Monday, July 27, 2009

July 26, 2009
The Twillingate Fish, Fun & Folk Festival is now over and we are boondocked alongside a small creek near Birchy Bay, with Chris Christiansen. The plan is to leave our rigs here and drive in the car over to the ferry for Fogo Island today. But it is rainy and cool and we might decide not to go at all as it would be difficult to appreciate the beauty and quaintness of Fogo in this weather.
The festival was fun and there were a lot of varied activities going on. Of course, music was a big part of it and we attended a lot of performances. Overall, I would say we were disappointed. Nearly every group seems to think that the louder the music is, the better they must sound, and this means that they drown out all the words. Since we enjoy folk music, which is what a lot of the groups were playing, the words are very important. Also, many of the Newfies talk very fast and with an accent, and are difficult to understand anyway, so even when they weren’t playing loudly and were merely introducing their songs, we couldn’t understand much of that either. Additionally, this festival is the biggest event in this small community (about 2500 people) all year, and lots of people come home for it, and many other Newfies come to it every year. So it is a big social occasion for everyone. Unfortunately, they carried on a lot of their newsy conversations right in the middle of the musical performances, which also made it hard to hear the music or appreciate it. It didn’t help that the venue was their hockey stadium which had lousy acoustics and an arts and crafts festival going on at the same time!

One of the groups, the Split Peas, plays in Twillingate twice a week all summer and we attended their performance before the festival started. This group of 7 women who sing and play a variety of instruments, is very professional and has got it right about the sound levels and song variety. They were delightful and when they played for the festival, they played in the church museum, which was a much quieter place with better acoustics. If you ever are in this area, don’t miss seeing them.

One factor that made our stay in Twillingate so enjoyable was that several rigs of Boomer friends planned to be there together, we all parked at the United Church, and we had many fun social times together. This shows how crowded the parking lot was:

Of course, we had previously camped with Chris Christiansen, Bill & Marianne Ecker-Liard, and they attended this as well. Then Priscilla and Bill Scott and Elena & Ron Engelsman arrived. There was also another couple from Texas, Harry & Sharon, who said they are Escapee wanna-be’s. Of course, Chet and Gaye joined us all for a few Happy Hours and we had an enjoyable potluck at their house on Wednesday. Terry & Darlene Miller, who had left their rig in Lewisport, joined us for this event. Here is a picture of the whole group taken on their back steps:

Tuesday night 11 of us went to the Around The Circle dinner theater in nearby Crow Head. The food, music and drama production is done by 4 women and 3 men who handle everything. There was a typical Newfie meal of veggie beef soup, a choice of cod, salmon or stuffed chicken breast, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, a roll and butter, and a rhubarb tart with tea or coffee. I had cod and it was cooked correctly but they don’t use spices much here and it was kind of tasteless. Before dinner there was accordion and guitar music and after dinner a series of skits which were mostly funny and also somewhat of a commentary on Newfie life and humor. It cost $28 and an enjoyable time was had by all.

A few of the days were overcast and cold with occasional rain, but some were sunny and whenever we had a decent day, we did a hike. There were some beautiful hikes along the headlands overlooking the sea and some islands, and also the Top of Twillingate trail took us to three overlooks where we could see all over the island.

To get to Twillingate, you actually drive across 4 islands connected by causeways. In past days the only way to get here was by boat. Because of all the inlets and coves, it is a very beautiful area with lots of great views.


As you can see by the picture above, the buildings are scattered all over the hills looking down to the inlets and most houses along the water have a dock with a building on it called “stages”.

