The journey begins...M had the best setup, with her nest of pillows in the back seat!
After a round of big hugs with Sara, we left our house around 4pm, allowing six hours for the drive to North Sydney. Check in was at 10pm for the 11:30 ferry, and we wanted to have time to stop for supper and stretch our legs along the way. Good thing we didn't cut it right close because our crossing was bumped up to 11pm, and check in moved to 9:30. Now I don't really know how strict they are with the "check in 90 minutes before crossing or we'll give away your reservation and you'll have to go on a waiting list for the next ferry" policy, but...I wasn't about to take any chances - I wanted to be there on time! In the end, we drove straight through to North Sydney without stopping, which was about a four hour drive. Saw a black bear on the side of the road near Pomquet, Antigonish County. Very cool. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful though. We got to N. Sydney and went to the local Subway for a bite to eat, then joined the queue for the ferry. We were on board the boat by 8:30pm, so had tons of time to spare and were able to settle in for the night long before the boat sailed.
Farewell to Nova Scotia (North Sydney harbour from the ferry):
The crossing took close to seven hours. I didn't really sleep, although suppose I likely dozed off a couple times during the night. M and Dave seemed to get a decent sleep though. But I was so full of excitement and adrenalin that the lack of sleep didn't slow me down at all!
M watching the sunrise from the ferry deck (around 5 am):
Hello Newfoundland!! (Port aux Basques harbour from the ferry):
I started out in the driver's seat on the way from the ferry to Val's house, but I took one little photo out the window while driving and Dave made me pull over so he could drive. Seems he didn't care much for my multi-tasking! Go figure...
The scenery in Newfoundland most definitely did not disappoint!! I wasn't expecting it to be so mountainous (you'd think I would have known that from watching the tourism ads, but somehow it still took my breath away!) I wrote this in my journal as we drove:
"The landscape continues to amaze me. I feel the wildness of the land, the untamed immensity. A sense of the history of those who first survived in this place rushes through me. I am impressed, inspired, awestruck, deeply respectful of their strength and tenacity for settling here. I can see why people love this place with a fiercely rooted love. Adversity really can create such strong bonds. I am an hour into Newfoundland and already under its spell."
We stopped in Deer Lake for food/gas/pee break, then continued merrily on our way, with me again in the driver's seat (having promised not to try to take any more photos while driving!) The drive from the ferry to Mark and Val's house is about five hours, plus the hour's rest stop, which meant we arrived just before lunchtime. We did see one young moose on the side of the road during our drive over, the only moose I laid eyes on in spite of the fact that Nfld is well known for having a plethora of moose...not that I'm bitter or anything! lol
We had no trouble at all finding the house from Valerie's directions. And wow, what a gorgeous spot, no wonder Mark and Valerie love it here, it truly is a piece of paradise as they both described! The house is the one she grew up in, and is right on the banks of the Exploits River. The water is literally just a stone's throw from the house...the view across the river is spectacular...and dragonflies abound around the house and beach...kingfishers and loons and bunnies put in appearances as well.
Wooohoooo!!!! We're here!!! Shame we were not more excited, isn't it? ;)
We arrived to find Mark and Kees (Mark's best friend) in the yard but no sign of Valerie or K...Mark had no idea where Valerie was, but thought K had popped over to her cousin's place, which is nearly next door. And sure enough, just a minute or two later, K returned. Still no sign of Valerie. Hmph, went my inner child, apparently my best friend isn't as excited to see me as I am to see her. Someone caught my pouting inner child moment on film...too funny.
As it turned out, Valerie was just down on the beach...no doubt if I'd yelled, she would have heard me. It was so great to see her again. M and I quickly put on our bathing suits too, and we went for a swim, followed by a stroll down the beach, talking and enjoying being together...we wandered down to "the channel", which is the mouth of Rattling Brook, that feeds into the Exploits. The banks are compressed sawdust from a mill upstream (hasn't been in use for years though) and the water was cool and refreshing.
Dave didn't swim (or even don a pair of shorts the whole vacation, crazy man!) but what a lovely spot he found to sit and contemplate life, the universe and everything!
After supper there was a brief rain shower and then a gorgeous double rainbow appeared, and hung in the sky for a half hour or longer.
Mark struck a pose with the rainbow coming out of his hand...not to be outdone, Valerie held up both hands with a rainbow coming from each...and then Mark pretended it was coming out of his beer bottle...and the rest of us just cracked up, while Kees captured this goofiness with his camera. I so need copies of his photos!
As the evening wore on, and the sun began to set...
We gathered around a bonfire, made by Valerie's brother-in-law, Cal (he and Val's sister Juanita, aka "J", live just next door - actually in the "woohoo, we're here" photo above, J's house is the grey one in the background, and the white building is Valerie's cabin, where she and Mark sleep instead of in the house...it used to be her dad's woodshed years ago.) Here is Kees relaxing by the blaze:
And standing on the bank, admiring the glorious sunset:
Best friends with two wonderful weeks of shared family vacation stretched out ahead of us...yup, I'll drink to that!!