Labrador Caravan

June 1, 2007.
The Plans

The Labrador Caravan has been in the works for a long time. Since last summer, when I went only as far as the end of the paved road in Red Bay, I have wanted to return and take the road all the way. From Baie Comeau in Québec, up the gravel past the big Québec hydro plants on the Manicouagan River, to Fermont in Québec, to Labrador City and Wabush at the provincial

border, to Happy Valley / Goose Bay in Labrador. And from there take the ferry out Goose Bay to Cartwright on the Atlantic shore, to pick up the gravel road again and drive back down to Red Bay, and then to Blanc Sablon where I could take the ferry back to Newfoundland.

Eleven hundred kilometers up to Happy Valley / Goose Bay, fifteen hours on the ferry, another three hundred and sixty-odd kilometers to Red Bay plus a hundred more to Blanc Sablon. Then I could feel I had really been to the north, at least as far as

Matilda and I could go together. I had visions of vast open spaces, caribou, moose, waves pounding on deserted rocky shores, cool weather, gray skies, fog.

My interest in Labrador actually began long before I touched its southern shores last summer. Years ago on a flight from Paris to Washington, we had the luck of completely clear skies, and I happened to be by a window on the right side of the plane. So I watched the landscape pass by and was fascinated by a rugged coastline, dotted with coves and backed by mountains, with only the occasionally tiny cluster of houses suggesting some kind of settlement. No roads at all, just sea and shore and villages and mountains and forest. Until the scene opened into a vast expanse of water, after which we found ourselves over more settled areas, with towns and cities and highways.

I was hooked. Wherever that place was, I wanted to go there. I found a map and determined that it had to be Labrador, and the

vast open water the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I pored through guidebooks to Canada, but most barely mentioned Labrador. The only one that devoted a short chapter to it told me that there were no roads out of those villages. It took bushwacking, all-terrain vehicles, bringing your own goods, gasoline, and spare parts – the whole nine yards.

It didn’t sound like me. So I put off thoughts of Labrador.

But that was before I entered the Westy world, and before I traveled to Newfoundland to learn that there was in fact a road from Happy Valley / Goose Bay to Baie Comeau. And best of all, that there were other people who might want to travel that route as well. Even a few who already had.

So when the vanagon talk turned to caravans to Mexico, I raised the idea of a caravan to Labrador. And people were interested. A dozen or so sent me emails saying “hey, keep me on the list, I might want to come on that trip.”

And so it began.

The numbers dwindled, of course. From the dozen who thought they might be interested, we dropped three - me, Kim from the Virginia suburbs of D.C., and my friend Phil from Campbell River, B.C. But that was okay - I wasn't about to do this journey alone.

And it promised to be an interesting journey.

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