Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A less traveled road

Port aux Basques, NL – The low hooting of a foghorn woke me around four this morn-ing, fore-telling a misty morn-ing and cool temperatures. At least the wind and rain had stopped when we got up and got rolling.

After a short consultation at the information centre back at Port aux Basques, we drove through the town for a quick peek. Ringed by rocks and pounding surf, the town appeared to be prosperous enough, with well-kept modest bungalows along streets that meandered around the rocky terrain. We saw another huge ferry at the dock, but drove on past as we headed further south, out of town.
The map shows a little tail of highway to the right of the ferry landing point, while most traffic coming ashore heads left, or north. Effie, at the information centre, told us about a stone lighthouse and a couple of places where we could get some real Newfoundland food down that way.

Stunted pine trees and boggy vegetation covered the rolling hills, reminding us of the tundra in the Yukon. There were lots of rocky outcroppings and still, dark ponds of water, like mirrors, reflecting the twisted pines along their edges.
We covered about 40 km before reaching Rose Blanche (rhymes with ranch). Its stone lighthouse served the fishing community for many years before it fell apart, leaving only its tower intact. In 1997 the townspeople decided to gather and clean the scattered stones, and reassemble them. Their labour of love has drawn many people since then, although we had the place to ourselves today.

On the path to the lighthouse we encountered a clutch of baby piping plovers and their anxious mother. The chicks were mere puffballs on long, spindly legs, and they pelted along the path ahead of us, unable yet to use their wings. Piping plovers are an endangered species here so we were lucky to see them.
We learned that the town’s name actually referred to some white rocks (“roches blanches”) at Diamond Cove that were visible from the height of land, but locals changed the name to Rose from roches. I’m thinking we will encounter many such unique pronunciations in our travels here.

Retracing our steps, we turned off at Isle aux Morts (“eye-la-morts”) for a meal at Hairyman’s Safe Haven, a community centre offering Newfoundland fare. Long tables inside awaited the summer crowds that have yet to appear, but we enjoyed great slabs of fresh cod, lightly floured and panfried, as we sat at a window overlooking the rocks and bush.
Hairyman refers to the Newfoundland dog that swam out into the raging waves in 1828 with a rope so that 163 hapless passengers of a wrecked ship could pull their way, hand over hand, to safety.

When we got back to the camp-ground, we drove past our site to have a look at the spectacular sandy beach that we had read about in the literature. Again, we had it to ourselves, except for a bald eagle down the way that was perched on a rock, tearing away at his catch as the roaring surf rolled in. Such beauty!

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