Newfoundland Travels-Central Newfoundland

by

John Pelley

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Another sunny day for traveling. This time we went another hundred miles inland to Bishops Falls, anticipating a fun time at the Salmon Festival at nearby Grand Falls. Stopped at the visitor center at Grand Falls and picked up information about the salmon festival, which is rated as one of the top 100 festivals in North America. The festival lasts for one full week and about 30,000 people are expected. The major attraction this year is the band Great Blue Sea, plus other popular Newfoundland rock groups. The festival features a salmon dinner for 500 people followed by a dance, family day, and “Newfie” night celebrating the peculiarities of Newfoundland. The cost of admittance is pretty high: $32.00 for the concert, $25.00 for the salmon dinner.

We continued on to Bishops Falls and camped at the municipal campground at the based of the falls and the hydroelectric dam. The Exploits River is known for its salmon fishing. An angler is allowed only four from the river. For a nonresident, the fishing license is $50.00 plus the services of a guide. That is some expensive fishing. Rather catch my own fish at the market.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Today we had a choice of traveling North or South. Traveling South to the Coast of Bays was a one way trip of over 150 miles. Most of the area was mountainous and forested until the bay area. On the Southern shore of Newfoundland are many different fishing villages. The natives say the area is nice, but not worth the journey. We took the other road instead leading to Leading Tickle. The name itself tweaked our fancy (you notice I didnt say tickle). A tickle, according the Oxford English Dictionary, is a narrow treacherous stretch of sea water usually between rocks or cliffs entering a harbor. The real origin of the word is unknown. But either the ship was being tickled from either side by the narrow passage with the rocks or the sailors were delighted to pass through this last treacherous passage into harbor when they arrived after being tossed about on the North Atlantic. So the name came to be. In Leading Tickle is a fishery were we picked up some fresh cod fish. The fish had been gutted and opened. Only some bones and skin remained. They were then going to be salted and preserved. We got our fish before they were salted, nine pounds worth at $2.50 per pound.

Because of the fresh fish, we did not want to tarry on the tickle too long. There was, however one short side trip we had to make: Glovers Harbor. In 1879 the town entered the Guiness Record Book for the largest giant squid ever caught. This baby was over fifty-five feet in length and weighed over two and a half tons. Its tentacle was thirty-five feet long. The squid had surfaced to die. They are usually found in the deep Atlantic. Their only mortal enemy is the sperm whale. In the village is an interpretation center, which attempts to depict the life of the giant squid (a species unto themselves). Outside is a concrete replica of the squid at the place where it was brought ashore over a century ago.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Today we left for Twillingate, Iceberg Alley. We found a campground at Peytons RV Resort who has 30 amp service. The converter switched over and we were back in business. Twillingate is at the end of a series of islands connected by causeways. The area is known as iceberg alley, but very few icebergs have traveled from the North this year. At the Northern most tip of the island is Long Point Lighthouse, manned by Jack May and his family. They operate an interpretive center, restaurant and gift shop. Guides show the lighthouse interior, which is still operable. The light is fully mechanized, but the original hand cranked rotational mechanism still works. The lighthouse keeper had to reset it hourly. Also at the point are viewing stations into the North Atlantic. Visibility was about thirty miles today. We met a lady and her son who were waiting for her husbands return from crabbing over 150 miles out to sea. He had called and said that he was about ten miles from shore and on his way in. Nothing has really changed from the olden days when sea captains wives would await the return of their husbands on top of widows walks in their homes.

The water is crystal clear. You can see different currents in the ocean by the different colored lines in the water. Puffins, gulls and other aquatic birds abound.

