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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 08.20.15
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Chaos in Paradise

SOMEWHERE IN NEWFOUNDLAND | People like the edges of things.

Newfoundland is all about the edges, the seacoasts that positively shout,"How's she goin', baey, I'm rugged."

There's not much in the middle except people rushing to get to the sides and the corners and the pointy parts jutting into the sea that, for the record, is cold. Abby is determined to swim in it, though, and undoubtedly will do so before our trek across Newfoundland is complete.

But back to the edge. On our first fog-bound day, we went south on the Avalon Peninsula to Cape St. Mary's to view the second-largest gannet colony in North America, which is not as disappointing as it sounds. I'm sure the largest is impressive but peeking over the edges of the cliff at Bird Rock, hoping not to get shoved over by the pushy Quebec caravaners who had been dogging us since we boarded the ferry, we felt"We're in Newfoundland."

But not enough! More edges! At Trinity East we skirted high cliffs overlooking jagged rocks like dominoes and coves like interlocking pieces of geological jigsaw puzzles and other breathtaking views that had nothing to do with games.

At St. John's, we visited Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, excluding Greenland, but who cares about Greenland?

Of course, at a park there's always farther. To keep people from getting swept away on the easternmost rocks, there are fences and warning signs. The sign says,"At least eight people have died beyond this point," but it could say,"Hot lava beyond this point," or,"Stephen Harper campaigning condescendingly beyond this point," and people would still venture as close to the edge as possible, to get even more easternmost. It's about risk assessment, and I assess that most people are idiots.

But who am I to talk? We're tenting across Newfoundland in a two-door Accent whose every squeak, whine, or unexplained whir has me thinking,"Well, that's it. Only the moose can rescue us now."

The Trans-Canada Highway is fine for points through the non-edge parts, but we've taken pothole-lined scenic routes and excursions often, sometimes against our will. After leaving St. John's, I was anxious to make some time on the T-Can, but we were quickly diverted off for construction. Newfoundlanders aren't big on directional signs, I've discovered, and there were no indicators how to get back on the highway. I yelled at a road worker,"Do I go through Paradise to get back on the Trans-Canada?"

He grimaced."Ohhh, they's chaos in Paradise. You's better off goin' trew Donovans, the next ramp over."

We thanked him and tried but ended up in Paradise anyway and winding 60 km/h roads along the edge before we made it back on the main way. We've seen a lot of water. It's an overdose of picturesque.

Right now we're in Twillingate, another edge at the northeastern top of the island. We've suffered through 24 hours of rain, cold and damp and all the discomfort that comes with it. I haven't showered in a few days, and I'm thinking of charging admission for tourists to visit my hair. We've been struggling with tarps and campfires. I put our binoculars on top of the car and drove off. This morning we discovered there is no more coffee.

No cell phone, no GPS, no microwave, there are easier ways to visit paradise. But Newfoundland has never been easy, for the fishermen, for the now-extinct Beothuk people, for French-British relations. Life on the edge is a tough life.

Today the sun is shining and I can hear the waves crashing nearby. The people, as advertised, have been beyond friendly. In a five-minute conversation with one gent, I learned that he was with his kids in a tent, which was all he could afford because he was divorced and his ex has a personality disorder. This takes some getting used to -- the friendliness, not the personality disorder.

There are more edges to explore. I can shower later.

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