Sunday 29 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 22

It truly was a Great Canadian Road Trip. Before we left absolutely everyone asked, "Why are you going to Labrador? What is there to see or do there?" I couldn't answer then but now I can. In a lot of ways the most definitive answer is, "Nothing!" And that in itself is the real essence of venturing there. We wanted to get away from a world that is often a madhouse; have time to relax and enjoy just being. We were not distracted or annoyed by traffic at all - as a matter of fact as I looked out the windshield of the car driving along the 401 this morning as we approached Toronto I commented there were more cars in my immediate field of vision than we had seen all the time we were on the road in Labrador.
We had TV and internet but were not inundated with all the bad news - maybe we just chose not to look at it. That alone made it worth getting away. On the road in Labrador we were often the only car for kilometres and sometimes hours. There was always the opportunity and possibility of seeing wildlife but that rarely happens with us and this trip was no different. We saw two moose, lots of chipmunks and grey jays, some white whales crossing a river in Quebec and that's about it.
Labrador is one of Canada's few remaining wildernesses and we are blessed to have seen it in that state. As the road is improved and we are treated to "progress" all that will disappear. We truly did and saw things that few people get to and that made our month special. The photo below is back home. We made it! Nothing unusual there but the fact that van did it is nothing short of miraculous. I was going to jump way up in the air for the photo but, alas, that ship has sailed some time ago and I figured I'd severely injure myself so this is what you get.
Eric and Karen

Thursday 26 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 21

Sadly our time on the road is rapidly coming to an end. This is likely the last post from the road. I'll post a wrap up once we're home next week. We've been on the go since Monday and unable to post until now. We left Isle Madame on Monday morning and stayed overnight in Antigonish, NS. There is a wonderful immigrant story come to life there in Peace By Chocolate. Forced from their home country of Syria they came to Canada, resurrected their chocolatier business and are doing well and giving back in their community. We met several of them and Karen had an instant bond with the mother recalling her own mother's story of arriving in Canada after the war.
Tuesday morning we left Antigonish and moved on to Mineville to visit our friend's Mike and Gayle. Along the way we stopped in Victoria Park in Truro on their suggestion. A beautiful park with lots of trails to walk, waterfalls and plenty of stairs. It was a gorgeous day and we spent a couple of hours enjoying Nova Scotia.
We have known Mike and Gayle for over 45 years with a sizeable interruption when they moved to Europe for a couple of decades. We don't get the chance to see them often and even less in their beautiful Nova Scotia home. One day is not enough of a visit but all we had time for this time around. We did manage to squeeze in a hike through the salt marsh.
We wanted to make it to Fredericton, NB last evening and we did but it was full. We tried several spots and all were fully booked - some government conference we were told. The boys will remember many such instances in our travels in years past. Always something absurd when it should never happen. There is nothing on the TCH heading north so we diverted to the James River road hoping to find something before we got to Edmundston 300 kilometres away. That's a beautiful drive in the sunlight but a nightmare in the teaming rain and the dark. It's a winding road alongside the river but has numerous warning signs about moose. Luckily this time we did not see any. Seeing them as they slam into your vehicle at 80KPH is not a good thing.
We landed in Florenceville-Bristol around 7:30PM. The French Fry Capital of the World. Everybody's got an angle.
Until we meet again in a few days...Eric and Karen

Monday 23 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 20

For the second day in a row it was beautiful - clear skies, no rain and as a bonus not bad for wind and it was fairly warm. Kinda funny to see how people react to this. Some in shirt sleeves, some in parkas - that's Canada isn't it? Even the early morning was beautiful on Isle Madame.
There aren't a lot of photos of Karen and I together. Here's one. You will be hard pressed to find people of our calibre anywhere.
Lighthouses are always cool in my book. On such a beautiful day it was worth the drive to Cape George for this one. That's what a road trip is all about.
A visit with some very special people in our lives is on tap for tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Eric and Karen

