It’s amazing how we can go from towing a flat box to having two kids snuggled onto a warm mattresses, glowy electric candles, glass of plonk and a heater chugging out gloriously hot air in about an hour maybe even 45 minutes. It always seems monumental – especially on a long or late travel day (we excel at those). Today we left Gros Morne (late as is our style) and decided to drive to the most northern tip of the Island to seek out whales and Viking settlements. It wasn’t the longest drive but we stopped for dinner and the roads outside of the National Park are bumpy – really bumpy – like really! There is no gentle falling asleep for the kids. Plus it’s a two lane highway making for a longer trip. And we chose the most northern campground so we would be farthest away from the town and closest to the shore. I’m not going to lie – it feels freaking REMOTE here – it’s not just the pitch black night it’s the campsite’s short boxy buildings with battered siding, the very cold air and whipping winds. Viking RV Campground has me a little spooked, like an episode X files. There is a lot of traffic in the air – soundless blinking lights traversing the explosion of stars. There are ghostly glowing green Northern lights undulating over the dense spiky spruce trees. As we set up the trailer with our headlamps on I’m feeling Blair Witch and Walking Dead. I just want to get my babies inside and tucked in. Truthfully it has taken everything inside of me not to demand we stuff this place and go to a cheap roadside motel for instant warmth and shelter from the wind. But I didn’t say a thing I just went along with the set up quietly terrified of the wolverine/zombie/alien that was behind the thick shrub whistling in the wind. And now bliss – okay yeah not so much bliss but WARMTH and gently sleeping family ever so close. And no cell service so just writing and reading and sleep.
I have tons to cover from our time in Gros Morne – a UNESCO Heritage site (screamed from many signs throughout the park) We learned so much – geology, history and culture. The reason Gros Morne is a UNESCO heritage site is because it is one of the 5 places in the world that you can see the Earth’s Mantle and the area helped to prove the theory of tectonic plates that is widely accepted today but was very controversial in the 60’s. We took a boat tour through West Brook Pond – after some confusion we have found that they call anything not the ocean a pond – but this “pond” was in fact a former fjord forged 450 million years ago when the two plates pushed up against each other, then a mere 10 thousand years ago when the melting ice age caused the fjord to be closed off from the ocean so now they call it a pond but it is not like any pond I’ve ever seen it is awe inspiring. Towering cliffs and a deep indigo channel of water.
Then we went to Broom Point to see how the people lived during the last century and a half. I’ll tell you how they lived at Broom point – not well! This is where the park is incredible – they have interpreters at many sites and guided tours – so we went down to the fishing shack on the edge of the water, filled with lobster traps and a guide showed us how they build the traps, sewed the nets for cod, how they gutted the fish, salted it, canned it and then finally took us up to the house to see where the Broom family lived – actually three families with kids in a three bedroom house no bigger than our living room. I think my favourite part was when the guide said, “Actually the womenfolk worked very hard – they had to salt the cod, keep it dry, can the salmon, make all the food for the family, tend the children, sew and make everything for the house and keep it all clean, while the men fished.” Oh “actually” like women have ever not actually worked their asses off keeping it all together especially pioneer women of any kind.
We went to a lighthouse that turned out to be even more about the daily lives of families living on the coast. Up until the 50’s there wasn’t a road so people all traveled by boat and fishermen lived on credit “buying’ everything at the beginning of the season and hoping that they would catch enough to pay it off and make some money. Once the road came in they could sell their catch directly for cash. We listened to music, we learned about the seasons for hunting, fishing, gathering and planting and chopping wood. Anderson learned rug hooking as well and loved it.
Finally, Chris tracked down a fisherman who would take us out fishing in his boat! Delayed by fog we ended up going out at 5pm. Fred Snow has lived in Rocky Harbour his whole life – in fact he told us he has never been further than 3 hours from it his entire life. Because – as he said – I have no need to travel I have all that I need right here – just a little awkward since our entire MO right now is travel but we glossed right over that. We chugged on out over the deep blue waves, the sunlight was making anything white glow like it was lit from inside. We fished for mackerel and cod – Fred had just hauled in 300 lbs of cod that morning from his nets but we had no luck with the hand lines. When you use a hand line its called jigging – suddenly everything I knew about Newfoundland makes sense – a jig’s dinner!! I knew what was in a jig’s dinner but not why it was called a jig’s dinner – I thought a jig was a dance – which it sort of is. Anyway I’m finally enlightened. Anderson managed to pull in 28 mackerel! We did leave them behind on account of the BEAR and my fervent desire to not have it come sniffing around again. It was a beautiful night on the water enjoyed by all except for Sabine who at one point demanded to, “Go back to dry land” I have no idea where she learned the phrase.
We walked the Tablelands with a guide learning about the Earth’s mantle, the tectonic plates and various rock formations, carnivorous plants and old growth forests. I am starting to have an understanding of world schooling – I have been following other families who are traveling and there is a huge facebook group called world schoolers or something like that – anyway – they just opt out of regular life and take their kids on the road…..and, yes, scratch the surface a bit and you do find the anti vaxer’s and more alternative ideologies but this week I saw and learned so much and it will stay with me much longer than any book I’ve studied that I finally have a better understanding of the lifestyle.