Transit to Eastport and Terra Nova National Park

After our relatively late night in St. Andrews for the Viking Feast…we started getting ready to leave about 0800 for the first day of our 2 day transit to the eastern side of Newfoundland…and were o the road shortly after 0900 for our 288 mile transit to Deer Lake where the highway known as the Viking Trail joins back up with the Trans Canada Highway (TCH)…the former is a 2 lane road with 90 kph speed limit (56 mph) while the latter is a 3 lane highway at 100 kph (62 mph). The TCH is also less curvy, it’s more of a freeway with some at grade crossings than a standard highway like the Viking Trail is…and it’s a lot better maintained…it’s mostly indistinguishable from the better highways down in the US. The weather was gorgeous…no rain or fog and not really much wind for most of the way…we only stopped twice for bathroom breaks and once for a sandwich in a coastal overlook and pulled into the Gateway to the North RV Park about 1500 or so.

Unfortunately…on entering the rig we found that our carton of milk had toppled over and leaked about a cup and a half of milk. Naturally this went pretty much everywhere…so instead of a leisurely afternoon in the recliners we spent the next hour or so emptying, cleaning, and restoring the fridge. We normally get milk in the plastic jugs with a screw top…but the older style paper carton was all that was available when we bought it last…Connie thought she had adequately stowed it so it would stay in place but the barrier bars we put in the fridge to hold things on the shelves slipped and it toppled the opposite way from what one would think…it fell over on the shelf spout down instead of backwards into the door which would have been spout up.

We consoled ourselves with a beer and some barely adequate dinner at the local pub…

Next morning we were out of the park in about 30 minutes since we only hooked up power for overnight. After a quick stop for diesel fuel and gas…almost $400 CN total…have I mentioned that gas and fuel are expensive up here…we hopped on the TCH for our 222 mile trip over across the island to Eastport…the last 10 or so were on a smaller road into the town and campground alongside one of the many lakes in Newfoundland…I think there are even more of them here than Minnesota claims to have. On arrival at the Harold W. Duffet Shriner’s Memorial RV Park…he musta been some sort of honcho in the Shriners up here as he’s got at least 2 RV parks bearing his name.

The second day’s transit was again a nice easy day…with no more milk spillage so we were able to rest up after getting here…and after a short rest we tried to go have a beer over at the Inn at Happy Adventure…which is a hotel, restaurant, and bar nearby…in fact it’s the only one nearby. We got there about 1545…the door was open so we figured we would have a brew and go home to cook a steak Neil had taken out. They…however…weren’t open for business…despite 3 employees milling about the reception area and nobody at the 5 seat bar. We told them we only wanted a beer…and the incredibly lazy and unhelpful 20somethings told us to come back at 1700, but we couldn’t have dinner as they were fully booked. This was said with a snooty attitude…clearly if the owner had been there he/she would have been happy to pour us a brew but the children just couldn’t be bothered. No matter…we have beer at home for just these sorts of emergencies so that was what we did. A couple of frosty ones later we had steak, taters, and a glass o’wine.

With only 3 full days in Eastport…we had our work cut out for us in the Fun Stuff© department. Friday was a planed driving tour around the Gander peninsula, Saturday a tour through Terra Nova NP to the town of Bonavista at the end of the Cape Bonavista…both of those are in the 230-250 mile range total so they would be pretty full days…and then a visit to Terra Nova NP itself on Sunday after Mass and lunch…that’s a shorter day since we’re traveling again on Monday.

So we headed out about 0900 on Friday…and I wish that I could say something about how the Gander peninsula drive was great…as it was recommended to us by several friends…but it was uniformly unimpressive. First off…it was rainy and cold most of the day…several times it rained pretty hard, secondly there was a considerably greater amount of road construction than we’ve seen so far, and thirdly there’s just not really much to look at.

We passed through a couple of nice towns…Musgrave Harbor was supposed to be the nicest one…but it was basically a dump…not worth the effort to get there. The highlights of the day were supposed to be lunch at a place named Cafe by the Sea and a visit to the Beothuk Interpretation Center. Cafe by the Sea…which one would think would be located…by the sea maybe…but you would be sorely mistaken…was basically a diner with mediocre food and no beer. Slightly better than a Waffle House or Denny’s but not much.

