Tag Archives: gagnon

Sunday 28th May 2023 – A BIG HAPPY …

… birthday to Caliburn. He’s growing up – sixteen years old today.

And we’ve had plenty of adventures together, usually accompanied by the third member of our team, STRAWBERRY MOOSE. We’ve been to about half the countries in Europe together, battled our way through snowdrifts and mountain passes, towed mini-diggers all the way from North Lancashire down to the south-ish of France non-stop on a 34-hour journey, gone off to photograph a suspension bridge 2 hours down the road and not come back for almost 3 weeks and endless shuttles from Brussels to Virlet overnight in the early days of our relationship

At his last controle technique the examiner told me that he still has a few years left so it’s likely that he’ll outlast me, so here’s to many more years of happy Caliburn motoring.

The only regret was that I never succeeded in taking him over to North America for a run around. We had all of our ducks in a row at one time but then Strider came along and he was a much more appropriate vehicle with which to attack the sub-Arctic byways. Caliburn, good as he has been, would never have got down to that abandoned iron mine at the abandoned town of Gagnon.

It seems that I’m being overwhelmed with nostalgia over the last few days and I’ve no idea why. It’s probably because I have too much time on my hands right now. Perhaps I ought to do something about that – like “go back to bed and sleep it off”.

Last night was one occasion when staying in bed sounded like a good idea because it’s a Sunday and that’s always a lie-in around here. I’ll get up at any time you like for 6 days of the week, but never on Sunday. Everyone’s entitled to a day of rest.

So even if I awaken at something silly like 09:00, 10:30 is much more like a realistic time to show a leg.

It took me a while to gather my wits which, seeing how few wits I have these days, is quite surprising. But once I’d entered the Land of the Living the first thing that I did was to listen to the dictaphone to find out where I’d been during the night. We started off with something happening about oil filters on vehicles, yellow heavy-duty plastic spin-on ones rather than filter cartridges that you’d have to change but I can’t remember very much about this dream at all.

And then I was working as a lorry driver for someone. We were extremely busy. Someone had gone off sick and I’d had another spell of ill-health so I ended up taking a couple of days off. He had a lorry loaded with waste that needed tipping somewhere so he rang around and ended up speaking to a woman who was a lorry driver and asked her if she would do it. He explained the urgency of it, which I thought was strange because it would give this woman a lot of power over him if she knew how urgent the job was. I could hear the conversation because I was in bed in the next room. She sounded dubious and asked him “what had happened to so-and-so?”. He replied that there was something the matter with him. She asked what was the matter with me. He gave some sort of reply that basically he thought that I was malingering, which I thought was a horrible thing to do because I’d never ever missed a shift as long as I’d worked for him and had volunteered to do all the extra stuff.

After breakfast, or lunch, or whatever you might call it, I sat down and made a start on work.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to go on the attack with my Labrador stuff so I sat down and reviewed the directories that I’ve been keeping.

Up to 2015, everything is all shipshape and Bristol-fashion. But then I had all of my hospital issues and then went to live in Leuven and since then everything went haywire and it’s just a complete mess.

For a start, I can’t find any trace whatsoever of any of my notes from my 2017 trek around Labrador so I’ve decided that I shall have to go back to basics and start from the very beginning.

There are the dictaphone notes – well, some of them – and then the blog notes from the relevant periods and that seems like a very good place to start.

But then you won’t believe this but I had to have a really good hard think because I’d forgotten how I write my websites. Back in the old days I’d be churning them out on a regular basis but since my health issues over the last 8 years I’ve not written more than half a dozen.

That’s the problem with growing older thought. Two things happen to you when you reach my age. The first thing is that you forget absolutely everything.
What’s the second thing?” – ed.
“I can’t remember”

Anyway, even just collating the stuff from 2017 is going to take an age, never mind adding it in to the earlier voyages.

What’s worse is that I can’t find the mileage notes.

With travelling several years over the 2100 kms of the Trans Labrador Highway and taking a couple of thousand photos, it’s important to have them all in the correct order and in the correct positions. And although I noted the mileages because I anticipated this problem, I’ve travelled the highway in both directions so the eastbound mileages are not the same as the westbound mileages of course.

Back in the past (or past in the back if you are George Bush) I managed to identify a couple of identical views taken from each direction on different occasions so I used them as reference points and calculated all of the mileages of every photo from every trip to correspond with those marker references. But if I can’t find my notes I’ll have to go back and do it all again, I reckon. That’ll take a while and no mistake.

There was a break while I made s batch of pizza dough, seeing as I’d run out. It rose quite nicely too. Two lumps went into the freezer later on and I made a base with the third. And once more, we had a magnificent pizza. Using these small cherry tomatoes cut in half and putting them on top of the cheese is definitely the way to go.

So before I go to bed I’m going to make a start on editing the radio notes that I dictated last night. I had a go recording them directly onto the computer now that I’ve configured it, however the quality was really poor and it all ended up in the bin and I redictated it using the ZOOM H8.

Had I been of a mind, and had it not been 01:00 when I finished, I suppose that I could have filtered out the interference and enhanced the quality, but I’ll have to work on that for another time.

Tomorrow I’ll finish off the radio programmes and then carry on with the Canada 2017 stuff. Right now I’m on a bus heading through the mountains to pick up Strider. There’s a really long way to go yet.

We haven’t reached the funny part of the whole trip though and I’ll dine out on this for ever, I reckon. That year I went to see my friend in St John’s so that meant the long sea crossing across the Gulf of St Lawrence to Argentia instead of the short (as in 9 hours) crossing to Channel Port aux Basques.

