We are running out of time this trip – nothing new for us really. As usual our plans have been a bit ambitious, so we are now facing a few choices. Drive to Labrador City – as far north as we can drive in eastern Canada, or just tour Prince Edward Is, Newfoundland & New Brunswick. But as usual the lure of the big drive wins out.
On, out of Quebec City, & finally in to the countryside. Again lots of pretty sea side towns. Finally pull over for the night in a rest area overlooking the St Lawrence River. Yet another magic sunset. As we continue following the ever widening river, I start re-reading up about the area (from the LP, as I am frequently do), and say that I fancy doing a whale watching trip, as the season doesn’t appear to have finished. We stop at the first place that does tours – but leave in disgust – they are very unhelpful, want to charge us just to park the truck, and their prices are exorbitant. And they only seem to speak French!
As we carry on towards the next whale watching area we stop at the lookout before the ferry. From here we can see a few belugas & maybe a Finke whale – sadly my photos show mainly water. There really isn’t a lot going on so maybe a trip will be a waste of time & money. Decision made! At Tadoussac we walk along the rocks & sit and wait. As you know we aren’t very good at waiting. Plus we parked in the short term free parking. We do spot one frolicking, but must fly...A bit more coastline – as usual find a perfect campspot way too early. But must move on – a huge drive awaits. At Baie-Comeau we fill up with diesel, leave the coast and head north for many, many miles.
We are finally in the middle of nowhere passing countless lakes & waterways. One of the bigger rivers the Manicouagan River - has been dammed numerous times – these dams are all called “ Manic”. Manic 1 is at the mouth of the river in Baie- Comeau. Maniac 2 we reach after 5pm, so the tours are over for the day - but we stop to look anyway. Finally we pull over for the night. We find a gravel pit – I explore and find a spot beside the edge of Lake Varin. A bit rough to get to, but perfect for our BBQ fire. It’s getting colder at night now, so we have pulled our moose duenna out of the storage box. And John has set our heater to click on if it gets too cold. Oh the luxury!
Another early start. So far the road is great. Finally arrive at Maniac Cinque (5 for you non frenchies!) and are just in time for a tour. Talk about good luck – today is the last day for tours this year. And we even get it in English. Bonus! Apparently it is the highest multiple-arched-and-buttress dam in the world. It is pretty impressive. (Note Manic 4 never got built) On we move, passing the “Eye of Quebec” which is the largest visible impact crater on earth. It holds the reservoir of the Manicouagan River. We can see the curve of the lake as we pass. I even took a photo of it on our GPS so you could see it – pretty amazing. Finally stop at the old mining town of Gagnon. There is nothing left standing, except some huge slag heaps & mounds of debris. Fascinating to explore & a perfect spot to camp for the night. Too many bitey bugs, so no BBQ tonight.
Next name on our map is Fire Lake – no, not a lake as I thought, but a huge mining area. Then an even bigger mine at Mt Wright – a massive open cast iron ore mine. As expected there are rows of trucks & lines of trains. Finally we reach Labrador City: they call it the end of Canada (587km from Baie-Comeau). Time to get food, & more importantly diesel before our next long drive. But first we stop and chat to countless people – they are sooooo friendly (mind you the accent is rather interesting). A young guy even heads off and brings back a Labrador number plate for us when he sees that we haven’t got one on the side of the truck. Finally we get away to head along the Translabrador Highway, and so far so good – brand new tarseal.
We stop and walk to the Churchill Falls – which are very impressive. Sadly the trees have grown at the lookout & despite John climbing onto the railing it proves impossible to get a photo (where is a good chainsaw when you need one) The bonus is John spotting 2 beavers busy adding wood to their house in a small lake. Then detour through the town of Churchill Falls – brand new town built to service the power plant from the falls. A lot of the water has been rerouted to make hydro-electric power and there are swaths of massive power lines crossing Labrador State heading to Newfoundland. It is too late in the day for a tour so we carry on. At about 6pm we start looking for a camp spot. The road is raised so pull off areas are fewer. Finally on dusk we spot an abandoned cottage – perfect.
The next morning we cruise in to Goose Bay-Happy Valley. Not a very big town, but it once was a huge Air force base during World War 2. After an explore we fill up with diesel & head off on the Labrador Coastal Route. After about 100km the tarseal suddenly ends (must have used the budget), and we cover varying levels of gravel. The potholes are the worst. Despite all the Moose warning signs, we see none. But yesterday we did see a grey wolf, giving us the evil eye, right on the side of the road. Finally we stop at a rest area beside Paradise River – it is a very chilly night. When we wake up it is 2.5deg outside. There is even a light dusting of frost.
Finally the road improves (although seriously we have been on much worse roads than this) as we reach the coast. First town is the very tiny fishing village of Port Hope Simpson. Then on to the very cute Mary’s Harbour which is looking really good as the sun is now shining. Here we stop for lunch at the only restaurant. John says the seafood chowder is the best he has ever had. Later as we head over the brow of the hill heading to Red Bay, we see an amazing sight – an iceberg out towards the horizon. And we thought the iceberg season was well & truly over!
Red Bay is really gorgeous (well it is a UNESCO Heritage Site) and we go to the museum with its rebuilt Basque whaling barque & model of the San Juan, a ship that sunk just off shore in 1565. For an extra $2 each we are ferried over to Saddle Island to do the walking trail where you can see remnants of the whaling stations. And that iceberg is still looming – apparently it is 12 metres tall (just the part above the water) & 20km out. By this stage we are wearing jackets & lined pants – John loves his fleecy lined jeans! We stay for fish & chips at the local restaurant with a guy we met on the walk. (Dining out for 2 meals in one day – a new record for us.) Finally we head out of town & stop for the night on the wharf at the next fishing town of Pinware.