This is where they used to “make the fish”, which is what they called cleaning, salting and drying the cod. Since 1992 there has been a moratorium on commercial cod fishing and the people have had to find other ways to make a living. But periodically the season opens for what they call “food fishing”, and that started yesterday and will go until mid-August. This means that they can go out and catch 5 cod each, per day, or a maximum of 15 per boat, for their own use at home. Apparently the numbers of cod must be coming back because we saw a blurb on the news last night in which they showed a boat with 3 fishermen in it and they held up their catch of pretty large cod and they said it only took them about half an hour to catch their limit.
One of the fund raising events they had at the festival was the ping pong ball race. They sold numbered ping pong balls for $2 each and then they released them all (about 1000) in Hospital Pond at the picnic there, and the first 3 that blew across and touched the other side received a prize of $200, $100, or $50. We bought 3 but didn’t win anything. It only took 20 minutes for the race, which tells you how windy it was, and it was amazing how spread out the balls were after only a few minutes.
The most unusual events of the festival occurred because this is the 100th anniversary of when a famous Newfie Arctic explorer named Capt. Bob Bartlett took Pearey to the Arctic for his successful run to the North Pole. We previously visited his home in Brigus. So this year they are “celebrating Bartlett” and the last Arctic schooner, the Bowdoin, is sailing around Newfoundland and stopping at 12 of the summer festivals. It arrived on Thursday evening and on Friday there was music at the wharf near the ship, ship tours, dramas about Bartlett, and drawings to allow 25 people to experience sailing in the harbour on her. They did 2 sailings and from our group, Priscilla, Chris and Elena were selected to go out. It was a sunny day which was great, but not much wind, which wasn’t so great because this was a sailing vessel. This is the Bowdoin:

Another group thing we did was go to the wine tasting at the only winery in Newfoundland, called the Auk Winery. For $2 we got to taste all the wines, which were mostly fruit wines but some were blended with other wines such as shiraz. Overall, we didn’t think they were very good and they were fairly expensive ($13 and up). The most unusual ones were the 4 made with iceberg water. Also, a lot of the fruits are unfamiliar to us, such as partridgeberry and bakeapple, so it was interesting to taste them. When we mentioned this in a conversation with one of the Newfie ladies staying in an RV near us in the church parking lot, she brought over 4 bakeapple tarts for us to taste!
Nearly every day we drove back over to Durrell Cove to look at the icebergs and watch them change shapes, break up, and melt. By the time we left, there were only a few left and they were greatly diminished. On our hikes we also saw some icebergs in other coves, so the ones in Durrell weren’t the only ones here. No wonder they call this “iceberg alley”.

Another thing that changed while we were in Twillingate was the color of Chet & Gaye's house. They were in the process of painting it at least 5 different colors when we left. Here is the house partially painted:

As we drive all over Newfoundland, we see huge woodpiles stacked near every house and often huge piles drying in yards and fields. Here is an especially tall stacking job we saw in Durrell:

On our way to a trailhead one day, we met a couple coming back who had rescued a baby snowshoe hare. This is a picture of it and the reason it is brown is because that is their summer color. They turn white in the winter.

I will leave you with a headstone picture taken at the church museum, which has some words to live by:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 15, 2009
Wow, I don’t usually do blog updates this often but a lot has been happening. The day after we arrived at Cooper’s Restaurant, we decided to return to Trinity to explore the town, since the day we were there for the pageant, we didn’t see anything else. It was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed going through the cooperage, the Lester Garland House, The Interpretive Center, the Green Family Forge, the Emma Hiscock House, the Ryan store, and several others. They have done a beautiful job of restoration of the buildings and the guides in each one are in costume. There is a pass available for $10 to get into the main 7 properties. We had received quite a good history lesson about the town during the pageant, so we probably enjoyed seeing the buildings more. This was an “outport”, which means that it was mostly a fishing community which provided salted cod for the European countries and which had an entrepreneur supplying them with all their needs in exchange for their yearly catch. In Trinity, it was the Lesters and later, the Garlands. These families made a fortune off the backs of the fisherfolk.
This is the old Anglican Church and graveyard:

This is the inside of the Ryan store which provided the fisherfolk with all their needs:

