In short, this week we celebrated Paul’s birthday in Newfoundland, went to a stargazing event, had some successes and failures, stayed at our first campground, made our first fire, and so much more!
Thanks for reading! xx
Monday, Day 36 – See You Later Nova Scotia!
So we start the week by going back to the same Starbucks in the morning. We ate lunch in the van and then hopped back inside the same Starbucks for the afternoon!
Some days are like this, working wherever we can or shutting ourselves in the same place for 10 hours. Thankfully the staff had rotated out so we didn’t look like Starbuck addicts.
We bought our ferry tickets to cross over into Newfoundland and Labrador.
That night we slept at the Port of Sydney again. In the morning we’d wake up early to work before loading Van Rouge onto the ferry!
If there’s one thing we’ve learned since spending 6 weeks in Canada, it’s that Canadians LOVE their Tim Horton’s.
Each Tim’s we visit there’s at least a mile long queue both in the drive-thru and inside. We take our chances inside since, at least, it’s warmer there.
We grab our sandwiches and our seats. Paul runs to the bathroom and an older bearded man dressed in a leather jacket (and with a thick accent) asks if I would mind if he joined me and my partner.
He sat down and we get to chatting – well, mainly he does. He’s a talker. I never caught his name, but we quickly learned that he wasn’t shy as he had a few rowdy stories to share.
Paul started to work while I held the conversation. His accent was thick with an Irish flare – his “th’s” turned into crisp “t’s”. Thirty sounded like “tirty” and three sounded like “tree.”
We load Van Rouge onto the ferry. We’re the only other camper van next to a decked-out RV.
The passenger deck upstairs felt somewhat luxurious. All the seats were recliners and there were big TV’s. On the same floor was also a gift shop, a restaurant, and a cafe.
We’d spend the next 6 hours largely in a row of empty recliners watching Rachel Ray and Wheel of Fortune. We got in some work the first two hours, but once the ferry left the harbor and reached the open sea, it became way too rocky and sickening to do anything other than just sit and watch telly.
We head back to the van and make our official landing on Newfoundland and Labrador.
Already the views were very Icelandish with rugged, dark earth and fields that lit up at sunset.
We make a pitstop at the Visitor’s Center to grab a few maps before attempting to stay overnight in a campground.
The grounds were closed, but there was a beach nearby. So we make the trek across a very painstakingly-holey road.
We arrive at the empty beach just in time for sunset. Somewhere along the way, I slip on the sand and lose my phone on the rocks.
I didn’t realize my phone was missing until we had already driven the 15 minutes it took to cross the holey road.
We had to go back.
UGH! Our first night in Newfoundland was turning into an annoying run-around.
Fortunately, there sat my phone amid the rocks. I grabbed it and thanked the universe and once again we started the trip back across the road.
Finally, we were out. It was past dark.
We drove to another camping location, this time in a lot next to a sandy park.
Wed, Sept. 18th (Day 38) – Back to the ’80s
It’s Paul’s 30th birthday today.
I kept waking up during the early morning to wish him a happy birthday, but deciding it was still too dark, drifted back to sleep.
Determined to wash his hair that day (having failed to find an open campground the day before), Paul went to the public washroom and washed his hair and body in the freezing cold of the concrete bathroom with icy-cold water.
I, on the other hand, was happy to stay dirty for another day until we found a real shower.
We work at Tim’s that morning, getting in a few hours of work before attempting to drive on to another location.
After lunch, we head to a town called Stephenville.
We find an open campground and pay the $30 for a night there. It meant we could charge Van Rouge’s batteries, refill our water tank and empty our gray tank, and most importantly, have a shower.
As a bonus, we had wifi and we also had a firepit.
We take a warm shower and settle into our home for the night. We were pretty much by ourselves.
As it was Paul’s birthday, we want to go out for dinner in the town. So we ask the lady at the reception where is good to eat. And she said her family always eat at the Days Inn when her dad’s in town.
We leave and start to think about it for a minute, “Wait. The Days Inn?” They eat at in the hotel lobby… restaurant?
When we toured the town, we quickly understood she wasn’t joking. There was only 1, maybe 2 restaurants in the entire town.
One was a family restaurant on the main street that was dated from the ’80s and the other option was, well, the Days Inn.
So we took our chances on the Family Restaurant.
If anything made Paul feel like he was getting older that day, it was definitely due to this restaurant. We traveled back in time.
We giggle and think about the contrast of my birthday dinner in a trendy, dark bar in downtown Halifax a couple of weeks back.
The birthday night wasn’t over just yet though.
We grab a fire starter at the Dollarama – along with a fleece jacket for Yoda – and head back to the campground to light up a fire.
Eventually, we get the fire to start, but it took a while.
In the meantime, we were trying to capture the starry night above us with my camera and tripod.
As you can see, we had fun testing out the lighting!
Day 39 – Brrrrr!
