Friday, 17 October 2014

Our Last Days in Newfoundland

Before we headed to Argentia and the Cape Shore, we wanted to spend a few days exploring the Baccalieu Trail, so we headed to Whiteway,
Up and down and around hills
a tiny town on the coast of Trinity Bay.  ShagView RV Park is right on the ocean, looking out to the Shag Rock Stacks.

View from our RV
There are only 9 sites, but each is level and gravelled,
Our site from the edge of Trinity Bay
with a beautiful ocean view, wifi and full hookups. There are no showers, laundry or a store on site. However, there is a very good restaurant up the highway one way about a half a kilometre, a great convenience store about a kilometre the other way, and a laundromat a few kilometre further away. It is quiet and peaceful.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
The next day,we got a late start, as we had to wait for Carl, the owner of ShagView to come out from the city, so we just took a drive up a beautiful rocky coast through Heart’s Delight, and Heart’s Desire to Heart’s Content, then cut across the peninsula to the other side. This road climbed some hills inland, and the countryside was more like the barrens-

Stunted trees, but some underbrush 
rocky, boggy with gravel pits and stunted trees. As we drove downhill into Victoria, trees were larger and there was more vegetation and underbrush. Nearby Carbonear,
The town of Carbonear, with a boardwalk along the two lakes

“The Hub of the Bay”, and one of the oldest permanent settlements in Newfoundland, won the Tidy Towns Award in 2012. We followed the coast for a while down to Harbour Grace. Past the Provincial Courthouse of Newfoundland.

There is a lovely historic Water Street with beautiful homes

and a beautiful B and B, Rose Manor.

Rose Manor B and B

As we drove into the town, along the bay, we saw a vintage DC-3 aircraft, The Spirit of Harbour Grace, a statue in tribute to Amelia Earhart,

Amelia Erhart and the Spirit of Harbour Grace
and the Kyle, the last of Newfoundland’s coal-fired steamships.

The Kyle
Then we drove inland towards Dildo,

the town of Dildo
and back to Run-Around-Sue. Once again, as we travelled inland, we saw small lakes, stunted trees, and a forested ridge of hills between coasts. At the highest points, there were some open meadows.

John had read about the Hebron Project at Bull Arm on the west coast of Trinity Bay. The companies behind the Hebron project are building a GBS [Gravity Based Structure] similar to the one built for the Hibernia oil field, on the same site. The GBS is a reinforced concrete structure designed to withstand sea ice, icebergs, and meteorological and oceanographic conditions. It will be capable of storing approximately 1.2 million barrels of crude oil and will support an integrated topsides deck that includes a living quarters and facilities for drilling and production []. When we checked we found they conducted tours. We booked, and were off early [for us] one morning. We were met at the Information Centre on the TCH,
to discover we were the only ones on the tour that morning. It was drizzly with a bit of fog, but we were able to see well enough. We began with an overview of the project in the Interpretation Centre, then hopped on a small bus for the drive out to the site.
[photo from website]
There are 3 main areas to the site- Dry Dock, Deep Water and Topsides. Our first stop was the barracks, dining hall, and recreation centre where many of the workers live. We were only able to view the outsides of these buildings from our bus. We drove on to the dry dock area where the first part of the GBS was built.
The Dry Dock as we saw it, after the GBS had been towed
Dry Dock explained
They dig and build a dyke-like wall to create a dry dock. After pouring the GBS base slab, a method of continuously pouring concrete known as 'slip forming' was used to construct the GBS to a height of 27.5 metres, then the dry dock is flooded and the GBS is floated out
[photo from website]
and towed by barges to the Deep Water Site, where the topsides

Living quarter module being built on site
Topsides explained
and the GBS will be assembled. The floating GBS will be 'slip-formed' to a height of 120 metres.  Meanwhile the other modules of the GBS are being built - living quarter module is being assembled in a topsides module hall at Bull Arm, and the oil drilling platform is being built in Korea and will be shipped to Bull Arm. After the GBS is completed, the topsides will be floated over at the deep water site

Topside modules assembled and floated to the base
and set on the GBS to form the complete platform that will be installed at the Hebron field.

A comparison to give you a sense of the size of the completed Hebron Platform

Deep water site [photo from website]

This is how we saw it... The tiny white boat is a ferry taking 300 workers to the base
As it will look when being towed to the Grand Banks [photo from website]
In-province employment is expected to reach a peak of about 5,000 this year. Then we drove around the end of the Bay to Sunnyside to look down the Arm to see the project.
The tiny lines near the shore are the barges which are anchored to the shore

