If you go into the woods today…

Here is the final guest blog written by friend Susie Russell:

Gaultois is an outport, that is, reached only by sea. Once there were hundreds of them around the Newfoundland coastline, but over decades they have been abandoned or shut down as the fishing industry that supported them has collapsed or changed. Gaultois is on Long Island, about a half hour ferry trip from Hermitage… on the mainland. It was with much anticipation that we piled all our belongings and shopping on the wharf to load onto the Terra Nova.

The scenery is breathtaking. Wild and rugged, formed by glaciers, wild winds and raging seas. Fran and Nettie were lucky enough – altho methinks they make their own luck 😉 – to purchase a house in very reasonable condition, on the hill, above the harbour, with a view down the fjord. Selkie House they have called it.

We settled in for a week or so and set off for an evening stroll along the one road and back along the waterfront boardwalk. There are only 2 utes, to pick up the garbage and to move large items; everything else is transported by little ATVs (all terrain vehicles /quads).

It wasn’t long before Greg had identified his first major project: try and get the pump going so that we didn’t have to carry buckets from the well up a quite steep and somewhat gravel slippery slope back to the house. This took numerous trips to The Bottom shop, and to a local with tools, and was a project that inched forward over the ensuing week…

On arrival we were presented with several bags of fresh local scallops. And so the seafood feast began. It only took Fran a day or two to source some freshly caught cod. Now my only experience of cod was when as a child, my dad bought frozen smoked cod that was orange in colour and he cooked it in milk. I thought it was rather disgusting. However freshly caught cod is one of the tastiest delicately flavoured fish I have eaten, which is a good thing, because we’ve had it at least once a day since!

On arrival in Gaultois there was much talk of ‘the bear’. A black bear had been seen several times on the fringe of the settlement. Some one said they had seen a younger bear with it. It was on the radio that people in Gaultois should exercise caution when going beyond the village limits and several people claimed it had been making havoc with their rubbish bins… and rural Newfoundland has bear-proof rubbish bin holders. However Gaultois rubbish goes to a dump behind the village, not far from our place and so if they were going to be anywhere that’s where they’d be. In fact several sightings had been at the dump. The problem with ‘the bear’ was that a walk we had particularly looked forward to doing was advised against and it took us nearly a week to pluck up the courage to do a shorter loop that traversed some of the backwoods bear country. I saw what I think were bear prints in the soft ground…

The first few days of our stay it was sooo hot. Newfoundlanders aren’t accustomed to such heat, and we Aussies found it pretty hard going as well. A walk around the bay was hot work and after the first couple of days we tried to do our walking later in the evenings, sometimes calling at the Inn for a refresher to get us home.

During our stay we were able to catch up on emails and the odd Skype call courtesy of the public access Wi-Fi at the Gaultois Public Library and Town Hall, which fortunately was only a stone’s throw from our door. I was also able to read a couple of great Newfoundland novels. I hear there may even be some ongoing mapping collaboration.

On Tuesdays the ferry from Gaultois heads down the fjord to McCallum, another outport even smaller than Gaultois, before crossing to Hermitage and then back to Gaultois. We decided to do the round trip and were hopeful for a whale sighting, but alas we had to be content with sunfish, which are weird and wonderful. On the journey across from McCallum we met Dave, who has lived at McCallum 5 years and is about to see his first book published. Being interested in environmental issues, we had much to talk about, and Greg and I decided to disembark in Hermitage and catch the following ferry, and we went off with Dave to do the Hermitage boardwalk and he showed us which were the fir and which the larch… which the locals here call junipers.

One evening we headed down to the Gaultois Inn for dinner and then a ‘Girls Night and Karaoke’. Greg headed off for beers with his mate and Fran, Nettie and I stayed. Like many of you I’ve never done ‘Karaoke’. But in a place where you need to make your own fun it turned out to be a hoot. We were there till midnight along with a few local stalwarts, singing it up to all sorts of tunes from our past, and marvelling at the incredibly sexist lyrics .. when you actually pay attention to the words.. The Wanderer comes to mind.

Friday – a week after we’d arrived, water started coming from the taps, and after a few more hiccups and half a day, it was hot water. Yay! A hot shower. How we take for granted the simple pleasures.

Sandy arrived that day, a friend from St John’s. And after our evening meal we all headed down the road to a newly renovated venue, the old Garland Store, for the 2nd Annual Gaultois Music Festival an evening of local music, drinking and dancing. The locals sure know how to kick up their heels and of course we do too, so a fine time was had by all. The next evening we did it again, with a band from ‘away’ Shanaganock. Another fine time was had and it was after 2am that we walked back up the hill to our beds.

The following evening we were treated to a boat trip up the Little Passage. It is somewhat of a culture shock just how wild this country is, how much land remains unsettled and unroaded and what vast expanses of water connect it all together. There is another blog post with photos of our boat trip. We were all very appreciative that Rodney Andrews chose to shared his love of land and water with us.

The following Tuesday Greg and I decided to head off on a little adventure on our own so I could practice driving on the other side of the road. It was good timing in a way, the weather was cool, misty and sometimes wet. We caught the early morning ferry, parted company with Sandy in Hermitage and headed off down the road.

We spent the better part of the next 2 days exploring small coastal settlements and poking around places I have been reading about: Harbour Breton, Pool’s Cove, St Alban’s, Conne River- where there is still a sizeable Miawpukek/ Mik’maq population and Belleoram. At Belleoram I had thought we might climb Ironskull Mountain, having just read Belle Oroa, but it was draped in cloud and when I asked about walking tracks at the local shop the response was that “There his two bears up there and one his ‘urt. And there be coyote”. So we decided against that and went instead to the Head of Bay D’Espoir, having reached the lower secton of it in our boat trip with Rodney.

Then back to Gaultois, time to pack up and catch the ferry out again the next morning, for a couple of days at the cabin before we part ways with Fran and Nettie and this blog.

Now back at the pond, the Inn has been both its most and least hospitable. Most in that the water is warm, swimming leaves the skin feeling silky, the blueberries are ripening cluster by cluster and the water became a mirror and reflecting the glory of the sunset sky with its pink and orange clouds, the only movement that occasional salmon and trout ripple. Least hospitable because a colony of paper wasps had taken up residence under the decking boards and one stung Greg on arrival. Fran being allergic meant that either they went or she went! After much thought and planning, we kitted Greg up in his wasp-proof suit and he went outside at dusk to carry out his plan- of gently raising a bucket of water, detergent and pyrethrum under the deckboard, by pulling strings cautiously manoeuvred into place earlier in the day, and drowned the poor things.

And so we are ready to leave these two brave, crazy women to their folly. We have loved spending this time with them and are very appreciative of the opportunity and all their efforts to give us a taste of their Newfoundland life.

Over and out from me! Pachamama rising.

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2 thoughts on “If you go into the woods today…

  1. what a thrill to see the girls in their other life style susie and greg. bet they adore hot water again. lol.
    this trip will live in your memory forever. lucky ducks.


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