Favourite Roadtrip Memories

Looking for dinosaurs in the Badlands, AB  Kayaking in Caliper Lake Provincial ParkMining for Amethyst in Thunder Bay, ONThe amazing sunsets in Sleeping Giant NPExploring Beautiful MontrealSwimming and Sunbathing in Shediac, NBLighthouse trail on Gaspiesie PeninsulaExploring the Maritimes in Nova ScotiaDriving the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton IsExploring Grassy Point in North SydneySeeint Whales and exploring St John’s, NFTracing heritage and hiking on Fogo IslandExploring Gros Morne National Park Ancient Pictographs in Lake Superior.Passing the centre of CanadaThe beautiful Prairies of SK & Manitoba

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Day 5 – Deer Lake to Port aux Basques

I made breakfast again and served it to Fergus in bed, again. Lucky boy! It was a cold morning but the clouds were clearing and I had been told it was going to be a nice day by the campsite lady. We entered Gros Morne National Park around 10am and it was quite a stunning drive in. The road twisted and turned up and down through heavily forested high valleys and beside dark blue lakes and small coastal townships before turning onto the West coast and heading North where it was flat until the landscape dramatically turned to high sided glacial tablelands.   

Our first stop was Western Brook Pond which is a huge fiord like formation with a lake at the base. It’s basically a fiord that doesn’t make it out to sea. The cliffs above the lake are taller that the CN tower in Toronto in parts and it’s a magnificent sight from the motorway. You walk 45 minutes from the car park through forested paths and boardwalks over boggy ponds to get to the boatlaunch and cafe beside the lake. There is a boat cruise but it was $60 each, unfortunately too expensive for us this time. We had a look around the souvineer shop and cafe and surrounding area before walking back to the car. I was a bit dissappoimted with Western Brook Pond really, when you Google the images of it you are met with people overlooking the lake from up high not photos of the boatlaunch which is on the opposite end of the fiord! I assumed this would be the place we would see but that is a 8 hour long hike from another part of the park. Gutted!Carried on up the coast to Shallow Bay which my Lonely Planet described as ‘seems out of place as if transported from the Carribean’, but annoyingly both the roads leading to the bay were on the map but didn’t actually exist….bugger.

We turned around, headed South again and stopped briefly at the wreck of the S.S Ethie a ship that ran ashore in 1919. There isn’t much you can see above the water but it’s a good photo spot and a nice pebbly beach. Drove around Lobster Cove where we visited a lighthouse briefly and looked for a lookout in Norris Point, another recommendation from the Lonely Planet we were unable to find. It was lovely seeing all the small bays as we headed inland and joined the motorway again via the blue waters of the East Arm and Lomond. Passed the ski hill again and followed the setting sun all the way to Port aux basques. Still didn’t see any Moose. There are no Moose in Canada, I’m sure of it! Had some dinner before lining up to get on the overnight Ferry. It was a quick boarding compared to our trip over to Newfoundland and by 10:30pm we were relaxed in front of the big TVs on board watching The Discouvery Channel. 

Day 4 – Fogo to Deer Lake

Woke up to a very dreary, rainy and windy morning, a total contrast to the day before which I was slightly relieved of as I had gotten a little sunburnt on our afternoon hike. Sorry Mum! 

I made breakfast on the stage to get away from the howling wind and to let Fergus sleep for a while longer before taking him his breakfast of egg, sausage & mushroom roll in bed. Stopped by the big church in Fogo (there were about 4 churches in town) to see the plaque high on the back wall dedicated to the Slade family. There was also a Slade tombstone in the nearby cemetary. One thing I did notice about the Island is the amount of churches and cemeteries. It seems there is a church for every denomination plus a cemetary! I’ve never seen so many in one small area of land!Visited the F.U Trading Co Museum in Seldom-Gone-By and went on a short tour run by a local teenager who worked there. A lady from London, ON we had chatted to earlier that morning at the campsite was also there. Her blankets had gotten wet due to the storm the previous night so she was using the dryer at the museum. They had a laundromat on site, odd I know! She joined our tour but kept asking loads of questions about why the Island’s fisheries were in decline and what could be done to make it thrive again. Learnt a bit of history about the shop before going onto the shop floor and managers office. Went for a coffee and a nosey around the ‘Museum of the Flat Earth‘, an interesting place with a weird and wonderful collection of Flat Earth bits and bobs including old photographs of the island’s Flat Earth society members and their membership certificates. 
Went for a takeaway lunch of Chicken Nuggets and chips at Vanessa’s Take out & convenience and headed down to the 2:00 ferry back to Newfoundland. Another very quick trip on a calm sea, thankfully the wind from earlier had disappeared. 

