Distance = 369 km Gas = $33.94 ($1.30/L in Woody Point)
Driving through Newfoundland (aka The Rock) in some ways reminds me of driving through parts of B.C. – there are long stretches of winding single-lane highway edged with trees so thick you can’t see more than a foot past them, and mountains looming behind. Of course, in Newfoundland the trees and mountains are much smaller versions of those in B.C., though both perspectives are beautiful in their own wild way.
Today before I got on the road I went for a hike with Bowman in the Tablelands of Gros Morne park. It’s a strange scene – steep hillsides (which are actually the earth’s mantle) with crumbling red rock scattered down their sides, little vegetation, and a waterfall tumbling down to a brook that runs through the valley between them. Walking the path up to the waterfall is what I imagine it must be kind of like to walk on Mars, because of the very dry, barren landscape. Bowman informed me it is, in fact, one of the places where NASA does test runs of its Mars rovers. Awesome.
This afternoon I drove for about four hours to reach Gander. It felt good to be cruising again, listening to some more groovy tunes, and I’m getting really excited about seeing Saint John’s tomorrow. Did you know it’s the eastern-most point in North America? If you reach out far enough you can almost touch Europe.
NEXT POST: Gander to Saint John’s
Distance = 430 km Gas = $33.35 ($1.30/L in Woody Point)
Moose! I saw two today – one right on the highway and the other just off the side of a trail in the park. The one on the road was a cow, the one in the park was a bull, and they were both big, beautiful beasts with funny looking feet. Bowman says they’re actually more dangerous than the local black bears, especially now during the rut (mating season) because they can and will charge you just for shits and giggles (and because they’re full of testosterone, I guess).
Travel tip: If a moose comes after you, run. It’s pretty simple. Unlike with bears (climb a tree? play dead? run? don’t run? apologize?), moose are not complicated creatures in terms of their aggressive behaviour. They will either ignore you and be on their way, or they will charge you and kick your butt. It’s one or the other. But being big gangly things, they’re not very good at turning a corner, so if you can run in a tight circle, preferably around a tree, you can usually get an enraged moose to quit its pursuit. At least, this is what I hear from Bowman, but he’s actually an American, so I wouldn’t take his advice as gospel truth.
Anyway, he was my tour guide in Gros Morne National Park today and we saw a lot of it, driving around the bay from Woody Point, past Norris Point and up the coast. We also accidentally saw a pretty huge chunk of Newfoundland’s coast north of the park because we were talking so much during the drive that we didn’t realize where we were till we got halfway to the top of the province. Literally. I checked my GPS. Bowman is an artist (the real kind – he’s actually sold a bunch of paintings) and has a lot to say about art and politics and philosophy, etc. and the conversation flowed so well that neither of us noticed we were outside the park bounds till we were way, WAY out of the park bounds. However, there was still time to get back to see Cow Head (beautiful beach with nary another soul to be seen), Western Brook Pond (a lovely walk in that’s only about 6 km round-trip, and where we saw the moose) and the Coastal Trail, where we saw the sun set and the gulls getting ready to spend the night on the rocks just off the shore.
Travel tip: I missed the Western Brook Pond boat tour, which leaves twice a day from the dock at the end of the trail we walked, but I’ve heard it’s great, and probably something to check out if you have more time to spend in the park than just one day. Cost is $60 for an adult for a two-hour guided tour up the lake to see the fjords. Call 1-888-458-2016 to reserve.
Gros Morne is a gorgeous place, full of tuckamore trees (stunted, wind-gnarled balsam fir and spruce), moose and very few people. Granted it’s early autumn and the end of the tourist season, so it’s not surprising it wasn’t overrun with other hikers, but I was also extremely lucky to be here today because, as the folks at the info centre told me, this is the first blue sky day here in almost a month. This is a huge park with a lot to see and I’ve barely scratched the surface, but like the Littlest Hobo, I must be on the road again tomorrow… this time to Gander.
NEXT POST: Woody Point to Gander
Distance = 933 km Gas = $41.25 ($1.28/L in Halifax, NS) and $40.19 ($1.30/L in North Sydney, NS)
The last two days have been a study in contrasts. Yesterday I started off in Peggy’s Cove, which is everything a little Nova Scotia fishing village should be, and ended the day in the most nightmarish driving conditions on Cape Breton Island, on my way to catch the midnight ferry to Newfoundland.
Peggy’s Cove is a total tourist trap, but worth the 45 minute drive south from Halifax. It’s a tiny little village right on the water, with a gorgeous lighthouse, lively little cottages in various colours dotting the shoreline, and little coffee shops and souvenir huts that must do a roaring trade in the summer. The best part, though, is exploring the huge rocks at the end of the village, where the view of the lighthouse is best. I capped off a great afternoon with a fish ‘n chip lunch on a seaside deck just down the road before heading up to the ferry in North Sydney (at the top of Cape Breton Island), but the while the drive started out all lovely, with sunshine peaking out from behind dark clouds, highlighting the dinghies drifting in the coves, it later turned into the ultimate test of nerve and driving skills by the time the sun went down and the sky unleashed a torrent of rain that my windshield wipers could not clear fast enough. On top of that, there are no street lights or road markers on the highway up there, near the top of the province, so it was like trying to drive in the bottom of a murky lake. The only way I made it to the ferry terminal was by tailgating a semi, following its brake lights through the blur of water in front of me.
The ferry trip was possibly the worst part of my journey so far. I could write a whole other blog post just about how much I did not enjoy my first time at sea, but as our mothers like to tell us when we’re toddlers, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I’ll just note that if you’re going to get the ferry to Newfoundland, I suggest taking it during the day (unless you really don’t care about staying up all night listening to hockey highlights on TV and a two-year old letting the whole world know all about her problems).
Travel tip: If you’re catching the ferry to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia, it leaves every day at 11:45 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. and costs $152, including tax for one person in a vehicle. You can book a sleeping berth for another $135, (which I now believe might be a good option) but from what I’ve heard and read on Trip Advisor, it’s better to save the money and just tough it out trying to get some sleep in a chair or in the lounge.
If yesterday started well and ended badly, today was the opposite. This morning I woke up in the foulest of moods, with crazy hair, morning breath and that crummy feeling of having slept in my clothes, but by the time I’d reached Gros Morne Park and met Bowman, my host in Woody Point, I was once again happy to be alive.
The first thing I did after leaving the ferry was drive past the ridiculously long lineup for Tim Hortons in Port-Aux-Basque (the village where the ferry docks) and looked for somewhere to get bacon and eggs. Fortunately, it took no time at all to discover a cute little breakfast diner right on the water where I was the first customer of the day and was served by a local woman who called me “sweetheart” and “my love” with an accent and not the slightest hint of irony. It was a good start. Then, as I drove north, and managed to avoid death by moose (I didn’t see a single moose, despite the incessant signage warning of their presence on the highway), I only had to stop twice to cat nap and finally found my way to Gros Morne National Park where the view is again stunning and the house where I’m staying incredibly peaceful. This evening Bowman and I walked past fishing boats on the shore to go for dinner just up the road, and tomorrow he’s going to be my guide on a hike in the park.
I can’t believe I’m already in the 10th and final province, and almost near the end of my journey (at least, in this direction!)
NEXT POST: Gros Morne National Park