Newfoundland

Newfoundland

( End of August 2017)

Soundtrack: Lord of the Rings – The fellowship

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I leave Léa with a happy heart, but also a little anxiety at the though of having to be on my own again. Yet, I quickly realize how much more confident I am now, and how much easier it is to fall back into previous habits having already figured out the whole solo travelling thing. I spend the day running errands in Sydney, doing laundry, looking for some survival things I will need for the next step of my journey.  I am now heading to Newfoundland and I have decided to rent another car there. There is a national park called Gros-Morne, that is said to be absolutely stunning. People have told me that it is the best I will see in my entire journey and that it’s a chance I went to Cape Breton before, otherwise I would have been quite disappointed by the Cabot Trail after seeing Gros-Morne. My expectations are thus really high and I definitely want to make the best out of my visit. So I’ll rent a car one more time and in order to save money elsewhere, I’ll also sleep in it. After that, I think my experience will be truly complete. I’ll have hitchhiked, couchsurfed, slept in strangers trailers, visited almost every hostel on the east coast AND slept in a car. That’s as close as I’ll ever get to a full circle. Newfoundland will be a bit colder than Cape Breton, which already was cooler than the rest. Fall is approaching here in Canada, and I’ll never survive a night in a trunk with the equipment I currently have. So I buy a proper sleeping back and a cooler to keep some food with me at all times. Once all my errands are handled, I return the car and take a bus to get to the ferry terminal. I’ll have to wait there a few hours before taking an overnight ferry to Port-aux-basques. Newfoundland will mark the last “travelling” part of my travels, but I have decided to extend my trip a while longer. Three months to be precise. There will be less backpacking then and more time to settle and discover a specific destination. But I’ll talk more about that when the time comes. For now I have a lot to face with that last part of my journey.

I arrive in Port-Aux-Basques very early in the morning, and while I expected to see a few shops and coffee places next to the ferry terminal, the place is actually quite deserted. I have to walk for a while before finding a spot to hitchhike. I hoped someone on the ferry would offer me a ride when they saw my obviously displayed sign, but they didn’t. So I walk, and after that I wait. It takes me quite a while to hitchhike all the way to Corner Brooks where I have rented the car, but I get there nonetheless. I pick up the car and once more get awarded a free upgrade. I then go grocery shopping for the rest of my 5 days stay in Gros-Morne and slowly head to the park. I am so tired by my night on the ferry that I have to park of the side of the road to sleep for an hour because I am too afraid I will fall asleep behind the wheel. I reach the park in the late afternoon and it is starting to get dark. I go to the visitor center to find out about camp grounds and hikes. My plan is to do as many trails as possible in 5 days and sneak into camp grounds to shower in the evenings. After leaving the visitor center, I drive for a while to find a quiet spot to spend the night and hopefully a camping to take a shower. I do find a camp ground and manage to sneak in and have my shower. After that I drive a while more. I don’t want to spend the night in a place too exposed but it is hard to find a remote parking lot that is at the same time isolated enough so no one bothers me and not too isolated that it gets too scary.

Once I am settled in a fine spot, I prepare myself for sleep but use a small lamp I bought to read a bit. While the light fills the interior of the car, I realize that it is truly pitch dark outside and the glow of the lamp prevents me from seeing anything that goes behind the windows. I suddenly ask myself: “What if when I turn of the lights, there is someone outside looking at me, with both hands pressed between is forehead and the window?” I’d probably die of fear instantly. I hastily finish my reading, turn of the light, and hide inside my duvet. How brave am I suddenly? But before fear ceases me entirely, I tell myself that there is no point in being frightened. Fear will not make anything more or less dangerous. Being afraid won’t prevent me from getting hurt, if someone really wants to hurt me. I have nowhere else to go anyway and at this very moment there is nothing for me to be concretely scared about. I look up and through the window I see a sky full of stars. It reminds me of all the nights me, my brothers and our neighbors/friends spend sleeping in the yard as children. In the summer nights our parents would let us organize sleepovers in our backyards. We slept under the stars, or rather spent our nights talking, playing and looking at the sky. These are some of the best memories I have, and remembering them now appeases my heart. I fall asleep quite easily, forgetting about the animals that might be lurking outside, or the park rangers that might come and knock on my window to tell me I am not allowed to be here. I wake up the next morning around 9 am. Not bad for a first night out.

