After spending the night with whales feeding right outside my window, I am too wired for sleep. I wake up with the sun, which is quite a feat considering it rises at 5:30am. After my hike up to the lighthouse in hopes of getting some nice color in the clouds before the ubiquitous fog rolls in, I contemplate a nap.
But the weather forecast shows this to be the most favorable day in a while. So no crawling back into bed for a few more winks, even though it was only a few hours sleep. I’ve got to keep moving. Weather changes fast here on the east coast, so I don’t want to waste a minute of sunshine.
I am stalking puffins. I’m not much of a “birder,” but when it comes to those adorable quirky cousins of the penguin, I want to see them up close. I’ve read the best chance to do that is in nearby Elliston, just about five miles from Bonavista. In fact, the Newfound and Labrador tourism website has this to say, “Elliston’s puffin viewing site offers the closest view of puffins from land in North America. Puffins fly close to viewers and often land on the cliffs just several feet away.” Several feet away!
Elliston’s other claim to fame is “The Root Cellar Capital of the World.” Good to have a back-up tourist attraction for those months when the puffins are done breeding and head off to sea. More than 130 root cellars have been found in Elliston, the oldest dating back to 1839, still in use. These earth-covered cold-storage units used for potatoes, carrots, turnips, and to a lesser extent, meat and dairy, remain dry and at a constant temperature year round.
But I’m not here to see root cellars, I want to see puffins! I stop at the Visitor Center/craft shop for directions to the “puffin viewingsite,” a point out on the edge of a promontory, overlooking an island of nesting puffins. This bluff for viewing is separated from the nesting island by only a few yards.
I’ve seen photos that indicate the puffins actually fly over and land on the “people-side” at times. So I take a seat in their flight path and wait. And wait. And wait. Squadrons of them fall from the sky, dive bombing the surface of the water. But they avoid the people-side as if they delight in the tease. There are small, shrieking kids running across the peninsula skirting dangerously close to the edge while their parents stare inattentively into binoculars at “bird island” across the way. There is no way any puffin in his right mind would come near these kids. Finally, I give up…
I move on down the eastern edge of the Bonavista Peninsula to the little seaside towns of Port Rexton and Trinity, known as a “heritage community.” Established back in the early 1700’s, Trinity’s protected harbor made it ideal for fishing ships making their way over from Europe for the cod fishing. It was also the site of the first court of justice in North America, established in 1615.
Many buildings throughout the town have been lovingly restored as Registered Heritage Structures by the province, but thankfully not overly done. The town of Trinity has been featured as sets in the movie, The Shipping News, and the TV miniseries, Random Passage.
But those puffins are still haunting me. Should I return and backtrack thirty miles up from Trinity to Elliston and try again for an up close and personal puffin experience? Or keep pointing south, accepting that it’s not meant to be?