The Beothuk Interpretation Center was pretty nice though…by the time we got there it had stopped raining and wasn’t too windy. The Beothuk were one of the native peoples tribes that inhabited this area right around the same time as the old Leif landed over on the other coast about 1,000AD…although they never met each other. The site is on an old archeological dig…there is fresh water, a large smelt run in the spring, a nice bay with a beach to bring canoes into, and an above the beach shelf to build a village. The archeological types aren’t sure if this was a permanently inhabited village or a fishing camp only but based on the dwelling remains are pretty sure it was the former. There are the remains of 11 wigwams here…but not the typical one one would see in the American west…they’re actually closer to a Viking longhouse in construction than a teepee. To build one you construct a circular fence of vertical sticks with branches woven through them about 3 feet high. The center is then dug out to a depth of about 3 feet and the dirt used to build up a mound outside the fence for insulation. Then logs are placed over the walls in a conical shape meeting in the center and covered with birch bark, sail cloth, or deer skins.

There are no actual dwellings left…but 4 of the 11 have been fully archeologically excavated and then reburied…there’s a museum with artifacts from the digs, some cultural stuff about the Beothuk, and a reproduction of one of their birchbark canoes. The Beothuk were known by the Europeans as the “red Indians” due to the ochre that they colored everything with…ochre is basically ground up iron oxide containing rock…think dirt from say Monument Valley…mixed with animal fat and used to decorate everything from clothing…all of it…to makeup to canoes.

The Interpretation Center main building…vaguely reminiscent of the design of the wigwams.

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Replica of a period birchbark canoe created using somewhat typical technology. Note the red ochre coloring on pretty much everything.

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Pretty much of a bust and a wasted 220 mile drive I think…but you never really know about these things. Sometimes you think it will be great and it’s not, sometimes you think it will be meh and it’s actually pretty great.

We were pretty sure that Saturday had to be better…and it was.

Starting off with the weather…which was beautiful. Warm, up to about 77 F, no rain, and a nice breeze instead of the biting cold wind we had the day before. We headed out again about 0900…that would put us at Shannon’s Irish Pub in Bonavista right about lunch time…see, we wuz using our noggins on this one. Cape Bonavista turned out to have the best scenery we’ve seen since our day at Western Brook Pond on the boat into the former fjord.

This boat…well, it’s got a problem Ima thinkin’

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Some shots of one of the many coves we passed.

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And eventually we made our way past the town of Bonavista over to the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse…which as you can see actually has a visually distinctive paint job so you can tell which light it is in the daylight. It’s also got a different light pattern and even the type of light it uses than most other lights up here.

Typically…a lighthouse has a single light with a rotating reflector behind it…and it’s surrounded by a Fresnel lens to focus the beam. I won’t get into a bunch of detail about what a Fresnel lens is here…you can look here if you want to see more…but basically it’s a compact lens which allows a large aperture and focal length without the correspondingly large mass and size that a conventional lens design would have. Instead of a single light and lens like almost every other light you’ve ever seen or heard of…this light has a total of 6 lanterns with reflectors behind them that rotates every 90 seconds. Two of the lights are red so instead of your typical lighthouse characteristic of either a flash every x seconds or an occulting light (which means it’s mostly on with short periods of darkness instead of mostly dark with short flashes of light) of x seconds duration…it flashes white, white, red every 45 seconds. So it’s easy to identify both visually in the daytime due to it’s unique paint scheme as well as by night. Pretty good idea as if you look at the geography it’s pretty much the first thing you see when coming in from Europe to Newfoundland.

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As you can see from the tilted layers…this entire area was laid down by volcanic lava flows sometime in the really distant past…then as it was uplifted when either the glaciers receded or the teutonic plates collided it wasn’t pushed up evenly but on a slant…these layers are about 10 feet thick and the entire coastline is like this.

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Connie staring out to sea…next stop is the UK in that direction…Neil told her it was too far to see…not enough height of eye to overcome the distance to the horizon thing ya know.

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Whale tour boat returning from a trip.

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Ya think? The cliffs here are probably 150-160 feet tall and range from the sloping down to the sea slabs above to rocky hillsides you could probably climb down if you were forced into it to vertical slap cliffs down to the water.

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The light was built in 1843 and served until 1962.

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Kitchen area of the lighthouse…the door that is open shows you the counterweight that the keeper had to go and crank to the top every 2 hours or so…took about 15 minutes and then he had two hours of turning the light before he or one of his kids or spouse had to go up and do it again.

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Top end of the rotating mechanism.

