Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sea to Sea, Halifax to Mahone Bay

We set out on the scenic coast route, then decided the poor weather was giving us no return on viewing, so detoured back to the faster main road.  Ended up wasting most of our day and arrived quite late in Halifax

Visited the excellent Maritime museum, with history of Halifax, including the 1917 explosion, Titanic exhibit, Gays on boats, and tons of other very interesting stuff.  Pouring rain!  We rushed/sloshed our way from the Museum to the Neptune theatre to see "Frankenstein"  - competently produced, but the story line did not appeal to us. 

Then to the Old Triangle Irish pub downtown & Alexander Keith beer(s).  A group of six sat around a table in the corner and sang, played guitar, mandolin, Irish drum and fiddle.  Low key but very beautiful - a huge pleasure after the Celtic rock that had assailed us in our other musical expeditions.  The pub emptied, but we stayed late & applauded them.

We slept in comfort on a Halifax street

The next morning, we got back to a Wendy priority, and visited a wool shop to replenish supplies.  Wonderful Fleece Artist kits of mixed yarns in fabulous colours - irresistible.  Forgot about all the wool I have at home :-)

Next to the National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 - boat on the left is the Empress of Canada which first brought Richard to Quebec from Liverpool third class in 1957.  On the right, the Queen Mary which first brought Wendy (first class!) to Canada via New York in 1951.  Many artifacts and stories relating to 2.5 million immigrants, mainly from Europe.  Easy to re-envisage our first arrivals in Canada

On the right is the HMCS corvette Sackville which did 4 years convoy duty in the N. Atlantic during WWII.  The bridge is fully exposed, just in front of the mast. Weather was cold and strong winds blowing gave lots of atmosphere on the boat and made us want to re-read "The Cruel Sea"
We also went on board the SS Arcadia (right) - a vessel that was used for hydrographical surveys on the E Coast & Hudson Bay for 50 years.  Also it was armed and used in defense of Halifax during  WWII We were only allowed on the main deck - not below because Hurricane Ophelia was creating too much wind & danger.

Then to a lobster dinner at the Bluenose restaurant, before joining dancers in Dartmouth (across the harbour from Halifax) for English Country Dancing - pretty tame compared to Scottish Dancers.  Apparently, many of the group do the English CD after being invalided out of SCD!

By amazing co-incidence, one of the dancers was one of the group of six players and singers we had so enjoyed in the pub the previous night & he recognized us.  He said we must go back to the Old Triangle same pub with him after dancing 'cos a great group - The Dirty Dogs - were playing.  So back we went for more beer(s) and some great music! 

Wendy hob-nobbing with the Dirty Dog Fiddler. One of his ancestors was Italian & I think he, like Paganini, has made a pact with the devil because only a fiend can fiddle as fast as he can!

We invested in one of their CD's so that others can share that exhilarating music

Us with Leo, the dancer and musician - he spends half the year in Halifax and half in his home, Boston.  Lovely guy.

We slept again in quiet and comfort on the streets of Halifax.

Despite the continuing bitter wind, it was not raining - or not much - so we braved the Citadel - high on the hill in the centre of Halifax.  Spent several hours there hearing about the defences and battles prepared for and seeing all the various equipment, guns and kinds of ammunition, and displays documenting the history. In this photo, the demo was of the firing of the cannon - a daily event, tourists or not. Wendy never wants to go to another fort.

Later in the afternoon, we went along the coast to Peggy's Cove - a must-see and justifiably so - bleak and dramatic.
Very cold winds.

Just beyond Peggy's cove, another monument that of course we stopped at and read.  It was a solemn recognition of Swissair 111 which came down in 1998, 10 km offshore.  Local people came to the rescue - as much as possible.  A beautiful spot that was hazy in the rain.

At Peggy's Cove info booth, there was a sign about Lobster suppers.  !We found the location and feasted! Two 2lb lobsters with excellent salad and deserts for $65.  Turned out to be a featured place, where celebrities & politicians go.
Next morning, in Mahone Bay, found a lovely little cafe and while Richard worked on the computer - 4 hours - I wandered in the village and to another yarn shop and again was unable to resist a different collection of Fleece Artist yarns.  Oh well....