Still having some time in the afternoon, and with daylight persisting until after 9PM, we then drove across the peninsula on a gravel road, stooping to see Lockston Path Provinical Park. They have nice picnic areas and campsites at these parks but they charge over $20 to stay there and that’s with no hookups. Arriving at King’s Cove, we decided to do the hike to the lighthouse that Janna and Pat had told us about when we visited them in Amherst Cove and we could see it from their deck across the water. It was a nice hike of a little over a mile each way and once again, when we arrived at the lighthouse, there was another big iceberg out in the water off the tip. Then we drove through a lot of the little towns along this coast and were especially impressed with Red Cliff and Tickle Cove. Both have very distinctly colored red rocks and cliffs, and the beaches are made up of round red rocks. This is Tickle Cove:

Tickle Cove has a walkway out to a big sea arch, which also gives great views back across the cove. There is another nice hike there around Tickle Pond, but it was 8 km long and rain was threatening so we didn’t do it. As we drove back along highway 235, there was a sign out saying live lobster for sale in Summerville, but by the time we got to the docks, it was late and everyone was gone. So the next day while we were hiking the Skerwink Trail, with Chris and Marianne, Bill drove over and bought lobster for all of us.
The Skerwink Trail is rated in the top 35 hikes in the world by Travel and Leisure Magazine, so it was high on our list of “must do” hikes. It was also only 5.7 km. And it was another incredibly gorgeous sunny day. Chris, Marianne, Elaine and I did the hike which was mostly on the headlands overlooking the coast and had some beautiful rocks and sea stacks.
Here are the 4 hikers:

One of the views from the trail showing sea stacks:

A view of Trinity from across the water on the Skerwink Trail:

Later that day we all went over to the local roadhouse right up the road and enjoyed some Newfie music, as well as some contemporary music, at a “matinee”. During the break, the musician and his wife came over and sat with us and chatted, which was nice. Then we went back to the rigs and cooked up the lobster feast.
Mary Cooks The Lobster:

Part of the feast:

You can tell by the look on Marianne’s face that she isn’t a big fan of lobster, so Bill got a lot of hers too.

After that we all went to a “kitchen party”. This is what the Newfies call an evening of local music and entertainment. It was held at the East Trinity Community Hall, cost $5 and went on from 8 to midnight. There were singers, an accordion player, a drummer, a guitarist who did vocals with another gal who sang harmony, and a story teller. At 10 they served “lunch”, which was sandwich quarters, tea and cake or dessert bars. The entertainment was wonderful and the place was packed.
Sunday we all left, with Chris, Bill & Marianne heading to Bonavista and Elaine and I stopping at Terra Nova National Park. This is a gorgeous area but unless you are camping, kayaking or hiking here, there isn’t a lot to do. We stopped at the visitor’s center where there was some info about icebergs.

Then we did a 9 km hike along Newman Sound which went through the woods and skirted the shore, but was not nearly as spectacular as the Skerwink Hike. That night we ended up at the Wal-Mart in Gander, where we did our laundry the next day, some shopping and then headed for Twillingate. Laundry here is really expensive, with washing and drying each costing about $2.50 per load.
On the way to Twillingate, we stopped at Boyd’s Cove where there is a very good Beothuk interpretive center. We had never heard of these people before coming to Newfoundland, but this was the name of the indigenous people who lived here before the Europeans arrived. They tried to avoid contact with the Europeans but inevitably they contracted a lot of their diseases, or they were killed in conflicts over territory, and in the early 1800 they became extinct. There was a gathering spot near Boyd’s Cove where they lived each Spring and Summer which has now been excavated to learn more about them. The exhibits are interesting and well done and it only costs $3 to see all this.
Information about Beothuks:

Beothuk Boat:

Beothuk picture:

While we were there, we learned that the icebergs were incredible in Durrell, which is right next to Twillingate, and also that the caplin were coming in. This is a small fish, very similar to smelt, which come in every year about this time to spawn on the beaches. There are so many of them that the locals just go scoop them right off the beaches and usually salt them and store them for winter. So we hustled up to Twillingate, parked our rig and drove directly over to Durrell Cove. Wow, cresting the hill and looking down into the cove, we could see quite a few icebergs of all shapes and sizes.

It was pretty cloudy but we took a lot of pictures anyway, and from quite a few vantage points.

