Just off the coast of Newfoundland lies Fogo Island. On its north west side is a formidable lump of rock called Brimstone Head. Just beyond that, if you are a ‘flat earther,’ you are in danger of falling off the edge of the earth.
As we made the ferry connection from Farewell Harbour to Fogo, we were reminded we were foreigners as we were traced with every pair of eyes onboard. On the many rocky outcrops lay one, maybe two houses, for those who found the civilisation of mainland life too congested. Fogo Island has two roads. It heads into the centre of the island and then splits, east or west. We were staying in the town of Fogo, where every colourful house appeared cautiously perched on a rock edge and looking out to sea. Our closest neighbour was a dog, nicknamed Chunky, who appeared to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the street.
It was early evening and we set out to look into the abyss at the edge of the earth. A well maintained boardwalk took you up the spine of the rock and then warned you of your fate should you step too far. The signs were put there by a flat earther named Iris who has always lived on Fogo. It was quite an achievement to have made it to somewhere which was considered so remote, that someone had considered it one of the four, or in some theories five, corners of the earth.
On the way down we were in for more surprises. I spotted below us the dark shape of an arctic fox. He was still black with a bushy white tipped tail, however we could see his coat had begun to thicken and change with the seasons. We observed him as he had a munch and then disappeared into his den. Shortly after, a second arctic fox began running back from his days outing. And then a third. In total we observed five, all seemingly with busy agendas. The young fought playfully. One made his way up the boardwalk we were standing at the top of and spotted us only at the last minute. His eyes were dark and glazed ad he stared at us with fierce confusion. In the green gold of the undergrowth, they camouflaged amazingly well. As soon as they crouched you could lose them in the changing leaves of the blueberry plants.
The life of the island appeared to be at its crossroads in the islands centre, the Cod Jigger. We got our long awaited portion of fish and chips and went back to our cottage to enjoy them by the coast.
At the end of our small street began a hike which followed the coast. Here there used to be several small communities of fishing families. One in particular was named Eastern Tickle. They all cease to exist now and in there place are a few strewn lobster traps and the undergrowth has reclaimed the land. One of the Marconi wireless towers stands pointed out to see on this blustery, exposed coast. The whole area was called Lion’s Den and it was speculated that this was a reference to having to be brave life Biblical Daniel to endure life here.
The islands newest large employer is the Fogo Island Inn. Featured on many TV shows due to its modern design and remote location, it sits on Joe Batts Arm looking out to sea and every one of its luxurious rooms has floor to ceiling windows and enjoys the Michelin star food. It has led to a rise of artistic outposts all along that stretch and we walked out to a studio which looks eccentrically modern next to its bright coloured fishing village compatriots.
The last town on the road heading east is called Tilting and is said to have held onto its Irish roots heavily. Every direction was a view asking for a photo, so we crawled along the streets snapping up the views until a man invited us to look as some cod he was drying. Turns out he had written several books about life and fishing on the coast, a business which he had inherited from his family. The line caught cod was killed and processed on a special table in his wonky wooden shed, on his wonky wooden pier, by a team who used the notches and sharp bits built into the table to get the desired result. It then lay out on the pier to dry, once salted. He said that the birds know in their genes not to swoop for it because his ancestors used to shoot and their ancestors, an unspoken agreement perhaps.
Waiting for us back at the ferry terminal was a little Wily Fox. It seemed he knew the schedule as he went car to car, looking adorable. Back on the Newfoundland side we made our way to Gander for my last night in Canada. The next morning at the cafe, the server commented on our “strange accents” as I mispronounced ‘Touton’ – the local fried bread delicacy. Having a strange accent seemed quite a compliment coming from a Newfie, and with that we made for the airport to bid Canada goodbye.
What a stunning two years! Canada has proved to be amazingly diverse, welcoming and beautiful on every adventure. Alas, time for Europe…