The cafe was also a book shop and, since it was a converted house, there were 3 comfortable rooms for sitting, eating and reading.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sea to Sea St. John's NL to Canso NS

From Twillingate, we headed south for St. John's, stopping for the night on a side road on the way to Gander.    En route is another lovely park, Terra Nova, but the only site-seeing stop we made was at an information center in Gambo, the birthplace of Joey Smallwood.  Apparently he lived there for only two months before being moved with his parents to St. John's.  For Gambo, the visitor site is a good draw for tourists like us but the area is also very lovely.  We knew little of Joey Smallwood but the displays and presentation of his life and times was excellent and interesting.  Where is his like today? He was passionate  and totally dedicated all his life to Newfoundland and its ordinary people.  We read speeches, excerpts from his book and other writing and added him to our long list of people and events we should look up again - but probably won't...alas.

In St. John's, we booked the car in for a service the next day so decided to go to the places needing a car and leaving city sites for the day we were on foot.
That meant heading out to Cape Spear, 13 km from the city.
The Lighthouse there is a National Historic site and the old lighthouse has been preserved, the new, unmanned one erected a bit lower down the hill.
I forgot to mention earlier - that when we went to Gros Morne, the agent at the entrance told us about annual passes to all the National Park sites across Canada.  So we are now the happy owners of annual passes - a bargain at $57 each, since it gives entry to any site in the country and reductions on camp fees at many of the camping sites as well.
Apparently, the lighthouse keepers who were replaced in the late 50's had looked after this lighthouse for about 170 years - generation after generation.

The work was important and they were well compensated (stg 95 pa) and the keeper had a large house - 11 children in one family it seems!  The photo shows the workshop on an upper floor, the lamp glasses were stored and cleaned regularly.  The lamps are very similar to the kerosene lamps we used in Malawi in our early years for house lighting before we had electricity. The lighthouse used seven such lamps on a turn-table.

Cape Spear also had gun emplacements during WWII, using guns (see photo) manufactured in the US in 1896, firing a 200kg shell several miles.  The gun mechanisms (no longer there) raised and lowered the gun barrel when firing so that it could shoot over the emplacement.

Cape Spear was also an important post for sighting enemy ships - St. John's being a harbour everyone wanted to control for access to fishing.  Cape Spear looks right across to Signal Hill in St. John's.

The lighthouse area was edged with steep cliffs and a very rocky shore.  Rolling waves as steep as the cliffs lunged at the barriers and foamed thick cream over the layers of rock and into the crevices.  I was entranced and quite overcome by the sight.  It seems the photos of this majestic assailant got lost somehow and the one here shows only a glimpse of the actual action.

We hiked further around the cliff
on a trail that went out to the point and back round to the lighthouse.  The layers of rock were almost step-like and between the steps, terraces on which grasses had taken root. 

While the camper was serviced, we wandered the lower town and harbour.  This Russian cruise ship is rusting at the dock & must have been abandoned some years ago - somebody is paying for that!

In the evening, we joined a local  group of Scottish dancers in St John's - very welcoming and good fun.  

After the group had left, we stayed in the church parking lot for the night - although it was right by the road, there was almost no traffic noise till morning.  And very convenient!

We set off next morning for the ferry at Portes aux Basques.  No stops except for tea and snacks - it was a 900 km trip and Richard has found we get much better gas mileage at 85 instead of 100 - the speed limit on most roads.   Arrived at Portes aux Basques at 9:30 - pitch dark.  Searched for somewhere to eat and found a pizza place - our first on this trip and, except for the lobster, the best restaurant meal we have had.  Fantastic pizza.  If you ever go to Portes aux Basques, go to Pizza Delight :-)

We joined the ferry line-up and before we had a chance to eat our pizza, there was an announcement about boarding.  It was 10 o'clock and departure time was 11:45, but... We scrambled to eat quickly and were then waiting for another 45 minutes before our line moved.  Oh well...

The ferry was very full and bunks and reserved seats all taken.  We were lucky to find two seats together.  Snuggled into our sleeping bags, reclined the seats and dozed/slept till arrival - or nearly till then.