More little fishing villages, but we particularly enjoy our stop at Point Amour. The village consists of a row of 6 houses, and around the point a gorgeous old limestone lighthouse which is still in use. Finally on to Blanc Sablon which is back in Quebec. Here we stop at the ferry port to book a spot on this evening’s ferry. We have enough time to drive to the end of the road in Quebec at Port Vieux– a gorgeous little drive of 50km each way. Finally back for our ferry. We have to be there 2 hours before. Crazy! All for a mere hour and a half ride. Our bonus for the day: passing right beside an iceberg! Wow.
We land at Santé Barb in Newfoundland. It is getting late, so we simply head north along the coastline. At Anchor Point we stop right beside the beach, between the wharf & the cemetery. In the morning we have a brainstorm session with our maps. We only have 9 days left & we need 1 day for the ferry, at least 2 to drive from Breton Island to Halifax, and at least 2 days in Halifax sorting out storage, winterizing the vehicle & checking on shipping. Phew. No way can we explore all of Newfoundland in 4 days. So we decide to just “do” the eastern side. First we head to the northernmost tip to see where the Vikings landed many moons ago at L’Anse au Meadows. Actually it is amazing how many other visitors are here too. But time to move on…explore some more atmospheric fishing villages before heading across country (or rather across island). Interestingly we note lots of fenced garden plots on the side of the road. The fences are to stop the moose eating the crops, and the gardens belong to people who live in the fishing villages. There are better growing conditions away from the ocean. There are also mounds of firewood – apparently many of the villagers have licenses to collect firewood.
By the time we reach the coast we are hunting for a spot to stay. The wind is ferocious, so we give the beach a miss and tuck in beside a lake. In the morning we continue trailing down the coast. Stop at beach lookouts, amazing rock arches & finally Gros Morne Provincial Park. Quite by chance we stumble in to the carpark for the famous boat trip up the Western Brook Pond. Walk the 3km boardwalk to the lake where we find queues of people. Have we booked? Well of course not. So we are waitlisted for the trip leaving in 30 min (at 12.30) or we will have to wait until 3pm! But YAY at the last minute we get on….the seats are terrible, but once in the fjord itself we can go out front for amazing views of this fjord which is not a fjord because it no longer opens out to the sea. Magnificent!
More coastline. We aim to get to the town of Deer Lake so that we can book our ferry (and we need Wifi for that). Thanks Tim Horton’s! At dusk we find a spot on the river. Wake to a cold gray day that steadily gets worse…. In fact the fog rolls in. We do chores to fill in time, but eventually have to continue, fog or no fog. My camera clicking finger is getting twitchy with nothing to do! Later in the day it starts to clear so we start ducking up & down peninsulas. Find some pretty spots & a tiny car museum of sorts. One guys nostalgic collection of 50’s cars & memorabilia. It is getting towards dusk as we head out to Rose Blanche – the end of the line. Find a spot at a deserted fish plant. Perfect.
We have to leave early to get to the port in Port-au-Basques, but fortunately we have enough time to stop for photos at the very photogenic little fishing villages. Pity that it is not a bit sunnier – but we can’t wait, we have a ferry to catch. Again we have to be there 2 hours prior to departure, and for once we are not cutting it fine, so we end up with 3 hours! John chats and I make use of the free Wifi on port to update our blog. Finally on board for a long, rather boring 6 hours cruise to Nova Scotia. Off and head to the start of the famous Cabot Trail to find a spot for the night.
As we are now well into fall, the weather is pretty much a mixed bag - cloudy, cold, sunny, wet… all in the space of one day. This drive will be awesome in a few weeks time when the leaves turn gold. We especially enjoy the fishing villages & glimpses of winding road. Even spot our third moose. Decide to try the famous local snow crabs for dinner at Cheticamp, so spot out a camp spot, before heading back to our chosen restaurant. Glad we got there reasonably early as the place is packed. John enjoys his crab and my ribs are not too shabby either. All accompanied to live fiddle music. Awesome!
A perfect, sunny day today. We finish the Cabot Trail and then head to the Canso Causeway to cross to Nova Scotia mainland. Still got a bit more time so follow back roads along the “Coastal Route” to Halifax. Easy to find a waterfront spot for the night. We wake to grey skies & as we continue the fog rolls in. Exploring is crazy, so it’s on to Halifax. After driving around in circles (it is Sunday so very easy to explore) we end up camped in a parking area near the cruise ship port. Free all weekend…bonus.
After yesterday’s fog it is great to wake to a blue sky. Lots of chores to be done today, but first a walk through to town to see all the sights. And it really is a lovely old town set on a gorgeous natural harbor with a massive citadel looming overhead. There are heaps of tourists as there are 2 massive cruise ships in port. Time for those chores. We check out a few shipping lines, try unsuccessfully to find out about winterizing GR2 & then head to check out the storage place. Don’t want to rock up there tomorrow and discover that it is no good. All is good – great spot inside a huge barn & they can organize the winterizing. Phew. Back to our carpark for the night & dinner out with new friends. Truly awesome as our fridge is pretty bare.
In the morning a final cleanout & pack our bag. Enough time to tour the citadel before heading out to Gr2’s new home for the next 6 months. A ride to the airport, where we are booked at a hotel with a breezeway walk to the terminal. Our flight leaves at 7am (and as you know we are supposed to be there 2 hours before!!!) Six flights later we are home……. See you all next year.