My days in Gros-Morne are spent hiking and exploring, admiring the beautiful scenery and taking lots of pictures. The park is amazing, as expected, but the beauty I witness here does not take anything away from all the wonders I have seen before. I can see why people are enchanted by this place but at the same time, the beauty of Gros-Morne is not as easy to reach as in other places. Some hikes are really challenging, others are only accessible if you pay a high sum to get there with a guide. The trails are not in as good shape as in other parts of the country and there are a lot more people here than in other areas I have visited before. One day I go on a 7 hour hike, the sun is shining and the view at the top is magical but to reach it I have to pretty much climb a very steep slop made of big rocks. It’s quite a challenge, and at the end of that day my body aches like it hasn’t ached in a long time. One night while I am driving along the park in search of a remote spot to spend the night, I notice a sign saying “Stay moose alert” and a little further, another one that states “Stay alert, number of moose to car accident this year:” with a countdown that indicates 0. I think to myself “not very convincing if there weren’t any accident in the entire year“. A little after that, while I am watching in my rear mirror the guy that is tale-gating me (they tend to do that here), my peripheral vision catches something. I instantly push on the brakes as hard as I can and the car stops right in front of a giant male moose. He is probably more than two meters high and he has big woods on his head. Such a beautiful creature. He almost wrecked my car, but still, such a beautiful creature. After that it takes me a moment to start driving again. My heart is racing and I am so accelerated by what just happened, I can’t quite believe it. I drive very slowly and decide to stop in the next parking lot I find, all the while screaming “MOOSE ALERT” all the way there. This time I have truly gone crazy. Long story short, I wake up the next morning in a not at all isolated parking lot, surrounded by twenty other cars and I have to do the walk of shame, exiting my car from the rear, in my pajamas, with my spiky hairstyle. Turns out I parked in one of the key points of interests in the park. Silver lining: my breakfast view is quite amazing.

On another day, despite the threatening skies, I decide to hike to a nearby waterfall. The hike is about two hours back and forth so it’s not too bad, but it is already late in the afternoon so I have to walk quickly if I don’t want to come back in the dark. Soon after I depart, it starts raining, slightly at first, and more and more intensely as I go. The sun is hidden and the wet weather is perfectly appropriate for moose that want to come out for a snack. On a sign along the path, I read that there are about 5.000 moose in the park and given the events of the previous days I am on maximum moose alert. I am completely soaked by the rain and clearly, nothing would brighten up my day more than being attacked by an angry/hungry 2.10 m tall moose. I reach the waterfall, take a few mandatory pictures and rush back to the car. It rains harder than ever and I am completely damped. If I have jumped in a pool it would have had the same effect. I finally reach the parking lot though and thank god I am close to a camp ground so I sneak in for a hot shower. I wish I had a warm dinner too but I don’t have anything to cook and there is no restaurant near by. So I eat my leftovers and start driving again to find a sleeping spot. That night the sky clears out quickly and the stars come out soI decide to practice taking galaxy pictures. It’s really cold outside and I don’t really know what I am doing but I try as much as I can. And suddenly I hear a loud noise in the surrounding bush and tell myself: “oh, it’s probably just a puma!” and nothing would brighten up my evening more than being eaten by a puma. Do they have pumas in Canada you ask? Probably not, but one can never be too sure. So I hide in the rudimentary comfort of my mobile home and once I am settled, warm in my duvet, I realize I have to pee. But the puma is probably still out there so I decide it can wait until tomorrow.