First stop in North Sydney was the rust-proofing place.  The owner was a friendly man who has had this business for 35 years.  He rents trucks and U-Hauls.   He told us about a recent customer.  The wife weighed 600 lbs and could not walk unaided.  The couple had sold their home in Sydney, raising about $300,000 and planned to go to Abbotsford to buy a house and live there.  They had no idea, he said, what it would cost them, and no idea even what it would cost to cross the country.  The worst part of his encounter with them was trying to get the woman in the truck.  He was supposed to push her from behind while her husband tried to pull her in from the front.  Impossible.  They had a car which had been modified to make space for her and in the end, the car was put on the trailer with her in it and the trailer was pulled by the UHaul.  All the way across Canada??   The owner and his helper claimed to have watched her eat a turkey by herself and then share a Kraft dinner with her husband.  Sad to say the least.

Well, we were in Nova Scotia and en route to Halifax.  Dreary weather and vey foggy so we took the very long scenic route along the coast.   Hoped it would clear up.  It did, for a couple of hours and we stopped for tea and a dip in the Atlantic.
As usual, I got in first :-) and flapped around for a couple of minutes and then was able to take a photo of Richard who, of course, went in as well.  Can't say we "swam" in the Atlantic, but we got in for a dip anyway.

Stopped for the night at Canso campsite - no wi-fi but good laundry and great showers.  Halifax bound tomorrow!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sea to Sea Icebergs etc NL

Reluctant to leave the barrens of L'Anse aux Meadows, we took a long trail along the cliffs and round back to the parking lot.  A bit windy and a bit chilly, but invigorating :-)
Norris Point had been mentioned to us as a spot not to miss, so we detoured on the way back down the coast and parked for the night at the lookout.
Still on the way down the coast, we found a lookout from which we could see the Tablelands Mountains and also the hill we climbed just in front of them and on the right in the picture.

The route across the province from Cornerbrook was not too scenic - fairly flat with some ravines, short scubby trees and lots of bog.   We reached Twillingate in the late afternoon and went straight up to the lighthouse from which we had great views of the area.  We clambered around on the trails there and looked down the steep cliffs to the brilliant sea below.

The lighthouse lookout was well fenced, in contrast to the multiple unfenced trails.  Very very windy and pretty cold too!

Unable to resist walking part way down the trails, we started down but then saw how far it was to the bottom and how the light was fading and we still had the icebergs to see - so went back up.

These enormous ships of solid ice look lost in these waters.  Drifting south from home in the Arctic or Greenland.

In the sunlight and close to shore, they gleam, their sides beaded with sweat.
Richard thinks we have seen icebergs before, but I don't remember them.  In this bay, there were also numerous rowing boat size pieces of ice.  Apparently they are often driven by wind and tide toward shore.

Twillingate is a pretty little town whose whales and icebergs provide a living for lots of tour boat owners.  We  looked for somewhere to eat before setting off again, but again chose the grocery store and home-cooking.  We have not had much luck with restaurants - breakfast is usually okay but often we have our tea and make our own. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sea to Sea Sept27

While our trip East was to explore the Maritimes, our strongest interest was in Newfoundland and we were not disappointed.  Everywhere we went, it seemed, we wanted to take photos and learn more. We read more plaques and stopped at more lookouts and historic sites than I could count.  Gros Morne National Park was our first stop with that lovely campsite at Lomond and then the hike on to the Tablelands with the lively Angie.  We loved the open tundra -like slopes and boggy wetlands.  Trails were excellent and many were actually boardwalks elevated above all the wet - which was pretty necessary since walking on that terrain would have been impossible.
It was also very very windy! and quite chilly....

Gros Marne National Park Newfoundland - hiking

One of the much promoted trips in Gros Morne is a boat ride into the landlocked fresh-water fiord that was formed when glaciers withdrew.  But the day we thought about going was quite foggy and we decided instead to hike into the entrance to the fiord and see what we could see. 

En route, we were walking mostly on boardwalk and went by this lake. 

In the distance, we noticed a brown and white blob that did not fit with anything else in sight.  We also noticed people further on the path standing still and staring in that direction.  It was a cariboo. He had no trouble trotting through the bog and lucky for us kept coming in our direction so that his blobness gradually became clearly defined into a body with legs and head with antlers and we saw our first cariboo!

Later that day, we drove up the coast a bit and stopped for tea near the beach and walked a couple of kilometres on a deserted sandy beach.

