We started planning our retirement about five years before we exited the workplace this past spring. A priority for our retirement plan was to travel, but more specifically travel extensively throughout Canada.
We then had to decide on our mode of transportation. We wanted to combine how we travelled with our love of the outdoors but wanted to moved to greater creature comforts than the tent we were accustomed to. Finally we determined that a fifth wheel rig would best meet our needs.
The decision of where to go first was an easy one. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only Canadian Province we have never visited so it became destination Number One. So we packed up our rig and headed east on the Trans-Canada Highway to the province Canadians affectionately refer to as the Rock.
Our 2125 kilometer drive and six hour ferry ride to Port aux Basques Newfoundland went well without any major setbacks. The excitement when we boarded the ferry for the final leg of our journey was palpable. Our first impressions did not disappoint. The land was stark yet beautiful in rugged yet comforting kind of way. Our first contact with Newfoundlanders was as we believed it would be warm, gracious and welcoming.
One of goals was to experience Newfoundland not just sightsee. We wanted to visit communities that were “off the beaten path” and not typical tourist areas. So as I looked at the map I spotted the Town of Burgeo on the Southwest coast of Newfoundland overlooking the Cabot Strait. As I read about this community I found that it is home to Sandbanks Provincial Park that is reputed as havlong the most spectacular beaches in the province. To add additional spice, there is a ferry to the nearby island Village of Ramea. Given our love for exploring and walking beaches and given the location 150kms off the Trans-Canada Highway(TCH) ; this was an easy choice for our first adventure in Newfoundland. So a day after landing on the Rock and filled with the anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas morning, we headed to Burgeo.
As we turned off the TCH for our final leg, the roadway was disappointingly similar to secondary highways back home in Ontario. Although paved there were no shoulders to speak of a the bush seemed to be encroaching on both sides. To make matters worse Highway 480 was scattered with potholes making travel with our towable home painfully slow. It looks nearly three hour to travel the final 150km to our destination.
But somewhere around the halfway point down this road, something magical began to happen. The trees became more sparse and the land opened up large tracks of wetland covered in intensely green coloured moss and dwarfed vegetation including the trees. In fact the trees resembled life size bonsai trees. Then the gleaming small lakes and ponds began to appears along with the sparkling rivers and streams filled with smoothly rounded river rock. But things would only get better. Soon the Annieopsquotch Mountains came into view. Large rock formations rising in fairytale like shapes from the flat green landscape partially covered in grenery yet powerfully dominated by the ancient gray granite rising high above the rugged yet beautiful terrain. My general impression was that it looked like a giant Christmas tree had been unfurled across the landscape in all its green, gleaming and granite splendor. As we got closer to Burgeo the sun began to shine through lighting up this three dimensional masterpiece. I have never seen anything remotely like this in my lifetime.
We arrived to Burgeo late in the afternoon and soon after we checked into our campsite at Sandbank Provincial Park. The park situated next to the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by wetlands on the other three sides. It did not take us long to find the boardwalk through the Marram grass covered dunes to the First Beach. The beach did not disappoint. A wide swath of white sand bordered by rolling sea waves on one side and long fragile wild grass topping the dunes on the other. Large rock outcroppings at.each end acted as bookends to complete nature’s ideal picture frame. Over the next three days we walked over twenty kilometers of shoreline as trails over the rock bookends lead to a series of fabulous beaches. Even the mist and the fog could not spoil our experience of some of our countries most scenic and unspoiled beaches. Walking on the mushy white sand while avoiding the unpredictable waves crashing the shoreline while breathing fresh sea air that leaves a tinge of salt on your lips is my nirvana. During my time here I was so taken by my surroundings that I could truly not think of any other place I would rather be thus living in the moment.
As I sat by the campfire enjoying the sun descend behind the hills at the end of small lake that bordered our campsite at the closing of our first day in Burgeo, I happened to glance down at my watch and noticed the date. It was July 24th, the day before some Canadians celebrate Christmas in July. I have always been quite cynical of this concept and celebration. But on a day when all my senses were overloaded by all of nature’s gifts this incredible land had shared with us, I thought it very fitting that it happened on a day that was symbolically associated with receiving gifts, blessings and good will. I certainly never would have thought that my age I could rediscover that child like wonder, joy and peace often associated with Christmas out on the land. As I reflected, I realized that the Christmas is really about feelings such as gratitude, joy and thanks that can occur anytime or anywhere, even in a place like Burgeo Newfoundland. I am finding in retirement that I’m more able to just enjoy the moment and open myself to the possibility of receiving nature’s gifts and blessings.
The lesson here is now on any day, regardless of time and place, We can find many more days of wonder and joy if we just embrace living in the moment and are open to the possibilities. So while I embrace this newly found openness, I wish you all a lifetime of merry and joyful moments !
Note: While in Burgeo we took a short ferry ride(one hour and twenty minutes) to the island community of Ramea. We were the only tourist on the island that day. This fishing village is home to about four hundred people. It offers a view into life in a typical outpost island community. We enjoyed our few hours there walking the island, viewing landmarks and speaking to locals. It was definitely time well spent.