Rainy Banks of Sand

Burgeo & Ramea, Newfoundland (Map)

Summer 2013.


One of the things I truly enjoy in life is accompanying people to nearby places where they've never been.

Canada Day weekend was coming up and Christian & Natasha wondered whether I would like to go camping. Knowing that neither of them had been to Burgeo, I proposed a visit to Sandbanks Provincial Park, as the beauty makes it a must see for anyone on the West Coast of Newfoundland.

Sandbanks Provincial Park. On a nice day, it's more like this.

I was looking forward to the weekend all week, but as the days advanced, the forecast looked less and less favourable. I don't know if it has to do with the reduced number of people who rely on Newfoundland forecasts or what, but over time I've developed skepticism towards their accuracy. They were calling for steady rain all weekend in Burgeo, but I argued that we should still go down there and see for ourselves. After all, even if it did rain all weekend, we'd still have a great time, right?

Setting off under sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, these conditions continued past Gallants and onto the Burgeo Highway. The weather excelled as we chipped away at the 148 km (91 miles) of said road, until a point at about 40 km (25 mi) to Burgeo, where the weather took a drastic turn. Within an incredibly short distance, our visibility was down to about a hundred metres, with rain accumulating on the windshield and what you'd have to assume were cold temperatures outside.

Pulling into Sandbanks, we set up our tents and laughed at the fact that we drove 2.5 hours from home for this weather. We'd walk the normally spectacular beach & I reiterated that Burgeo is usually quite a stunning place.

We'd climb to the overlook, barely able to see the next beach, then head down into the meadows to the old cemetery. I was excited to return here today, as I held out hope for better pictures without such harsh light as my last trip.

The grass was up to our knees as we veered off into the cemetery, the only access provided by gently worn paths from a limited number of visitors. The three of us inspected various headstones of easy accessibility, until our pants were sufficiently soaked.

Continuing along, we went further along the paths than I had ever been before, making it all the way to Grepe Head.

I had just learned from Kenny in Belleoram that Grepe is the local word for Bald Eagles. Realizing this, I scanned the cliffside, looking for that little white dot. Sure enough, there's a reason Grepe Head is called Grepe Head, as I noticed a Bald Eagle chilling on a protruding branch. I tried to show Christian & Natasha, but they were having trouble spotting the bird...until it flew off! Natasha's first bald eagle! This weekend was paying off!

Returning to the campsite, we cracked beers and gulped rum as the rain started to intensify. This wasn't going to be any fun, but thankfully we didn't have to sit in tents. We might have drank in a more comfortable vessel, before the rain eventually tapered off & we could at least sit out in the fog at our picnic table.

The next day it was off to the liquor/hardware store in the rain, to the clothing store in the fog & to the restaurant in the rain. At the very least I learned something new at the restaurant, as the community access channel showed that the driver's license examiner was coming next Wednesday - instead of having 20 kids go to Stephenville, the examiner comes to Burgeo! Brilliant!

We also used this day to head over to Ramea, a group of islands approximately 20km away from Burgeo by sea. Excitingly this was another first, in that my friend had never been on one of these government-run, outport ferries!

She sure got a rough ride out of the deal! Dehydrated, with greasy food filling our hungover stomachs, the three of us laid down in the passenger area, splayed out all along the hard plastic seating. Slipping in and out of slumber, I know that I just wanted the boat rocking to end.

Elated to finally make it to Ramea, I figured the short hike to the lighthouse would help with our symptoms. Then again this might be one of my faults, where I get excited about people seeing things and forget to ask them if they actually care about seeing a lighthouse.

It's a lighthouse from 1902 though! Of course they wanted to see it!

(I might have been saved by the rocky shores and the impressive waves crashing upon them.)

I sped around Ramea for the remainder of our time there, trying to pass as many of the streets and sights as I could; since we were all in agreement that we wanted to catch the 2pm ferry instead of the 630pm.

The oldest house in Ramea, the Cluett House, built in 1840.

One of these years I'll actually make it to Ramea in nice weather. I have another friend in Corner Brook where it's one of her last gross Newfoundland oversights, so maybe I'll camp on nice weather for that visit.

We slept less on the return trip, on account of being well-rested from earlier & hungry from only eating ice cream in Ramea. By now the conditions were simply comical, the rain and the sea and the fog. As we neared Burgeo, I found Christian out on the deck and wanted to point out my lighthouse conquest at Boar Island - one of the first ones where I man'ed up and asked a fisherman - except that you could only see the outbuildings and not the lighthouse on top of the island. I could only reiterate how beautiful these islands are on a nice day.

Going back to the campsite, I sat in the car so I could listen to the NHL draft. It didn't rain nearly as hard on the second night & soon enough we were on our way out of Burgeo the next morning, the cloudy skies cracking and opening up around kilometer 40.


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