Sunday 22 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 19

We actually had a bit of a sunny day today. Windy and cold but sunny. When we arrived on Isle Madame yesterday it was windy, cold, overcast and raining and the whole atmosphere reminded me of the Moors in England. Now understand me, I have never been to the Moors in England and with the exception of London have never even been to England. However, I have seen An American Werewolf in London several times so consider myself an authority.
We went up to the Cape Auguet lighthouse this morning. It required a hike in the cold and wind but, once again, we were prepared with ski jackets, toques and gloves. It is still October isn't it? Just checking.
After lunch we did our own road trip tour of the island. It's a beautiful place, and just a little unusual - islands off islands, rocky shores and lakes in bays. This is in the middle of Rocky Bay. How does that work exactly?
The town of Arichat where we are staying is on the south shore of the island and is quite an historic town. Lots of churches, cemeteries and memorials. I was standing beside a couple of canons pointing out to sea when I took this shot this afternoon.
Sadly our time is winding down. We should be home in about a week. We have some good times to look forward to as we will be seeing several friends on our trip back home. Keep following us.
Eric and Karen

Saturday 21 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 18

Another on again off again rain day. We headed south to Isle Madame. It was a pretty drive - no surprise as part of it was on the Cabot Trail - can't go wrong there.
I am convince the Maritime provinces of Canada are Heaven on Earth. The people are so nice and the scenery is neverending. The West is pretty amazing but I could probably afford to live out East.
Isle Madame has a mysterious tone to it. The clouds and howling wind probably help set that scene. We're staying in a cabin on the shore of one of the endless stretches of rocky shore here in Arichat. Stay tuned.
Eric and Karen

Friday 20 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 17

A very uneventful day but it worked out much better than we anticipated. The ferry from Port aux Basque NL to North Sydney NS took about 6 hours. There was only about 100 vehicles onboard - not crowded at all. The ship is huge - I still say these things can't possibly float, even without the additional 700 tons of vehicles.
We knew it was going to be a long passage and possibly rough so we had a day berth. Great decision. We could lie down, had our own washroom with a shower, satellite TV - this ship was as nice as any cruise ship we've been on.
All signs pointed to it being a miserable crossing with total overcast conditions and a stiff wind as we left but in Jimmy Buffett's words "It's been a lovely cruise." We enjoyed it on waters so calm we hardly knew we were moving.
On to Arichat for 3 days tomorrow.                    Eric and Karen

Thursday 19 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 16

It was with sadness and a touch of pissedoffedness (that's a word I just made up) that we left Gros Morne this morning. A little ticked because it was a beautiful day - sunny, warm, no wind, a perfect day - and we had to spend it driving after numerous days of rain and wind. The silver lining was it was a beautiful drive to Port aux Basques.
As we left the higher mountains behind and entered the area around Corner Brook we were ambushed by people and traffic - probably 25 vehicles in an hour. That's the price you pay to re-enter civilization.
As we approached Port aux Basques the mountains disappeared, the water suddenly appeared and in the blink of an eye we were there. The Newfoundland Railway Heritage Museum is next door to the hotel where we are staying and of course it's closed. However, there are some things you can't hide - like a train.
Karl Pilkington was An Idiot Abroad. This one chose to travel locally this time - well relatively speaking.
Tomorrow we take the ferry to  Nova Scotia - 7 or 8 hours on the boat - Karen's not looking forward to that. Hope for a smooth passage.
Eric and Karen

Wednesday 18 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 15

Sorry for the delay - no wifi where we're staying. Posting this from the Visitor Centre in Gros Morne NP in Newfoundland. We arrived in Rocky Harbour yesterday and are leaving for Port Aux Basques tomorrow. So far it has been very Gros Mornes and the rest of the day as well. Raining all day and very cold. It snowed yesterday morning just before we got here. Nevertheless Gros Morne is a very special place. We explored it thoroughly when we were here in 2014 so now we're just seeing it a little darker and a little wetter.
Norris Point is still the nicest place in my book - even in the rain.
The Bottom Brook Cottages still reign supreme in Rocky Harbour even if their internet is out for this visit. Owner remembered us - especially when I reminded him I showed up with gout and he sent me to his doctor immediately. He insisted on giving us some moose meat (enough to make a small moose) - sausages, fast fry steaks and full steaks. We have a BBQ here so you'd never know it wasn't beef (still have a couple of full steaks to transport). A bit of a mind game to ignore what you're eating - poor Bullwinkle. Our cottage has a beautiful view of the harbour which is just a short walk away if you want another angle.
This morning we saw a couple of moose but they were a little distance ahead then some guy passed me and scared them off before I got any pictures worth showing. We squeezed in a short hike between rain storms. Kind of hilarious actually. I was wearing a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, ski jacket and windbreaker complete with scarf, toque, hood and gloves. Wasn't until the end of the hike that I felt warm. Very steep, slippery trail as most have been. I guess I shouldn't be surprised - we are in the mountains after all.
Somehow the rain didn't start until after sunrise, leaving another one of these...
Hopefully we'll be back on line when we get to PAB tomorrow night.
Eric and Karen