Then we drove around to the end of the paved road and walked about a mile on the dirt road to get to the cove where there was a beach where some fishermen were in action. There were hundreds of seabirds flying around, and some people out in a boat about 10 feet off shore fishing with a small net. They were catching caplin because there were lots in the water, but they weren’t coming on shore yet. One of the fishermen told us all about them, gave us some of the ones that had just been caught, and told us how to prepare them. So we hustled home and Elaine cleaned them and I floured and fried them. Our opinion was that they were OK but not worth all the trouble.

Yesterday we had cloudy skies for a while and then the skies cleared so we went back over to Durrell to take more pictures of the icebergs with the sun shining on them. Again, it was amazing to see all of them and they looked so different from the night before because a storm had come in and moved them around a bit, and they are gradually breaking apart and melting, so the shapes are changing constantly. About 80% of the icebergs are below the water, so many of these are touching bottom and aren’t moving a lot. Sometimes they melt enough that they flip over. I think it is important to tell you that this is an unusual occurrence even for here. One of the Newfie guys has lived here 75 years and he said he has never seen so many icebergs in the cove like this. Newfies are coming over here in droves to look at them so it is not just us tourists that are interested in them.

The little coves and buildings are so picturesque, even without the icebergs:

Our Boomer friends Chet & Gaye Carruthers, who bought a house here 3 years ago, said that in June this was all one big huge iceberg that broke apart and created all these incredible pieces. The icebergs come from either Greenland or Baffin Island and take about 18 months to get here, according to the info we got at Terra Nova NP. Some of them have what looks like big blue cracks. This is an area where the ice is perfectly clear. One of the locals showed us a piece that he took from one of those areas.

The local winery here makes wine using water from iceberg ice. We picked up some of the ice on the beach and used it in a drink when we got back to our rig.
Speaking of Chet and Gaye, today we had them over for Happy Hour and had a delightful time getting to know them better. They purchased one of the more incredible pieces of property in town, a huge house which used to belong to one of the biggest landowners and business families in Twillingate, and they are in the process of redoing it, painting the outside, etc. The painting started today and will be about 8 different colors, which Gaye says will about give all the locals apoplexy since the house has always been white. We stopped by there on our walk and were lucky enough to be invited inside for a tour, and they allowed us to take pictures. Gaye is an artist and collector and the house if filled with all the interesting artifacts and collectibles from her life. Words can’t do it justice and neither can these few pictures I will put below. It is probably the most incredible place I have ever been in and both Elaine and I were not only impressed with it but delighted to be in it. I regret that I don’t have a picture of Chet & Gaye to put in here, with their house, but I will get one later, I promise.

Living room:

Dining room

Chet and Gaye told us about a local musical performance this afternoon at the church museum by a friend of theirs named Stephen Rogers. The pipe organ is a work of art in itself, and it was delightful to hear it being played by such a gifted musician.

Stephen also played the accordion, tin whistle, and keyboard. He played a mixture of Irish, Newfie, Scottish, and gospel music for over an hour and all was free.

There is quite a lot of musical entertainment going on here so we will be attending other performances for the next 3 nights. Then Monday, the Fish, Fun and Folk Festival starts and goes on for a week. I’m sure we will be having a wonderful time. We have established ourselves at the United Church parking lot and were the only ones here until yesterday when 2 rigs arrived and then today, 2 more. We have been told that by the time the festival starts there will be 50 or so packed in here. Tonight when we returned from the library, the fire department was here, using their powerful hoses to wash down the parking lot so that the cracks can be sealed tomorrow. Opps, rain is predicted. No crack sealing if that happens.

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10, 2009
Apparently we won’t be enjoying lobster any more, and gloating about it on this blog, because the season ended a few days ago. Boo Hoo. I’m sure we will be finding some other seafood treats instead, because the sea is ever present here. In fact, as we drove into Trinity the other day we noticed a lot of big blue and white floats in the bay, which we have been told is a mussel farm.
We are parked at Cooper’s Restaurant, near Trinity, on the Bonavista Peninsula. Chris, Bill & Marianne are parked here too, and in fact were here before we were because until yesterday, we were parked across from the Little Dairy King about ½ mile from the Bonavista Lighthouse, out at the tip of the peninsula. The woman that owns the Dairy King, Glynnis, has provided a picnic table, trash can, and a gravel drive onto the land across the road where there is a sign encouraging people to park there. The views out over Bonavista Bay are stupendous.