Headed back down the peninsula on the 331 which was full of potholes and made for a very bumpy and nervous trip. Passed coves, bays and small coastal towns containing multicoloured wooden houses, craft shops and roadside veggie stalls during which time the rain fell and large trucks passing sprayed a barrage of water onto our windscreen. 

Once back on the Trans Canada the potholes receded and we were able to make some leeway. Passed a big concert in progress in Grand Falls-Windsor and more roadworks dotted about the place.

Arrived in Deer Lake just outside of Gros Morne National Park and due to not having any accomodation booked we went to Tim Hortons to use the wifi, also had a cheeky burger. Fergus found a campground on the lake for $25 so we booked in there. 

On arrival at our lakeside site I wasn’t too happy, the internet was only available near the office and we were at least 15 minutes walk from there so no internet. Also, the one and only washroom/shower block was a 5 minute walk away. It doesn’t sound a lot but if you frequently go in the middle of the night like me you don’t want to be walking for 5 minutes in the cold, wet, pitch black night! 

Fogo Island – isolation at it’s best

We left St John’s and after topping up on supplies (food, petrol & water) we headed West towards the hilariously named coastal town of ‘Dildo’. Stopped briefly for a look around the town but there was nothing much there unfortunately, took some photos of the town sign before carrying on. Passed through Terra Nova NP where we had to wait repeatedly at roadworks which increased our journey by over an hour frustratingly, I was keeping my eye out for Moose the whole journey but they still managed to avoid my gaze. Listened to The Dreadnaughts, Cat Stevens, Billy Joel and Frank Turner, a bit of an eclectic mix of feelgood songs. Arrived at the small ferry terminal in Farewell around 5:20 and joined the queues of cars, RV’s and lorries waiting to board. The ferry left just after 6pm and after a look around the 3 decks we shared some chips, attempted a crossword and before we knew it we had arrived in Stag Harbour. Only an hours trip and relatively calm too.Drove 25 minutes to Fogo on the North Side of the Island and found the Brimstone Head RV park and after paying the very nice man $15 we settled in for the night. 

The RV park is located at Banks Cove, the impressive Brimstone Head towers above the cove on one side and on the other side is a smaller headland separating the cove from the next bay. There are showers, toilets, a stage, various snack bars (closed during our stay), a playground and the local Lions club at the top of the park. There is a festival held in the Park in mid August so I’d image all the extra amenities are here for that. It’s a beautiful spot.We watched an amazing sunset on the beach before having some dinner. It was great to be back cooking on our camping stove, I really enjoy it for some reason, I think it takes me back to my childhood and Mum cooking on her wee stove while tramping. Great memories. 

Day 2

Made scrambled egg and frankfurter rolls for breakfast before hiking up Brimstone Heads. The trail starts at the RV park and heads up into a grassy, boggy plain via a series boardwalks before you hit the steep stairs leading up the cliff. The views as you climb the headland are stunning and you can see bays, islands and sea for miles.Once up the stairs you walk over the moss covered rocks out to the very top of the headland where there is a large wooden viewing platform. Brimstone Heads is believed to be one of the corners of the world by the Flat Earth Society and when standing up there, looking out to the vast expanse of Iceberg Alley in the North Atlantic Ocean, I can see where they are coming from. We met some people from Southern Newfoundland up there and had a chat and took photos. Everyone we have met has been so friendly. The man who runs the RV park who’s wife may be a distant relative of Fergus, The French/Canadian man travelling around Newfoundland in his car with all the stickers who we also met on the Ferry back to NF, the lady from London, ON and her 2 dogs, who we met again at the Museaum who also reminds me of Lyn Cameron. They all asked about our accents and our trip and were happy to give us any travel advice and knowledge they had gained.

We then went to visit Bleak House Museam which is one of the original homes on the Island. It was built for the Slade family who ran a shipping company in the area. The Slades are distant relatives of Fergus’s. We had a guided tour of the house from a local lad with a strange accent. I also asked him a lot of questions about the Island and growing up on it. From what I gather most people graduate high school, go away to university and never return. Quite sad. We wandered through the old house following the tour guide while he told us about the rooms and their contents, much of which was original. He was clearly reading from a memorised script, if we asked about anything outside of what was on the tour he was unsure, he was only about 20 I’d say but he did a good job.

