A relatively uneventful overnight journey (Aug 12-13) took us from Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland. As we walked out of the terminal building we could see our camper van in the distance waiting for us. It was in great shape and started first time, taking us to a campsite less than ten minutes away on the outskirts of St. John’s. The weather was warm, the sun was shining, so what better start could we have! A supermarket visit, however, was all we managed the first day as we were both tired from the red-eye flight.
For a cross-country journey, we thought it appropriate to start by finding the east end of the Trans-Canada highway. Unfortunately there is no Mile 0 in St. John’s as we have in Victoria, only a paved circle with the mileage from there to the various provincial capitals. Victoria is given as 5097 km which is the “crow flies” distance rather than the 7000+ km of the TCH! We spent half a day exploring Signal Hill (where Marconi heard the first tran-Atlantic signal) and where there is history going back to the mid 17th Century as the British and French fought over the territory. There were active fortifications on the hill until the end of WWII.
The next day we started off by going to Cape Spear, Canada’s easternmost point, not far outside St. John’s. It was a lovely sunny, warm day and the only thing missing was that there were no whales nor icebergs to be seen! Due to massive revamping of the area, most of the signage had been removed and there was no sign indicating where the easternmost point was. We were assured by the staff that the photo below is of the actual easternmost knob of rock.👍 The other highlight of the day was a visit to the Botanical Gardens which are part of Memorial University. They are relatively very small, but there is a vast amount of material there, which was grouped and labelled well and presented attractively. With a very short growing season and being in Zone 5, it was amazing what they could grow.
The next day (Wed 16th) dawned totally overcast and stayed that way throughout the day, though with no precipitation. We had decided to drive around the Avalon Peninsula which was an interesting drive although it would have been more spectacular had the sun been shining. We were surprised, even at the height of summer, at how bleak the landscape was and shudder to think what it must be like in the winter! There is very little soil over the rock and as a result, the trees (largely coniferous) are very stunted. The highest firs seem to be no more than 20 ft and most of them much less than that and the only other vegetation was very scrubby. The landscape was dotted with innumerable small, shallow lakes – apparently always named ponds here. The coastal villages were not nearly as pretty as we had expected from the TV ads. There was a great dearth of campsites in the lower 2/3 of the Peninsula so we had to come quite far north to find a campsite. The campsite we ended up in was large and full of expensive rigs – but there was hardly anybody there! Presumably the owners (many of whom had added decks, sheds etc on the lots) were only there on the weekends.
Hurricane Gert was supposed to affect this area on Thursday (17th) and there was quite a lot of rain overnight. It was still misting in the morning, but improved steadily all day though quite breezy. We drove to Placentia, home of Rex Murphy. It was one of the first French settlements in the mid 17th century – largely in support of the cod fishing fleet from France. They built a fort to defend the harbour from the British, the remains of which are now a Parks Canada site called Castle Hill which we visited. The fortifications were fought over and ended up as British after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 although they were not used much after that. We ended the day at a beautiful campsite in Argentia overlooking one of the places from which ferries leave to Nova Scotia.
Overnight rain and even some thunder led to a very grey morning with almost continuous rain/drizzle and quite strong north winds which held the temperature to a maximum of 13 degrees. We decided to abandon the Avalon Peninsula and drove north to Bonavista. This was a full 3 hour drive partly along the TCH, but the conditions were pretty bad with the driving mist/rain and very poor road surface conditions in parts. The last photo below was on the on ramp to the TCH!