Finding New Lands
Last July, I drove off the MV Highlanders and into another world. It was 6:45am and the sun had just begun to warm the cliffs around Channel-Port aux Basques, the exotic sounding south-western terminus of Newfoundland. While this island, part of Canada’s most easterly province of Newfoundland and Labrador is not actually another world, it does have its own time zone and an ethereal beauty that will steal a little piece of your heart.
I drove north through the Tolkienesque scenery of the Long Range Mountains then took a left at Stephenville to soak in a little history on the Port au Port Peninsula. This part of the island features stunning landscapes including incredible rock formations at Long Point and the spectacular Red Island near Cape Cormorant. At Sheaves Cove, a waterfall appears as if from nowhere on a forested hillside, and settles in a tranquil pool before flowing past impossibly balanced rocks and then falling into the sparkling ocean. After just six hours on the island I was enchanted.
Hard as it was to leave this tranquil spot, I’d come for icebergs and they were around 800km away so I pointed my little blue rental north and set off for St Anthony. At the end of the Northern Peninsula lies a collection of tiny communities nestled in a series of picturesque bays. While over 6° south of the Scottish Highlands I had grown up in, this place was so perfectly similar, I felt I had magically been transported across the Atlantic; after three days that feeling of home still hadn’t left me. I discovered that a large ice slab had floated into the region just the day before and broken up along the shore in formations ranging from the size of a small car to the several as big as 901 Fernie. Up close they look so peaceful, but watching one behemoth calve, crash, and then flip sideways turned it instantly from peaceful to deadly. I gave many of them names – Batmobile, Sucker Punch, Aladdin’s Cave, Mushroom Cloud. On one day of my trip, smoke from the forest fires in Quebec all but blocked out the sun, casting an intense orange haze. The contrast between liquid orange sunlight, azure-blue ocean and pristine white icebergs was spectacular.
The historic UNESCO world heritage site of L’anse Aux Meadows, home of the earliest European settlers led by Leif Erikson, circa AD 1000, was well worth the visit. Heading south again, I checked out the alien-looking Thrombolites at Flowers Cove and then drove to scenic Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National Park – also a world heritage site. On the south side of Bonne Bay lie the Tablelands, a stunning valley and plateau of contrasting colours. On one side, ragged, bright ochre-coloured rocks look like they have just spewed out of a volcano and destroyed all forms of vegetation. On the other side, vibrant green pastures and some of the largest trees I saw on the whole island were reminiscent of the English countryside. I spent my last night in beautiful Trout River, an outpost of impossibly beautiful bays and cliff top hikes.
I was lucky enough to be able to camp easily every night of my trip. The weather was perfect for hiking and kayaking and the roads were virtually empty, save for the odd moose. I only visited a small part of this magical island and have barely touched on the many amazing things I saw, but I hope one day I will go back and I hope I’ve inspired you to visit too.