Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Driving Labrador: Goose Bay to Blanc Sablon

(August 16-18)
I wanted to start this section of the road trip with a map showing where Goose Bay was, and the route of the ferry that went around the peninsula to get to Cartwright down on the Atlantic, but I have discovered to my dismay that while Google Maps are just wonderful for parts of the world, places like Labrador can be left out in the cold. I'll just have to wave my hands and gesture.

Now, by the time you read this, it might have changed, but when we blundered into our Labrador part of the trip with essentially no maps and just the word of friends met on the road, it was the case that the main highway across Labrador, 500, was not connected to the rest of the roads down along the southern coastline on the St. Lawrence Seaway. A road was being built, but it wasn't open yet. The only way to get there, was to take a ferry from Goose Bay out across Lake Melville, through the straits at Rigolet and into the Atlantic to reach Cartwright. From there, more gravel highways cut down across the peninsula to reach the towns on the St. Lawrence.
It was a wonderful ferry ride on the Sir Robert Bond for me, starting on Sunday afternoon. Lake Melville was smooth and protected and the photographers were out in force taking sunset and rainbow pictures. I noticed a number of summer cabins? down at the water line on islands that we passed. Most were pre-fab buildings that could have been hauled out on a barge or sledded over once the lake froze. Passing through left me many puzzles I'd love to take the time to solve.
After dark, almost everyone went inside to escape the chill. I found a place relatively protected from the wind and watched the stars. It was fascinating to me, watching the constellations and predicting the ship's course by how the radar tower crossed the stars. The only other person out there was a Labradorian who was waiting until we passed Rigolet at the passage into the Atlantic. It was his opinion that the opening of the road directly from Goose Bay to Cartwright would put the ferry out of business, and incidentally cause the abandonment of many of the small harbor towns like Rigolet which were served by the ferries.
Morning came, after I gave up on the upper bunk and slept on one of the airline-like seats inside. We unloaded at Cartwright along with many other travelers, some of which were in a hurry to make the day long drive down to Blanc-Sablon to catch the next ferry over to Nova Scotia. We took our time, stopping to let Mary Ann take a few pictures of the fishing villages and lighthouses along this lesser-traveled part of the St. Lawrence.
We spent the night in striking distance of the ferry and took some time the next day to sneak down the coast on the Quebec side past Blanc-Sablon. The terrain was fascinating, with solid rock landscapes and the waterfalls, err... chutes d'eau, that pass over them.

I pestered Mary Ann to get back in line for the ferry early, and we did, luckily, because we'd misread the schedule and it left an hour earlier than we'd expected. Labrador and Newfoundland are actually one province, but I can't help but think of them as seperate places. Labrador even has a flag of it's own. It was a fascinating place, a frontier. I hope I get back soon.

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