Travel blog by a global nomad

16 Aug

Visting Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, Newfoundland

Cape Bonavista LighthouseSeeing an advert for the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse in the local newspaper, The Telegram, made me want to go and visit it. There are some very distinctive lighthouses along the Newfoundland coastline, and the Cape Bonavista Lighthouse with its vertical red and white stripes is one of them!

Initially, my trip was thwarted by a spell of never-ending bad weather in Newfoundland over the last 2 weeks. I nearly went a few days before, but wasn’t sure I wanted to have yet another ‘ethereal’ experience with the sights of Newfoundland…. But today was remarkably free of fog in the east so I spontaneousy decided to drive to Cape Bonavista after lunch (which some would deem madness as its a 3 1/2-4 hour drive from St John’s…).

The drive itself was uneventful with fog only occurring near the narrow neck that attaches the Avalon Peninsula to the rest of Newfoundland. As I was listening to BBC Radio 1 on the satellite radio they have in North America (it is so nice to know you can be in the middle of nowhere in North America and not be restricted to Country or Religious radio stations for a small price!), I reflected that I would never have guessed I would be doing a road trip in Canada and listening to a (delayed) broadcast of BBC Radio 1… The last time I had listened so intensively to BBC Radio 1 was when I spent 10 days driving around Scotland 10 years before. Technology… But I digress.

Cape Bonavista LighthouseI arrived at Bonavista about 3 1/2 hours after leaving St John’s (so the google maps travel time estimation was somewhat correct – it said 3 hours and 48 minutes…). The town of Bonavista itself was curiously 2-dimensional looking with lots of narrow 2 story white-washed buildings all facing the sea and low grass inbetween. The lack of trees must have been a testament to the local weather because the rest of the peninsula driving there was under dense tree coverage!

I was also bemused to see lots and lots of clothes lines decorated with colourful clothing… True, there are lots of artistic interpretations of Newfoundland countryside with these curious houses and colourful clotheslines, but this was the first time I’d actually seen this scenario in real life! It was a stark contrast to the many cities out there where apartment complexes ban you from drying your clothes on the balcony as you will blight the image of the apartment complex!

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, NewfoundlandThe road from Bonavista to the lighhouse itself was narrow and windy and painful as at the last moment before I turned onto it, someone jumped in front of me and proceeded to drive at 10km/hr all the way to the lighthouse.

I pulled into the surprisingly crowded parking lot near the lighthouse, coming up on 5.30pm. I got out and set off along a trail which led to a small red house and the lighthouse itself.

I paused and took some pictures of the lighthouse itself before moving on up for a closer look. As it turned out, it was only the front and west-facing side which had the decidedly odd broad red vertical stripes! The East facing side was bland white and the backside was on a steep inaccessible cliff…

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse, NewfoundlandI noticed some people just beyond the lighthouse watching the air. Every now and then, a lady would flap both arms in the air in a rapid swooshing movement so a bit curious by this, I strolled down the windswept grass to get near the cliff. When I stopped focusing on the lady and more on the island sitting about 10m off the cliffface, I realised there were puffins in the air! I didn’t know there were puffins here! So I must have spent a good 40 minutes just trying to capture these fast-flying birds on camera

Eventually, I began to get a bit restless and turned to look once more at the lighthouse  – and saw a whale blow just past it! Goodness, that was close to shore! There was another lady standing a discrete 10m away from me so I yelled ‘whales!’ at her and pointed at the spray rapidly dispersing in the wind. She turned just in time to see a whale barely surface and blow. She then started yelling at her boyfriend who looked most disgusted to be dragged away from the lighthouse…I turned to point it out to the elderly wildlife watching couple, but they had moved off and were some distance away gazing in the wrong direction. I let them be.

After seeing two more blows (which everyone else missed, despite looking eagerly…), I wandered back up to the lighthouse and took a couple more photos of its striking visage.

As I began to walk back down the path I had come up on, I saw a humpback whale come up very close to the cliff and blow. I pointed it out to a lady next to me who was just a little to far to the left… As I tried to get her to stand up and move towards the lighthouse so the rocks wouldn’t obscure her view, another humpback briefly surfaced and blew. At least this time, the lady’s family saw them all (alerted by my yells…) so now I was no longer ‘the only one who saw the whales’ which was clearly causing some to believe I’d been making it up!

Cape Bonavista Lighthouse reflectionI then decided to go cross-country and follow the whales around the headland a little way (if they were moving in that direction). I saw them briefly surface two more times before loosing them in the setting sun’s reflection. I guess there were no deep dives and waving of the flukes because they probably would have nose-dived straight into the seafloor because they were so close to the coast!

The drive back was only slightly more eventful than the drive there. I wound my way through Bonavista, pausing briefly to try and get some fish and chips. A tatty looking white building was surrounded by cars and had big billboards declaring it pretty much sold all fast food and ice cream just on the edge of Bonavista. I thought with that many cars, maybe the locals knew it and thought it was decent… I parked my car, went inside and found myself in a tiny cheap n nasty dining area which was completely full. The waitresses cheerfully ignored me.

I looked at all the various menu’s on the walls and failed to find any mention of fish and chips, although I could smell it. So I wondered back outside to their little takeaway ‘window’ to see if I could get some fish and chips there. Again, I gazed at all the menu’s and although there was a huge emphasis on their ice cream flavours, only one small mention of fish and chips – but now I could even see them cooking it! I dunno… If you are a little greasey eatery on the coast that sells fish and chips because you are on the edge of a fishing town, I’d make sure it was prominent as all the signs selling ice cream! However, no one seemed inclined to serve me a takeaway at the window either so I gave up and drove away.

Eventually, I found myself on the northern route out of there, which was clearly the less well driven one as the road condition was not as good as Highway 230, the road I took in!

As always, I was amazed by all the little hamlets hidden away in little coves along the coastline. Nearly 4 hours from St John’s and people make a living out here…  Love to know what they do! Maybe a lot were retired people and holiday homes? I don’t know, but there seems to be a lot of villages along the Newfoundland coastline – and I’ve no idea how people can afford to live there (other than the price of the house probably isn’t much…).

Once I got on the Transcanada (heading east, alas…), it was still a glorious drive until I got to the narrow ithmus and then as the last rays of the sun disappeared, the fog rose darkly and silently, eveloping my car and drastically reducing visibility. Somewhat nervous about a moose suddenly appearing, I slowed down but only once thought I glimpsed 4 spindly legs at the edge of my headlights beam, but they disappeared by the time I crawled past where I thought I saw the moose. The fog remained with me until I was just out of St John’s – it had certainly spread from my drive out there in the afternoon!

But taking the northern route away from Cape Bonavista didn’t seem to be any more or less time than taking highway 230. I returned to St John’s within 3 1/2 hours…

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