Please be patient... Map and photos are loading !

29th May Hospitality

I am only ten days into this trip, and I have only had to put up my tent twice. The weather has been brutal the last week so its a good thing I was indoors during the night. I have had wind, rain and fog and I wouldn't be surprised if it snows. Thank god the Newfoundlanders have taken me under their wing. Some days, I look more like a long lost wet puppy dog with his tail between his legs, than a solo adventurer. The thing is, I can put up with all kinds of bad weather when I am in the kayak, because paddling keeps me warm. Its what happens at either end of the day that's the killer.

Its essential to get a good start to the day if you want to sustain any kind of rhythm. The worst scenario is to wake up at 5:00 am in a cold tent with nothing to look forward to except to put on a cold damp clothing you could not dry the night before. You tried your best, but it rained. Or at the other extreme; you pushed yourself-on for too long during the day, passing all those choice camp sites you townies would give your back teeth to experience, only to be driven ashore by a sudden gale on a postage stamp of sand, where the closest water supply is a mile hike away. For seven days the bad weather has been relentless. And all winds have been head winds. But the more the weather has conspired to wear me down the better the hospitality I have been offered.

So far, I have spent two nights in fishermans camps, one night in a trailer, another in a house, another in a holiday home with a view that would make you green with envy and one in a stove heated fishing stage - come - boys room. I have been fed cod, lobster, crab and moose. And even got drunk on rum. I have had lobster fishermen break off with their work and come over for a chat and even one long liner changed course when he spotted me crossing a bay in dirty weather to give me assistance if I wanted it. Tonight is a different story. I have ended my day early. The sun has popped out. I have decided to shut the door on my travelling road show and be my own best company. I am somewhere between La Poile and Grand Bruit. I am camped on a deserted sandy beach with a back drop of gray barren hills. There are two golden eagles standing guard above on a rocky cleft and some seals out in the bay. The sun that night set in a blaze of colour, and the fire I lit to cook my supper on later that evening resembled a huge bonfire. Eat your hearts out.

Cheers Bernie

May 27th Port au Port to Codroy

 

I could write about the amazing hospitality I have experienced since starting, or describe the smokers board of Newfoundland dishes I have eaten from lobster to moose, but today I just feel lucky to be alive.

I love to push the envelope, to live life on the edge so to speak, but yesterday I almost lost it. I don't have a death wish, but there is a fine line between being foolish and courageous.

The day had started with a fisherman's breakfast of bacon and egg. My host for that evening had woken me at 5:00 am. (The day before I had finished paddling early. I had stopped for a rest at the small fishing community of Headlands, and to ask about the stretch of coast ahead. One thing led to another, and after a cup of tea, I accepted an invitation to spend the night) The weather forecast that morning called for heavy rains and winds from 40 to 60 km/hr out of the east. In front was a 30 mile unbroken wall of rock with hardly a beach worth mentioning. Had the winds been anything else but tail winds, I would not have even got out of bed. I was taking a calculated risk. This stretch of coastline to Cape Anguille I wanted to put behind me, and the sooner the better.

By nine o'clock I was paddling in a full blown storm. There was no turning back. By now the rain was sheeting down and every now and then a large wave from behind would swamp me and water was coming into my cockpit. It wasn't one of those days when you are constantly aware that a wave could capsize you, but when big waves pick you up from behind you haven't a good sense of control. I was spending most of my time bracing and correcting my steering. The wind was probably pushing me along at 4 miles an hour, but as anyone who has driven in icy conditions for a long period of time can tell you its hard on your nerves. And by now my nerves were red raw.

By noon, I was cold, soaking wet and my back was killing me. At the aptly named Friar's Cove it was as if someone had cut the coastal mountains with a butter knife. The cliffs rose vertically out of the sea some 200 t0 300 ft. I counted at least half a dozen waterfalls from hidden river above and at Needle point the cliff face splintered and rose out of the sea like church steeples from a gothic cathedral. The whole area was awesome and had it not been for the weather conditions, I could have gladly spent a whole day investigating their formations.

At Cape John, I saw my first sign of life in eight hours. I didn't know who was crazier them or me. Their boat heading into the wind towards me would rear out of the water like a wild stallion, before crashing back down into the next wave with a sickening thud. The weather was just awful. We exchanged pleasantries, but most of the time I was too worried that their boat would smash into mine to concentrate on what they were talking about.

At Cape Anguille, I was just about ready to throw in the towel, but when I saw its lighthouse, I knew shelter wasn't to far away. I had now been over ten hours in the cockpit and for all intense and purposes covered over 35 miles. My hands were raw and I didn't have any strength left. The thought of putting up my tent was too much to contemplate. Then with only that certanty that true travellers take for granted someone came to my rescue.

I had just docked next to the wharf in Codroy harbour. I had just fallen out of my cockpit. My brain had said walk, but my legs were not answering. A crowd had developed around my kayak when I recognized the fisherman I had spoken to earlier. Thirty minutes later I was in his house having my first hot shower since Corner Brook. My clothes were in the dryer, spare clothes were offered without question and food was on the table. Just another day at the office.

