain. The group is called Anchors Aweigh and extremely talented both with song and humour. We were told the evening performance would be from 8 pm to 10 pm when it actually last well over 3 hours. Our sides were sore from laughing and our hands hot from clapping along to the music.

This has been an unforgettable day full of fun and laughter, making memories and wishing for the day to never end.

Woody Point Newfoundland

Woody Point Newfoundland

It is hard to limit the photos taken today to just a few. Enjoy.

Rocky Harbour to Gander Newfoundland Aug 26,2014

Exploits River in Grand Falls

Exploits River in Grand Falls

Today we leave the Viking Trail and head inland to Grand Falls-Windsor then on to Gander. Our group which was 34 for the first 5 days, grew to a group of 40 but today we said goodbye as 4 members departed the tour at Deer lake. Today is a travel day and we will spend much of our time on the bus with a couple of stops for food, a little sight seeing and an afternoon “Mug Up.” Last night was a very late night so I wrote the previous day’s post with my laptop on my knee, going down the highway.

We stopped today at the Salmonid Interpretive Centre in Grand Falls. Located on the Exploits River at the “Grand Falls”, the Centre has exhibits on the history, biology, ecology and habitat of the Atlantic Salmon.

Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic Salmon

We watched the salmon through underwater windows as it travelled upstream to the spawning habitat. Unlike Pacific salmon, these salmon spawn and return to spawn up to 5 times in their lifetime.  The salmon have not returned in numbers allowing for commercial fishing but you can get a license for sport fishing. The “Atlantic” salmon we may find in stores have been “farmed.” The “farmed” salmon grow quickly and the meat is pale in color. If you have purchased a bright colored Atlantic salmon, your fish was dyed that color!

There have been many time in the past few days where I said I am glad we are taking this tour instead of driving. The roads are in poor condition at times, and signage is not their strong point. Today we hit a construction zone and given this is the only road in this area, we were tied up for an hour.

Outside of the By the Bay Museum in Lewisporte

Outside of the By the Bay Museum in Lewisporte

We stopped at the “By the Bay Museum and Craft store” for a mug up.  Our planned entertainment couldn’t wait for our delayed arrival. We were greeted with a lovely array of home baked goods, plus tea and coffee. The home made cinnamon buns disappeared very quickly.  Given we were so late, I think this mug up ended up as our dinner.  Our noon meals are provided and end up a full course meal, so when we are on our own for dinner, it’s usually just a light bite. Our Mug Up was located in the town of Lewisporte. After the 911 terror attach on the World Trade Center, Lewisporte hosted several hundred air passengers whose planes were forced to land at Gander. Our hostess told of those harrowing days and how the people of the community opened their homes and hearts to those stranded passengers. Many of those forced to the ground on that day have remained in touch with their hosts in Lewisporte and remain friends. As a way of thanking their hosts, the passengers united and set up a fund to provide scholarships for the High School graduates of Lewisporte. Those funds total over one million dollars.

Tomorrow we head off on the “Road to the Isles.” We travel to Twillingate Island and on to Terra Nova Provincial Park.

Gander to Twillingate to Terra Nova National Park Aug 27,2014

Taken at Long Point Lighthouse

Taken at Long Point Lighthouse

When I retired I started sleeping in later and later, so I must admit these early morning wake up calls are taking a toll. Five thirty or six is is norm these days followed by long travel days and evenings spent editing photos and writing. However I don’t want to miss a thing so will just carry on and hope the occasional bus cat nap will carry me though. Our first stop this morning is Boyd’s Cove to visit the Beothuk Interpretation Center.

Beotucks with their "red" clothes

Beotucks with their “red” clothes

The Beothuk are the aboriginal people of the island of Newfoundland. They have been extinct for over 150 years.  They were a very tall people and colored their clothes and skin in a reddish hue and were referred to as “Red Indians.”  They seemed to be a thriving community until the Europeans arrived taking over the prime food source and bringing in European diseases.
hanging amulets in the "Spirit Garden"

hanging amulets in the “Spirit Garden”

This site is revered by current aboriginals and they have developed a “spirit” garden.  Visitors are encouraged to use a variety objects to make something to hand in the garden and to sit quietly and reflect, perhaps honoring deceased friends or loved ones.

We left Boyd’s Cove and went to the Long Point Lighthouse near Twillingate.  The views here are nothing short of stunning. What I found interesting is the edges of the cliffs are not protected and one could venture onto them and if not very careful, slip and fall hundreds of feet onto the rocks or ocean below.