At the Walter B. Elliott Causeway linking New World and Twillingate Islands is Prime Berth, a functioning authentic fishing stage. David Boyd, the owner, has been fishing for over fifty years. He shows how the cod was caught, and prepared for salting in the old traditional ways, before refrigeration. Everything you want to know about the fishing industry in Newfoundland can be found here. He tried in the 60s to convince the Government to outlaw drag net fishing, by the multinational trawlers. They did not listen and the cod fisheries of the North Atlantic are now like a highway. The bottom of the ocean has been scraped clear of life and the breeding grounds have been destroyed, perhaps not to be fertile again for many generations. On the tour he shows how cod liver oil calms the waves and how the fish and gulls go after bits of fish he tosses into the bay. On a trip to Newfoundland, this is a necessary stop.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Left Twillingate and stopped at Boyds Cove at the Beotuck Archeological interpretation center. The Beotuck were an aboriginal tribe of hunters and gathers who became extinct in 1829, when the last woman died in captivity. Because of her the little knowledge we have of this tribe survives. Archeologist Dr. Ralph Pastore from St. Johns searched the Notre Dame Bay for remnants of this society. One day he found a clearing. Not knowing what it was, he went ashore and found the possibilities of an archeological site. After a sample dig, he uncovered eleven dwellings, including one ceremonial one. Thousands of artifacts, including stone arrow heads, various animal bones, and iron implements. While the European fishermen were seasonal, they left for home every winter and left behind things they did not need, e.g. , iron nails, fishhooks, broken metal objects, etc. The Beotuck recycled these products, especially the heavy iron spikes and refashioned them into tools which they could use, like spear and arrow points, scrapers, etc. For over a hundred years they lived in peace, while the French in the North and the English in the South fought among themselves. When the English started to settle around Notre Dame Bay, the small tribe of Beotuck, not more than a thousand members, diminished and eventually became extinct, mainly due to disease.

The archeological dig is reached by a 1.6 kilometer trail. We took Morgana on it. She did pretty well and tried her best to walk the entire distance. But the heat and length made it impossible, especially with the proliferation of pesky piranha mosquitoes and black flies, who wanted to feast at the buffet of our bodies, even though we had sprayed ourselves.

From there we began taking the loop, route 330, around Hamilton Sound. We passed through many small villages, in which many of the residents have the same surname. We decided to camp at Musgrave Harbour. Off to the East were the Wadham Islands and to the North, Fogo Island.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

In Musgrave Harbour is the Banting Interpretive Center. Sir Frederick Banting, one of the cofounders of insulin, died in a plane crash here. The wreckage and a replica of his plane are on display.

Drove up the coast to Newton, the Venice of Newfoundland, because the town is built around nine tickles (remember them?) connected by bridges. Here the Balfour family lived, a prosperous seafaring family. Since the 1960s they allow tourists to visit their estates to see how life was in those days. The family still comes and lives part of the year there. The Center consists of two houses, one built in the 1870s, which housed thirty people; the other, a Queen Anne design built in 1904. Both houses have the original furnishings and memorabilia of the families. Job Balfours ship was caught in a hurricane one year and ended in Scotland. He turned lemon into lemonade, by bringing home a Calvin engine and marble vanity tops. All hands were saved. The Center plays a CBC interview with Captain Balfour, which is fascinating in itself. The Center features costumed docents who portray different characters in the school house, a cod stage, and a seal hunting ship replica. One of the buildings is also used for a theater, where plays are performed regularly. Newton, itself is quite picturesque.

Drove a few more miles to Greenspond, another fishing village, which was once the capital of this part of Newfoundland. The 1904 Courthouse has been restored and costumed docents give tours of the building. There is minimal parking, especially on a Saturday, when every one seems to be fish shopping at the local fishery plant. This put great strain on Baby, the trailer, and our personal relationship.

Our next stop was Gander, once one of the busiest airports in the world. All Trans-Atlantic flights once had to stop here for refueling. Just a week ago, the Concord made an emergency landing here, because it did not have enough fuel to arrive at New York from London. London was experiencing a heat wave with temperatures around 100 F. After fueling the plane took off. The fuel condensed at the high altitude, not having enough to reach NYC. The only plane at the airport today was a US Air Force transport.

Near the airport are the ruins of the town during the W.W.II era. Nothing remains except the streets and a few signs.

Just outside of town is the Silent Witness Memorial to the victims of the air crash on December 12, 1985 of the 101st Airborne troops flying home from a peace keeping mission on the Sinai Peninsula,landed at Gander. There was a crew change and refueling, but upon takeoff, the ship malfunctioned and crashed, leaving no survivors. The cause is still unknown.

