It all began on the ferry.
I was sitting on the computer when an older man came along and asked the couple behind me – who he clearly knew – if they wanted a beer.
“Yeah, sure!” I exclaimed jokingly, to which he replied, “Alright I’ll buy you a beer, I just want someone to sit with me!”
We chatted a while and he mentioned he’d met a guy on the ferry who had also hitched from BC; it wasn’t long before I met him, and in the morning when the ferry docked (after having a wonderful sleep on the floor in my glorious new sleeping bag) we started walking into town together. All either of us wanted was a coffee.
After about half a km we saw it: Tim Hortons. Naturally, Timmies always appears. We wound up chilling for several hours, one of us leaving to try to hitch only to return drenched moments later. Switch and repeat. The weather was pretty ugly, and the wind didn’t make the situation any better. Rides were just not happening.
Eventually, on my fifth try or so on the road (and many tries at both gas stations), a woman pulled over. I asked if she was headed to the next town, and she said yes.
Twenty minutes later she dropped me at the side of the road. “Town” was 3km off the road and she didn’t offer for me to go into town with her. I was too frazzled to ask and got out.
That’s when the rain came back. There was no shelter to be had. I realised all of a sudden that my sleeping bag was getting soaked; there would be no warming up tonight.
This is precisely when I broke down. I had my “Cold!” sign out, but no one who passed me cared in the least. Man, when you yell, “FUCK!” on the top of your lungs in a valley, it sure does echo a lot. I was ranting and raving to myself, mad at life, when a car pulled over. My savior. “Where are you headed?” “Anywhere north with shelter. Don’t care where I end up, I just need shelter.” To the next gas station we went.
I got in and honestly just stood at the entrance, dripping, wearing a bunny hat, looking miserable and very much on the verge of tears. I had nothing left in me.
A man started talking to me, and I began to rant. “…and the woman at Tim Hortons wouldn’t give me a garbage bag to keep my backpack dry and now my sleeping bag is soaking and the woman who picked me up dropped me where there was no shelter in the rain and I have not experienced any of this Newfie hospitality people told me about!”
“Do you want a coffee?”
“Um… I think I’ve had three today already.”
“Do you want another one?”
“Um. Yeah. Okay. Thank you.”
We continued to chat as I warmed up to my fourth coffee. A woman popped along, “Are you hungry?” she offered to buy me a sandwich. Then a young couple who were walking out the door called over to me, “Do you want a ride to the next gas station down the road?”
I hopped in their truck shivering but pleased to be in a car with coffee and kind people. They gave me a couple smokes and we blazed a couple doobies. The guy tells me they saw me when I was getting drenched, but they were turning off in the opposite direction, and when they passed back through I was gone. When they saw sad, cold, rained on bunny he had said, “I bet she could do with a joint.” Oh yes my friend, oh yes.
We said goodbye and they sent me off with a couple huge nugs of green.
“Weed will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no weed.”
Then I sat in the gas station restaurant stoned for hours contemplating my next move… and letting my sleeping bag dry. All my worldly problems were solved.
I seem to hold this fearless belief that if I am inside my tent, I am safe. While I search for a place I worry about people seeing me and calling the cops or robbing me, then I worry about bears and the story everyone keeps telling me about a girl getting eaten by coyotes in Cape Breton.
But when I get into my tent I am safe. Ha-ha-ha world, you may not penetrate these soft fabric walls!
I lay down ready to pass out in my tent after a long, wet day, when the urge to throw up hit. I held it in, found sweater, put sweater on, found shoes, put shoes on, open tent, close tent, walk to bushes. I’m going to throw up. I found a spot and heard rustling in the bushes. Moved further. More noises. Oh for fuck sake, can I just throw up without being terrified that the bird in the bushes is a coyote? Walk all the way to the gas station. Holding it in holding it in.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that I have food poisoning, though really I live so unhealthily it could be bloody well anything. No matter, I set out this morning feeling only slightly uneasy. Headed into Gros Morne National Park and stared in awe at the glorious mountains before heading into a little town to regroup. I had sorta decided to spend the day in the park, and not to head all the way north to St. Anthony. Too big of a trek to just backtrack, and it’s really about time I found some work.
I asked the waitress at the cafe if St. Anthony was worth it.
“Oh it’s a beautiful drive up the Viking Trail!”
“And I hear they still have icebergs up in St. Anthony!”
Sold. If there are still icebergs – the very thing that lured me to Newfoundland – there is no way in God’s green earth I am missing it.
Chugga Chugga Chugga… Choo Choo!
Dear god, people are amazing. I started today with $50. I went to that cafe hungry, looked at the menu and decided to just get a coffee.
I now have $190, two packs of smokes, and a bunch of granola bars and chocolate bars.
It was a truck driver who gave me the smokes and $40. Nice dude, but mildly creepy. As in he asked if I’d ever had sex for money. “Fuck no,” was my disgusted answer. He didn’t directly proposition me, but I’m sure he thought about it. Despite this, he was nice enough.
The next people who picked me up, though… Wow. They were from Labrador and working over here. They picked me up and then pulled into the house the guy was staying at. I thought it was time for me to move along, when he asked, “Do you want to come in and have a shower?” (Side note this was not because I stunk, but because he’d asked earlier how I shower and all while on the road, to which I replied I needed to figure that out soon.)
Pleased as could be, I had a wonderful hot shower. It was honestly one of the best showers of my life. It had been 3 days and I was starting to feel pretty gross despite a happy lack of odor.
