Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rocking Up To The Rock

Well I have arrived safely on 'The Rock' as Newfoundland is sometimes not unsurprisingly called, and am staying with fellow Brits - Welshman Ian Harvey, wife Alison who contacted me on Facebook and kindly offered me a room, and their two lively boys Owen and Iwan.  They have a lovely house set in the wooded residential hills of Portugal Cove to the north of St John's.
I had booked a hire car for two days, but unfortunately discovered that I was unable to drive it away without presenting a credit card which I do not have.  But Alison came to my rescue and has heroically given up her time to chauffeur me around the four corners of St John's sorting out arrangements.   So I now have a Canadian cell phone, have arranged prohibitively expensive vehicle insurance, and have bought fifty metres of climbing rope, carabiners and an elderly green pickup truck/estate.  The latter still has to pass its MVI to be licensed, an MVI being the equivalent of our MOT.  But unlike the UK, the MVI here is carried out on transfer of vehicle ownership.  It is booked in for Monday so cross fingers it passes with no problems.
The climbing rope is not to enable the ponies to scale the Newfoundland sea cliffs but for tethering and securing the pack saddle bags.
And to prove I really have arrived, here I am in front of the Cabot Tower at the top of Signal Hill which overlooks St John's and the narrow entrance to the sheltered dog leg harbour on which the town is situated.
  As evinced by the array of flag poles on top, the tower was mainly used for flag signalling, different flags giving notice of different approaching ships.
It was built between1898-1900 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Cabot's 'discovery' of Newfoundland. Of course Newfoundland had already been discovered by various native American tribes including the indigenous Beothuks, besides the Vikings and almost certainly fishermen from Europe who chose not to publicise the rich fishing grounds of the off-shore Grand Banks.

Signal Hill is also notable as the site of a famous historical event.  In 1901 Guiseppi Marconi received the first trans-atlantic wireless message from Cornwall to a point near the tower.  Rather tersely it was the letter S in morse code.  And here is Alison marking the very spot.....
You can see the weather is glorious in the photos, but it has not been long before more characteristic Newfoundland weather has set in, and today snow flurries have been followed by rain.  But hopefully the latter will melt any snow banks blocking the beginning of the T'Railway, the section of the Trans Canada Trail following the course of the old railway line which crosses Newfoundland, and the route I intend to pursue from St John's to Port aux Basques in the far west.  
I also called in to see Mace at his stables owned by Stephanie Coates in Conception Bay South. He was looking in fine fettle but more interested in his hay than welcoming his new owner.
And before I forget, my friend Hannah Engelkamp has taken pity on an old pensioner and created a brand new Facebook page for me at   .Please like and share.
While you are at it, have a look at her page  and do the same for her.  She is the intrepid traveller who walked round Wales with donkey Chico and gave an immensely amusing talk at the Night of Adventure a fortnight ago. 

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