We headed over to Tilting for a look around then on to Joe Batts Arm, another of the Island’s larger villages on the North side. It’s named after a crew member of Captain Cook and is now famous for its very modern and very expensive Inn. Not my cup of tea as it sticks out like a sore thumb but it has provided the town with lots of jobs so the locals are happy. 

On the entrance to the Joe Batts Point Trail we met a lovely local lady who came out to get her little fluffy white dog that had run out to greet us. We spoke for quite a while about life on the island and our travels before heading off on the stony path towards the point. The trail meanders along the coast past vege patches, ponds, geological dig sites, little bays, streams and at one point a huge black box of an artists residence. These are common on the island and have been popular for tourists and artists alike. We saw 3 on our travels around. They are all modern, boxy and all accessed by walking trail. 

We passed a little green hut and over the next ridge we found the trail end and the large, green, iron bird sculpture that marks the end. Lay on the large flat rocks below the sculpture and had a rest. It was a very muggy day and we were both wearing jeans so had sweated a lot and we were hungry. The return journey didn’t feel as long and we were lucky to see the local heard of Caribou grazing. They were smaller that I thought they would be, a lot smaller that Elk but they may have been young males. They didn’t seem too bothered by us and it was nice to add another animal to our list, we hadn’t seen any Caribou as they don’t live in Banff NP.Returned to the camp for dinner of noodles, fried spam, mushrooms, boiled egg and spring onions. Watched another stunning sunset before retiring to bed to watch a movie. 

Return journey – Day 1 – London to St John’s

The month in London flew by. At times it didn’t but when we arrived back at Gatwick  Airport after saying goodbye to Fergus’s Mum Alison at Croyden train station it seemed as if it were only yesterday we arrived. I guess any trip home seems short when you have been away so long. 

After the obligatory breakfast of Eggs Benedict at the Wetherspoons and a bit of shopping in the North Terminal we boarded our Westjet flight an hour and a half late.The flight was fine except for a 10 minute bout of what the stewardess described as ‘moderate turbulence’. During this time I was on the verge of tears/heart attack and gripping the seat as if my life depended on it, I even yelped aloud at one point, everyone around me wasn’t bothered in the slightest.  Pussy….

We landed in St John’s just after 1pm, luckily we had no trouble at immigration and got a cab straight to Ben & Philippa’s. A key was left in the letterbox for us but Ockre (their dog) barked and growled every time we tried to openthe door, afraid of getting eaten alive on our very first day back in Canada we dumped our bags at the back door and headed into town for some lunch. Double pussy….Found a street full of bars in town and went to a pub called Green Sleeves, had a couple of pints and a burger each. They were lovely burgers but the bill came to $80! For a pub lunch! We had forgotten how expensive Canada was so were a little shocked, in London you could get the same for £15 in Wetherspoons. 

Wandered down to Eastern Edge Gallery where Philippa is the Director and got a ride home with her. Freshened up and repacked our bags and enjoyed an afternoon beer on their patio.  

Walked up and down the steep roads into town and went to The Gypsy Tea Room and had a bite to eat. Set in a large, open courtyard, this restaurant is just so cute, with its white buildings, trees, outdoor bar and lights I felt like I was back in South Africa enjoying wine in a Franschhoek Winery. Fergus and I shared Chicken Wings and fries and had a glass of Chardonnay. Chatted about Weddings, babies, house prices, life in Canada compared to London, our trip and lots of other stuff. They are such a lovely couple and it was great to spend more time with them. If we  do manage to get PR and stay in Canada I’d love to come and visit again. St John’s is a beautiful place. Went for a drink at The Black Sheep where it was Jazz jam night, saw some really talented musicians, especially Philippa’s friend who played the Banjo and sang. St John’s has a healthy music scene and a lot of people follow local bands which is really great. The music scene is so important in any town and I’ve always been a big supporter of local bands as my father was a misition for over 40 years. Big thanks to Ben and Philippa. Even though they are so far away it’s comforting knowing you have good friends from the UK living in the same country. They have been so good to us and we thoroughly enjoyed our 2 very short trips to St John’s. I hope we can return someday. 

