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.