Cliffs of Long Point look out

Cliffs of Long Point look out

This area is one of the most photographed areas in Newfoundland and it is not hard to figure out why. When we left the lighthouse we carried on to Twillingate for lunch.  We were to tour the local church and rectory, however the church was closed.  At this point we were to leave Twillingate but I asked if we couldn’t visit the harbour where the fishing fleet was located. I love the television show Deadliest Catch but now there is a show from Newfoundland called “Cold Water Cowboys.” and feature the fishermen of Newfoundland.
Twillingate Harbour

Twillingate Harbour

One of the featured captains fishes out of Twillingate. Unfortunately neither  he nor his  boat were in however I did have a chat with a fisherman who was putting away his nets. He had caught his quota of cod so would be resting up until shrimp season.

After a brief stop at Gander Airport, it was back on the bus to spent the night in Terra Nova National Park. We are here for two nights so tomorrow I don’t have to repack and be out the door by 7. Once again I will let the photos tell the story.

The cliffs of Long Point

The cliffs of Long Point


Historic Trinity, Cape Bonavista to town of Bonavista August 28,2014

Cape Bonavista

Cape Bonavista

It started pouring heavy rain last night and we awoke to drizzle and a forecast daytime high of 12. Joe told us this morning, “There is no such thing as bad weather – only bad dressers”. Well I was a good dresser today with my winter weight jeans, sweater and light parka. Our first stop this morning is rugged Cape Bonavista Lighthouse.  This area was discovered by John Cabot and named Bonavista for “ Oh happy sight.”  This coastal scenery is nothing short of spectacular.

Stunning Cliff

Stunning Cliff

I tried to take some photos of the steep cliffs but I think I need 3D for my camera in order for the sheer cliff edges to be seen in the photos. You can walk to the edge and look down 400 feet to crashes waves below.

We were able to tour the lighthouse. It is fully furnished to period – 1860s. These lighthouse keepers were paid and liked well although the hours of work left something to be desired.  Using a weighted system to turn the light in the lighthouse, the weight needed to be cranked up every two hours from sunset to sun up. As the children got older they may have been able to assist with this chore, but I think some sleep deprivation may have been part of the job.

Bonavista Lighthouse

Bonavista Lighthouse

This particular lighthouse was relatively close to a town so the isolation here was less of an issue.  The light at Cape Bonavista is one of the few in the world where you can still climb up the stone tower to see the same seal oil fueled light used in the 19th century. I climbed up to have a look and the light looks like a grand chandelier however was high above our heads.  They must have used a ladder but one misstep and it’s a long way down.

Leaving the Cape we took a slight detour to Dungeon Provincial Park. Over the years the rocks have been eroded leaving “pillars” of rocks.  Once again there is no barrier keeping you from plunging off the cliff, but I like to sneak up on the edge and have a look over.

Dungeon Provincial Park

Dungeon Provincial Park

It’s a straight drop off.

As we drive over to Trinity Joe tells us about how the people lived. In the out ports ( isolated communities of perhaps 50 folks) it was a pretty subsistence way of life. Most people kept a cow or a few goats, perhaps some sheep. The animals may be slaughtered in the fall then hung in a cold building where it stayed until consumed. The people generally ate salted meat in summer along with fresh fish and in the winter ate fresh meat with salted fish. Snow shoe hares were available year round. The people were dependent on each other. Usually you would have someone good with construction and he would trade his skills for other things, like someone good with motors or mechanics.

Trinity Bay

Bonavista

The Newfoundland government is encouraging people to move from the isolated areas so they can access education and health care as well as goods and commodities.

Next stop – Trinity. Settled in the 1700s this community is one of the oldest in North America. Originally a fishing community it also thrived with shipbuilding,coopering,and  lumbering. Today is has been deemed a “Heritage Community.” While checking out a cemetery at the local church I found a headstone where the person died in 1753. Most headstones were so weathered it was impossible to read much beyond the name.

Bonavista

Bonavista

Thousands of tourists visit each summer but the local merchants tell us they will close in the next week or so and also said very few people winter in this location.

I had the opportunity to tour Ryan House in Bonavista. Ryan Premises National Historic Site commemorates the rich history of the Newfoundland cod fishery. When I entered to tour the Ryan house I was met by one of the Parks staff. It seems I was the only one in the building at the time and he proceeded to give me a guided tour from the door to the top of the house.  In some of the rooms are photos showing how the fish was caught and processed in the early 1900s. I learned how the nets were laid out to trap the cod including how they weighed the nets down in the water and secured in place. I was told how they harvested the cod then each step of the way from water to land to market.  An extremely labor intensive operation which all members helped with. He demonstrated how the fish was handled, how the liver was harvested ( for cold liver oil) what they did with the innards and the head.  Demonstrated how they debone the fish then explained the fish would be layered and salted. After a time the salted fish were washed and then put out of “fish flakes” to dry.