It was probably our coldest morning yet in the van. It got so cold even Yoda was shivering with his fleece. So I wrapped him up and held him until he stopped. It was the cutest thing ever.
We finally got our furnace to work (yay!), so soon enough we were roasting inside the van.
The sun finally comes out so I decide to walk Yoda and do some laundry.
We needed to leave by 1 pm and when the time came we skipped to the Tim’s in town to finish up our workday.
Our next location for the night would be at the tip of Cape St. George – about an hour to the coast from Stephenville.
We saw you could “wild camp” there. Just park the van and sleep without any amenities.
Road tripping the Port-au-Port Peninsula was just breathtaking, especially since it was golden hour.
Along the way, we stop at a roadside waterfall called Hidden Falls and go exploring. We catch the sunset just in time as we arrived at the edge of Cape St. George.
Day 40 – Hikes and #ClimateStrikes
It’s Friday morning and we have no internet. So we take the opportunity to soak in our surroundings and go for a short hike.
Just beyond our camp spot sits some of the best whale-watching in the area. There are also gannets – the largest North Atlantic bird. They nose-dive into the sea to fish for mackerel and other fish which also attract the seals and whales.
We didn’t get to see any though, but we did get amazing, clear views of the entire craggy coastline.
We drive around the peninsula before circling back to Stephenville, where we knew we could get wifi at Tim’s and work.
We stop at 3:30 pm to catch the local climate strike inspired by Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysforFuture and the Global Climate Strike worldwide event happening between September 20-27.
Happy to leave Stephenville behind us, we carry on and drive to our next location for the night: Corner Brook.
We arrive and Corner Brook sits on the edge of the water. Already, we can see it’s a bigger town with more diversity and more character.
We drive up to the tip-top of the hill (Van Rouge barely made it) to sleep for the night.
Day 41 – Stargazing
In the morning we take a small detour to the nearby James Cook monument and park – where you can learn all about James Cook and his amazing cartography work in mapping out the landmass of Newfoundland.
His accuracy of the map compared to satellite images of Newfoundland today are astonishing.
We pack up the van and head down the hill. The mission is to find a bathroom so we head to the local mall. Inside we pass a couple of Canadian telephone/internet stores. We go in and inquire at Telus.
Two hours later we’re still there, waiting to get my account set up so we can finally have internet again and work from the van.
While we were waiting, the nice man tells us all about what to see and do in Gros Morne National Park – where we were headed next. At the same time, I notice a flyer online for a stargazing event with Parks Canada later that night – Sept. 21st in Trout River.
With new internet on our phones and full bellies from our mac and cheese lunch, we head off toward Trout River.
Heading there, we pass by the most insane landscapes – the Tablelands – where you can see earth’s mantle that surfaced when the tectonic plates crashed together.
We arrive at the meeting point for the stargazing event at Trout River Pond. While we wait we check out the area and see moose droppings, take pictures, and eat dinner.
The night ends with a clear sky and view of the Milky Way, with hot chocolate and marshmallows, laser pointers and star maps, blankets, and we even got to see Saturn’s rings through a gigantic telescope.
Sunday, Day 42 – Failing to Reach the Fjord
Finally, today we were heading further into the Gros Morne National Park to get the breathtaking views of the fjord.
We plan for our 3-4 hour hike and arrive at the West Brook Pond Trailhead. We see where we’re going in the distance and get excited.
We eat our picnic lunch an hour later at the center where you can take a boat ride up through the fjord.
We wanted to hike there, so we head out on the Snug Harbor Trail which takes you around the bay and up 500 meters to the crust and plateau of the fjord.
But 45 minutes later, we come to a halt.
There’s a sign that reads, “Warning! You must ford this river to continue on the path.”
We pop our heads around the sign and there’s a river with no bridge, just a rope to help you cross.
So Paul rolls up his pants as far as they would go and wades into the fast current. Not only is the water freezing cold, but it also gets much deeper than it looks.
Paul’s not yet mid-way when the water gushes up past his knees, wetting his britches. In order to cross, we’d have to get much wetter than we were willing to bargain for.
So our hiking plans had to be cut short that day.
In the end, I was grateful for the chance to slow-down. I hadn’t realized I was already hurting from our 1-hour hike and still having to climb 3 hours more would’ve probably beaten me.
Slightly defeated, we leave and drive back to the small towns to find a place to rest our heads for the night. Sometimes the search is harder, sometimes easier. Tonight was a challenge because there were “No Overnight Camping” signs posted all over the towns.
We managed to find a loophole and small parking lot for just a few cars next to the water at Norris Point.
We ended up having such a fun time taking pictures and enjoying the sunset views.
I got to take Yoda out for a walk, which he loved, before hunkering down inside the van for the windy storm that surged over us all night.
We can hardly remember the beginning of the week. We got to see so much in such a short time it’s hard to remember where the days begin and where they end.
Cheers to another week living the Van Life! Stay tuned for VLJ Week 7!