If those two words in that title didn’t rhyme, then the pronunciation is not correct. The emphasis should be on the “LAND,” just as the emphasis is on “STAND” in the word “understand.” And trust me, after spending time there, you’ll want to get it right.
This blog post is being composed from Cabin 8044 on the Atlantic Vision, ferry from Argentia, Newfoundland to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. As I mentioned in my previous post, there are two ferries that go between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. There’s the “short ferry” from the west side of the island which takes six hours and costs just under two hundred bucks. Then there’s the “long ferry” which leaves from the eastern side, takes 16 hours, and costs half an average mortgage payment. I am taking the long ferry because I am tired of driving. Lest anyone think Newfoundland is just a “hop, skip, and a jump,” I have driven 2,671 miles in the month that I have been here….and that’s just one way, west to east. So I am happy to let Maritime Atlantic do the “driving” on the way back.
It’s a good thing there are so many chores required to do before departure. No time to get emotional over leaving. Since the ferry is an overnight, a bag had to be packed, refreshments assembled, and the rig prepared for the ferry by turnng off the fridge, water, and propane, pull in the side mirrors, and do one last run through to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. Once parked, passengers cannot return to their vehicles until safely docked on the other side, sixteen hours from now. It’s a good thing there are so many tasks…because otherwise I would be a weepy mess.
I will miss this quirky, offbeat, nature-lovers version of Disneyland, so unique it has its own timezone. But Newfoundland is out there on the rough and ragged edge… just enough comforts to feel confident in staying, but like the rogue wave in the incoming tide, you don’t want to stay out there on that beautiful raw edge for too long, lest you get swept away. And I do feel swept away.
There is a level of freedom here that I’ve not experienced before, particularly as a boondocker (or as the Newfoundlanders would call me, a “gravel pit camper.”) There has rarely been a “No Overnight Parking” sign to be seen. No patrolling security guards to run me out. No “we can’t accept the liability” conversations. It’s a place that clearly doesn’t have many lawyers per capita. Very few rules to abide by, yet everyone still seems to do the right thing and get along just fine. “Civilized rusticism” is what comes to mind, if that makes sense.
I hate to go on, but seriously, how can one not be moved to tears by falling asleep listening to whales breathe? Or waking up on a foggy morning overlooking a bird sanctuary? Some might ask, “Aren’t you afraid of boondocking in such remote locations as a woman alone?” But which is the greater fear? That something scary would happen or worse, I’d end up in harm’s way? What is the definition of “detrimental to my safety and wellbeing?” Living my life in the close proximity of sameness? Or missing the opportunity to wake up to the smell of the sea on my face, and the sound of whales breathing in the cove outside my bedroom window? For me, it’s a rhetorical question.
Out of 34 nights I spent on Newfoundland and Labrador, nine were spent in campgrounds, for a total of $226 CAD or $183 USD. Campgrounds typically offer everything from what they call a “Three Way” (what we would call full hookups of Water/Elec/Sewer) to “Non-Serviced” which is staying on their property, using their facilities such as showers, laundry, etc. but not hooking up. I only stayed in campgrounds for matters involving water…to fill my tank, have a longer shower, or do laundry.
Otherwise, this left 25 glorious nights of solitude, as the rest was spent parking in the shadow of lighthouses, scenic overlooks, and even a few unorthodox spots like the gigantic parking lot of “Our Lady of the Cape” cemetery. It will be tough to go back to the “nut to butt” feeling I have been having the past year or so, jockeying for position in the overcrowded parks with the increasing number of RVer crowds closing in.
I adapted my own “hierarchy” for boondocking:
1.) National Parks – Don’t do it. You will likely incur some kind of wrist-slap or warning note.
2.) National Historic Sites – Ask permission, (for which I was only denied in the case of #1.)
3.) Municipal Parks, Ferry Docks, Non-historic lighthouses, scenic overlooks, restaurants, gas stations, and any number of other public parking lots – If there are no restrictive signs, assume it’s okay.
Only three times in the 34 days did I opt for a second night. The Winnie sans Tracker was perfect for what my friend John calls “gunk-holing,” a boating term referring to cruising from place to place, spending the night in small, protected, quiet anchorages. Rarely did I even extend the slide. With the sun not even setting until 9:30pm, this allowed plenty of time to explore attractions by day, then find a place to park just before bedtime. I began to understand the rhythm of what Tioga George coined as “Night Camps and Day Camps.” It was tremendously freeing.
But it’s not only the places I will miss…it’s the Newfoundland people. I’ve never been exposed to a happier, more friendly populace. They don’t have much, but they seem to compound interest in their relationships and support of their community.
I will miss the quirky accent…how they pronounce an “H” when it doesn’t belong, or drop the “H” when it does. Eight becomes “hate” and “His” becomes “is.” And never a “my,” always “me.” And of course “dere’s dis and dat.” And all conversations are punctuated with “My precious,” “Yes, me love,” or my personal favorite from the handsome redheaded man at the tire store, “No problem, me Lover.”
There seems to be no need for rules here. I think in five weeks, I saw one police car. The horrible roads keep speeders in check. And everyone seems too busy making a living to raise too much mischief. I saw very few rules. When stuck in Grand Junction, waiting two days for the tire store to open, I hung out at the McDonalds, just for a change of scenery. Unlike the US McDonalds who posts signs saying you can remain only 30 minutes after you have finished your meal, this one has a gas fireplace and leather lounge chairs!
Another thing to love about Newfoundland is the level of trust. One of my favorite memories is from my experience at the first gas pump I encountered where there was no credit card reader. I walked into the station and handed the woman behind the counter my MasterCard, and said “I’d like to fill up on the diesel pump, please.” She looked down at her instruments, puzzled and said “Okay….so go fill up!” I asked, “Don’t you need my credit card first?” to which she responded, “Oh. You must be from the States. Go fill up, me Dear, and then come back and pay me when yer done.” This same level of trust is seen in the roadside woodpiles that people from the community stockpile along the road for the winter. Or their individual gardens planted in the roadside easement. These are all on the honor system, and no one takes the other person’s “stuff.”
There are very few downsides to spending time in Newfoundland. Certainly the horrible roads and road construction will fray one’s last nerve, as there simply is no path to dodging potholes on some of the roads. And the expense of the ferries may be off-putting to some (I spent a thousand bucks in ferry fares throughout the maritimes,) though I tried to look at it as the cost of an airline ticket.
And as someone who hates to cook, my food pyramid all but collapsed. I survived on pan fried cod, mashed potatoes and carrots. If you don’t like carrots, you are out of luck where vegetables are concerned. Green on the plate is as rare as fois gras. But oh, that fresh cod! And if it comes cooked with “scruncions,” (the bacon’s bacon) don’t ask…just enjoy.
I have so many memories of this magical place that I want to remember…I wrote twenty-one blog posts on one province, and still I only saw half of it. My constant closing of emails to my family as I reported my location for the night was “I’m not ready to leave this spot yet, but there’s just too much yet to see, so I must keep moving.”
But alas, the ferry gangplank is up, the engines drone on to the rhythm of the ocean swells, and land disappears out my window. As my dear diving buddies used to say, “If you don’t leave, you can’t come back.”
The Newfoundlanders have a saying, “How can you tell the Newfoundlanders in heaven? They’re the ones that are wanting to go home.”
Raise your glass and drink with me to that island in the sea
Where friendship is a word they understand
You will never be alone when you’re in a Newfie’s home
There’s no price tag on the doors in Newfoundland.