Carl had told us about Vernon’s Antique Toy Shop.
Vernon Smith has over 50 antique cars from 1908 to 1970, and car and Elvis memorabilia in his collection. It was not far from Bull Arm to Swift Current just south of the TCH. John had called to find the hours but just got voice mail, so he left a message. Meanwhile, I had found the information on the internet, so off we went after the Hebron Project. The cars are housed in a large garage-like structure.
This is about half of the structure!
As you walk in you are greeted by a delightful lady who collects $8 each. You are facing immaculate classic cars. You are greeted by the 1967 Shelby GT 500 Mustang.
1967 Shelby GT 500 Mustang
It gets better and better -1932 Cadillac, 1955 and ’57 T Birds and an assortment of muscle cars from the 1960’s.  Here are some pictures for our 'car' friends! It really is spectacular.
1933 Chrysler Imperial
1929 Cadillac Phaeton
This was my favourite-1954 Kaiser Darrin [S.]
All the cars have been restored to even better than their original condition, inside and out.
Many were taken apart, refinished and reassembled part by part. On a stage along the back wall are a 1908 Buick Model 10
1910 Buick Model 10
and a 1911 Ford Model T,
1911 Ford Model T
a 1946 Wurlitzer Jukebox
and Elvis memorabilia.
It is an incredible sight to walk along this hall of memory. You pick out your favorite, then change your mind and pick another. On our way home, John’s phone rang, but we didn’t get to it in time. It was a message from Vernon, giving us the times they are open. John called back expressing our appreciation of his collection and thanking him for sharing his collection with the public. There was another call saying he was sorry not to have been there to greet us. If we come back to knock on his door and he’d be delighted to show us his cars. They finally did connect to talk.
We finished the day with a fish and chip dinner at Brown’s, the restaurant up the road, and then to a bonfire by the beach back at ShagView, to watch a beautiful sunset-

maybe a harbinger of a good day tomorrow?

Since we had only been able to get to Heart’s Content on our first trip up the Baccalieu Trail, we decided to drive all the way up the coast. This time we stopped at the Cable Station Museum at Heart’s Content. 
The museum where 300 men and women worked during WWI
The first Trans-Atlantic Cable was laid in Heart’s Content on July 27, 1866.
It was chosen because of its sheltered bay where ships could “ride at anchor, safe from the storms of the ocean.” [Cyrus West Field 1866] West was the head of the American syndicate which laid a submarine cable across the Cabot Strait, and a surface line across Newfoundland, in 1856, thus establishing a link between New York and Newfoundland. After several attempts to lay a cable across the Atlantic in 2 parts, advancing technology allowed the manufacture of a single length of cable 2300 nautical miles long weighing 5,000 tons. The Great Eastern,
the only ship capable of carrying the entire length of cable, after 2 failed attempts, successfully brought the cable ashore at Heart’s Content in July of 1866. Today the cut-off cables are visible lying on the beach.
It was fascinating to see the technology used,

the rates charged
You think your phone rates are high today...Click on this!
and the wonderful reminder of the past at a time when most of us think nothing of sending instant information around the world on a daily basis.
Further on up the coast past New Perlican and Turks Cove is Winterton, the site of the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador. Before we toured the museum, however, we ate lunch at a great little restaurant owned by a chef from BC who had decided to settle here. The museum was really interesting, a comprehensive history of wooden boats, the process of traditional boat-building, the types,
A  Dory being built
Sailing Ships
and other local artifacts. There were a various story-boards, several full-scale models, and small models, including a scale replica of the12-ton bark, Indeavour, originally built and launched in Cupids in 1611.

They are in the process of constructing a full-scale replica.
As we drove north toward up some pretty impressive hills, and barren rocky terrain with scrub trees to Old Pelican. Up to the tip to Bay de Verde
Bay de Verde
and to Grate’s Cove are meadow-like fields with no trees just scrub bushes,
almost like a meadow- but rocky
rock outcrops and high cliffs. Grates Cove is a unique little town at the top of the peninsula.
The Small Craft Harbour is at the foot of rocky cliffs.
We didn’t risk the drive down! We came to a sign indicating RV’s Welcome, free sites. There were four RV sites overlooking the harbour.
Welcome RV's, but you have to come down the gravel road first
Down to the harbour from the RV sites
They looked a little awkward for us to use, but a Class B or C would have no difficulty. There are steps down to the rocks, but we decided to leave those for another day, or other people, to climb. We then drove up narrow, winding streets to explore the rest of the town. Very few Newfoundland towns have sidewalks, and the houses are generally close to the road.

We carried back down the Conception Bay coast. It was getting dark and raining hard by this time, so we headed back across country to ShagView. We were still wary of driving at night because of the mooses’ habit of wandering into the road.

We still had not seen Harbour Grace, Bay Roberts or Brigus areas, so we headed out again for the Conception Bay coast. Each small town seems to have its own raison d’etre- one has a medical centre, several have a museum- each one different, an automotive garage, or a fishery. But most have a post office, a convenience store or a general store, every couple of towns you’ll find a gas station, and in another a restaurant. Only one town on each side of the peninsula has a bank, although there are several ATM’s, and only Bay Roberts has a grocery store. Bay Roberts was the biggest town, with the grocery store, a variety of stores, a mall, even a Dollarama, a bank, car dealerships and several fast food restaurants.

