Crossing Strait of Belle Isle into Newfoundland
Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
4Trip End Oct 01, 2011
We reached Churchill Falls and chatted with the local gas bar/grocery/everything general store
We stopped for some fishing along the road and had a fox approach us clearly looking for food. He certainly was not intimidated even when Roger yelled out and tried to scare him off.
On our way towards Happy Valley-Goose Bay we reluctantly picked up a hitch-hiker from Finland whose name we think was Tomik. He was clearly stranded as not much traffic comes through here and the road worker almost pleaded with us to take him. Apparently he was living in the forest off of berries and mushrooms (not funny type that some college students live off of)
We made our way to the quaint town of Mary's Harbour
We pulled into Red Bay and visited the National Historic Site here where archeologist divers discovered what they thought was the remains of the San Juan, a Basque ship sunk in the 16th Century. They spent 5 years on the site, unearthing the vessel which had been well preserved in the silt and cold waters. This site remains one of the largest and most significant archeological discoveries in the last 20 years in Canada. Across on Saddle island, they also found the remains of a whaling operation and burial place of the over 1,000 men who worked here 9 months away from their families in Basque (France/Spain region) in order to provide the whale oil that lit the lamps of Europe. They recovered over 25,000 artifacts, some of which are in the museum and are extremely well preserved
On Penny Island in the harbour remain the old buildings of a fishing/cannery in operation in the 18th century. Sadly these historical buildings are falling to ruin as there remains conflict between the family who owns the site and the government. While the dispute continues the buildings have very little chance of being restored before they fall.
A note to travellers along this coastline – be warry of the time zone. Only Newfoundland would have a half hour difference from the Atlantic time zone. We carefully planned our next day into Blanc-Sablon in Quebec to catch the 8:00 am ferry across to Newfoundland. However, it seems that although the ferry dock is in Quebec and the map clearly indicates Atlantic time zone we missed our ferry and had to wait 4 unplanned hours for the next one (insert four letter word here). To kill the time we had a full scrambled egg breakfast/brunch and Roger flew his kite and camera rig and captured the harbour and perhaps has the first photos taken by a kite photography in Labrador
Wasting no time we drove northward towards the very tip of Newfoundland. During the drive we both smelled something burning and I checked the engine and couldn't find anything. An hour later as we pulled into Pistolet Bay Provincial Park I saw smoke inside coming from the back. Very concerned after hearing and meeting people who have had their Westy's burn to the ground with their possessions as a result of fuel line failure, I hopped out, told Lea to grab the fire extinguisher and some water and started pulling things out from the rear hatch. Inspecting the engine I found once again nothing but smelled the charred plastic. I then looked up to realize that the rear hatch above my head was the culprit and we had burned out our rear wiper motor. Very happy this minor part was not going to be the end of us or Etien, I unhooked the wiring and we found a site for the night. After dark the park warden drove by and said that we had company. Lea said "yeah, there are one or two other campers". He said "no" as he shined his flashlight 20'-30' from our campsite on two massive Moose. Lea was ecstatic and the confused creates were unsure which direction to run in providing us with a dancing moose show. I have seen moose but never this close - it felt like you could pet them - but you WOULDN'T. Jim, the warden, chatted with us and we asked about hunting and fishing in the Province. He graciously explained the very complex practices involved in hunting and fishing both the management and administration as well as the actual kill and butchering of the animal. Some of you may feel this is a cruel practice, however, moose need to be controlled here for they consume so much of the natural plants and trees and hunting and fishing is a way life here where they consume what they hunt/catch
Unfortunately, the weather picked up overnight and in the morning we drove to L'Anse aux Meadow, perhaps one of the most significant archeological find in North America. This site proves that the Vikings were indeed the first to set foot and settle in North America over 1000 AD. The site uncovered not only iron works of the era but also a single bronze pin which was difinitively Norse and unique to the Vikings of Greenland. The site has been reconstructed by Parks Canada and an interpretive centre with replicas depict life here 1000 years ago. What's interesting to think about is that this time also marks when man finally circumnavigated the globe as Vikings would have met aboriginal people that had crossed the Bearing Strait in Alaska.
From here we headed south and the weather intensified. We knew Newfoundland gets its share of adverse weather but this was something else. Not having had any news, TV or access to the internet we thought to try the car radio and managed to get CBC Radio 1 as they described the landfall of Hurricane Maria. Etien pushed through the 100km gusts and it was hard to keep us on the road. We slowly made our way down the coast in severe wind but no rain. This west coast is perhaps some of the most scenic we've seen as we watched massive rolling waves explode on the beach. We now head into Gros Morne National Park and will be able to update soon.