Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Newfoundland --the most easterly point of North America and our world's l6th largest island--on a map, it looks like a slice of Swiss cheese. It is solid around the edges and lots of holes in the middle. It was formed by the movement of tectonic plates, the ice age, and the ocean...a geologist paradise.
The settlements are mainly along the coast because of the island's geography and because fishing has been the mainstay. Spain, Portugal, France, England began fishing here in the 15000's and are an integral part of the political history of Newfoundland. Reports are that the Grand Banks off the southeast coast produced so much cod they could be "scooped from the water in buckets".
But cod fishing came to a halt in 1992 when cod stock had declined so that the government shut down cod fishing..over 40,000 people lost their job. Today other fishing is permitted, but cod catch is limited to 5 a day and only for family consumption.
But, there is no shortage of moose..more moose than people. Six moose were brought to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia around 1900..today there are over 120,000!!! They amble across the highway, the show up on road signs as in "drive slow--moose for next 30 kms", they show up on menus as in mooseburgers, moose pizza, moose stew and they show up in conversation as in admonitions "don't drive at night..you might hit a moose!
Other interesting menus items: cod tongues, halibut cheeks...and those wildberry pies--um, good!
A food conversation we had: We are checking into our accommodation "Cozy Corner" before dinner and asked about a place to eat. Pam, at the desk, describes multiple moose dishes: mooseburgers, moose soup, moose pizza. Kristen asked if there were any vegetarian options. Pam looked a little puzzelled and replied, "Your're the first vegetarian I have ever met. Maybe some have been here before but nobody said they were". We had fish, salad and pie for dinner, but think we were the headlines for the day at Cozy Corner.
Things we noticed: we never saw a chain fast food restaurant until we were in St. Johns, the capital city.
Very little traffic on the highways..maybe the moose are a deterant to cars!
Every little community has a "convenience store"...and that is the name on the front of the store. They sell canned and packaged food, nails, locally produced jams, work gloves, fishing tackle, crocheted/knitted wooly caps, mufflers, gloves, rent videos, sell lotto tickets, soft ice cream from a machine, etc.
Accents are a mix of some French, some Irish (esp on Atlantic side), Scots, English. And then there was: "here's some bread for ya's"; "There are 2 of-n-us with knee problems"
There were small gardens and large wood piles beside the highway--as on the public right of way. When we inquired we were told this is public land and good soil, in this otherwise rocky terrain, for gardening. The wood is cut from "Crown" land..offered by section each year for cutting...left by the side of road after being cut in the near-by woods and owner will gradually move it to their house before winter comes. Every out building we saw was filled with a stockpile of cut wood .
Most roofs had a ladder attached....its purpose was for climbing up to chimney for chimney cleaning.
A short conversation with a guide for a nature tour: "What will we see on the tour? Response: "Mostly shrubs and geology". "Any birds?" Response: Well, yeah, but they go by so fast you can't see 'em so good." We used that bird line alot for the rest of the trip.
We saw/identified over 40 wildflower varieties; exciting wildlife: whales--our boat captain said a 30+ton one--My mouth dropped when I saw the broad back of that giant as he dived under our boat! We saw a black bear at distance, a mink from our kayak as we were pulling close to shore, an eagle just gliding by the harbor, a fox, and lots of seabirds: puffins, guillemots, cormorants, fulmars, gannets, Arctic tern...and of course moose.
And, when we were in the Northern Peninsula....I saw an iceberg floating by...almost as exciting as seeing the first whale!
We walked where the Vikings had landed in the year 1,000....some of Leif Ericson's people..L'Anse aux Meadows(evolved French name meaning "Bay of the Jellyfish")--now a national park/archaeological site.
In a little coastal village of Conche in an area called "the French Coast" we found a jewel....a tapestry is being embroidered by a group of village women that unfolds the history of this bit of coast line. It will be l89ft long when completed next year....40 ft are on display in a small house museum now...we saw that display then were invited downstairs to see the work in progress. What an accomplishment in so many ways!
So, this ends our sabbatical of travel......what a fantasic experience! We have traveled over 55,000 miles in a period of l64 days; we have taken 35 flights, stayed in 70 various accommodations; Kristen and I have had 534 meals together; we have had untold laughs; met memorable folks; eaten pizza in every country visited and also, alot of peanut butter; shared some awesome sights: Iguazu Falls, ARG; looking at the night sky thru telescopes in the Atacama dessert /Chile; landing on Easter Island--just a speck in the big Pacific--the list is long.
And, if you would like to know where all of this has led, take a look at
Thank you for reading along with our journey....and happy trails to you,