I got out of the shower, again thinking it was time to take off. “Have you eaten?” They fed me delicious fried rice leftovers.
“How far is it to St. Anthony from here?”
“An hour, but I’m gonna take you there.”
My wonderful new friends from Labrador and I hopped back into the truck.
Then I was told the most Canadian story I have ever heard. This guy, Blair, had pulled up next to a bear and shot it with his shotgun (which of course was conveniently inside the car) because his uncle wanted a bear. As you do. He put the bear in the truck bed.
The other chick in the car and I paused here. “How did you get the bear in your truck?”
“I picked it up and put it in the truck.”
“But… were you alone?”
“And you just picked a bear up by yourself and put it in the truck?”
“Yeah, so anyways…”
Buddy wins manliness award of the year. He stopped at a little town to refuel, when he heard the bear trying to get up. Fortunately there was a cover on the truck bed, and once again Blair pulled out his shotgun, firing at the bear without being able to see it. 2 shots, and the bear went down. He found out after that the first shot had gone straight through his backseat… and sure enough I turned around to find a bullet hole in the seat I was sitting on.
Canadian to the max.
At last we arrived in St. Anthony, a very pretty little town, and I was looking everywhere.
Icebergs. Where are the icebergs?
But a thick fog spread across the water.
We drove to the top of a lookout, and oh my god was it beautiful. That’s when I hopped out, opting to camp up on the hill with this amazing view for the night. In the morning hopefully the fog would clear. My new friend handed me a hundred dollar bill. I couldn’t even believe it, and can’t imagine how happy I looked. A hundred dollars goes a hell of a long way when you live like me! I thanked him profusely and we went our separate ways.
And that’s when I saw it.
Off in the distance, barely escaping the fog… An iceberg. A mother fucking iceberg. In Canadian summer.
I turned my head towards the cliffs. Is that… Another iceberg!
As the fog cleared a bit and rain began to fall I started to spot more and more. So life is pretty awesome and this detour was way more than worth it. Wow.
I was wandering along picking a nice spot to pitch my tent. I sat on a rock to have a smoke and stare at the sea. I was totally zoned out staring right in front of me and… A whale. A god damn whale directly in front of me. Good god I love this place.
I spent much of yesterday popping in and out of the gift shop at the point in St. Anthony. I was storing my bags and charging my camera and iPod while I adventured. I chatted with the owner of the lovely shop a bunch. When morning came I popped back in to store my things again while I climbed to the top of the little mountain. When I returned this wonderful man who owns the shop offered me coffee and toast, cause Newfies are amazing. Ps there’s a picture in the shop of a polar bear right outside the shop in April. So epic.
I finally got myself to leave St. Anthony (difficult because I was in love with it), and decided to take a mini detour to L’Anse aux Meadows: the only site in North America with evidence that the Vikings settled. I was ready to pay the $10 entrance fee, something I usually can’t afford, because it sounded so great and people kept giving me money. I felt they’d be happy I spent $10 on that. But then the guy who gave me a lift there paid my entrance fee. Of course, because Newfies rock.
I smoked a joint as I walked around, and by the time I got to the replica Viking village I was pretty stoned. I walked into the huge hut filled with replica everything to find, to my surprise, two Vikings lounging inside. Seriously. Amazing.
I continued on to the actual sites, and walked upon the grass that was once the inside of a real Viking home. I stared out at the same sea that they did, as I walked along the path through the village of a thousand years ago.
I eventually hit the road again, but the only traffic around was the tourists visiting the site. Tip of the day: tourists rarely pick up hitchhikers. I haven’t quite figured out the logic to this, but it’s a fact. No matter, though, the view was pretty.
But as is the case in Newfoundland, you don’t need much traffic to get a lift. I was on the desolate road no more than half an hour before getting picked up and driving through a town with icebergs right there in the harbor. Amazing.
My rides kept being short, and by the time I hit Castors River (another 2 hours from Rocky Harbour, where I was headed), I only had a couple hours of light left. But every damn car was turning in. The sun was setting and I realized I was shit out of luck.
Dark clouds spread across the sky and a strong wind began. Setting up my tent was going to be difficult, and it would be a cold and noisy sleep with the wind. I was feeling pretty low as I had a couchsurfer lined up to stay with in Rocky Harbour; I was so looking forward to having a warm place to sleep and new friends to hang out with. Sometimes it’s lonely when you only get to spend the duration of a car ride with people, then back to being by yourself.
Three middle aged women started walking down the highway around this time. As they approached I called out.
“Excuse me, do any of you have a phone I could use for a minute?” I wanted to let my couchsurfing host know I wouldn’t arrive until the next day. None of them had a phone, but they came over to speak to me. I mentioned my tent vs wind situation and all, and they asked if I’d like to come over and have a cup of tea. “I would really love that,” I replied.
We weren’t walking together five minutes before Aggie said I could sleep on her couch. Yes, oh god yes! We hung out and they fed me and gave me tea, and I was told I could have a hot shower and do my laundry. We watched some TV and chatted and man, it was everything I wanted… Everything I needed.
It’s special out here. It really is. It’s a place where people know their neighbors – every last one. They share and they help out and they welcome strangers in rather than fear them.
And everyone hates the concrete jungle just as damn much as I do.
Made it to Rocky Harbour, went on short hike to fjords with new friend, saw a shipwreck, finishing the night smoking a j outside alone and fireworks go off directly in my line of vision. Life is ridiculous right now.
To summarize: In the past week I have seen a bear, a whale, a moose and its calf, icebergs, Vikings, and have met the nicest people in the world.
I love Newfoundland.