St Barbe, NL – It was a hurried start to the day, because we had to re-port for our ferry ride to Labrador one hour prior to departure, which meant 7 am. Luckily, our RV parking lot is just across the street from the ticket office, so it could have been worse! With ticket in hand, we drove down to the dock for our one-hour wait to load.
In the course of our one-and-a-half-hour crossing of the Strait of Belle Isle, we managed to spot a humpback whale, with its spout of spray, and then, when we approached the opposite shore, there was our first iceberg! I thought it might be the only one because there were no others in sight at that point, but along our drive we saw at least half a dozen more of varying sizes. They were a brilliant white, with beautiful turquoise shadows closer to the water.
Between our arrival time at Blanc Sablon, Quebec at 9:30 and our departure deadline of 3:30 pm, we took the Labrador Coast Drive to a National Historic site at Red Bay, about 70 km away. We stopped at the visitor centre shortly after landing and spoke with Hilary about the route. She gave us a very useful mile-by-mile guide of the little towns we would pass through so we could make the most of our time.
We thought it would be best to shoot for the final stop first and work our way back, so we only made a couple of short stops when the view compelled us. You don’t see icebergs every day, and there were some spectacular rivers as well. The road was pretty rough in places; some of the potholes we dodged were the size and depth of a stockpot!The terrain was hilly and covered with scrub bushes along much of the way, and there were some lovely vistas of tree-clad mountains, some of which had patches of snow on them still. The soil had a red tinge to it that probably explained the name of Red Bay. Clusters of cars and trucks beside the road indicated where the good fishing spots were on some of the rivers.
The Parks Canada site at Red Bay was devoted to telling the story of Basque fishermen who came here in the 1500s and 1600s, and made this spot the whale oil capital of the world at the time. A sunken whaling ship was found in the Red Bay harbour, and was reassembled in the museum. Next to it was the jawbone of a Right Whale that measured some 12 feet long! Other artifacts included pottery, whale oil barrels and tools.In the community building on our way out (after a hurried lunch at the Whaler Station restaurant) we examined parts of a 400-year-old whale’s remains, artfully reassembled within a custom-made framework. This animal was also found locally, and the display included a lot of information about the nature of whales.
Back along the winding, lumpy road we sped, hoping to catch a glimpse of the lighthouse at L’Anse Amour before getting back to the ferry. It’s the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada at 109 feet, and was built in 1850. To our dismay, we found ourselves in L’Anse au Clair and realized we’d passed the turnoff, even though we were looking for the sign. My unproven theory is they only post signs for out-going traffic, not for those returning. We probably would have been late for the ferry if we had stopped, so I guess it was for the best.