Newfoundland: Toronto to Deer Lake to Fogo Island

Weddings change plans.

The harbour at Seldom, one of the many small
communities on Fogo Island.  Population: 444.

Not so much for the people getting married.  I mean, they’re in charge of the plan.  Depending on where and when the wedding is, though, its going to, hopefully quite happily, take all of its guests off of whatever plans they had in the immediate future.

Five years ago, it was family getting married that ended up taking us through Central America.  This time, it’s friends that have us going to Newfoundland!

There’s almost an unofficial “Order of Travel” that exists in Canada.  Depending on where you’re from, you’re usually doing BC (for Vancouver) and Alberta (for Calgary and Banff), or Quebec (for Montreal) and Ontario (for Toronto and Niagara Falls) first.  Then, if you’re looking to go further, you might end up in the Maritimes, possibly Saskatchewan if you’re already out west, and finally Newfoundland, before maybe making it to a territory or two.

And I’m not forgetting Manitoba, it’s just that everybody else does.

That being said, Newfoundland has upped its game significantly to get tourists in over the past few years.  Take a minute to check out their tourism website and videos online and tell me you don’t want to go.  Things still mostly run bed-and-breakfast style, which I discovered when trying to find summer accommodation MONTHS ahead of time to try and figure out some travel around this wedding.

The original plan was to fly into Deer Lake a couple of days ago and have a solid few days in Gros Morne National Park.  Unfortunately, we had to push things back by a bit, resulting in the Newfoundland equivalent of a red-eye, landing in Deer Lake at 1:35 am, and the elimination of a side-trip to Labrador so we could catch Gros Morne on the back end.  Still, with everything finally slammed together and new accommodations booked, looked like we were good to go.

Then, of course, a flight delay that had the potential to derail things for us, keeping us from Deer Lake until 2:30 in the morning.  Fortunately, due to a nice woman named Karen at Avis, an accommodating B & B owner named Florence who, in spite of some confusion about what booking an early morning arrival was, snagged us a good room and breakfast, and a hassle-free drive to Farewell, things worked pretty much on schedule.  I say that knowing that we lined up for the Fogo Ferry for about two hours, which on the first-come, first-serve system they run, is apparently the norm for the summer.  Be ready.

Fogo Island is Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest island (outside of Newfoundland-proper) and, like the majority of Newfoundland, lived and died by the fishing profession up until it… well, died for a time.  In 1992, the cod fishery closed up and the island took a hit.  Fortunately, due a lot of work from the federal government and local artists, Fogo has built itself a reputation as an artistic getaway, and much like the rest of Newfoundland, the natural beauty is pretty hard to beat.

The Fogo Inn from Joe Batt’s Trail.

We weren’t operating on the most sleep when we rolled into our accommodation, so the challenge became “What can we do that is awesome, but also relatively easy?”  Fogo has several trails, and one of its best ones is also not the most difficult, the Joe Batt’s Point Trail.  Not only do you get some fantastic views of Joe Batt’s Arm and the Fogo Inn (more on that in a different post), but you get to see the Long Box, one of Fogo’s many artist structures, a giant statue dedicated to the Giant Auk, various sites dedicated to the Beothuk First Nations, now long departed, and, if you’re lucky, as we were today, icebergs!

The trail is 4.6 kilometers and takes around 75 minutes to walk if you don’t stop to look around and take pictures, so it obviously took us a little bit longer than 75 minutes.  If you do this trail quickly, you’re doing it wrong.  It’s not a hard walk by any stretch of the imagination, but you suddenly come across an amazing view of the Inn, or the Sandcrawler-like Long Studio, or little benches and Muskoka chairs to rest in, or sudden rocky coves…  you’ve just got to stop for a bit an take it all in!

The “challenge” for us was that the sun was beginning to set and, since we had meandered around so much, we didn’t know how close we were to the Auk, which was the official end of the trail.  The walk back was even more spectacular, if not a bit more rushed, with the sun setting behind us, changing colours behind the one iceberg we did see, reflecting off the water and the rocks, and interacting with the clouds in a way that made it look like legit fire.  Breathtaking.

The sun set fast as we hit the road, with us able to make a stop at the Cod Jigger to have some (wait for it) cod bites and a cod sandwich and maybe the most amazing invention ever, donair meat in an eggroll casing!  Quick stop at Vanessa’s Convenience & Take-Out to get some eggs and bread for breakfast tomorrow, and then back to the cabin.

Tomorrow we’re going to be delving into more of Fogo, first taking a climb to what, legitimately, was considered one of the “Four Corners of the Earth.”  After the sunset hike today and that, it’ll be interesting to see how everything else stacks up.

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