Understand Newfoundland

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.

My favorite Newfoundland Tourism Poster. "Somewhere, in a high rise condo, someone is trying to figure out how to feng shui."

My favorite Newfoundland Tourism Poster. “Somewhere, in a high rise condo, someone is trying to figure out how to feng shui.”

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.

Canada National Parks has a campaign underway, The Red Chair Challenge, with the slogan "We've Saved you a Seat!"

Canada National Parks has a campaign underway, The Red Chair Challenge, with the slogan “We’ve Saved you a Seat!”

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.

The Red Chair Campaign encourages you to "reflect on the place you've discovered and the journey you took to get there."

The Red Chair Campaign encourages you to “reflect on the place you’ve discovered and the journey you took to get there.” Each time I found a red chair, I did just that.

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.

Bonne Bay, Gros Morne National Park

Bonne Bay, Gros Morne National Park

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.

Cape Spear Lighthouse near St John's.

Cape Spear Lighthouse near St John’s.

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.

Easternmost Point of North America (site under construction, yet still have a seat to reflect where you are.)

Easternmost Point of North America (site under construction, yet still have a seat to reflect where you are.)

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.

Green Gardens Hike, Gros Morne National Park

Green Gardens Hike, Gros Morne National Park

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.”

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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!

L'anse aux Meadows UNESCO National Historic Site

L’anse aux Meadows UNESCO National Historic Site

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.”

Point Riche Lighthouse

Point Riche Lighthouse

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.

Port Aux Choix National Historic Site

Port Aux Choix National Historic Site

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.

Red Bay UNESCO National Historic Site, Labrador

Red Bay UNESCO National Historic Site, Labrador

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.”

Can you spot the red chairs on Signal Hill? Look along the ridge to the left.

Can you spot the red chairs on Signal Hill? Look along the ridge to the left.

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.”

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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.

36 thoughts on “Understand Newfoundland

  1. You have done your usual magnificent job of capturing where you visit with both your writing and pictures. Your summation is superb. Thank you for taking away any thoughts that I may have had about putting Newfoundland at the top of my bucket list.
    Peace.

  2. I’ve always been a bit on the lukewarm side about visiting the Maritimes. You’ve certainly changed that!

    Interesting to learn which provinces get to use the capital “M”aritime, and why.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  3. Glad you had such a great experience but had you not it would have been your own fault. You cannot experience Newfoundland with an open mind and not have a wonderful time.

  4. Ahh, so wonderful, such a respite from all the “stuff” we are dealing with here. You might find it a bit of a shock to get back to the States, Suzanne. Wishing you well in that as you continue onward. I have marked all these posts for our eventual trip to the Maritimes, it is a bucket list for us.

  5. Oh my me thinks wiping a tear from me eyes….. You know what I am thinking and feeling and you have so lovingly and wonderfully put it in words. I wish I had thought of the red chair meme… See you soon one day Precious!

  6. Nicely “wrapped,” pal… with a red “bow,” no less. This post demands a comment; it’s just so easy on the eyes, up there. I’m wondering if it crossed your mind to become an Ex-pat? Did you check on what it takes? A rather long drive to your other “love,” though. Life is full of compromises, eh?
    But you certainly didn’t compromise on reporting.
    Thanks,
    Box Canyon Mark

  7. How is it that I have tears in my eyes about a place I’ve never been?! My “places to go” binder will be exploding with posts about your time there. Thank you!

  8. Hope to get to Newfoundland one day, but not sure we can live on carrots and mashed potatoes alone. Surely they sell canned beans :)
    Glad that your decision to leave the Tracker in the states turned out to be the right one. I like the idea of day and night camps with a smaller RV and no tow vehicle.
    Really enjoyed all of your NF posts and photos!

  9. Oh, and to think that you almost didn’t go this summer! Thanks for taking us all along on this trip! It has been a wonderful adventure!

    We once pulled into a little gas station at the tip of Door County, WI. The owner had had to leave on an errand and just left a note telling customers to leave money in a provided box for their gas!

  10. I’m tearing up. I’m a mainlander that moved to Newfoundland 3 years ago. I love it here and are proud to be here. I’m not from here. But I’m definitely for here. Thanks for the great article my duckie .