Day 28 – St John’s to London

Walked with Philippa in the morning to The Roomswhich is a Museam and archives facility overlooking the city.

Fergus wanted to ask about some family who had ties to the shipping trade in Newfoundland and Poole. Found out his family once owned a very large shipping company who had their headquarters on an island called Fogo, we plan to visit the island on our way back to Banff. There is more information about the company Here. Took some photos of the view and carried on into town.Wandered the streets of St John’s looking at souvineer and craft shops and viewing the massive ships moored in the docks. It’s a very busy and lively city, smaller that I’d expected it to be but very pretty, just like a small fishing village just on a larger scale. Met up with Ben for lunch and he took us to a funky little cafe called Rocket Bakery where we had a chicken burrito each. It was a nice place, quite hipster and lots of  city types and young families enjoying speciality coffee and slightly overpriced food. Fergus and I headed through town to walk up Signal Hill which is  St. John’s most popular landmark. It offers coastal hikes and sweeping views overlooking the Atlantic and is the site of St. John’s harbour defences.We did the North Head Trail which is the oldest and most popular of the trails on Signal Hill. It follows a trail along the narrows to the North Head. 

The trail started off relatively easy, walked around the hills on steps and boardwalks, lots of runners passed us and we passed others going at a more leisurely pace. Stopped to look at Whales a couple of times and watch a ship entering the harbour. The trail winded around the cliffs and at one point the path was so narrow a chain was attached to the rock face for safety, the stairs climbed up to the point where the track dissappared and you could wander around the rocks.We walked around the point and as we did the wind died down and the heat really increased. Watched more whales off the point before climbing a huge staircase to the top of the hill. It was tough going!I went up Cabot Tower, the fortification on the top of the hill where the  final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force. Walked back down the trail on the opposite side of the hill towards Quidi Vidi, a small cove with a brewery. That path was not as steep but still had great views of the ocean before descending into forest where Bald Eagles nest and then onto the cute little cove.There wasn’t a bar at the brewery and I didn’t really want to do a tour so went to a very quirky pub called Inn of Olde. It is a funny place, stuff is all over the walks and roof, number plates, hockey sticks, newspaper clippings, Christmas decorations, you name it. I’ll definately return there when we come back to St John’s as I hear it’s quite a lovely place. Just had one beer before the long walk back to the house.once back at the house we packed up the stuff we wanted to take and the stuff we wanted to leave in Canada and cleaned and organised the car. 

We then had a lovely dinner with Ben and Philippa of Salmon, sausages, salad, chips and pasta salad. It was such a nice meal and had a good chat while enjoying an Old Fashioned. Caught a cab to the airport at 9:45 and flew out around midnight. 

Bye bye Canada!

Day 27 – Channel Port aux Basques to St John’s

Our penultimate day started very early. I woke at 5:30 and went up on deck to get some shots of the sunrise over Newfoundland. The boat was very quiet except for staff and a few passengers stirring from their slumber or going for morning coffee.The ferry docked and we headed down to our car and disembarked around 7:30 and headed to Tim Hortons for breakfast and wi-fi. Started our journey around 8:15 and headed out onto the last leg of the Trans Canada highway.Almost immediately the landscape was beautiful. It was very different to Nova Scotia surprisingly. Newfoundland is like Central Otago whereas Nova Scotia is more like Southland. (only makes sence if you are familiar with New Zealand)

The hills were larger, not quite mountains but definately higher and a lot rockier. Large parts of the flatter areas were rocky too and in amongst the rocks was forest, shrubs and small lakes. Perfect environment for Moose I’ve been told. 

Did we see any? No! Nada! Nothing! Ziltch! Saw some amazing cloud formations over the hills and got some cool shots from the car despite the dirty windowscreen laden with the bodies of dead bugs who got in our path. The weather was cloudy but looked like it was going to clear. It didn’t.Stopped a couple of hours outside St John’s so Fergus could sleep before carrying on into rain and mist. It seemed to take forever to actually get over all the winding hills into the city but finding Ben and Philippa’s house was easy.They live in a 2 bed house in an area not too far from town. They are renovating the bathroom and have already changed the house dramatically from what they said. It’s a lovely wee place with a fresh maritime feel and lots of artwork and sculpture around. 

Had a few beers and a BBQ with Ben and chatted to Philippa when she arrived home.