It’s been a little bit longer than I expected between writing on this, but the only reason is because so much has been happening and I haven’t really had a spare minute to sit down and do this properly.
I flew into St. Johns, Newfoundland almost a month ago, and should have flown out two weeks ago, but ended up cancelling my flights because I was so taken by the whole place. Entering St. Johns I had my first real Newfoundland experience, three enormous icebergs right outside the window as we came in to land. The run continued when I exited the plane to find a woman holding a sign with my name on it. I had volunteered to help her farm for a fortnight and she was right at the terminal to pick me up. She was a really sweet lady who lived in St. Johns but owned a hobby farm about 2 hours away.
It was a great deal for me, she was a yoga instructor and a huge explorer who just wanted to take me out and show me some of her favourite places. I rang a friend who I have been studying who had come back into town for a few days and straight away I was offered an invite to his parents 30th anniversary party that evening. Lots of fun with the locals but I feel like the random Australian at the party may have stolen the bride/grooms thunder a bit; they didn’t mind. My friend also offered me to come out to his cabin the following night which was great. It was a little way out of town on a pond (ponds are huge here, they should be called lakes). I spent the afternoon and evening kayaking and playing horseshoes and we had the biggest bonfire in the evening where we cooked plank salmon (salmon grilled on an oak plank…so tasty).
The next two weeks were spent farming, it wasn’t really farming but instead just building some retaining walls and windbreaks and vegetable patches for her. Nothing really strenuous but it was great to be outside and using my arms in the fresh air. During the two weeks I probably only spent 6 days working because Serena, my host, had to fly to Halifax for a yoga conference, so I was left at her house in St. Johns for 5 days to explore the place. There was a German girl working on the farm too so there was a little bit of company. During those 5 days I crammed in boat tours to go out and see the icebergs up close and brewery tours. Newfoundlanders can definitely drink, in St. Johns there is a street called George Street which is dedicated to only bars. Everyone spills out into the streets the whole evening and the atmosphere is amazing. I think the street is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most bars or something.
I mentioned earlier that the woman who hosted me was an explorer. In our spare time on the farm she took us on big drive’s to find more icebergs and to see local bird colonies and watch the sunsets most nights. The sun up here sets at close to 10pm and rises at about 4am. We did hikes most evenings. On my last night on the farm I climbed up a big hill to watch a sunset, and was lucky enough to catch my first photo of a moose just strolling through the growth; I kept going to the top of the hill where I saw an amazing sunset over icebergs in the bay. The place where I farmed was a small community near a surfable reef called New Melbourne, the woman also took me to nearby towns such as ‘Heart’s Delight’, ‘Heart’s Desire’, and ‘Heart’s Content’; as well as ‘Dildo’ and ‘Come-by-Chance’. We ate lobster a few nights because the market over here is collapsing and they are costing only $3.50 a pound, one of the cheapest meals you can have.
At about the time I was meant to fly back to Halifax I had a change of plans, and hitchhiked the 10 hours or so over to the other side of the province to Gros Morne National Park. I spent almost a week there hiking the fjords and mountains and I think I worked out that I hiked a total of about 60km of trails in the 5 days I spent there. The views were absolutely spectacular and I’m glad I got over that way. The hitchhiking didn’t take too long, I started at 6am and made it there by 8pm; some strange lifts but mostly a good experience, I had a long haul with an American trucker and the last guy to pick me up took me out for a huge Cod dinner and malt scotch whisky afterwards. He found me a hostel and left me with a tub of yoghurt for breakfast the next morning. The first of many random acts of kindness in Newfoundland; Newfoundlanders are known for being the friendliest people in the world, which isn’t an understatement.
The hostel I checked in to was an old hospital that hadn’t been retrofitted one bit. There was still an x-ray room and a physio department, the dorms were wards and I’m certain people had died in the beds before. The guy who tended to the hostel gave me a private room for a really cheap price and told me not to tell anyone, I later met travellers who had the exact same experience with the same person and stayed in the exact bed I’d been sleeping in. It ended up being one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in. It was at Norris Point and had a great view of the tablelands in the national park (the place where they proved the plate tectonics theories…it’s a piece of the earths mantle forced up to earth from the bottom of the sea). The centrepiece hike of the national park climbed the 806m Gros Morne Mountain, I attempted it the first day I was there with some other girls staying in the hostel, but the fog was so thick that we turned back…a good decision in the end, I finished the hike the following week and we would have definitely been lost if we’d continued in the fog. The girls in the hostel had a car so I had a nice few days tagging around the park and hiking with them. When they left I split the cost of a rental car with an Aussie traveller who had turned up a few days later. We travelled all the way up the Northern Peninsula to the site of the Viking settlement in North America 1000 years ago at L’Anse aux Meadows.
We also got to take the car over to Labrador on the ferry for quite cheap. I only spent a night over there but I got as far as 52 degrees North and saw some rugged tundra coastline, which was great. A local couple in L’Anse au Claire took me in and played me the accordion til well in the evening before sending me off the next day with jars of homemade jams. I got as far as Red Bay which was the extent of my Northern travelling.
A few days later I continued hitching down south to Burgeo, a small fishing village on the South-West coast of Newfoundland. From here you were able to take small fishing boats to a number of outports on the south coast which are inaccessible by any other means. I camped in Burgeo in a $10 tent and was lucky to not get rained on. The two-hour boat ride the next day was great because I met a French-Canadian girl my age that had been doing the same sort of trip as me. She had hitchhiked up through Quebec to learn more about her Quebec roots and had made it over to Newfoundland on the same ferry before heading down to Gros Morne. She had been to the same places and stayed in the same hostels; she had even been in the exact same room as me at the hospital hostel. Very weird.
I camped with her at Grand Bruit, a spectacular fishing town with just 15 people, 10 or so were fisherman and the others retired. The people were so friendly, everyone was so intrigued and I didn’t pay any money for the whole week. I was invited in for lunch and supper and whisky was brought out at every occasion. I spun tales with fishermen over beers at the end of the day and met some really great people.
The town had a cascading waterfall running down into the harbour in the middle of the place and was just so spectacular and isolated and peaceful. I read books and wrote poetry with my new French-Canadian friend. There was also an American student studying in the town who told me all about the place because he was writing a masters thesis on it.
In the ferry terminal on the way back to Nova Scotia I met four other travellers hitchhiking across the country as well and also scouted around the boat to see who was driving towards Halifax. I sorted a ride out no problem for most of the way to Halifax, and had a lot of fun with the other hitchhikers I met as we kept leapfrogging each other along the highway. I was eventually picked up by a guy who had given two of the girls I met a lift, so I travelled into the city with a few kids from the night before.
Now the plans for the next little while are to get back out on the highway and make my way to Prince Edward Island for a few nights, before I head up to the Ile de la Madeleine to see if I can run into the French-Canadian girl I camped with in Grand Bruit. There’s a big French holiday on the 23rd/24th of June which should be fun on the islands where I think that English may not be widely spoken. Stevie Wonder plays a free show in Montreal on the 30th which I’ll get to and Canada Day on the first of July is still my priority. That will conclude my trip out East and I’ll get out West in July. I have a bus ticket but have also been offered a ride in a van with the kids I met hitchhiking, which I’ll probably take instead.
I have SO many more stories from Newfoundland but I really must leave them for later. I’m going to attach a heap of photos to this one just to make up for the lame posts in the last month or so.