Monday 16 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 14

Sadly we left Labrador - it truly is one of Canada's great remaining wildernesses. It took a little doing thanks to the weather. It was extremely windy again and that made the ferry crossing questionable. A boat in St. Barbe (where we were going) had blown astray and was blocking the dock so we couldn't leave. They were also waiting for a Nor'Wester which they eventually got. All totaled we waited at the dock for about 2 hours. Not bad but it was cold so with the engine off we did our best to keep warm.
We were booked on the 1PM crossing. The 8AM was delayed so we arrived at 11AM hoping to get on board. At that moment those booked on the 8AM had priority but we were told to return at noon. We waited. At noon the 1PM crossing took priority so we were in - if it left at all. By 1PM we were actually on board and ready to roll.
It was a rough crossing for a ferry but we made it - after all we did manage the Drake Passage last year. We arrived in Hawkes Bay by 4PM. We did not have anything booked but knew there was a motel there where we had stayed in 2014. Happy to be warm and dry. On to Gros Morne tomorrow.
Eric and Karen

Sunday 15 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 13

Today was more a matter of getting things done than doing things. We had to return the satellite phone - forgetting that would incur a $1400 bill. Make sure we are booked for the ferry tomorrow (we are, as long as the weather cooperates) and pay our MasterCard bills (not necessarily an easy task from here). Along the way we re-visited the L'Anse Amour Lighthouse to see it in the sunshine. Sunshine yes but the wind was vicious. I set my camera on a post (luckily I secured it with the strap) and put the self-timer on to take a photo of Karen and I together - after all it is our 40th anniversary. The wind was so strong it shifted the camera (a heavy dSLR) - the lighthouse is not on that angle.
The Belle Strait was also very deceptive. Hopefully the wind dies down a bit for tomorrow. It was a lot rougher than it looks here.
We're booked into a motel about 7 kilometres from the ferry docks. They have room tomorrow as well if we have to wait out any crazy weather. Luckily we do not travel on a schedule that has to be kept. Stay tuned.
Eric and Karen

Saturday 14 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 12

It has rained at some point almost every day so far - today was different - it rained a little longer. It was also about 8 degrees and less with the wind, which was so strong the ferry to Newfoundland was cancelled. Luckily we were not crossing today but anything we did pretty much involved driving there. That's not a bad thing at all - every great road trip involves side trips.
Lighthouses look good in inclement weather so we spent some time at the Point Amour Lighthouse.
While in L'Anse au Claire checking on returning our satellite phone at the Northern Light Inn we both thought it was a nice place. It was also less expensive than where we have spent the last 3 nights so we booked it for tomorrow night. It's about a 15 minute drive from the ferry where we are headed on Monday. By the time we returned to West St. Modeste there was nothing left to do but go to church. Those who know me know what that means.
Tomorrow is our 40th wedding anniversary. Wow! And they said it wouldn't last. Here's looking to another 40. Do you realize if that were true we'd be 105 years old, 3 feet tall and walk like armadillos.
Eric and Karen

Friday 13 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 11

Today was Red Bay day. Although we had to backtrack about half an hour there was a couple of things we wanted to do there. Sadly all the museums and interpretive centres were closed (Labrador goes on hiatus at the end of September - 3 tourists isn't enough to keep things going) but we were prepared for that.
The road from West St. Modeste where we're staying to Red Bay is quite pretty - still trying to get used to mountains in Labrador.
Red Bay is rich in whaling history so it was really too bad the museums were closed, so a couple of hikes were in order. Short but sweet it always seems when the distance is reasonable something else rears its head. Looking a little like the Great Wall of China the Tracey Hill trail was only three and a half kilometres long but..well..about 700 steps.
The Boney Shore trail was only 2 kms but featured a number of old whale bones along its course. It was a nice sunny day but cool. We were dressed in ski jackets, toques and gloves. I've said it before, we're not beach people.
Eric and Karen

