Newfoundland

The Ferryride was certainly longer than I expected. Obviously I hadn’t ever payed close attention to a regional map of the Maritimes. The foundation of my Ferry experiences were based on going from Vancouver to Naniamo to visit the James family with my Dad a few times when I was a kid.

There are two main routes for taking a ferry from cape Breton to Newfoundland. The shorter one leaves from Sydney almost directly North to Port Au bask, the closest town, and is about a 6-8 hour ride (depending upon the seas and darkness). The second route also leaves from Sydney, but heads Northeasterly across the ocean towards St. Johns. I’m unsure how long that route is, since it will not even begin running until mid-June when the traffic gets heavier. This thought was laughable since there was quite the huge line up of vehicles waiting to board, AND we had to pre-book our passage no less. The one cool space saving (but hugely time-wasting) thing they did was to load tractor trailers all along the sides of the lanes, then detach and drive back off of the ship. This allowed the trailers to be butted up to one another with nary a half meter to spare. Our scheduled arrival time was pretty late on the other side, so we had pre-booked a B&B just on the other side. We were delayed leaving a couple hours and when we arrived extra late on the other side, the B&B lady didn’t even bat an eyelash since altered schedules were absolutely the norm and not the exception.

The next morning we headed off North to Gross Mourne National Park, about half the height of the province to the North. All we’d heard about this park was absolutely true. It was glorious, and beautiful and really extraordinary. We visited the main park office and after a quick orientation on their offerings we quized them as per the instructions of our sacred quest. A good friend back home is the visitor services manager for our own national Park. He believes, and very sincerely I have to say, that all (or as many as possible) Parks staff should at least be vaguely familiar with some of the other National Parks across the country. As such, we have been tasked with broadening such knowledge of all Park staff that we encounter. The quickest (and friendliest) way we tend to accomplish this is by asking individuals or groups what the name of and where the largest National Park in Canada is. These guys did OK, and one of them came out with WBNP as a third guess (totally grasping at straws) after Banff and Elk Island. When I went to further explain that we have seasonal forest fires which are the same area as a third of their park, everyone’s eyes widened inn suitable astonishment and wonder.

Due to all of the salesman’s screw-ups with our car delivery, we were sadly short of time on the “Rock”. This meant that we just couldn’t even consider heading East much at all. I also wanted to make the long (four hours extra each way) drive to the North to see the Viking settlement which represented the first settlement of Europeans (or Caucasians) in North America. It was a long boring drive when we were short of time, but we were (well, I was anyways!) willing to invest the time for something so historically significant. Luckily for Claudette we discovered that the Viking historical site wasn’t open until June First! That was still a few days away, and we needed to be back on Nova Scotian soil by then. We had also prebooked our return passage on the ferry for the night of May 31.

After toying with a few different possible excursions, we decided on a few and headed to a town at the South end of the Park. There was more outstanding “things” to see and do inn this smaller section of the Park. Most famous of all were the “Tablelands”. These are flat topped mountains (large hills really) that were thrust up from the very depths of the earth’s crust. They contain keys to our planets makeup and Geologists consider the area an orgy of learning onn display. They were indeed VERY cool, and after a night at a little B&B in Woody Point, we all enjoyed walking along the paths and studying the rocks too. We also picked a nice little hilly path that led to the shoreline of the Ocean. It was only about 5km in, but there was a nice little campground at the top of the cliffs for those who might be so inclined. There were sea caves about 300-400 meters down one way that people can walk to at low tide. We had intended on checking them out but arrived about an hour too late to make it back to the stairs up before the incoming tide would cover the route. We still played around on the beach for awhile and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit before hitting the trail for the mostly all uphill trek back to the parking lot.

We ate our fill of seafood at a few different restaurants on the island, and checked out a few other small towns along the way South back to Port Au Basque. We had gotten word from one restaurant that one of the two ferry’s was down, and the remaining one was massively behind schedule. We checked on our booking and were told to show up anyways, which we did a couple of hours early. With an overcast drizzle and three hours to kill before our scheduled departure, we set in to watch a couple movies and some cheers episodes on the car’s DVD screen. Worse still though, our departure was delayed another two and a half hours. Since we were taking the overnight cruise to return to Cape Breton, we had pre-booked a cabin this time as well. That proved to be incredibly worthwhile. Once parked on the ship, we went directly to the cabin (with an ensuite head) and all immediately crashed. Everyone slept quite soundly and it was a loud and very rambunctious child in the cabin that finally woke us up a little after nine inn the morning. Not bad under normal circumstances, but we had only just gotten to our cabin at about three in the morning. Nonetheless, we splashed some water on our faces and waited for docking before returning to the car and driving off.

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