Chaos in Paradise

People like the edges of things. 

Newfoundland is all about the edges, the seacoasts that positively shout, “How’s she goin’, baey, I’m rugged.” There’s not much in the middle except people rushing to get to the sides and the corners and the pointy parts jutting into the sea that, for the record, is cold. Abby is determined to swim in it, though, and undoubtedly will do so before our trek across Newfoundland is complete.

But back to the edge. On our first fog-bound day, we went south on the Avalon Peninsula to Cape St. Mary’s to view the second-largest gannet colony in North America, which is not as disappointing as it sounds. I’m sure the largest is impressive but peeking over the edges of the cliff at Bird Rock, hoping not to get shoved over by the pushy Quebec caravaners who had been dogging us since we boarded the ferry, we felt “We’re in Newfoundland.”

But not enough! More edges! At Trinity East we skirted high cliffs overlooking jagged rocks like dominoes and coves like interlocking pieces of geological jigsaw puzzles and other breathtaking views that had nothing to do with games.

At St. John’s, we visited Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, excluding Greenland, but who cares about Greenland?

Of course, at a park there’s always farther. To keep people from getting swept away on the easternmost rocks, there are fences and warning signs. The sign says, “At least eight people have died beyond this point,” but it could say, “Hot lava beyond this point,” or, “Stephen Harper campaigning condescendingly beyond this point,” and people would still venture as close to the edge as possible, to get even more easternmost. It’s about risk assessment, and I assess that most people are idiots.

But who am I to talk? We’re tenting across Newfoundland in a two-door Accent whose every squeak, whine or unexplained whir has me thinking, “Well, that’s it. Only the moose can rescue us now.”

The Trans-Canada Highway is fine for points through the non-edge parts, but we’ve taken pothole-lined scenic routes and excursions often, sometimes against our will. After leaving St. John’s, I was anxious to make some time on the T-Can, but we were quickly diverted off for construction. Newfoundlanders aren’t big on directional signs, I’ve discovered, and there were no indicators how to get back on the highway. I yelled at a road worker, “Do I go through Paradise to get back on the Trans-Canada?”

He grimaced. “Ohhh, they’s chaos in Paradise. You’s better off goin’ trew Donovans, the next ramp over.”

We thanked him and tried but ended up in Paradise anyway and winding 60 km/h roads along the edge before we made it back on the main way. We’ve seen a lot of water. It’s an overdose of picturesque.

Right now we’re in Twillingate, another edge at the northeastern top of the island. We’ve suffered through 24 hours of rain, cold and damp and all the discomfort that comes with it. I haven’t showered in a few days, and I’m thinking of charging admission for tourists to visit my hair. We’ve been struggling with tarps and campfires. I put our binoculars on top of the car and drove off. This morning we discovered there is no more coffee.

No cell phone, no GPS, no microwave, there are easier ways to visit paradise. But Newfoundland has never been easy, for the fishermen, for the now-extinct Beothuk people, for French-British relations. Life on the edge is a tough life.

Today the sun is shining and I can hear the waves crashing nearby. The people, as advertised, have been beyond friendly. In a five-minute conversation with one gent, I learned that he was with his kids in a tent, which was all he could afford because he was divorced and his ex has a personality disorder. This takes some getting used to – the friendliness, not the personality disorder.

There are more edges to explore. I can shower later.


I wrote this a few days ago But am only posting now. We are at the tip of the Northern Peninsula now, and I have showered.

On top of Fogo Head, Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

On top of Fogo Head, Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Chaos in Paradise

  1. Don’t fall off, now. We would miss your posts. 😉

  2. Paul says:

    Ha! So cool! Where you drove through Seldom – on 333 on the island – there is a Co-Op Fish Plant there (Fish Plant Rd – surprise!) and I used to haul crab out of there. When I used to cross the old ferry had only one lane tall enough for tractor trailers and it was not centered on the boat. So, when we came back to the mainland loaded, they used to have to drive/push a bunch of old clunker cars onto the other side of the ferry to balance it – but still it ran back tilted dangerously to one side. Then they would take the old cars back to Fogo and push/drive them onto the side of the dock to await the next loaded truck leaving the island. Ha! Newfies are the MacGyvers of the East.