All in all, I am pretty proud of myself and how I handled this new challenge. The five days in the car went pretty smoothly and I neither died eaten by a wild animal nor ended up smelling like one of them. So that’s a win! After these adventures, I return the car to Corner Brooks and begin what will turn out to be the last hitchhiking part of my journey. Newfoundland marks lots of lasts it seems. I have to cross the whole island so I decide to stop somewhere in the middle for a night. On those last rides I have some of the most interesting conversations I’ve had so far. Talks about life on the island, and how difficult it can be to find basic fresh products here, how the province is the poorest in the whole Canada and about how, only a generation ago, people use to commonly hunt moose just to feed their families. Life must have been so different back then. It still is so different from anything I am used to. When I reach the house of the couchsurfers that will host me for the night, I am oh so grateful for a proper hot shower and laundry. I watch the last episode of Game Of Thrones and my hosts and I share our travel adventures. We also discuss politics in the US, literature and TV shows. Once again I am grateful for the kindness of strangers and for being so lucky to meet them. On the next day I hitchhike to Trinity East, a little fishing village on the East Cost. I am pretty tired out by the adventures of the previous days and months and just spend two days there resting. There is little to explore and that suits me because I’d rather spend my days reading and cocooning that doing anything else.

My last stop in Newfoundland is St John’s, a city made famous by its multicolored houses. The weather there is not very nice but I do my best to get out and see things. I am struck by the visible poverty, people begging in the street, drunken homeless men and overall a feeling of unsafety that I had never experienced before in Canada. Having been in the countryside most of my trip, I find it hard to adjust to bigger cities. St John’s is far from a metropolis, but it still has a city atmosphere that I am no longer comfortable with. I visit a museum and do a small hike to a nice view point. I roam the streets of the city center and abuse fast foods and Starbucks and I stay away from the hostel as much as possible because it is small, clamped and dirty. And finally the time comes to head to the airport. I am flying back to Québec and after that will spend three weeks in the Saguenay region, volunteering in a hostel away from the bitten path. I am looking forward to this new part of my journey but unfortunately I have to face a few more hardships before getting there. I land in Québec in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday during Labor Day weekend. I haven’t booked a room in a hostel because I wanted to try and get a ride to Tadoussac directly on that day. Unfortunately I did not remember that it was an extended weekend and when I cannot find a carpool for Tadoussac on Saturday, I also realize that I wont’ find a room to stay in either. I have no other choice than to sleep at the airport, which seems safer than just heading to the city without any guarantee of finding accommodation. So I walk a thousand steps across the tiny airport, back and forth and back again, hoping that time will pass faster than usual. I sleep a few hours sitting on a chair somewhere and when the sun finally comes out, I pack up all my belongings and take a taxi to the nearest highway. I haven’t found a decent lift for Sunday either so I want to try and hitchhike to Tadoussac. But the highways here are nothing like the ones in the countryside I visited before. They are very large and dangerous and as soon as I get out of the cab, I regret my decision and decide to walk towards the exit and get to safety. But I don’t walk fast enough and soon, I hear a police siren right behind me. The police man that signals me is very nice, and seems mostly concern about my safety. He tells me that I am not allowed to be here and that he will drive me back to the highway exit. He asks me a few questions about my trip, mostly out of curiosity it seems. He is really nice and polite and I know I am not in any trouble out all, but in this very moment I could cry. This time I truly came full circle and I am done with adventuring for a while. I contact a carpool driver that I had seen in the local carpool website and decided not too contact because he was asking for too much money and finally decide to ride with him. I take the bus to the city center and head once more to Starbucks. I am tired, dirty and discouraged and all I want is to reach my destination as quick as possible. It takes me the rest of the day to get to Tadoussac and from there Simon and Robin, two other volunteers at the hostel come pick me up. They drive me back and we have dinner with the rest of the volunteers and after that they show me to my room. I take a well deserved and long awaited shower and head to bed. Finally, I have arrived and I couldn’t be happier.

Now it is time for one new beginning,

Until next time,

Openheartedly,

F.

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Pictures below by me but pimped by Léa (Remember her? The photography wizard!)

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