When the MV Highlanders docked in Port aux Basques last month, I stood on the top deck, quietly taking in the sunrise and breathing in the crisp Newfoundland air. Fresh air wasn’t on the list of things I had consciously missed about living on the Rock, but when I breathed it in I embraced it like a long-lost friend, I knew I was home, if only for a little while.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living on my newly adopted island home, PEI is a great place to live with much better weather to name just one thing, but it is not Newfoundland. To this day I still miss hiking the East Coast Trail, seeing whales below the cliffs, bumping into moose in the forest, and losing myself in a sea of capelin. Newfoundland is very dear to me, and this is why I was happy to be here if only as a visitor.
Our first stop after Port aux Basques was Rose Blanche, a small outport east of the ferry terminal, reached after a scenic 45 km drive through a typical Newfoundland landscape that was a sight for sore eyes even under a cover of grey clouds.
In ‘Roche Blanche’ we soon found our way over the eponymous ‘white rocks’ that led up to the old stone lighthouse:After some time on the lighthouse trails and a short walk through the harbour, we got back into our car and headed for the Port au Port Peninsula, which we hoped to reach before sunset.
On the way there, we got out often and explored nearly every scenic highlight on the map, Cape Ray was one of the first stops:When we reached the Codroy Valley most of the clouds had gone, and we basically had nice weather for the rest of our day: By the time we reached Cape St. George on the Port au Port Peninsula we had already driven a fair distance, and all the while I’d been giving and receiving the ‘traditional’ Newfoundland wink and nod. I’d become used to greeting people this way while I lived here, but everywhere else in Canada it just gets you a funny look in return. Because it’s a hard habit to break it felt great to finally get a proper response again.
We spent the sunset at Cape St. George, on the beautiful cliffs of Boutte du Cap:While I had hoped for little more than red sunlight on the cliffs, our eyes were soon fixed on the water which much to our surprise was teeming with wildlife: At first we couldn’t believe our luck at seeing just 1 whale swim by, it was still May after all, but soon enough more whales popped up, minke after minke, then humpbacks too in the distance.
While I was watching a grey seal cruising along the shoreline below us, my attention was grabbed by a large group of harp seals putting on a show:For over an hour we watched several groups of harp seals swim around the Cape, some had only a dozen animals in it, others were as large as 80 animals, with more animals below the surface perhaps. It was hard to see what they were up to exactly but they showed all the signs of a hunting party, pushing prey ahead then diving down to feast and coming up much further out, splashing and jumping around. There were at least 6 separate groups operating around the Cape, going back and forth, chasing mackerel or herring or who knows what, they were feeding right alongside the minke whales.
The whole thing reminded me of the sea lions I saw so many times on Vancouver Island. They too would move in large packs and feast when the herring were in.