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Friday, May 19, 2017

FINDING ICEBERGS IN NEWFOUNDLAND


Our time in Canada is racing on. We land at Pictou, back in Nova Scotia and head along the last bit of coastline we haven’t explored.  At dusk, we head down a long sandy spit hoping to find a carpark. There are only tiny ones right on the side of the road -  oh well that will do, and really only a few cars pass in the night.

Wake to another of those grey days, so head along the motorway. As it clears we head out to Cape George with yet another lighthouse. Finally, on to the Canso Causeway, where we head over to Cape Breton Island. Last year we explored the famous Cabot Trail, so this time we will follow the southern coast and finally end up at Louisburg National Park. We plan to explore the fort before we ferry across to Newfoundland tomorrow. It is open, but it has reduced opening hours, so we can only drive in, take a few photos and leave. It is very much a reconstructed fort – shall we return tomorrow? They don’t open until 9.30am, so we would really have to rush for the ferry. Then the guy at the gate tells us the ferry was cancelled that day due to weather, so there may be a long queue. Decision made. We will head to the ferry now to book in for tomorrow.

Ferry booked, we stock up on food & fuel & find a spot for the night – a stone’s throw from the port. We have to be there 2 hours before our departure time of 11.45am. We are loaded straight away – so much for using the Wifi at the port. Seven hours later we arrive in Port Aux Basques & head directly north, as we have already explored this coast. Although this time there is heaps of snow and no fog. As the sun starts to slip away, we follow a little road to the coast & find a very picturesque fishing port to stop for the night. I score lots of pretty photos & John scores some fish a gift from a local fisherman.

There are storm warnings for Quebec (where there is lots of flooding) & the Maritimes. Fortunately, we seem to be heading away from the danger areas. The worst we get is some cloudy weather. On and on we head until finally we are in new territory. Ahh, but we did spy some moose – right beside the road, but behind the moose barrier (so our photos look as if they are in a zoo).

Lots of driving. The snow is much thicker here, the marshes boggier, and the villages much sparser. We follow a few peninsulas with magical frozen waterways, before we finally arrive at the pick of them all – the gorgeous town of Twillingate.  It is nearly dusk & the light is perfect for photos, so we head straight to the lookout/lighthouse. Here is the best place to view icebergs – and yes, they are here, but surrounded by so much pack ice that they hardly stand out at all. It is one very chilly spot, so we meander back to town to explore, finally finding a magic spot to camp with our own beach & icebergs.

Keep hugging the coastline – can’t get enough of seeing so much snow & ice on beaches, wharfs etc. One really cute stop is at Newtown, which is set on groups of rocky islands. Here we find the lovely, very old Barbour house & assorted buildings, and we wander around. Naturally they are closed. Then finally we head down the lovely Bonavista peninsula and find the very cute & touristy town of Trinity. Here we stay for the night – even venturing out for a chilly walk/explore of town. It is chock full of old restored buildings that become a living museum in summer. In the morning, we decide to drive out to the lighthouse – but we are forced to turn around when we meet huge mounds of snow. I had originally planned to overnight at the lighthouse, but am doubly glad we stayed in town.  If we had managed to get there we would have had to listen to the noisy foghorn going all night.

Our next plan is to walk the Skerwink Trail (as recommended by people we have met and by the Lonely Planet.) We park and get booted up. The first section of snow I follow Johns footprints, but when we reach the second section we give up. It would be more like floundering the snow is way too deep.  A slow drive through historic Port Union before we hit my desired destination – Elliston. I have a hankering to see the puffins who nest on an island a mere stone’s throw from the cliffs. Well not a puffin in sight, and I do not blame them. There is so much pack ice there would be no chance for the poor puffins to dive for fish. But standing on the cliffs watching the waves push massive chucks of ice onto the rocks is pretty amazing. Then on to the photogenic town of Bonavista. Here we stop for bread and score some oven warm molasses and raisin bread –scrummy, yummy. Then of course we have to go out to Cape Bonavista and see the lighthouse. There is a dirt track to Spillers Cove that goes back in the right direction, so we decide to take it. Awesome rocks, and then the even more awesome Dungeon – a great gaping circular hole with waves crashing in (do look at the photo) A great detour!

Finally back off the peninsula. It really is time to get to St John’s – so main road for us now. But we do have another unexpected detour. When we stop for coffee a lady tells John about a humungous oil rig that is due to be towed out to sea – but we can go out to Sunnyside to see it. Wow!! And it is truly huge. As evening draws near we stop again near the water for the night.

Today is earmarked for chores. Most importantly we need to pop in to Eimskip to confirm shipping for GR2. So that is where we head. GPS’s are wonderful things. We arrive in no time at all – everything is organised. All we need to do is turn up at Argentia (the port) on Thursday afternoon, and then leave it there Friday morning. Next chore – washing. Our little washing machine can’t really manage our thick winter gear so we need a laundromat. We find one right in the central part of the city – awesome! We can explore while it washes, then again when it dry’s. And we do heaps – sheets, towels, fleecy pants etc. etc.  A few final chores before we head out of town & find the tiny fishing port of Bauline where we stay on the miniscule wharf. I think half of the nearby residents drove down to check us out.

We have 2 days left with GR2, so we decide to head south to follow the Irish Route around the coastline. But first we pop in to see the easternmost point of North America at Cape Spear. It is so shrouded in mist we don’t see much.  Next stop is recommended by the Lonely Planet – we would never have thought of stopping at the ordinary looking shop called Bidgoods. Here we buy more molasses bread, blueberry pie & flipper pie (yes – made from real seal flippers! I couldn’t bring myself to try it.) There was heaps of other interesting food items. Finally, on to the scenic trail along much more coastline -all very wild & scenic, before stopping for the night on a wide gravel beach near St Vincent’s. Our sunset view is made perfect with the addition of a huge iceberg!

More bays, beaches & villages. Inland is flat, marshy & full of lakes. Today’s detour is out to the Cape St Mary Ecological Reserve. Here we walk out to the rocky point to see the nesting gannets. And wow they are so close we can watch them mating, nesting, swooping…. Pretty smelly too.  The final push on to Placentia and out to the port at Argentia – finally finding Eimskip just before 5pm. Tomorrow morning we have to drop GR2 off at 7am so that we can catch the courier back to St Johns at 7.15am. Now for the excitement of packing our bag & clearing out our fridge.

Bye bye GR2…. We will miss you. We are now in the Ramada for 2 nights before we leave. GR2’s ship has been delayed, so fingers crossed she will arrive in Iceland the same time as we do. Our first day we catch the bus in to town to explore and walk the 100’s of steps up Signal Hill – actually an amazing clifftop walk. Our second day we go on a boat trip to see the puffins (yay!) in Witless Bay. It is pretty chilly and we do see lots of puffins – but the huge iceberg is incredible (at least 150m long). In the evening a guy we met in town picks us up to take us to supper (big dinner) at his place with a group of his hiking friends. What a lovely night. Thank you, Neil & Sharon.

Finally, it is time to leave…… a huge day follows. Fly to Toronto, hours in the airport, another flight to Iceland, practically doubling over the last route, then a transfer to the domestic airport before our final flight on a tiny plane to Greenland…..   more to come.




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