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The unique light structure…the light itself no longer is in service…it’s been replaced by an automatic light out back but it’s been restored to the condition it was in back in the late 1870s

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Nearby is a statue and memorial to John Cabot…who based on his name you would probably think was English…but then you would be wrong. He was a Venetian whose actual name was Giovanni Caboto who had a patent from Henry VII to find a western passage to Asia. On June 24, 1497 he landed somewhere on the eastern seaboard of what is now Canada. Sources do not allow unequivocal identification of his landing point…and no hard evidence exists either way…but local Newfoundland oral tradition has it that he landed at Cape Bonavista. That’s their story…and Ima gonna guess they’re stickin’ to it.

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Our next stop was lunch…we headed about 5 klicks back into Bonavista for our previously selected by the DLETC destination…Shannon’s Pub. I gotta tell ya…we’ve been in probably hundreds of Irish pubs both in the old country and around North America…and this one is the closest we’ve found on this continent in character to an actual Irish Irish pub. We knew when we walked in and inventoried the taps that it would be good because …blimey, they’ve got Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale on tap…we’ve found 2 or maybe 3 total Irish Pubs in North America that have it…and I gotta tell ya it’s one of the finest beers we’ve ever quaffed. What makes it so interesting is that it’s got the flavor profile of an Irish Red Ale…but a mouth feel like a smooth creamy Guinness Stout. Smooth going down I tellya…

So we quickly ordered a couple of pints…and then eventually another single pint which we split as we were getting full by then. To go along with it we split a BLT with Cheese Panini type sandwich and a bowl of Irish Onion soup. It’s similar to French Onion Soup…but it’s made with chicken stock or milk instead of wine and beef broth and flavored with mustard…then instead of having the bread toasted and put on top the bread is mixed in with the soup so it gets all gooey and creamy then covered with Gruyère (a wonderful Swiss cheese made in France). My oh my…was it good. So very rich though…that even though it was a small bowl about 10 ounces or so between half of that and half of the BLT we were stuffed…so stuffed that we didn’t even eat dinner. 

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Mighty good Ima tellin’ ya…mighty good.

After lunch…we headed another 4 or 5 klicks out of town to a Puffin viewing area…basically a small rock right off the coast separated by about 10 yards or so of water…just enough to keep predators away I guess. It was populated by thousands of Puffins, Murre, and Gannets which are the same birds we saw over on Skellig Michael off the southwest tip of Ireland…small wonder though, both Ireland and Newfoundland are islands at about the same latitude in the North Atlantic and both are warmed by the Gulf Stream. So not only does the landscape look eerily similar to Ireland’s…particularly over here on the eastern side…but the bird life is pretty similar as well. As you can see…there were literally thousands…probably 10s of thousands…of ‘em. The third shot is about 10 or 12 feet wide so you can see the density…and the entire rock was probably 40 yards by 40 yards.

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On the way back home…we stopped and got some shots at the Northwest River…more of a rapids than a true waterfall…these shots are looking downstream from the bridge over it…there wasn’t any way to get shots looking upstream without crashing the golf course…and Ima sure they wouldna liked that.

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Sunday we went to Mass then after a quick lunch headed out for a quick look at Terra Nova NP…unfortunately most of the park is one of those drive through and look type of parks…not many hikes to speak of and nothing really of our length. Connie’s hip was hurting some today…so we just stopped by for a quick peek at Pissamare Falls right off of one of the parking lots. Not really much to see though…only about 15 feet tall and not much water flowing over it…we’re a little late for the spring melt runoff.

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One last stop as we headed for home…there was a nice overlook at the top of a hill right off of the TCH named Blue Hill and Neil got a nice pano overlooking what’s known as the Western Arm. The Adirondack chairs…or Muskova chairs as the Canucks call ‘em…are frequently placed at viewpoints by the Park Service up here. The water you see in the distance is the Western Arm…this view is looking east-southeast and it eventually connects up to the Atlantic.

Really…a beautiful day today…and yesterday for that matter. Warm…a nice breeze…and we even changed into shorts before we went out today instead of jeans.

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OK…on to interesting things found on the net.

Somebody had a bad day today…


Ever seen a turbocharged grill? Tune is a race car term that means to adjust it for a maximum performance. A turbocharger is an exhaust driven compressor that pumps a lot more air into an engine than it would get normally…hence more power. Big Red has one on his Cummins diesel…which is what makes him so powerful.


No words needed here.


And finally…a slogan we can get behind.



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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