Some of the menu items are different from what we are used to seeing, but somewhat typical for Newfoundland.

Never having heard of cod tongues being served before, we have asked lots of people about them and received quite a variety of responses. If they come from larger cod, they have a kind of gelatinous texture in the middle which some people don’t like. Other people just love them. We never got a chance to eat at the Dairy King, or I would have tried them, and when we ate at the restaurant here last night, they weren’t on the menu. There has been a moratorium on cod fishing since 1992 because of over fishing, but apparently that must have been on the large commercial fishing because cod is still available locally. Most of these small fishing communities, called “outports”, were dependant on the salt cod industry and since the moratorium have had to find other occupations.
The first 2 days we were parked out near Bonavista were horribly windy, bitterly cold, and somewhat rainy. In fact, there were frost warnings for almost all of Newfoundland for those 2 nights. We did some projects in the rig just to stay in a warm place, and one afternoon went to the Ryan Premises, since we figured we would be inside and warm. Wrong. We were inside but it wasn’t warm. Ryan was one of the entrepreneurs who provided goods to the fisher folk on credit and then took their cod catch as payment and shipped it all over the world. When the tallying up was finished at the end of a season of back-breaking labor by both the fishermen and their families, often they had barely broken even, or were perhaps even a bit more in debt. But of course, the cost of the goods being provided and also the price for the fish being bought were both determined by Mr. Ryan, or others of his ilk. Suffice it to say, his house was a mansion in comparison to those of the fishing families, and there were quite a few huge buildings which were used in the providing of goods, such as foodstuffs, salt, tools, etc. and the storing of the salted cod. Five of these buildings have survived and are now being used by Parc Canada as a type of museum where they have interesting exhibits on this entire process and the lives these people led. Here is a picture of the Ryan Premises:

Besides catching the cod, they had to split them open, remove the liver to make cod liver oil, remove the guts and backbone, and then salt them overnight, and lay them out flat on drying platforms called “cod flakes” to dry.

Once dried they were put in barrels to be shipped all over the world, but especially to places in Europe such as Portugal.
Here is a side note: In Newfoundland the favorite drink is a rum called Screech. People who aren’t used to drinking it think it is awful. Some say that because the Newfies shipped their worst cod down to Jamaica, the Jamaicans shipped their worst rum to the Newfies.
Sometimes much is made of how hard fishermen work and the harshness of their lives out on the water, and the dangerousness of it. All that is true, and more in these cold, northern waters. In the Ryan house was a series of paintings depicting the lives of the women, who had to do all of the work other than actually fishing. They had to chop and split wood, haul water, clean, cook, raise the kids, make the clothes, and help with the fish processing when the men returned with the catch. Sometimes the men went off to the Labrador fisheries which meant they were gone all summer, and the women waited anxiously for their return. It was a very hard life. Sometimes the men also went off in the winter to catch seals. This was dangerous and cold. Once a storm caught them out there on the ice and 77 men froze to death. The other issue was whether they could catch enough fish in a season to pay for the goods that they had received on credit. Sometimes they couldn’t and then when the master cut them off, their families were at risk of starvation. These people were practically slaves!!!
On Wednesday, the beginning of the really nice weather, we drove south the Amherst Cove to visit the 2 ladies we had met at the Quidi Vidi Brewery. Their names are Janna and Pat and they live most of the year in the Vancouver area, and 2 months in the summer they stay here. We were curious as to what caused them to buy a summer place so far away from their actual home. Turns out they were visiting good friends who lived here and they fell in love with the place and bought a 100 year old house on a beautiful site overlooking Amherst Cove. They have been redoing it ever since because it needed updating with the bathrooms, new windows looking out on the sea view, they added a deck, redid the kitchen, and are making quite a charming place out of it. They were charming too, as was Janna’s sister who was visiting, and we had a good visit with them out on their new deck overlooking the cove. It was there that we saw our first iceberg, quite a distance away but visible with their powerful binoculars. Here are a few pictures from our visit with them:
Pat, Janna & Leslie