  11. I’ve loved your Newfoundland posts. It sounds like a fantastic place.

    I was taken by the red chairs when I saw them at Waterton, and taken by the feel of Canadian National Parks. The folks at Waterton told me it was an exception, but your posts about your experience on the other side of the country sounded similar. Makes me want to spend lots more time touring Canada!

  12. What a beautiful post to such an amazing adventure. If I were you, I’d stay a bit longer! It’s not pretty here. Safe journey and thanks for sharing sweets!

  13. You certainly did have a magical tour around Newfoundland. Thanks for taking us along:) Love all the great spots to spend the night. Love those red chairs!! We enjoyed coming upon them in Alberta while hiking Jasper and Banff NP. Hope you had a great ferry ride back to NS.

  14. Newfoundland just moved 25 notches up on my bucket list. Can’t wait to sit back in one of those red chairs and just “be”.

  15. You’ve described my home and our people beautifully! I love every inch of our province…well, minus the highways! Such beauty wherever you travel in Newfoundland. Thank you for such a lovely commentary.

  16. Tom and I so enjoyed your trip! So much so that it is on the list for summer next year! We were lucky to come upon a pair of red chairs at Kathleen Lake in Klaune National (Park? Reserve? Not sure which…) in 2015. We thought it a
    happy circumstance; so glad to know it is part of their campaign. What a great one!

    What’s next?

  17. Your post just popped up and must agree that NL is enchanting in so many ways. Your description captures the simple beauty of the Rock and its delightful inhabitants. Only there for 9 camping days but needed a summer to capture it all. Recommending all my friends give it a visit. One caveat – it is much bigger than it looks on a map. Thanks for sharing.

  18. As many others have commented, you’ve done a lovely job of portraying NL, both the place and the people. But Newfies aren’t all that different from the rest of us Canadians, perhaps just more so. There is a wonderful thread on Quora entitled “What is an “only in Canada” moment?” You will smile and recognize much of what charmed you about the Newfies. And perhaps you’ll return and visit more of “our home, our native land” of the True North.

  19. Hello, Suzanne…

    It was very nearly 36 years ago that I first visited Newfoundland and Labrador, and over 31 years since I emigrated here permanently. You seem to understand why that is. As my neighbour’s son-in-law, a born and bred Newfoundlander, has said, “I would rather starve here than thrive on the mainland.” You’ve captured the feeling of the place as unbuilt _ the barrens, the hillsides, the ubiquitous ponds (the saying is that, as you drive the highway, you’re never out of sight of water), the ocean, of course. Some of my favourite places are the barrens, where you can nearly hear nature breathing gently and waiting patiently for us silly humans to move on.

    A lovely column. Thanks!

    A former American.

  20. I appreciate learning the proper pronunciation of “Newfoundland” though I think I’ll keep that a secret from my pals and buddies here in middle Tennessee. I’d whole lot rather hear “NewFUNland” than “NewfunLAAYAND”. What a glorious adventure this latest trek afforded you. And…us. Thank you for your time and effort in taking me along. :-)

  21. We anxiously await each of your posts and take copious notes. Thanks for the boondocking tips. Don’t be surprised if you get a private message from Barb asking your opinion for our trip out that way next year!

    • Jim and Barb…

      An old tourism bit of advice here is to simply get off the highway and drive to the end of the road. You will rarely be disappointed. As an aside, if you would like a nice night or two in a B&B, I can’t recommend enough Captain Blackmore’s Heritage Manor in Port Union (the only union built town in North America) on the Bonavista Peninsula. Look up that B&B in TripAdvisor for reviews. You would most probably need to book a room now for next Summer. Port Union is perfectly located between Trinity and Bonavista, and the whole area is wonderful. Whatever else you do, be sure to strike up conversations with strangers out ‘roun’ da bay.

      One caution, though: Keep valuables out of sight in your vehicle.

      Cheers,
      That Old Guy in the Corner

  22. What a great finale to your exploration of Newfoundland. The people there really stand out, but the scenery is fantastic as well. Thanks for the posts my precious!

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