In the evening, we went back to Rocky Harbour to see a show advertised as a Celtic music: Anchors Aweigh.
We expected more Newfie talk and stories as well as fiddling but it turns out -that there is such a thing as Celtic rock :-) 
Well, it was okay and the performance did include some stories and we enjoyed it. 
Celtic Rock band - Rocky Harbour

Left at 11:30p.m. and drove to our private camp site near to the official one.

The great thing about the camper is that we are entirely self-sufficient and can really stop anywhere and avoid the parking lots that campsites for any rvs tend to be.  Actually, these huge  rvs are referred to as "rigs"
From Rocky Harbour, we headed north to the furthest tip of the province where Grenfell had his mission and the Vikings landed and settled.
Along the way, we passed hamlets that appeared deserted.  We left hills behind and moved through a more barren and level landscape.

Abandoned summer fishing village

We stopped at one such village and walked along the beach - the family who had lived here had clearly given up.
Abandoned house
Being a lover of rocks, I had to stop to look more closely at such a wealth of rocks of many colours and shapes.  In this particular cove, the cliff itself was distinctive.  Its layers showed clearly how the earth had risen and the rock upended - the younger :-) layers at the right end, the older at the left.  Geology lessons are offered everywhere in Newfoundland - at every lookout and every information centre.  You do need to appreciate rocks!
Sedimentary rock, upended to vertical

Hundreds of miles of highway without signs

The long road north - winding along the coast, flat, the foam of waves a white frill along the edges.  What Richard much loved was the absence of any advertising signs - no Tim Horton's or Macdonald's or anything else.  Just the land - empty and itself.

We were eager to see the Grenfell museum and happy that we would get to it on its last day for the season (according to the booklet about it) - thus not miss out.  Unfortunately, it closed ahead of schedule.   We have both read Adrift on an Ice Pan and knew of Grenfell's medical practice in NFLD and Labrador, and Richard also had a connection with the Grenfell family from Mostyn House, his prep school in the UK. 

Grenfell centre - St Anthony

We couldn't visit Grenfell's house either but climbed up a trail behind the house to look out over St. Anthony.

View from ""Tea House Hill" - St Anthony 

Some of the plants growing beside the path

Red crack berries 

Along all the paths, we saw a great variety of lichens and mosses as well as tiny asters and daisies, queen anne's lace and some kind of foamy looking white lichen that moose like to eat. 

More cliffs and rocks and another geology lesson
All this driving - which Richard does - and lots of knitting time for me - so I finished a sweater for Alex - a little snug on Richard so it should fit Alex and be lovely and warm!

We discovered another place to go to hear local music - though again it was Celtic rock - but Richard got initiated into a time-honored Newfie tradition: kiss the cod and drink the screech - someone had to take the photos!  He was outfitted with a sou-wester and then did the kissing and drinking and was awarded honorable Newfie status.  To further prove worthy of the title, he had to stamp around in time to a jig of some sort.

After the carousing in the pub, we spent the night in the parking lot at L"Anse aux Meadows, the site of the Viking landing and woke to see the dramatic silhouettes of these iron figures against the sky.

Apparently, when the Vikings came, there were sizable trees growing here and the climate was milder, attractive for summers away from the icy temperatures of Greenland.  Now it is quite barren and local people have given up raising sheep and cows since there is meat in the stores that requires no feeding and butchering!

The site at L'Anse aux Meadows included reconstructed dwellings that archaeologists and historians believe would have been built here to house found here.  When excavations began in 1961, there were simply mounds that could not be identified as Viking.  But over several years, artifacts appeared that confirmed their presence beyond any doubt.  These items are held in cases in the centre at the site.  They include a 3 in cloak pin, two stone discs used in spinning (can't remember the proper name), and some iron nails.  Very few things and so much digging over such a large area!   It was all fascinating and much enlivened by the costumed and very knowledgeable villagers who described their lives, recounted stories from the Norse sagas and demonstrated some of the skills they needed to survive.   

In the forge, we saw how they took bog iron, smelted it and made nails to repair their ships.  The Vikings knew how to recognize that there was iron in the earth in the bog and also how to process it.  No other people who settled in the area had such knowledge and skills of iron work - more evidence of the Viking presence about 1100 c.e. 

There being no other road back, we retraced our route and drove back south to Rocky Harbour and from there, we would cross the province to the eastern shore, to Twillingate and the icebergs and down to St. John's, the capital.