Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 18: Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our first stop of the day was L’Anse-aux-Meadows National Historical Site, another UNESCO World Heritage Site - in fact, the first site to be added to their “Cultural” list. The site turned out to be, somewhat surprisingly for me, the first authenticated site found that proves that Vikings visited North America back in the 1100’s or so. (Five hundred years before Columbus, if you’re counting). It’s quite a big site, with a dozen buildings or so; all you can really see now of the actual site is grass-covered mounds, but they have reconstructed four of the buildings, including a dwelling and the blacksmith’s work area. The first indicated they had that the site was European and not First Nations was 200 or so fragments of nails made of European iron; once they discovered the blacksmith’s shop, they realized that the Vikings had originally stopped to haul up their boats, take out damaged nails, and replace them with nails made from bog iron from the area. They found a few items - including a spindle whorl - that proved that women had come as part of the expeditions that established the site, and they suspect that the Vikings brought sheep to be able to process fleece into wool to mend their sails (which were woven of linen and wool).

L’Anse-aux-Meadows seems rather wild and remote to us now, being as far north as you can get in Newfoundland without actually being in Labrador. It’s a beautiful spot, though, and our guide pointed out a stream where when he was a boy, you could catch enormous salmon with your bare hands; with a sheltered bay, fresh water, and plentiful food, it must have looked like a pretty nice spot to those early Europeans.

It was time to head south, since we didn’t have time to take the ferry to Labrador, and south is the only other option! Halfway down the peninsula is the Arches, a natural rock formation we wanted to check out, and were able to climb around on. There were crazy trees there that show just how difficult it is to be a coastal tree in Newfoundland.

There was a bunch of driving after that; retracing our steps down to the T.C.H., then across part of the middle of Newfoundland, which turns out to be full of trees and rocks, much like many other parts of Canada! Once again we found ourselves after dark in moose country, and I was interested to see the tractor-trailers traveling in convoy, with the front one with big floodlights turned on on top to spot any animals on the road. We finally found the Kona Beach campground and gratefully turned in, happy to find someone still in the booth at 10pm.

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