We rolled off the ferry in Port aux Basques in the late afternoon of June 30th. It had been a long, but easy crossing, about seven hours. Our first stop in Newfoundland was the Grand Codroy RV/Tent Camping Park. The park was located on a small lake that had an amazing sunset. It looked like you could see two suns at the same time.
The next morning we loaded onto a bus for a tour of Port aux Basques and the Codroy Valley. Our tour guide was one of the owners of the campground. She started giving this tour when a guide scheduled for an earlier Fantasy RV Caravan did not show up and she has been doing it ever since. She also publishes a small newspaper, the Codroy Valley Travelers Guide that highlights what to see in the area.
Our first stop on the tour was the Precious Blood R.C. Church. It didn’t look like anything very special from the outside, but looks can be deceiving. The Sanctuary was impressive! The pictures tell the story better than I can.
Next was the “My Dear Minnie Museum of Heritage and Culture.” This is the former home of Minnie White, the “First Lady of the Accordion.” After Minnie passed away, her son, Russell, and his wife created the museum to honor his mother. It also highlights his mother’s music and some of the region’s history. They sectioned off parts of the house as displays of a post office, a one-room schoolhouse, and the lumbering and wood working tools of the period.
Next up was the Railway Heritage Museum. I found this very interesting as they displayed many artifacts of the past, not just those relating to the railroad. There were hardhat diving suits, telephone and telegraph systems, household items, and navigational instruments. Of course, they had a train! The snowplow on the front of the train was impressive. The plow wasn’t powered but pushed by the locomotive and was as tall as any of the rest of the train. We even heard some local entertainment before we left.
After the tour of the museum, we went next door to the Seashore Café for lunch. I think they were somewhat challenged to feed a group our size, but they handled it well and the food was good.
After lunch, we traveled to the Rose Blanche (White Rock) Lighthouse. This is located on the neck of the Port of Rose Blanche, a small fishing village. This lighthouse was built in 1871 from local granite block. A storm severely damaged the lighthouse in 1939, it collapsed in 1957, and in 1999, it was restored. They actually recovered some of the original granite blocks from the surrounding water and reused them in the restoration – very impressive! There are trails to and from the lighthouse that offer scenic views of the area.
That night we gathered at the Fun and Music hut at the campground, where we were sworn in as honorary Newfoundlanders. A band was set up at the front of the room. We had all heard something about this ceremony, but no one really knew what we were getting into. The band played some traditional Newfoundland music and many of us joined in with clapping and foot stomping. It was great fun.
The “Screech In” ceremony began with the campground owners calling groups of us to the front. Pat and I were in the first group and we weren’t sure if that was good or not so good. We were all given rain hats and we began to worry. Our master of ceremonies, dressed in a full rain slicker and hat began by asking us to recite a phrase, “Long may yer big jib draw!” Of course, with his strong Newfoundlander accent, it sounded to us like he was talking with a mouthful of marbles. We did our best to repeat it and he was somewhat satisfied. Next, we had to eat a piece of Newfie Steak (a piece of baloney). That was not too hard. The next item on the agenda is that you are supposed to kiss the head of a codfish. Here they ran into problems. The codfish season wasn’t going to open until the next day and we would be gone. Also COVID protocols suggested that it would not be a good idea for multiple, unrelated people to kiss the same fish. Soooo, they had a large smelt and we touched it with our fingers. Oh well! We tried to hold to the tradition. The final step was to down a shot of Newfoundland Screech Rum and let out a loud screech. At the end of the ceremony, we were presented with a certificate and we were now all honorary Newfies!
On Sunday, July 2nd, we departed for our next stop, Port au Choix. Driving to Port au Choix was a bit of an adventure, the hills were steep and twisting. At one point the exhaust brake on the engine was revved up to 5,000 RPM. As we drove along the coastline to the Oceanside RV Park, it looked like the park was a spot on the shore in the middle of nowhere. Later we discovered the small fishing town of Port au Choix just over the next hill, so not quite the middle of nowhere but close. Port au Choix it is referred to as “The Fishing Capital of Western Newfoundland.” It has a population of 9,000 and has a large fishing fleet with a modern shrimp processing plant.
We were camped right on the beach. You could see the waves crashing on the rocks and feel the salt spray misting in the air. Most of us took some time to wash the bugs off our windshields and front caps of the trailers, as this campground didn’t prohibit washing. That night we gathered around a campfire.
The next day had only two scheduled activities. Our hiking friends, Randy and Kathleen joined us to go to the Parks Canada Visitor Centre and then hike some of the trails. The weather was brisk and the winds were blowing strong, but we took off from the Visitor Centre to hike to Phillip’s Garden (named for an assistant lighthouse keeper). It was an interesting hike that took us across some Limestone Barrens and other varied terrain. There are only a few places along the western coastline – where climatic conditions are most extreme – where the limestone is still bare. There are 29 species of plants that grow nowhere else in Newfoundland, and three species that grow nowhere else in the world. We saw a wide variety of plants. When we got to the shore, we climbed around on the rocks and did some exploring. On the return, we took a side trail on the Crow Head Loop. This was an interesting section of the trail as we descended in to a rain forest environment. Yes, there are rain forests in places other than the Amazon. Someone had taken the time to build some small houses and place them along the trail, apparently for decoration. We finished the trail and went back to prepare for our Independence Day celebration.
We met for an early dinner and traditional Independence Day fare, hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and chips. The staff provided soft drinks and water and the Lion’s Club bar was open for business. We all stood and sang while I played the Stars Spangled Banner. I played a variety of patriotic music while we ate. One of our fellow travelers, Sis, was from Cuba and talked to us about the joy and value of living in a free country. She made the event more than special. Afterward, Kevin and Cathy played some patriotic numbers on their bagpipes. That was definitely an unexpected treat!
Next stop, traveling the Viking Trail to L’Anse au Meadows.