After six and a half weeks I finally left Green Dragon Farm. And man, do I miss that place! So far there hasn’t been a day, maybe not even an hour, that I did not think back to Gerlinde, Stephan, Nyima and all the animals there. I wish I could have stayed. Well, I could have stayed, I suppose, but Canada is a large and amazing country and it would have been a shame to just stay in one place for the whole summer and miss out on all the rest. So I finally packed all my gear together again and set out to the island of Newfoundland (pronounced Newfinland, with a stress on the first syllable).
Newfoundland is tremendously beautiful. I have not seen a stretch of it yet that I did not like. It has steep hills and mountains that seem to rise out of nowhere and form wonderful remote valleys, a rugged coastline and large moorlands and tundras further up north.
I limited myself to travelling up the west coast, since travel without a private car is very difficult around here and I did not want to end up doing to many kilometres without really finding the time to experience the country.
Hitchhiking in Newfoundland is … well … adventurous, I suppose, even more so than in other areas of the world. Sometimes you get picked up right away, literally right away, before even lowering your backpack to the ground or anything, and at other times you get stranded beside the highway for hours. There is not altogether that much traffic, except for the tourists in their RVs and rental cars. Tourists very seldom take hitchhikers. Actually I tended to say that tourists don’t take hitchhikers at all, but I got picked up by a nice family from London, Ontario travelling in an RV, so I have to make amends there.
Mostly it is locals that pick you up. 80 % of them are fishermen on their way to or from their boats. They go only short distances, from one little village to the next, and they all have the same kind of stories to tell: about traffic accidents with moose, about how slow and difficult fishing has become, about their children who moved to work in the oil fields in Fort Mc Murray, Alberta. But also about hunting moose in fall, about riding ski-dos in winter and about growing their own potatoes at the roadside in summer (they actually do plant little potatoe beds, all neat and fenced in, directly beside the highway … the Newfoundland version of guerilla gardening … mostly because it is the only level piece of land they can find). If the old ones ever travelled it used to be with the military. Most of the young ones come back after a few years from Alberta and other places, slightly desillusioned. Newfoundlanders really love their home.
They also have a great sense of humor, very blunt and self-ironic and politically completely incorrect. In that respect they are not very Canadian at all. Most seem to have a talent for music and play one or more instruments. Their music is simple but beautiful, close to celtic folk with the odd bit of shanty mixed in, the kind of music you would expect from a seafaring people.
I stopped in Gros Morne National Park for four nights and climbed Gros Morne Mountain. That was a strenous 7 hour hike, very steep in parts, but well worth the effort. I saw a family of moose up there, bathing and drinking from a pond, just a few meters off the trail. Actually, the bull moose was almost too close for my comfort, but rut is still a few month off, so it was quite safe to pass him. Actually, when I came back down the same way five hours later, he was still standing in the same spot. I started to suspect that this bull moose was payed by the park management as a tourist attraction.
I met two other hitchhikers, David from Quebec City with whom I travelled from Port aux Basque to Deer Lake and Dan from Australia, who was picked up by the same car that had picked me close to Cow Head. Dan and I got stuck in the tiny village of Green Island Cove, far up the northern peninsula the other night and shared a room in a B&B there. We went on the L’Anse aux Meadows to visit the Viking settlement there and to St. Anthony and then split up again, because Dan was eager to get to St. Johns for the George Street Festival, while I wanted to stay up north and catch the ferry to Quebec and Labrador. It is good to meet travelling companions like that on the way, even if it is only for a day. It makes the long waits beside the highway much less annoying. It also makes me feel a little more secure. Not that there is much to be afraid of up here. Crime rates are very low and people leave their doors unlocked and their keys in the car at all times, even in the towns. But I swear to you, when you stand beside the highway for an hour or two on your own, your mind can make up all kinds of weird stories, from marauding black bears to hitchhikers died from starvation.
This morning the lady from the B&B offered me a ride down to „the lights“ (which means the only set of traffic lights in St. Anthony and very probably all of the northern peninsula). We started chatting about this and that, religion, politics and the world in general and she just kept driving … she took me all the way back to the ferry terminal, just over 100 km, bought me a tea there, equipped me with a handful of Watchtowers, Awakes and other Jehova’s Wittnesses material and left. I can live with that. Actually, she is an amazingly bright and smart person to talk to and I really enjoyed our conversation. I really cannot imaging her falling for the whole Bible-Creation-Armageddon deal.
In a few hours, the ferry will carry me north, away from the island of Newfoundland to the even remoter shores of Labrador and eastern Quebec. Not many tourists go that far and I am really curious what I will find there. I am also a little afraid to get stranded there, but if worse comes to worse I can always get back onto a ferry to Newfoundland, they run at least twice a day during summer.
Travelling like this is expensive though, even if you are hitchhiking. Since I do not carry a tent, I normally have to stay in a B&B every night. That’s nice and cozy of course and grants me nice little extras like free tea and internet access, but it costs at least 50 $ a night, more than I am keen on spending and in the long run more than I can afford. I hope it will get better when I get back towards the more densely settled areas. I have a couchsurfing arrangement for Quebec City (provided I make it in time).