Thursday 12 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 10

Today was primarily a driving day and we had decent weather at about 5 degrees. The highlight was as we passed Mary's Harbour the gravel/dirt road ended and we drove onto beautiful fresh pavement. After about 800 kms over 4 days this was an unexpected joy. Having left Port Hope Simpson I let out an exuberant Whoo-Hoo!!!
As the day progressed it was as if we had entered another country. Gone was the expanse of coniferous forests, replaced by open vistas and mountains. We are in West St. Modeste and will be here until we leave for the ferry to Newfoundland on Monday. There is lots to see and do both north and south of here and we selected this spot because the "resort" has us housed in a 2 bedroom cottage.
West St. Modeste
Stay tuned.
Eric and Karen

Wednesday 11 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 9

Again we were lucky on a totally overcast day to avoid the rain. Drove up to St. Lewis and Mary's Harbour because we're going to miss them tomorrow when we move on. Managed to squeeze in a few walks between rain drops. The White Water Falls trail was a little unusual as it crossed over the airport runway. Look left, look right, no planes in sight. The falls was nice - obviously no hydro plants nearby.
The Doctor Moret's Cottage trail is very short but there's about 200 stairs on it. The cottage is long gone the overgrown foundation is visible and a heritage sign.
A final short hike had even more stairs. As tiring as it was we got off easy compared to the two women we passed carrying the contents of a pickup truck to the top to a small generating station.
At the end of the day we returned to Port Hope Simpson. The view from this direction was quite pleasing.
Eric and Karen

Tuesday 10 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 8

As some of you already know, our day started with a beautiful sunrise from our room in Port Hope Simpson.
It looked like rain, it was supposed to rain and it did rain a bit but we decided to undertake a hike anyway. It was a murderous 6 km (3 up and 3 down) affair. Unnamed and impossible to find (we got a woman in the nearby gas station to walk us to where the trail began. She said it was very difficult (it was) and spooky. It did have a hobbit, enchanted forest look to it, covered in moss. It was also covered in rocks, roots and stumps and went straight up for about half the length. It didn't really go anywhere - just up but it was pretty.
Although it was cool out we were sweating buckets because of the effort required. As any photographer knows it is impossible to get any perspective of height with a normal lens. This photo was shot straight down though it looks like I'm just standing a distance away on a flat path.
On the way back down Karen swears she heard a bear so all I got was her singing and talking to said bear that wasn't there. We have seen nothing in the way of wildlife. The cook in Cartwright told us we wouldn't likely see any moose because it's moose hunting season and they have all taken refuge deep in the woods. Oh well, I went to Kenya and never saw a lion.
Eric and Karen

Monday 9 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 7

Well, the good news is it was sunny and 20 degrees today, I'm sorry but I expected my ideal year-round temperature of 3 to 17 degrees. It was pretty though.
Another 300 kms of gravel - that's not really accurate - gravel is great - there was all of about 3 kms of that today - the rest was the standard dirt riddled with potholes. More metal and rust have fallen off the van - nothing we need yet.
There was construction today as well. That cost us a combined total of about 10 minutes - far preferable to any 400 series highway in Ontario. I need one of these trucks - their tires are so big,  potholes don't exist.
A 100 km side trip to Pinsents Arm was surprisingly relaxing as the road was good comparatively speaking.
We changed over to Newfoundland time somewhere today. My watch is of no use now - way too much math for me.
Eric and Karen

Sunday 8 October 2017

A Great Canadian Road Trip 6

We left Goose Bay just before 9AM. It was snowing but quickly turned to rain. The first 60 kms was paved and we entered the gravel wondering what to expect. The first 150 kms was awful - more potholes than road. Shake, rattle and roll - the rust is breaking away and bits of metal are falling off. Go van go.
Fortunately there were some very tranquil scenes - even in the rain.
We stopped for our road trip lunch at the junction of highways 510 and 516.
The road had leveled off a bit and was relatively smooth now. Paradise after the first half. That's a total of 300 kms of gravel today. We asked for it. 516 heads north to Cartwright. That's the farthest north you can drive in Labrador - reason enough to go there.
Just here overnight. It was going to be two but tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and nothing is open. We're all gassed up and ready to go.
Eric and Karen