Out on their new deck overlooking Amherst Cove:

Unfortunately, we had to cut our visit short because the pageant in Trinity is only put on twice a week at 2pm and this was one of the days. We hustled over there and reconnected with Chris, Bill and Marianne who were also attending. It cost $12 per person which we thought was a little steep but there was a large (25 at least) cast and very talented. The scenes took place all over town and all outside except one in the church. Usually there was a grassy slope where the audience could sit and everyone could see.

It was quite well attended. It took 2 ½ hours and basically told the story of the Trinity area – all the trials and tribulations of the people through the more than 400 years of their history. I enjoyed it. A bald eagle flew over during one of the seaside scenes, and the sun was shining throughout, although the wind came up to cool things off. This cast also puts on at least one play every evening, and a dinner theater several times a week.
Back up the peninsula we went to Elliston. Their claim to fame is “the root cellar capital of the world”, and they have about 134 of them still in existence. They use them to store food, especially root vegetables, because they keep food from freezing in the winter and also keep it cool in the summer.

But we went there because it is one of the best spots to see puffins from land. As soon as we drove into the area and saw the cove, there was another iceberg – a really big one. Apparently the big storm of a few days ago just knocked a bunch of icebergs loose up north and they were floating by all the bays. Chet Carruthers posted that they had a huge iceberg up in Twillingate that had broken up into 3 pieces. We took a few pictures and proceeded out to Puffin Rock.
Puffins are cute, somewhat colorful sea birds that resemble parrots.

The puffins are on a big rock about 75 yards away from a headland that we walked out on. They burrow into the ground to make nests and raise their young, and apparently the big rock that is right offshore has enough dirt on it for them. There weren’t a lot of them out, but usually 3 or 4 at a time, as they kept popping up from their burrows.
We headed back to our rig and there, in Bonavista Bay was another big iceberg! Thinking we might see it better from the point, we drove out there. Since it was early evening, there was a bunch of people out there waiting for the puffins to return to their nests, because apparently there is another colony that lives off shore nearby. We didn’t wait around to see them, since we had seen their cousins earlier.
Near our parking spot was the turn for Dungeon Provincial Park. There are lots of great scenic sea stacks and arches along this coast but these are the best:

Yesterday, as we were getting ready to move our rig to join Chris, Bill and Marianne, Priscilla and Bill Scott stopped by to say hello. They are traveling with some friends and they have to drop them off at the airport in St. John’s in a few days. We will see them again at the Twillingate Festival, which is starting to look like it might be a Boomerang. (a gathering of Boomers, one of our RV groups). To our delight, the iceberg was even more visible this morning and we got some fairly decent pictures.

We proceeded to Port Union, where we took advantage of the beautiful sunny day by doing the Murphy’s Cove-Lodge Pond hiking trail. It was a 7.7km hike, a lot of which was out on the headlands overlooking the water and Green Island, where there was a lighthouse.

By the time we arrived at Cooper’s Restaurant and got settled in, we were tired and decided to “pay our camping dues” by eating in the restaurant. Chris, Bill and Marianne joined us when they got back from their explorations and we had a lively reunion.
Just a note here to other RVers about water. The locals have told us that often they don’t drink the local water, such as in Bonavista. The water is sometimes suspect in the provincial parks as well. It is best to try to find a place to fill up that has a well. When we arrived at Cooper’s Restaurant, Fred, the owner was outside. We introduced ourselves and asked permission to stay here and then said we needed water. He has a well and he graciously offered to let us fill our tank. Often, in the USA, we don’t like to carry a full tank of water because of the weight and its affect on our gas mileage. But here, we will fill up with water whenever we can find good well water.