Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 16: Monday, August 17, 2009

I woke up to bright sunlight and thrash metal at 7:20am, thanks to our charmed luck with weather and the 5 or so 20-something guys in the next site who felt the need to blast music while packing up. At least it got us up in good time, and we checked out the beach attached to the campground. They have a provincial park called “T’Railway”, which I think is an old railway line, now an ATV trail, and also a bit of a joke on the local dialect. We saw a couple of plovers and several kinds of seaweed, and walked along the fine sand avoiding the waves coming in.

We started driving north, excited about our first look at Newfoundland. For a couple of hours we just drove straight north to Cornerbrook, where there is a Where to Eat in Canada restaurant. It looked unpromising for a long time - the mall it was supposed to be in had no name on it, then the restaurant was in the basement, looked like a florist’s shop, and then when we found the cafe, looked full. Everything turned out fine from that point on. The Thistledown is a combination florist’s and cafe, and shares space with a restaurant, where they seated us. The waitress recommended a quesadilla for Will from the evening menu, and Mike and I had wraps and salad. They brought Will the wrong quesadilla at first, but brought him a new one right away and gave him a free cookie for dessert to make up for it.

There was a used bookstore in the mall, so Mike and Will went up to check out whether Will could stock up on reading material, and I paid the bill. We made another quick stop across the street from the mall at a grocery store.

We followed the “T.C.H.”, which is how they sign Highway 1 here (the “Trans Canada Highway”), but shortly turned north onto a smaller highway that would take us up the Northern Peninsula. We almost immediately made an impromptu stop at the “Insectarium”, which promised lots of butterflies, bugs and beetles, and spiders. I was expecting the kind of “Uncle Bob’s Reptile Farm” you might expect in a rural area, with someone’s moth-eaten up for display in an old barn. I was pleasantly surprised to find thousands of mounted specimens properly displayed and with lots of information, a tropical butterfly room with hundreds of live butterflies kept nice and warm, and lots of live specimens as well, including a glass honeybee hive and a colony of leaf-cutter ants in a big terrarium. Maritime trivia of the day - honeybees aren’t native to Newfoundland. Will enjoyed it; that’s a picture of him with a hissing cockroach from Madagascar!

We continued north to see Gros Morne park, which is a national park and a UNESCO world heritage site. Since we’re eating our way across the Maritimes, we figured the best way to see the park was through its restaurants; the park was formed around several existing communities, and there were several choices. We tried the Old Loft in Woody Point first, but it was closed with no explanation. We drove another 20km or so out to Trout River, and were glad we did - we drove straight through the Tablelands, flat mountains that are part of the earth’s mantle (the part below the crust) and sitting high up and exposed. It was a fascinating moonscape to be driving through, up and down these 500m high mountains. When we arrived at the Seaside restaurant in Trout River we found it bustling, but with a table right by the window for us to see the sun set over the ocean as we ate. I had my first taste of Newfoundland wine - a glass of “Funky Puffin”, a blueberry-based wine that was actually very tasty, a cross between a fruit rose wine and port. We split delicious scallops with partridge berries as an appetizer. I had the Steel Head Trout for a change, which was, of course, excellent, and partridge-berry pie for dessert.

The drive back was stressful since the sun had set, and it was a prime area for moose. We went only a little further, to Rocky Harbour, where we found an RV park and camped for the night.

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