Cheers Bernie

 

24th May Corner Brook to Port aux Port

Today, I know what it feels like the day after hockey camp has opened. Every muscle in my upper body screams out in pain, and its going to get worse before it gets better. So far my only surprise has been the weather. It's been beautiful. I couldn't have asked for a better send off. Clear blue skies and light tail winds. I have the beginnings of a 'Newfie Blush'. My face and hands are red raw from the sun and my toes {ever wet and cold} are the colour of melted wax, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I left Corner Brook at the start of my trip on the 20th May, but it didn't take long before I got my first scare. Blow-me-Down in the Bay of Islands {a natural wind tunnel between two hills} almost lived up to its name, and when thirty minutes later I snook my head out of the bay my heart almost sunk. A sea swell was on, and all I could see to the south was mountainous headlands pounded by surf. Who ever nicknamed Newfoundland 'THE ROCK" had done his homework well, and that evening, I was forced to take shelter on a postage stamp of sand. I was exhausted and I counted myself lucky to have escaped my first day unscathed.

The next twenty miles of coastal scenery was amazing, and had I not had glass calm seas to paddle on, I don't think my nerves so early into the trip could have taken it. Cliffs rose vertically out of the sea, and points of land jutted out like defiant chins of rock. I hugged the coast in places as if my life depended on it, but after the second day, I began to get my old confidence back. Now its all behind me. My body still aches, but I sleep like a log. I have already spent two nights indoors with a pair of friendly lobster fishermen and I have already been offered more places down the coast to rest up in if needed. My unplanned, unscheduled trips seem to take on lives of their own and this one is no different. The hospitality is exactly what I had expected, and I am sure its only the tip of the iceberg. I have already eaten lobster and crab and expect more of the same as my trip progresses. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will paddle 12 miles across Bay Saint George. A 12 mile crossing from Port au Port to Bank Head. Then there is the dangerous 30 mile paddle along the rugged coastline from Headlands to Cape Anguille before my first rest day at Codroy.

Bottle Cove

 

May 14th: Red Bay Labrador

Over thirty years have passed since my first trip as a student hitchhiking in Europe, but I haven't got any wiser. Over the years, I have caught the wrong trains, mixed up cities, turned left instead of right and even found myself cycling in Nepal instead of India. In short planning is not one of my gifts. This time I had forgot to check an air flight from Blanc Sablon, Quebec to Deer Lake, Newfoundland before leaving home, but like everything in life its the unplanned experiences that are the best; so let me back track a week and explain my present position.

I set off by ferry boat (Relais Nordik) from my home in Sept Iles on Wednesday the 10th May en route to Blanc Sablon on Quebec's Lower North Shore. The weather was glorious, but on the afternoon on the second day it had turned ugly. It started to snow, and by the time we got to Harrington Harbour it was sleeting down. By the morning of the third day it took a braver man than I to step outside onto the deck, and at St. Augustine, we had to break ice down the bay. We reached Blanc Sablon that evening ankle deep in snow and it was at the wharf that I realized my mistake. The flights to Deer Lake, Nfld. had been discontinued, and due to the heavy winds across the Straights of Belle Isle to Newfoundland the ferry to St. Barbe would not be running for the next few days . I was stuck, but these are the situations I thrive on. One phone call later, and I was in a pick-up truck heading towards friends in Labrador further down the coast.

I am now staying in Red Bay, Labrador. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I hope to catch the ferry from Blanc Sablon, Quebec to St. Barbe, Nfld., then continue on the Northern Peninsula's twice weekly bus service from St. Anthony to Corner Brook where I will start my kayak trip.

I am now topping up my tanks with my friends Leslie John and Phillis Layden. I have already had fried caribou steaks and baked Canada goose. Tonight I have been promised 'bake apple' cheese cake and tomorrow if I want before leaving, enough sandwiches for my trip to feed an army. In short, I am as happy as a pig in shit.

 

Sept-Îles, 25th April:

My name is Bernie Howgate. I am a travel writer. I am English by birth, but Canadian by choice. I am presently living in Sept-Îles, Québec. I love their culture, but their language is killing me. Ha ! I have been doing this travelling lark for over twenty years and I try my best not to take it too seriously. For me kayaking is like dancing with a woman. She lets you take the lead and if you don't listen to her, she will slap you down, and I've been slapped down enough over the years to know when to shut-up and listen to her.

It's been five years since my last major trip when I kayaked 2500 kms down the St-Lawrence from Toronto to Goose Bay, Labrador. I did start a training regime just before Christmas in preparation for this trip, but gave it up six weeks ago to put on a good layer of fat. I drink and smoke and moderation and having crashed the big 50 barrier recently, I am under no illusion that I can bounce back physically like I used to. I don't have much upper body strength, an average paddling technique, cannot Eskimo roll myself out of a paper bag and don't ask me about compass readings. Ha! I will be kayaking anti-clockwise around the ROCK, so if everything goes to plan and God doesn't alter the goal post while I am away, land should be somewhere on my left. My biggest gift, as my mother would say, is that ' I am a survivor ', and if anything goes wrong, you better believe I won't go down without a fight.

If you met me in a bar you would probably never guess that I kayak for a living. I don't have broad shoulders and I wouldn't say boo to a moose. But, put a paddle in my hand, sit me in a kayak, put me out to sea and I sprout wings and fly. I can't fly as far and as high as I used to, but then I don't want to.

I hope you will enjoy my weekly diaries as much as I will enjoy sharing them with you. I can't spell; my punctuation leaves alot to be desired, but I do promise you the truth. For me, meeting people is name of the game, and I am looking forward to meeting the people of Newfoundland.

Cheers, Bernie

 

 

Previous map | Next map

Main map