We drove to Cupid, a cute little town, spread along the road, like so many small towns, only one or two streets deep. On the map, it looked as if the shore road led to Brigus, but no luck. However as we drove around, we found a church which had been converted into a B&B and also had a Tea Room. It was charming. Running through the pouring rain was worth it! I actually had a delicious BLT, but John found homemade lemon meringue pie. We then discovered that we had just driven in a big circle, and we were back where we started! So we took on the main road to Brigus.
Brigus is a beautiful little town, even in the pouring rain, with roads going in all directions! We were going to stop at the archeological dig, but the rain was too heavy and mud too deep, so we looked at it from the car! We drove high above the harbour on both sides.

There is a tunnel on one side,

The tunnel

Deep water harbour
made for sea captain, Abraham Bartlett, so he could access the deep water harbour.  On our way to find the road out of town, we discovered another National Historical site, a cute little home, Hawthorne Cottage.
Hawthorne Cottage, home of Robert Bartlett [picture from Brigus website]
We ran in through drenching rain to find it was the home of the world renowned Arctic explorer, Captain Robert Bartlett. It was built in 1830, and is a rare example of the architectural style, “cottage orné”. Bartlett captained the ship used by Robert Peary in his successful attempt to reach the North Pole.  We enjoyed a tour, the exhibits, listening posts and an Arctic room where mementos of his achievements and adventures are displayed. To get back to ShagView, we decided to go down to the TCH.

We decided to make the short drive to Argentia a couple of days before our ferry to see the area. We picked a site facing the ocean

- actually it looked over the abandoned US naval base of Argentia, the ferry docks and at Placentia Bay looking across at the Burin Peninsula. The 500 people in the town of Argentia, and the cemetery were relocated to Placetia during the Base construction in the early 1940’s. Placentia is just a few kilometres further down Highway 100.
Town of Placentia

Placentia Inner Harbour

The lift bridge broke this summer, and is, at the moment, fixed in a "Down" position

The Catholic Church
Now there is a mall with a Sobeys, a Dollar store, and several other stores, a Value Grocer, two drug stores, a Liquor store, a couple of restaurants, a Pub, several government buildings and a coffee shop. Philip’s Café and Bakery

became our go-to restaurant for excellent home-made lunches, coffee and wifi.

The next day dawned bright and sunny, but very windy, so we took off down the coast to Cape St. Mary’s. The road into Elliston has become our benchmark for bad roads rated at a 10, this road was an 8. However, the views were enough to help us forget the poor condition of the pot-holed road. The road wound up and down hills,
over cliffs, down to the shore and through villages.  There was little traffic so we could weave around potholes and drive in the opposing lane if necessary.  We drove past St. Bride’s,

across meadow-like marsh to a narrow road
wide enough for 1 1/2 cars!

to St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, with the second largest colony of nesting gannets in North America. Earlier in the year, you can also see black-legged kittiwakes, Atlantic Murres, Northern razorbills, black guillemots, double-crested and great cormorants and Northern fulmar, The folks at the Interpretation Centre were helpful and very knowledgeable. A short kilometre walk down a well-marked path

beside the cliffs led us to Bird Rock. As we walked to the first cliff, the sight was incredible. There were so many gannets flying around, it looked as if it was snowing.

Walking further, past sheep beside, on the path and on the cliff,

we came to Bird Rock, a magnificent sea stack just 10metres off the mainland. The sight was truly awesome- and I don’t use that word often.

The grey spotted gannets are the young chicks

There are 10,000 breeding pairs of gannets. There was hardly a bit of rock showing for the adults and young ones crowding the top of the rock and ledges on the rock faces. Gannets mate for life,
Clicking beaks

come back to the same nesting place and even have afternoon cuddles and hugs.

We sat watching them for a long time, John on the edge

and me- a little further back. They are incredible to watch, so graceful in the air.

Next day when we headed to Philip’s Café for coffee and wifi, we met Mark, an Irishman from Vancouver, who had been cycling for 81days from Vancouver. He planned to cycle to Cape St. Mary’s, complete the Irish Loop and on to St. John’s. On our way back we stopped at Castle Hill, a National Historic site,
which overlooks Plaisance, the original French capital of Newfoundland, now called Placentia. It is the ruins of a French Fort Royale,
Scale model of the fortifications
fortifications which were at the heart of the English-French struggle for Newfoundland from 1692 to 1811, until the Treaty of Utrecht gave it to the British. The Visitors’ Centre is small but very informative, staff are friendly and knowledgeable. There are scale and life-size models,

posters, and a short video that sums up the history of the Fort. The site is beautifully kept. When you are ready to explore outside, you are given an audio and earphones to follow the excellent self-guided tour.
One of the many explanatory storyboards

There are spectacular views of Placentia Bay from the fortification walls.
Plaisance from the Fort
The path through that soldiers took to the  Redoubt

Gaillardin Redoubt
Trails lead to the Gaillardin Redoubt and down to the town.
Our last day in Newfoundland, the fog was so thick, we could hardly see the office next to the trailer, about 10 metres away.  We were not leaving until 5pm, and did not have to be at the ferry until about 3, so we decided to go back to Castle Hill to get new Discovery Passes for the next year. We finally got to see an archeological site,
the original site of the original main fort, Fort Louis, in Placentia. Then after a last coffee and sandwich at Philip’s Café, we packed up the trailer, hitched up, and headed for the ferry to the mainland.

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