We woke up in the desolate Viking RV park which turned out to be quite sweet in the crisp light of day. Candy coloured picnic tables and electricity/water posts. The showers and bathrooms freshly panelled in pine and toasty warm. So I decided to strike while the bathroom was hot/nice/empty – yes friends I dyed my hair in a public bathroom like a criminal on the run from the law. I tried to glamourize it by channeling Thelma and Louise. But I still felt more like the beginning of the movie Thelma, sneaking into the fridge to take tiny bites of a frozen oh Henry.
Clean and looking ten years younger I lead the charge to the Viking settlement in L’Anse Aux Meadow at the most Northern tip of Newfoundland. Conveniently located just 8 km away. L’Anse Aux Meadow is a small bay (like all the communities up and down the coast). It has about ten wooden buildings on either side of the water, a spectacular view and just happens to be where the Vikings landed and completed the circle of humans circumnavigating the globe. Of course natives had been using the site on and off for thousands of years but these where the first Europeans to land on North America. They were looking for wood and food since Greenland was in short supply of both.
As usual we have an amazing guide (thanks Parks Canada) his name is Clayton and he grew up playing on the “Indian mounds” as the settlement was called before it was discovered in the late 60’s. An archeologist couple had been trying to find where the Vikings had landed (in the Scandinavian Saga’s, oral histories, there were stories of Vinland and wild skaerlings, natives) they had been up and down the Eastern Coast and found the “Indian Mounds” depressions and built up hills covered in grass. They unearthed the settlement over a period of 7 years and found iron ore and a nail to prove that it was Vikings and not just Natives who settle there. Then they re buried the original settlement to preserve it and built a replica just 100 feet away. Clayton had been a part of the dig and the rebuilding in the 70’s. It was magical – it totally captures the imagination with actors/interpreters in the various rooms and everything lit with fire. We had a great time pretending to be Vikings – the only downside were the lemming like cruise ship passengers who descended on the site. As soon as one IPad was raised to take a picture ten more would shakily lift pointed in the general direction of the first.
We decided to explore the “town” and drove all the way to one end of the road and turned around to hit the other end – there we saw a man resting on his back near his firewood – he looked at us and waved us over. So I hopped out of the truck to see what he had to say. It turns out he had stepped on a nail – it went right through his shoe and then he had fallen backwards and couldn’t get up. I pulled the nail from his shoe – he said it only grazed the skin so no blood – and Chris helped him to his feet. Then he regaled us with stories. He grew up on the other side of the bay and married and moved to this side he had two sons and fished here his whole life. Chris asked all the same questions he had asked Fred Snow when we were on his boat but Fred was a quiet man and definitely not a story teller but Mr Cohburn was very much the story teller. He had freed a whale from his nets and it swam away taking time to look back in his direction and blow it’s spout to thank him. Once he had run his boat right up on top of a whale and the whale had tossed the boat three feet into the air! He was thankful for the help and gave me a hug when we left AND it turns out his was our guide Clayton’s brother.
We drove around the rest of the afternoon on the two lane asphalt that ribbons along the coast turning the bend to find a scattering of wooden houses in every cove. Some newer, some weathered. All glowing in the sunlight with grey skies behind and white caps racing toward the shore. The whale excursions all closed for the season save one who said depending on the weather in the morning we might be able to go out.
The night was frosty and very windy – when weather reports say things like, “The wind pounded the eastern shore” I now know what they were talking about. It was a different wind than other nights – huge gusts that rocked the trailer. Neither Chris nor I slept much – he said he was half awake thinking about ways to stable the camper and I was half asleep dreaming about being blown over and trying to figure out how to get the children out of the camper when it was upside down. Needless to say in the grey morning we decided to push on and leave the whale watching for an other time.
We hit the road literally- so bumpy – springing along with the usual panicked stops necessitated by the wee voice from the back barking “I HAVE TO POO” I swear to god I want to toss her out the window when she makes us stop but then doesn’t actually have to poo. Our wide load camper and huge truck perched precariously just inside the gravel shoulder of a two lane highway and we strip off her pants and dangle her over the ditch only to be cheerily told she does NOT have to poo or pee. We have not managed to figure out a solution. About three hours into the five hour drive we are stopped at some construction when a gentle man kindly raps on our window to tell we have a flat tire on the camper. I now have U2’s Desire as an ear worm Flat tiiiiiire. We pull over – luckily there is an other cove with houses and Chris gets to work – as well there are some folks around to lend a tool (we have no tire iron!) and a bathroom (Sabine – I have to poo!). It only takes about 45 minutes and we are on our way. Waiting for cell service (very scarce between coves) to find a replacement tire in Corner Brook an other two hours down the road. Canadian Tire is going to o be our saviour – open on the weekends (rare here) and stocked up. Chris is gunning to set up camp in a provincial park (more rustic and isolated and not trailer parking lots) but it’s an other 30 minutes down the road and now it’s already 5:30pm so we spontaneously pull into “Funland” trailer park. Now THIS is the Walking Dead campground for realsies. Complete with chickens and roosters crowing, abandoned water slide, and a bar with video lottery terminals blinking merrily under the large sign stating BOIL ORDER in effect. Eesh. But there is mini golf (that has turned out to be the best game that we can all play together) and a playground so we pay up and head out to find our parking slot. Nestled in between the Goliath hardbacks we discover that our winch to raise the roof on the camper is disengaged. Whaaa whaaaaaa strike two for today. Chris gets working on. Luckily we meet our neighbour who helps with extra tools and a mere hour later we are popping up the top setting up and making the cheesiest gnocchi dinner ever. That is a day. Somehow we didn’t melt down. Amazing.
The meltdown was saved for two days later – when we can’t find a camper tire replacement in all of Corner Brook, the rain is unrelenting, the kids eyes are square from screen time and Chris and I are on a tight tight tight rope about to snap either one of us could strangle the other in a heartbeat. We are reexamining the next moves. Both wanting to get out of here and feeling trapped.
But before we get there let’s go back to the Insectarium and Butterfly exhibit. Conveniently located ten minutes from “Funland”. It turned out to be such a great afternoon. The kids held all of stick bugs and frogs with Beth who also happily scooped our ice cream (after conspicuously washing her hands) at the end of our visit. The butterflies were incredible. There was an exhibit dedicated to the cricket culture in China (including little porcelain dishes that were for their food). During the Tang Dynasty crickets were kept for their singing and as well for fighting …..complete with cricket ticklers to egg them on! The learning continues. There was also a display of Peruvian jewelry made from bugs. Crickets come in all kinds of sparkly and metallic colours. They look like raw silk shot through with contrasting threads. We have a mini picnic after the tour and head back to the camper to read and relax.