On our final night in St John’s Newfoundland, we sampled the local drinks and culture with our couchsurfing hosts (including a band called the Irish Descendants). As a result we woke up not really looking forward to the 8 hour drive across Newfoundland to Gros Morne National Park! The weather forecast was also terrible, with snow planned for most of the day – particularly in Norris Point, where our BnB was. We were there to explore Trails, Tales and Tunes: a small festival of walks, stories and traditional Newfoundland music.
We managed to get there, despite the car struggling without winter tires! At one point Emma wasn’t sure if we were going to make it up a hill, as there was just no traction on the road… Luckily we did manage to get to Norris Point as it was getting dark. The BnB we stayed in, Terry’s, had just been taken over by a retired couple and their tour guide son (the day before) who were very welcoming, and understood that we just wanted to eat and go to bed! As we got ready for bed, the storm continued to blow and gust, and eventually the lights flickered and went out. Powercut. The heating was electric as well, so it was a cold night!
In the morning, we were cooked breakfast of French toast (eggy bread), fruit and some ham. As the electricity was off, it was all cooked on propane stoves! Everyone was in good spirits though, with a bunker mentality which turned a potentially annoying situation into a fun one.
By now the storm had passed, and the power came back on in the late morning. We decided to meet up with a friend we met in Bonavista, and to have a cup of tea at the top of a hill (known as a “boil-up”). There was so much fresh snow, and the views were beautiful despite the fog!
For dinner that night, we had been promised moose stew by the BnB owners – who proceeded to show us graphic photos of their moose hunt the previous autumn. Not quite the thing to get your appetite going! The stew, which was just moose meat cooked with carrots, onions, potatoes and served with fresh bread was delicious. Moose is a bit tough but has a good flavour – similar to beef.
That night was our last night in Gros Morne so we had to head out to see the music. We saw an amazing traditional singer/guitarist (Matthew Byrne), as well as a fun and talented husband and wife duo (Tomato Tomato), as well as some other artists. The night ended in a packed bar chatting to random newfoundlanders and a guy who came from Walthemstow but emigrated to Quebec!
On our final morning we went for another walk, this time an organised one with a whole group. By now the weather had cleared and we could see why everyone speaks so highly of the National Park. We also got an unexpected treat along the way: acoustic music from a teenage female duo who were very talented. We were sad to leave but had to head back to Port-aux-Basques to catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia.
This festival, along with the vibrant St John’s, caused us to fall in love with Newfoundland. It’s an island with true culture and history, with welcoming and hardy inhabitants. The economy has really suffered and the small communities in particular are struggling to adapt in the modern age, but there is a warmth here that is at odds with the cold, foggy weather. It’s a special place.
Next stop: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia