Monday, August 11, 2014
They carried their own canoe and kayaks to the water this morning. Down the steep path through the pines. And now they are off slicing through the flat clear lake water, their voices and the sound of their paddles dipping carrying --the only noise across the stillness, save a dog's bark far away and the faint rustle of wind in leafy branches overhead.
I see them still: tiny confident specks in the distance. And I think to myself, when did they grow up?
Excerpts from journal
*please forgive spelling errors caused by technology that doesn't make it easy to edit and correct
**I'm a little OCD about spelling, capitalization, and grammar, so posting this is causing some consternation, and I daresay once my lap top is up and running again, I'll feel the need to go into editor mode and fix all the mistakes. I can't even bold or italicizes on my tablet! (I know....the horror!)
Andrew fiddling with westy again this morning.....leaking oil via a cracked pipe. Always something. Despite this, made it through the mountains and fog of early morning in southern coastal Labrador and are at ferry terminal in Blanc Sablon one hour ahead to make our booking. Fingers crossed.
We are all hungry. Andrew promising coffee and breakfast but may have to wait until on ferry. We are planning....hoping?...to stay tonight in a hotel with a swimming pool. Deer lake. Or cornerbrook?
Fog horn sounds. Kids thrilled by it. Grace prefers to be out on deck. Settles her stomach. She isn't seasick exactly, but queasy with roll of the ship. Now here, playing hearts at tiny round tables in the front of the ship where the pub is when it's open. Not this morning. Had a bday party for Andrew for yesterday: the girls and I had fun finding gift store mini gifts in tribute (gourmet white chocolate and a small whale painting) and Anna drew Viking Daddy. So that was cute.
Stopped at the arches and again at Ss Ethie. Finally pulled into a valley to BBQ sausages for dinner beside a lake in middle of gros Morne. Andrew pulled out a red checkered cloth for the picnic table the way his grandmother would have. He even had clips to hold it down. Old school, baby.
No hotel rooms...with or without pools....available in Deer Lake or Cornerbrook. Then we found an online booking that reserved rooms at the Greenwood Inn and Suites for us. With pool. Yay. Swam and ordered room service and caught up on sleep. After sleeping in, Andrew hunted down westy road repairs, whole I took kids to pool, and now we wait under a shady tree fir Andrew. Boy, it has been hot, esp in cities. Record breaking heat this summer....but still cooler than ontario.
Turns out guy at welding shop thought Andrew's plan to fix oil leak ingenious and that Andrew should be a welder. Also turned out his son plays for Cornwall colts and he wishes he'd done road trip when his kids young. A got shop, material, welding and guy refused payment.. Another friendly, generous newf.
On way to port aux basques.
Dinner on a Sandy beach with powerful waves...you could feel tide pulling. Camping here in cheese an provincial park 7 km from ferry. Have to be there 430.
330: The adventure continues.....bom, bom, bom bom bom (cue LOTR)
I'm sure the young motorcyclists (early 20s, rode through Labrador in rein and thus, mud) were thrilled to be parked beside us in lane 2 while Grace blared the dance remix of My Heart Must Go On, the cheesy version of Happy Wanderer Andrew downloaded for this trip, and everyone's feel good hit: Let It Go from Frozen
5:30 and we are loading. We have cabins.
1230 (Nova Scotia time): great sleep in utter darkness. Kids cabin had a window overlooking the port side deck and ocean, of which I was envious until reflecting that we likely had the better sleep. Got up around 11 am and strolled on deck.....so warm and calm, it was hard to believe we were out on the Atlantic.
Through Bras D'Or in beauteous Cape Breton. We are now heading to Saint John where we are visiting with Julie and breaking trip up.
....and thats as good a place to leave it as any, with a romantic vision of the westy heading westward into the sunset towards New Brunswick and on to home....but of course it didn't happen that way
Life doesn't happen that way.
Smoke in Sussex, and finally wound up overheating on highway 30 mins to Julie. Had yo call in yow truck. Got to Julie's late. Spent half today (July 25) with Andrew trying yo fix it before giving up, having it towed to storage for a week or toe, and renting a mid-sized Chrysler to take us on what is likely to be a miserable overnight trip to Glengarry.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
After our leisurely few days exploring gorgeous Bonavista (well named) and eating traditional CID-based food at small cafés, and visiting John Cabot's museum (he also landed in this part of the world, setting up the start of the cod fishery....riches more valuable than the spices of the Indies he set out to find), it was time to move on.
From our lovely cottage, we drove (with the westy part we picked up in St. John's earlier in the week) all the way back across the island, back up to the north when we caught the ferry back across the Straits of Belle Isle and back to Labrador. It was a long drive, but we made excellent time and as a result were able to catch the earlier ferry. We drive about a half hour down the paved part of the Trans Labrador to a small village calked Red Bay where we had secured renovated old whaler cabins to stay. The plan was for Andrew and Erik to get up early, drive back to Port Hope Simpson, get the van fixed, and return the same day to a Red Bay. We had rearranged our trip, and though it meant we missed the Burin Peninsula, we reasoned returnng to the East was something we could do another time. Our new plan was to catch the west coast ferry and so avoid a third pass across the long interior of Newfoundland.
The whaler cabins were charming, right on the water. Red Bay is also charming in that wild, isolated way. We ate world famous chalupa flush and chips at the restaurant. Chalupas are the smaller 6-8 man whaling vessels they took out to hunt whales with their harpoons. There was a restored one at the museum, and I thought, Crazy.
The next morning, the girls and I got up, explored the whaling museum with a great movie about the underwater archological dig of the 70-80s to find and examine what they believe might be the now 500 year old San Juan, lost here in a storm. Then we took a short and tippy boat ride out to Saddle island (which you can see from our big window) in the mouth of the harbour to hike the archeological remains of whaler stations from long ago and walk the windswept cliffs to be awed by the relentless North Atlantic as it sweeps into the straits.
Excerpts from a Journal
Now we are back, got a few small gifts and a card for Andrew tonight, and Anna drew Viking Daddy. Girls now exploring beach and I showered the salt away and am mesmerized by choppy gilded waters.
Seagulls, floating on the wind. Letting it take them. A lesson in how to ride out a storm. They are also making a terrible mess out of crab parts on a nearby rock.
We can hear the waves lapping against the cottage dock, and the creak of wood in the wind. Whipping up quite the storm out there. Easy to feel alone, solitary, even morose.
late: the lighthouse casts its beam. 1..........2, 3, 1.......2, 3. I watched it fall through the night sleepless. At the time, it irritated me. Only now that Erik and Andrew are back, falling in (with van) at 3 am (damn lack of communications in this part of world) does it once again seem friendly. Strange how a benign light can mean so much.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Arrived in time for sunset on the west coast. Kids loving the "nfld a/c" (open coastal window) and lack of Mosquitos. Some discussion about spending July up here every year.
Every time I turn around the girls are hurtling towards a rocky shoreline.
Wildflowers on the windowsills, windows overlooking waving grasses, lupins, daisies, before rolling down to the ocean.
Boiled eggs on homemade bread left by our landlady, Sheila. Her husband Chris already offering fishing tours for cod. Lovely couple.
Love the floors in this small cottage by the sea. Shades of wood.
Iceberg on horizon and whales in the bay. We spent ages watching the telltale water up spouts that preceded the breaking of the surface
Went up to Bonavista. Thrilled to see a trio of humpbacks fluking, breaching and spy hopping in the bay below. We watched for ages.
And puffins. A nesting colony on a rocky fluffy island. Puffins flying everywhere with their short stocky wings.
Funny deck chair and a book (February) and Fogarty's Cove playing as I read overlooking the sparkling white capped bay. This is by far the most tranquil day of our vacation.
Reading February by Lisa Moore. Haunting.
Driftwood campfire on the slate and pebbled beach at sunset. Wonderful. Topped by another whale sighting.....a leisurely swim up through the bay at dusk.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
After our wonderful time up in Iceberg Alley, we went into Gros Morne to Western Brook Pond. Hiked in to the fiord and took the boat is to the interior to admire the billion year old cliffs and the Teutonic shift that created this magnificent place.
We had a prime camping spot reserved, but since our gear and camper was still in Labrador, we stayed instead at Tucker's Cottages, north of Gros Morne.
Dinner was at Jackie's famous fish and Chips in Rocky Harbour. Drove along westward coast as the sun set and crimson sky razored across the crashing surf.
The next day rained, but we still enjoyed the limestone beach in Port Choix, beside a fabulous lighthouse.
Our plan had been to stay here until FedEx delivered our part, but FedEx couldn't get it to us as fast as they promised, so we rearranged our trip and drove to St. John's a bit early. Loooong drive across, but we got to visit with a good friend and her family, and then spend a luxurious night at a hotel.
In the morning, after room service, we hiked up Signal Hill, followed by lunch at an Irish pub on a George Street, and a drive out to Cape Spear to stand at the edge of North America.
Journal....July 18 Cape Spear
Enjoyed the 1836 lighthouse and tracks along the cliffs. Not a rogue wave in sight on a gorgeous (almost too hot!) afternoon, but we saw whales playing just offshore: great spouts of water followed by curved black backs. Awesome to watch.
Now driving north towards Bonavista where we have a house on the North Atlantic for a couple of days.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
When the westfalia blew a head gasket outside Port Hope Simpson, there was a moment I thought our vacation was doomed. Not only did the esoteric part have to come from California to this small Labrador outpost, but there were no available rental cars closer than St. John's. The mechanic came to our rescue, lending us his Honda, and so we found ourselves on the last leg of the Trans Labrador. Given the excitement to date, I was scared to get on board the ferry that crossed the straits of Belle Isle from Blanc Sablon to Newfoundland's St. Barbe, but in the end it was uneventful.
We drove north into the (misnamed) Vineland to our cottage in St Anthony. Very highly recommend the Snuggle Inn.....a perfect getaway from which to explore L'Anse Aux Meadows and the northern shore.
Excerpts from Journal (cut and pasted as is from iPad notes page.....complete with crazy autocorrect and minimal editing because...on an iPad....I just can't!)
In loaner and en route to Blanc Sablon. Construction incliding a stop while they exploded some Rock. Made ferry with minutes to spare. Last car on. Just room.
Ferry ride Uneventful. I'd been secretly worried.
Now very merrily ensconced in a charming seaside cottage in st Anthony's where we have fresh shrimp and mussels for dinner, and Viking promises for tomorrow.
L'Anse Aux Meadows. Historic Viking site. Fantastic day exploring archeological dig, and hiking the windswept Viking coast. Bought Vinland sagas. Explored peninsula, had dinner at the acclaimed Norseman overlooking a silver sea ( where we dined on cod, crab cakes, and rich, dense, figgy duff), then returned to the Chieftains tent (Leif) to drink Lingonberry wine and listen to stories from the sagas and Nordic mythology from two Vikings. Images of Chris Helmsworth (Thor) in a dress.....
Whale watching.,ocean cruise. Salty air and wind in our faces. Kids all smiles into the spray. Got up close to an aqua iceberg 200 FT tall, and went "ice fishing", plucking up shards of the 150000 year old berg out of the sea to eat. Saw a colony of kittiwakes on a cliff, a nest with a bald eagle, a sea cave, and a minke wave. Sadly, no humpbacks, though the girls heard them calling at night through the windows, and a trio of them were apparently frolicking in the bay earlier in the day.
Got home in time to see Germany victorious over Argentina in World Cup football.
Friday, August 1, 2014
That was a treat.....2000 km of bad roads and beautiful scenery. The girls and I tangoed our way through pit stops to make adjustments to the westy.
No cell, no internet service. No traffic. We carried a satellite cell for emergencies. Stopped in Labrador City and Goose Bay-Happy Valley. Limped into Port Hope Simpson.
Excerpts from journal:
Through the Boreal forest, up up and around winding roads cutting through great swaths of tall thin trees and scruff. Past the 50th parallel. Epic, magnificent, lonely,wild, isolated country with 18% grades! gravelled roads! and hydro dams holding back capacious lake waters and accounting for the mess of snarled wire towers that represent the hub of Quebec Hydro.
Bumpy too. Twisted roads. Bone rattling.
It's not so much what you find about yourself on a journey such as this.....more what you don't lose. what stays is what is important. Elemental. Like the landscape.
Everything else is nothing. Gives perspective.
It's all corkscrew turns and dust clouds out here, crisscross in the iron rails that must be for trains running in or out from the mines. We are perilously close to the edge by times, the gravel road threatening to fall away from under us into the scraggly forest below. A strange place, not exactly hostile, but not friendly either now that we gave left the coast and ventured inland towards Labrador. The dust fills our noses with a thick chalky smell, and invades the car, coating everything. God I hope we arrive soon.
We stopped at the only gas station we saw, and picnicked on croissants and turkey and avacado and watermelon. Vestiges of civilization in a desolate, dusty place.....a gravel slab, a few cottages, and a store. Gas $1.77.
We are finally reaching the first real trace of humanity in hours and it is ugly and brutish. The world ripped apart and land gorged with the mines that go on forever. We must be close to the border. This has to be the worst highway in Canada. What an adventure. Feels quest like. Except the quest is to find a hot shower😄
Sign on hwy east of Labrador city: "Caribou remains must not be disposed of within 50 metres of the highway" You can't make this sh*t up.
BBQ at Churchill river. Pizza and tea while Andrew tries to figure out why westy so sluggish...... Girls playing frisbee
Flora and fauna quite pretty. There was a hiking trail to the canyon, but we forgo to follow it: black flies and what the kids are calling moose flies (huge back beasts which seem not to bite unlike ontario horse or deer flies), as well as being behind schedule due to whatever us wrong with the westy encourage us to press on.
Westy ok now it's rested. Andrew can't find anything wrong. No mechanics in Churchill; they all work fir industry. We debated staying to see Germany game at the sole inn, but it, like the rest of this town, was industrial- looking and un inviting. Even the homes are institutional. Rather depressing, actually.
Later: Westy stopped. No apparent reason. And so we wait, at the side of a deserted highway, surrounded by forest, with the blackflies. 15 minutes. Once cooled off, it started again. It's these dirt highways. Much better when we got back to paved roads again. And now we are almost in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Stayed at the rather frightening Labrador inn last night....not as bad inside as it looked when we pulled in with a leaking gas tank. Leak minor, which us good because no way to fix it, not here.
Picked up a satellite cell which travellers can borrow for this last leg of the trans Lab hwy....?Seemed intelligent given the current status of the westy.
It's 400 km to port hope Simpson, on red dust roads. Assuming van holds any power, we should make it by dinner. Double whatever time estimate you'd have in south eastern ontario and that is about right.
Along way, travellers have left messages....inukshuks on roadside, or names etched cliff side. Tempting, but decided the best thing we could leave thus place to remember us by is nothing....to leave it in the pristine way we find it today. We were blaring Neil diamond songs, so we leave the sounds of the 80s echoing through the black spruce of this ancient place.
Highlight of day: vw stalling and all of us out pushing to get it started on a hill. I know I said I wanted exercise, but really... Also, it was raining. And there were black flies.
Played soccer with girls at a makeshift rest stop. Andrew consulting owners manual with some perplexity.
Running out of fuel on this remote highway, with miles to go and limited power, and darkness coming. Oh goody.
C'mon westy, you can do it. Running a bit better now it's flattened out a bit. Here's hoping.
Made it. To a deserted RV park where Stella and Reg offered us beds in their house. We stayed in camper where the strobe of a lighthouse lit our way on the dark, and we woke to dawn on the bay...and ferocious Mosquitos.