Fish Flake

Fish Flake

A fish flake is a platform built on poles and spread with boughs for drying cod. If it started to rain this fish would have to be taken off the flake and brought inside.  Not only was this man informative but spoke with the broadest Newfie accent I have heard yet and spoke at a rather rapid pace.  It was obvious he was passionate about the history and importance of the Atlantic cod fish industry both past and present.

After dinner tonight our group got together for our own entertainment. Tour guide Joe sang and played his guitar for us.  Members of the tour told stories, recited their own poetry, putting on a little skit and telling stories.  It ended up with Joe teaching us how to use the “Ugly Stick” and how to play spoons.  We had some very talented people in our group and it was a fun evening.

Trinity

Trinity


Ralph & Ina McElroy Smith Falls, Ontario

Ralph & Ina McElroy Smith Falls, Ontario

Wilmer & Janet Martin, Waterloo, Ontario

Wilmer & Janet Martin, Waterloo, Ontario

Off to St Johns Newfoundland Aug 29,2014

Cape Spear

Cape Spear

Hurricane Cristobal has caused heavy rain, high seas and lots of rain so our planned tour to the Avalon Peninsula via Come By Chance was cancelled today. We were to board a boat to Witless Bay to observe Atlantic puffins and perhaps catch a glimpse of a whale. The seas are so rough, seasoned fishermen are not sailing today. We were to have an afternoon at Cape Spear – the most easterly point of land in North America before heading to St John. Instead we stopped very briefly at the cape. 

Cape Spear

Cape Spear

The winds were 100+ km, the wind icy cold and the rain coming in sideways. It was too dangerous to walk any distance so the stop was very brief.  I was so very disappointed as this was one  of the things I was very much looking forward to exploring. I have a couple of rain spotted photos and that was it.

Cape Spear’s location near the convoy routes of the Second World War made it a strategic point in the Battle of the Atlantic. To provide protection for convoys from German submarines a battery and garrison was stationed at Cape Spear featuring bunkers, underground passages, and two 10-inch guns. Today this outpost is no longer used by any military and the remains of the bunker stand as a reminder of the impact of the war.

Along with its history Cape Spear is an excellent place to see seabirds, icebergs, ships, and whales in the spring and summer months.

Cape Spear - Lighthouse

Cape Spear – Lighthouse

Sightings have included Dolphins, Humpback Whales, and even on rare occasions Orca Whales. Along with its opportunities to see wildlife on the sea and land the East Coast Hiking Trail passes through Cape Spear, offering access to some of the island’s best hiking trails.

After Cape Spear we continued on to St Johns for lunch then did a bit of a tour around the downtown and out to Signal Hill.  The view is wondrous and the view of the inlet and harbour amazing. 

Over looking St John

Over looking St John

It is well protected from the elements. 

I didn’t know much about Signal Hill but found some interesting history here. On June 27, 1762, during the Seven Year’s War, St. John’s found itself under attack by French forces, After successfully capturing St. John’s, French d’Haussonville based his forces around Signal Hill. To retake the settlement English forces landed at Torbay on September 13. The Battle of Signal Hill took place on the morning of September 15 when the 200 English soldiers climbed Signal Hill attacking 295 French infantry. The attack, which caught the French by surprise, resulted in the French forces retreating and surrendering three days later. The Battle of Signal Hill was the final battle of the Seven Year’s War in North America which secured Great Britain as the prominent European power in North America.

Cabot Tower

Cabot Tower

In 1897 Cabot Tower was commissioned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Cabot Tower is a must see – a stone fortress at the top of the hill where soldiers and signalmen kept a watchful eye.  Signal Hill has breathtaking views of St. John’s and the rugged coast of the Avalon Peninsula. There is also a hiking trail which leads from Cabot Tower to the Battery and back.

Taken from Signal Hill

Taken from Signal Hill

Given the weather today, we were not able to do any hiking or stay outdoors for any length of time. We were to visit here tomorrow but with the cancelled trip today they changed the itinerary. I think this was a mistake as we really missed out not on one but three attractions.  The seas will be high again tomorrow so we still won’t get to do the boat tour, we won’t get back to cape Spear nor Signal Hill.  If they had stuck to the schedule, at least we could have spent more time at Signal Hill tomorrow when we are to have a nice day.

It was interesting to so the colorful homes in St Johns and the narrow streets similar to those in the British Isles.

colorful homes

colorful homes

We toured an old section of the city called Quiti Viti ( sounds like “Quitty Vitty.”) Tomorrow we have a half day on our own.  I may try walking to Water Street and hope Brian doesn’t mind being on his own in the hotel.  The walking is all up and down and is a bit more than he should do. Our tour ends officially tomorrow night with a farewell dinner.  We have met some wonderful people and I am sure will stay in touch with many of them.