Friday, August 12, 2022
Rocky Harbor to Labrador and St Barbe, NL
Cumulative miles: 4,797
Overcast, drizzly but clearing early afternoon, high 60s
This was a complicated travel day for about half of the caravan group. While the others went directly to St Anthony, our group left Rocky Harbor about 5:15 am, drove to St Barbe and set up our camper at the St Barbe Campground. Then, we caught the 10:30 ferry that goes across the Strait of Belle to Blanc-Sablon, Quebec, arriving at 12:45.
We then headed north a few miles into Labrador and continued north toward Red Bay. The plan was to tour a museum/National Historic Site there and then stop at the L’Anse-Amour Lighthouse on our way back to catch the 6:00 pm ferry to return to St Barbe. That plan failed … road construction!
They were making major road repairs along a long section of the two-lane road with flaggers controlling frequent, long lane closures. Halfway through that mess it became apparent that we might not make it to Red Bay and have time to tour the site. So, we turned around and made an alternate plan.
Let me say that the portion of the Labrador coast that we saw was starkly beautiful. The rolling hills were lush in varying shades of green and dotted with stunted conifers.
There were frequent protected coves and each had a small village. We stopped at several of those villages, in each case winding down little roads to make our way to the beach areas. Most of them were sandy and pretty, each one in a different way. We loved our alternate plan!
Along the way we saw a sign for Fast Freddies, a restaurant in one LAnse-au-Loup. Since we were hungry we made our way to there. Well, the food was good and they had great sweet potato fries. But there was no Freddie! And it wasn’t fast! Sadly, that delay meant we had to bypass the side trip to see L’Anse-Amour Lighthouse. But it was a great day in spite of the minor disappointments.
We finally got back to the camper about 8:00 pm and made due with salsa, chips, cheese and popcorn. We admit the “dinner” didn’t cover much in the food pyramid!
We need to mention a bicyclist, Barbara Appelby, whom we met at St Barbe Campground. She greeted us on our arrival and we spoke at some length on our return and the following morning. (The campground owner allowed Barbara to keep her bike and set up her tent inside the spacious building which served as office and social area because the weather was not so nice.) Barbara has biked more places and visited more countries than anyone I can ever recall meeting. And, besides that, she was a cool dude!
Saturday, August 13, 2022
St Barbe to St Anthony, NL
Cumulative miles: 4,882
Overcast, los 60s, drizzle early, clearing late
It was a short drive to St Anthony, departing St Barbe about 8:10 and arriving at Triple Falls RV Park to rejoin those who did not travel to Labrador. For the first half of the trip the road followed the coast and it was quite beautiful. The terrain was rather flat but the roads were not, with frequent signs warning of potholes … and they meant it!
As we made the rest of the drive we noticed more and more small fenced vegetable gardens in the cleared strip beside the highway. We later learned that, because the land is so rocky where people’s homes are along the coast, most people can’t grow vegetables on their lots. The government, therefore, permits people to plant gardens along the roads where there is better top soil. The fences are to alert mowing crews to avoid the gardens.
Other things we saw along the roads included utility poles that are supported in gabion rock cages rather than being buried in holes in the ground, presumably because the ground is either too rocky or too marshy for burial. Also, many people in Newfoundland heat with wood. They obtain permits to cut firewood on specific plots of land, cut the wood and then stack it, not at their homes, but along the road. Apparently everyone respects the ownership of the wood and theft is not a problem.
We quickly set up camp, had some breakfast and jumped into our vehicles to drive to Northland Discovery Boat in St Anthony for a 1:00 whale watching tour.
It was a cloudy day and cool with, perhaps, 15 knot winds that made the going a little bumpy. Our captain worked his way diligently up and down the coast looking for whales and dolphins.
While we never saw any dolphins, he finally spotted a whale breaching and headed over to the area where he spotted it. By the end of the tour we’d seen the same humpback breach five times, each time a bit closer to the boat. We only had the shortest possible glimpse of its tail, though, a minor disappointment. By the end of the trip the skies had cleared.
Next stop was the Grenfell museum. Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell was an English physician and Christian missionary who arrived in Newfoundland in 1892 to learn about the fishery in Labrador and to preach. He was appalled at the lack of medical care available to the locals. He worked tirelessely for the rest of his life to alleviate those problems. He brought in nurses and other physicians, set up local facilities in communities, hospitals and even organized cooperatives to help improve the lives of the settlers and indigenous peoples of Labrador and the western shores of Newfoundland. He was eventually knighted for his efforts.
For dinner that evening we had a chicken stir fry. Afterwards one of our members made a campfire in his portable fire pit. (There was an open fire moratorium in effect but the fire pit met the containment requirements.) Too bad we didn’t have any marshmallows … we had the sticks, though!
A note to our cross country skiing friends: On our whale watching trip a crew member said that there is good skiing in the area during the winter. However, skiers are advised to have a snowmobiler standing by in case a polar bear shows up. They occasionally come into the area during the winter, arriving on ice floes!
Sunday, August 14, 2022
St Anthony, NL
Cumulative miles: 4,951
High 50s, overcast with rain on and off turning heavy later
St Anthony is located in the most northern area of Newfoundland and in very close proximity to Labrador. It is here that west first met east when Norse explorer Leif Erikson visited the area and where they made their first permanent settlement in the year 1021, exactly 1,000 years ago.
Our first stop this day was the award winning Norstead Viking Village at L’Anse aux Meadows, a living history replica of a Norse settlement. It replicates a Viking port of trade as it may have looked during the Viking era (790-1066 AD). The site has a boat shed with a 54 foot replica Viking knarr named Snorri, a chieftain’s hall, church, and a workshop.
Costumed interpreters explain their roles and how they lived. The buildings have been created to convey the look and feel of the Viking Era with wood walls and sod roofs. It was a very informative, worthwhile tour.
The fact that the village had a blacksmith was not surprising to me. What did surprise me was that they had native iron deposits to work with. It turns out that lumps of impure iron form naturally in bogs or swamps when iron that is carried in solution in water is oxidized by chemical or biochemical means. Even though it is low quality it is useful to manufacture many common objects.
The group next stopped at L’Anse aux Meadows, the site of an architectural dig of an actual Norse settlement. It is the only undisputed site of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact of Europeans with the Americas. A tour took us through the remains of the village, which now mainly look like depressions in a field. However, the outlines of the structures are clear and artifacts from the dig were able to identify the purpose of each building. It, too, was very interesting.
Finally, the group moved on to the Dark Tickle. This oddly named business produces jellies and jams from local wild berries. (For Lancaster area readers, it’s a bit like Kitchen Kettle Village but with only one business and no samples.) But, what’s the term, “tickle” about? Local jargon refers to a short narrow strait, like a narrow passage between two islands, as a tickle.
That evening our entire crew went to a “Viking Feast & Show at the Lightkeeper’s Cafe. Sadly, it was a very disappointing event with unappetizing food and a loud, talentless show.