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: