A very large bouquet of flowers arrived at home from my boss. He had checked in on Wednesday to see if she knew where I was! I had phoned during the night, so she knew. I did call him later of course.
Communication with the Airline and crew was via a large notice board in the Hotel reception. We were told to check back at least at meal times to find out about how we were getting home. But that did give us time to wander around the town. Not that there was much to see.
Much of the town was left over from the Ernest Harmer US Air Base. Built during the second World War, it was extended to allow long range bombers to refuel on their way to USSR. Through the wire perimeter a long long runway disappeared into the distance. The end where our planes were parked had been built into the sea. Wide roads spread out from the base, built by the US AF engineers. Passers-by told me that when the military left, in 1961, the buildings were made into community buildings and the college. Many from the other planes were sleeping there, on camp-beds in the gym and halls.
We had heard that it was around 36 hours before the last of the 10 planes here at Stephenville had de-boarded. They must have had a bad time on board. It had taken the locals a long time to find accommodation for the last 250 or so. Most ended up in private houses high up in the hills a couple of hours drive away. I felt really really lucky to have been one of the first off, although we did hear great stories of the fabulous hospitality. Many told me off being taken on tours of the area and way out to the coastal edges to go whale hunting.
So I went off to find the whales. The small harbour advertised day long Whale spotting tours, but as we had to check in every few hours, I decided to walk along the coast looking out for myself. It was a rocky beach, looking like rubble from the airport extension, with low bungalows along the coastal road. A lovely sunny day, great spotting weather, but the bay was more of a natural, an unlikely spot to see whales or dolphins. A local said you were more likely to see an iceberg there than a whale.
So I wandered back to town, returning to Paddy’s Pub. A few of us from the hotel had found this the previous evening. A 10 minute walk up Main Street. Paddy’s Pub also was a Bookkeeping and Accounting shop, Laundromat; Tatto Parlour and Denture Clinic. (Its still there, I just checked, with the same sign outside). Beer was cheap and local people were friendly and wanted to hear our stories.
I was still mainly dressed ready to go straight into a business meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The trousers and shirt were getting a bit stale, so I decided to go Canadian. Walmart had some jeans, but how about a checked shirt, none left in the whole town. A nice gift shop, Beavercraft, was doing a good trade in t-shirts and jumpers, but had quickly sold out of normal sizes. I had to make do with a red jumper with Puffins and Whales embroidered across the front. It’s one of those jumpers you only wear to prompt a conversation about Newfoundland.
After dinner, a few of us wandered back down to Paddy’s Pub. The weather had changed, it was raining so we dashed along the street, arriving at a packed bar, steaming and rocking with singing. Not the traditional folk songs, it was Karaoke night. And surprise, there was our planes crew.
The crew had been separated from the passengers straight after we got off the plane on Tuesday, to stay in separate accommodation, for their security. But this was probably our last night, so they hit the town. Was singing, some of the local people so this as their chance of fame and sang their hearts out for us. Quality varied, from diabolical to emotionally lovely.