    As you are discovering Newfies don’t tan, they rust. Ha! The rain and fog is pretty much non-stop over there. I am impressed that you are actually tenting – it will never dry out. Although remember that 4-lane coming into St. John’s from Foxtrot? They built that to impress the Pope the one time he visited Newfoundland. They were in a rush and needed top soil to seed the median and sides. Instead of importing it they hauled peat from the bogs nearby and spread it out with crushed limestone I think so it would take seed. The temperature went up to the 90’s for two weeks and the peat dried out. Dried peat is a fuel and is extremely flammable. So every time someone threw a cigarette out the window, the road sides would burst into flame. The firemen would put water on it and the flaming peat would simply float away still on fire. They ended up foaming it to put out the fires. I was staying at the Traveller’s Motel just coming into St. John’s and we were drinking adult beverages on the patio and cheering the firemen as they rolled back and forth to the flaming peat in the median and the road sides. It was an unusual summer for a place that seldom sees sunshine. Ha!

    Enjoy the people Ross, for they are the best. Oh, and remember, you can’t take anything with soil on it back off Newfoundland as there is a potato virus there that is not on the mainland.. Have a great trip! Beware of the Moose, especially in Terra Nova and Gros Morne. 😀

  3. Dina Honour says:

    We just spent 4 days in Iceland, which is probably the most scenic, gorgeous, breathtaking, diverse place I will ever visit–and at every turn I was slightly haunted by the fact that if we died there, it was entirely possible no one would ever know. I did get to shower though–and we had a hot tub ;-).

  4. Trent Lewin says:

    If you ever run across Stephen Harper being condescending, please be sure to, you know, run across Stephen Harper.

    Man you guys are really roughing it… but sounds like a great trip. My wife doesn’t believe in showers, so possibly you guys are related… that would be really weird. Hi cuz!

    Oddly enough, you’re making me want to go to Newfoundland. This must be a ‘thing’ or something.

  5. Yahooey says:

    Cleaning up to avoid the dirty jokes?

  6. Carrie Rubin says:

    Shower or no shower, sounds like an amazing adventure. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  7. Lynn says:

    Sounds like a stinky, yet interesting adventure!

  8. James says:

    Another exceptional piece of writing with some great one liners that I will definitely be stealing and using in conversations for months to come…
    Nonetheless the sentence, ” This morning we discovered there is no more coffee.” sent genuine shivers down my spine. This may of course be more indicative of my own caffeine addiction but I really felt for you at that moment.

  9. ksbeth says:

    ‘there’s chaos in paradise.’ isn’t that always the way?

  10. No cell phone, no GPS, no microwave sounds like it could be heaven or hell. Let me know which it turned out to be.

    • pinklightsabre says:

      It sounds like heaven to me, personally. It’s good to hear you again Ross — was looking forward to this. What would the family say about it on their blogs? I like the thought of visiting your hair, charging admission for that. My beard is getting that way, shows well when the fog hangs there.

      • rossmurray1 says:

        The family is doing well. We have our moments with a 14-year-old, but, like the weather, wait 10 minutes and it changes. The women are out in a kayak at the moment in Bonne Bay, giving me some writing time. Hope you’re well; I’m behind in reading.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      All of the above. We had moments that tested our patience and sense of direction. Lesson: do not assume the B&Bs will have a vacancy. Also, $875 a night for a hotel room is not the Newfoundland way. Nor is the hotel, for that matter; look at this mothership:

  11. Have fun up there. Your pictures make me want to go back, since I spent 6 years in St. Lunaire, up on the Northern Peninsula, and another 10 years in Grand Falls.

  12. Liz says:

    Catching up on blogs after a little vacation of my own – yours looks absolutely gorgeous…but not without some requisite humor, of course! Hope y’all had a great trip. You might even convince me to add Newfoundland to my to-visit list!

  13. markbialczak says:

    This is beautiful country, pioneer Ross.

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