Strait of Belle Isle
Aug 16, 2008
|The crossing to Labrador! - Saturday, August 16
We woke early, if not bright, and began preparing to leave. The ferry to Labrador leaves at 8:00 and you have to be checked in and in line no later than 7:15. I walked over to the ferry office and got our ticket, then we disconnected and drove a quarter mile to the loading dock. We will be gaining a half hour on this trip, as Labrador and Quebec are on Atlantic time. The crossing is 19 kilometers, or about 12 miles.
The ferry is the MV (Marine Vessel) Apollo. It’s a good looking ship from a distance, but up close you can see signs of rust and age. But it’s a working boat that makes the crossing two or three times a day during the season. It doesn’t have time for details, and you’re only on it for an hour and a half anyway. They do well to keep it clean and serviceable and it does have a cafeteria and a gift shop which probably help to keep the cost down. The fee to cross with our RV was only $31.25.
We cast off promptly at 8:00 and the crossing was smooth as silk. The body of water is the Strait of Belle Isle which lies between the two halves of the Newfoundland Labrador Province. It is the north entry to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and during the second world war Nazi U-boats were a constant danger. Today we saw only whales, one of which breached twice and I missed it both times.
The passengers were a mixture of locals and tourists and the boat was less than half full. One group was a bus tour that had people from all over the U.S. and Canada, and there were also a dozen motorcycles with their colorful riders dressed in a variety of canvas and leather outfits. We had some interesting conversations with both groups, and found that one of the bikers has a sister who lives in Sebastopol. Nice people, who had come up from Maine and Massachusetts despite the weather.
Before we knew it the ferry was coming into port and it was time to return to the vehicle deck. Although the ferry is called the Labrador ferry, it docks in Quebec a few miles from the Labrador border. Most of the traffic turns right and heads for Labrador, but we decided to turn left and see a little of Quebec. I handed Madolyn our dollar and a half dictionary so she could translate the signs and we headed out a 50 mile road that goes to the town of Saint Paul’s River and dead-ends at an old fort a few miles beyond it.
After passing through a couple of small towns we found ourselves in wide open country. The road parallels the coast and there are stunning views of the bluffs and water all the way. While we could see some wooded hills in the distance farther inland, there were few if any trees of any height near the road, making for vistas where we could see a great distance. The country is beautiful and unspoiled, rocky and rugged with rivers and waterfalls along the way as well.
When they built this road they must have had economy in mind because it goes straight up and over any hills, without the benefit of any switchbacks. This makes for some pretty steep grades, some of up to 17%. We finally came to a high overlook and pulled off to enjoy the view. Below us was the Saint Paul’s River and across it the town of St. Paul’s River. In the far distance we could see the old fort at the end of the road.
A corner of the turnout was littered with the remains of an impressive array of fireworks. These were not your little sparklers and bottle rockets. They were serious fireworks set in the gravel at the edge of the overlook and pointed out over the hillside facing town. Someone put on a pretty good show here!
While we were standing there a pickup truck pulled in and stopped, and an old man got out. He immediately started talking to us, and his accent was old time down east English and not French as we expected to hear in Quebec. He was a little hard to understand at first, but we finally learned that he had come berry picking, and that he sells the berries and is very particular about getting only the best fruit. It turned out he was after bakeapples. He told us he’d been to California and all over Europe, but he lives in St. Paul’s River and everyone in town says he’s the smartest man in town. His name was Scotty and he is about 85. He blushed a little when Madolyn took his picture and did a kind of an “Aw shucks” shuffle, then he said ‘Goodbye’ to us and was off with his little bucket looking for bakeapples.
We turned around at St. Paul’s River because the road to the fort is under construction and not a good one at the present. On our way back we stopped at a large and powerful waterfall, then retraced our route to the ferry and beyond to the Quebec Labrador border. Across the border we stopped at an information center and talked to a nice local girl. Then we got back on the road and started north.