Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fogo Island Ate My Kite


The Ferry to Newfoundland was an over-nighter, boarding at about 11.30 and departing at 1am. The staff on board got very fussy about us trying to stretch out on the floor of the lounge to sleep, so it was not a restful night. Next morning was a fast dash up the coast to the Gros Morne National Park and a little fishing village called Rocky Harbour. It was to prove typical of the many coastal villages on Newfie, and very pleasant it was too. Friendly locals (just as we’d been told

there would be), fishing boats, and lots of scenery. We went on the Western Brook Pond boat trip that took us up a pond formed by the closing off of a fjiord millions of years ago, the fjiord having been formed by glacial excavation even more millions of years ago and rocks that are apparently some of the oldest on the planet. The water in the pond is so pure and ion free that it doesn’t conduct electricity, and it has taken several million years of draining out the sea water and replacing it with glacier melt and rain water to get to that state. It is a truly impressive landscape, and I’d recommend the trip to anyone thinking of coming out this way.

Apparently the land that makes up Newfoundland is actually part of the same bit of land that makes up Scotland, hence the remarkable similarity between the two places. When the original tectonic plates started drifting apart all those years ago, the two bits broke apart, Scotland drifted east and crashed into the rest of what makes up Britain now and the two fused together, and Newfoundland drifted west and settled off the coast of Canada. Not sure who you’d call the winner in that little scenario, but there’s not much we can do about it now.

After a couple of days in Gros Morne, consisting of the boat trip and a couple of extra mini-hikes, making a good 15km day of strange scenery and lookouts, we headed out early on the Sunday to get the short ferry over to Fogo Island.

I agree, it’s not somewhere I’d heard of either, but it was at the top of Smitch’s list of places she wanted to visit, so I guess I owed it to her to tag along. The name Fogo comes from the Portuguese word ‘fuego’, meaning fire. The Portuguese were the first visitors in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, on account of the good fishing, before the French settled in the 1720’s and the English took over in the 1750’s. Its other main claim to fame is that the Flat Earth Society (who believe the world is indeed flat and the only reason governments don’t agree is because it would bring down society and education as we know them. Go figure….) recognise Brimstone Head in the town of Fogo as one of the four corners of the Earth (the others being…anyone…? The Bermuda Triangle, somewhere in Papua New Guinea and the Greek island of Hydra, of course). It is also the place where some massively rich woman decided to build a number of artist retreat studios for arty types to “get away from it all” and gain inspiration by working in the purpose built, stark and remote studios she built in a few locations on the island. These were another thing Smitch wanted to see, but I couldn’t really see why. The villages closest to where the studios were built were far nicer, and there was nothing to see other than the exterior of the buildings when you got there, but we went and looked nonetheless. In the end, Smitch and I agreed that, though an interesting idea, it was really just encouraging what was already a fairly pretentious group of people to be even more so, by giving them somewhere special to be pretentious. Like buying a drink for an alcoholic I suppose...

I have used the time on the island to try and get some artsy-fartsy photos of fishing boats and coastlines, but I’m not too sure how successful I’ve been. At least they are digital and easily delete-able!

As for the title of the blog…well, I took my kite

out today on a beach on Fogo, and it was AMAZING!! The wind was strong enough that I was forced to lean back into it to avoid being pulled over, and was still dragged along the beach by the pull of the kite, which was, itself, on dynamite form with its swoops and dives. I was holding it together pretty well, getting a workout into the bargain and decided to let Smitch have ago. Sure enough she crashed it (and she wonders why I don’t let her behind the wheel of the car) – although, fair dos, it was her first time flying this beast, and in extreme conditions to boot. I got her air-born again, and before I could cover the 30m sprint to where she was standing, she nearly took my head off with the strings, as she scythed it across the beach and crashed it again. A lesser man, or indeed a child, would have been neatly sliced in to 3 pieces by the cheese-wire effect. I, however, was left with only a couple of nice friction burns across my right cheek and forehead, which have been getting me some peculiar looks over the last few days as they have scabbed up rather more dramatically than the picture shows. I just hope they don’t leave a more permanent mark! I soldiered on, took back control, and 5 minutes later one of the strings broke, pin-wheeling the kite into the sand for the last time that day. Beaten by the wind and eaten by the beach!! I have now fixed the kite, however, and will be back for more somewhere else. Down, but not out. It’s back to the mainland of Newfie tomorrow, then down to St. John’s, so until next time, lets ALL go fly a kite.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Yikes! I just found where St.John's is on the map...

Surely if you smeared a bit of lard on your legs you'd be quicker swimming back to the UK from there?!

Am enjoying your discomfort in the car almost as much as your amusing tales of daring do! Keep it up bro, you're nearly there :)

ed