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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pinware to Red Bay…The Basque Whaling History

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
This morning we awoke to a very quiet campground with only the gentle sound of ocean waves rolling on the shore. It was foggy and stepping outside of the camper the dreaded Labrador mosquitos invasion attacked. Luckily we only had a few steps to the washrooms. I later emptied the holding tanks and filled with fresh drinking water.
Setting the fishing nets!
To the North up to Red Bay our last section of paved road. I must say that we met a fellow camper here at Pinware Provincial Campground and I had an interesting conversation with him about his travels. He was from Virginia traveling alone except for his dog “Galette”. I asked him if he was traveling further North? He said, “No, I just came from the North”. How were the roads? “Well, I had too flat tires, ripped the wire harness for the trailer. (He was towing one of those very small tear drop travel trailer with his SUV) He further said that there was considerable wait time as blasting was being done on the road from Red Bay to
Whale Oil shipping barrels from long ago
Port Hope Simpson. He also said he was having car trouble, but didn't elaborate. At this point in time I made the decision that going up to Happy Valley Goose Bay was not in the cards. So far the adventure has been without major incidence and we both want to keep it that way.

Arriving in Red Bay we were surprised to see many, many people walking around the small community of 300 local inhabitants. This was due to the cruise ship that was docked in the bay. Eighteen hundred to be exact. If you think they looked odd to us, you should have seen their expressions when they saw us
One of the fatal shipwrecks
and realized that we were from the States and where here with a truck camper. “How did you get here?” This question was repeated several times. The cruise ship will eventually travel to Cartwright, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and the Scandinavian Countries.

The history…Red Bay was the major Basque whaling port. The port sheltered the whaling ships from the storms coming down the Strait of Belle Isle. It is said that 25,000 whales where caught here by the Basque. They processed the whales here in Red Bay. The shipping barrels were brought
Giant Whale Bones Flower arrangement
from Europe, unassembled, and reassembled and made watertight here. The whale oil was then shipped back to Europe in the barrels. We boarded a shuttle boat which took us over to the island to view the archeological excavations, shipwreck site, the boiling stations and processing points for different parts of the whale carcass.

The island is just off the mainland by a quarter mile or so. The weather, as expected, was raw, windy and cool to cold. There are well marked walking trails around the small island. Every few hundred feet were markers with numbers that corresponded to our legend map describing what took place at that spot. One has to stop and think how these people worked and surviv
Sea Urchin carried on shore by Seagull
ed in this northern land. Remembering that we were here visiting in the best climate time frame. Our boat captain, a native to Red Bay, said that in his youth he remembered the bay freezing sold and the locals would drive their pickup trucks onto the ice to go ice fishing. Remember that this is salty ocean water that does freeze at 32 degrees, but at a much lower temperature. We made the circle foot tour of the island and headed back to the shuttle boat for a return to the mainland artisan shops and relief from the harsh winds.

Lunch in the camper, a short rest and off again to the edge of town and a look at the fork in the road. To the right, the sign said; Battle Harbour, Happy Valley/Goose Bay, to the left Blanc Sablon. The road to the right was muddy red with fresh memories of our fellow camper friend’s troubles from the north. I’m not afraid of boon docking, but by the same token I’m not looking to deliberately put the
Last of the paved roads!
truck/camper at risk of damage or excessive ware and tear. To the left we went after taking a picture of the road sign. It was the second time that we decided not to venture way up to Happy Valley/Goose Bay. I've accepted that it just wasn't meant to be…the forest fire on the first trip and the horrible road conditions on this trip.

Our adventure wasn't exactly over yet. Returning towards Blanc Sablon wasn't the end of the road and a wait for the ferry. On our first trip, we talked to two Canadians who mentioned that traveling pass Blanc Sablon was a unique geological adventure also. The barren rock formations were very
Stream next to our roadside
notable. That was our direction after stopping on the road side and watching local fishermen set their fishing nets.

With Blanc Sablon behind us to the east the paved road soon was filled with construction signs ahead. A major road paving projects was being done for many miles as we found ourselves in the middle of all of that reconstruction. The road was now gravel and as we climbed onto the plateau it started to drizzle. We kept watching for a good spot to stop for the night. Nothing was even close to being acceptable. At one point we encountered a handful of cabins with each driveway gated off with a large wire cable. There was no sign of people around. The cabins were probably fishing or hunting camps. In any event the cable plainly said keep away. We had been on the road for a little over an hour and with no place to pull off the road I made the decision to head back some fifteen miles to a off road parking lot. I pulled in to the farther side away from the road. During the evening made a half dozen vehicles went by, some not even noticing us. We hit the pillows around 9pm and had an extremely quiet night.

That is what we saw and did!


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