One other fact about Gander is their people. After 9/11, when the airports were closed in the USA, many planes, which had been USA bound, landed in Gander. The people of Gander and the surrounding area came to the airport and invited the passengers into their homes. This is truly the Newfoundland spirit of hospitality.

Our next stop is Botwood, where we spent the night on the old W.W.II Amphibious Air Force Base. Even before W.W.II, Botwood was an important airport. The first Trans Atlantic flight of a commercial seaplane of a Clipper landed here in 1937. This was the advent of the luxurious air service across the Atlantic. This remained until after W.W.II when sea planes went the way of the horse and buggy. A single P.B.Y. Catalina aircraft sits at the harbor today as a reminder of the towns heritage. In the harbor is an island with a causeway leading to it, which housed defensive guns during the war.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Drove to Glen Falls-Windsor and visited the Mary March Museum, dedicated to one of the last members of the Beothuck Nation. It was interesting and emphasized the search for the Beothucks in the Exploits River Valley by Cartwright, Buchan, and later Peyton. By this time the nation was dying because of disease brought by the Europeans and many disagreements between the two cultures.

Behind the museum is a reconstructed village showing the different types of buildings the Beothuck used.

A short distance away is a logging museum, included in the price of admission to the Mary March Museum. This is one of the highlights of our trip to Newfoundland. The museum is a reconstruction of a logging camp in the 1920s, where forty to one hundred men would cut the trees for pulp wood for the mills. The camps usually were used for two years before moving to a different area. Besides the building holding the foremans office, galley and cooks quarters, and the bunk house, there were the blacksmiths building and the filing shop. The filers job was to sharpen the axes and saws every day. He worked at night while the cutters were sleeping. There were some interesting names for their different equipment: piss quicks, bitch pot, ass reamer, etc. Each was an important item in the loggers camp.

The cutting usually continued from the last weeks in August until the snow fall. The logs were hauled to the river bank or to the river itself, if frozen. When spring arrived they were driven down the river to the mill. Finally there was a small cleanup crew to find the straggling logs up the river. The wages for the cutters was piece work, depending on the number of cords cut. The other jobs were paid wages.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Today we went to Baie Verte Peninsula (Green Bay) to see the mines and especially the Dorset Indian excavation of soapstone in Fleur de Lys at the tip of the peninsula. On the way we passed an open pit asbestos mine, which has been closed for a number of years. Mother Nature is starting to take it over by forming a lake in its center.

At Fleur de Lys is the Heritage site of the Dorset Indians from about 6,000 years ago. They pre-formed bowls, lamps, and other items in the soft rock and then removed them from the site. The tools they used were other rocks for hammers chisels, and scrapers. The soapstone, which does feel like soap had properties which held the heat and was used for cooking pots and for oil lamps. Talc is part of the rock. Today very few sites exist of soapstone. A few scultpurers use them for decorative purposes.

We made a side trip to Tilt Cove. This was once a prosperous town of over two thousand people. Today it is ghost town of only five families. The area is beautiful and isolated, the cove leading out to Notre Dame Bay is surrounded by steep hills.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Went hiking today, a beautiful sunny day. The first trail we went to was the Rattling Brook Falls trail, where a water falls tumbles eight hundred feet from the mountains. This was a short trail, only one kilometer in length, but all up stairs. Morgana came with, but tired out about of the way.

After this we drove a short distance to the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail, approximately eight kilometers in length, most of it ascending to the summit of a 1,000 foot peak. Over 1,200 stairs take you to the summit. There is also a side trip to Corner Brook Falls, only 205 steps each way. The falls seem to come out of the mountain, rather than fall over the mountain. The views from the summit of the Green Bay area are beautiful. Along the way are two more water falls, one of them named Gull Brook Falls. A hike, which was said to take only three hours, took almost five hours instead. We returned home totally exhausted.

John and Maggie Pelley are Geriatric Gypsies. During our travels we have found many different and exciting places. Each town has a story to tell. Both of us enjoy good listening music as we go. John has a CD he has recorded. For pictures, links, and more information visit http://www.jmpelley.org.

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