“Roaming” was switched off on my telephone of course because it’s quite expensive in North America but as we were sailing along the southern coast of Newfoundland the phone suddenly went berserk with missed phone calls, messages and all of that kind of thing and at first I was bewildered.

However there’s a French colony – St Pierre et Miquelon – on an island in the Gulf of St Lawrence and obviously my French mobile network supplier provides the service to it. For a brief moment my telephone connected with the network and caught up with everything that I’d been missing.

That explains all of that, but it still doesn’t explain the situation in 2019 when we were in mid-Atlantic, 1000 miles from just about everywhere on board THE GOOD SHIP VE … errr … OCEAN ENDEAVOUR, and I suddenly picked up an internet connection out of nowhere. I’ve never been able to explain that.

Friday 30th September 2016 – THEY CALL ME TRINITY

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Well, Baie Trinité actually, but never mind – it’s near enough.

We’ve been here before – in 2012on our mega-ramble down Highway 138 to be precise, but I’d only driven through the place without having the time to have a real poke around, and so seeing as it’s quite close to where I’m staying (a mere 37 kilometres – which is “right next door” over here on the North Shore of the St Lawrence River) I reckoned that I would come for a nosy around.

lac au rat musque baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016On the way out there, though, I encountered quite a beautiful lake. It’s at round about kilometre 831 and it’s called le Lac au Rat Musqué – Muskrat Lake – and I’d love to know how it is that some of these lakes and other natural landmarks earned their European names.

I didn’t take a photo of it in 2012 and I don’t know why. But there are lakes just about everywhere and I suppose that I was spoiled for choice.

rest area baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016First thing that you notice as you arrive in Baie Trinité is a rest area, right in the centre of what passes for the village and right by the shore. There are all of the usual facilities here, but it goes without saying that they are all closed up for the winter.

But anyway, it’s gone lunchtime, my stomach thinks that my throat has been cut and I have my butties to eat. I’ve run out of hummus but I do have some vegan cheese that I picked up in the Atlantic Superstore in Woodstock.

centre national des naufrages du saint laurent baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Baie Trinité’s claim to fame is that it is the home of the Centre National des Naufrages du Saint Laurent – the National Centre for Shipwrecks on the Saint Lawrence. This is a place that I would love to visit, but as you probably realise, it’s closed now until next season.

But one thing about it is that here you can “experience several major tragedies that have marked the history of Nouvelle France” but if anyone thinks that I’m going to experience a shipwreck at first hand just to satisfy my curiosity they are mistaken.

cannon centre national des naufrages du saint laurent baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016There have been plenty of shipwrecks along the coast as you probably know, and we’ve visited the sites of a few of them. And without any explanatory panel (which wouldn’t do you lot much good anyway because here in Quebec the Tourist Information is written in French only, just to spite the Anglophone tourists), I would say that this cannon is from a real shipwreck.

In 1690 a mariner by the name of Admiral Phips sailed up the St Lawrence in an attempt to capture Quebec from the French. He was unsuccessful, not the least of the reasons being that he lost several ships on the way up. And on Christmas Eve 1994 the remains of one of them – the Elizabeth and Mary – were found just off the headland at Baie Trinité.

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016And as you might also expect, just like every other village in Quebec, we have a church here, built in 1939.

I forgot to go over and see to whom it was dedicated (I’m really forgetting myself these days) but as this place is called Baie Trinité, apparently because Jacques Cartier is supposed to have visited the bay on Trinity Sunday in 1536, it’s quite possible that this could be the Church of the Holy Trinity – l’église Sainte-Trinité.

beach fish packing plant baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016As we have said before, the beaches around here are magnificent, with all of the sand that has been deposited by glaciers as they receded at the end of the various ice ages.

I’m not a big fan of the beach here at Baie Trinité though. It’s right by the main highway and while it’s hardly the M25, you’d be surprised at the number of heavy lorries that go past here. It’s too noisy for me.

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Instead, I’m going to head up the beach westwards. That’s far more sheltered behind the Tourist Information Centre and the church and where I’m less likely to be disturbed.

Except, it has to be said, by someone on a quad who decides to come for a ride out here as I’m walking along. Still, I do my best to avoid him and think pleasant thoughts instead as I take advantage of the beautiful sunshine.

rocks on beach baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016All of the beaches, shores and river mouths along here are littered with rocks as you have probably noticed, and they too have been brought down here by glaciers (and latterly by rivers) from their places of origin.

Geologists can and do have hours of endless fun tracing rocks back to their original source and thus plotting the paths of glaciers and rivers during prehistory. It’s a fascinating hobby, so I’m told.

iron ore baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016But this lump of rock on the beach is quite interesting. It caught my attention because it was glistening in the sunlight so I went over to photograph it. Unfortunately, the glistening hasn’t come out at all.

The rock is totally different from most of the others along here and to me (not that I would know very much about it) it closely resembles a lump of iron ore similar to what we saw when we tracked down the old iron mine at Gagnon last year.

There are many deposits of iron ore in the interior – Gagnon, Fire Lake, Mont Wright, Labrador and Wabush to name just five out of dozens, and it’s interesting to think that this rock might have come all the way down from there.

riviere baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016This river is called, rather unsurprisingly, the rivière Trinité and apparently it’s quite famous for the quality – and quantity – of the salmon that was caught in it.

It was quite popular with some first-Nation Canadians who used to live off the salmon from the river in the summer and off whales and the like from the St Lawrence during the winter. There was no reason for them to live a nomadic lifestyle.

hydro electric barrage baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Like most rivers out here along the North Shore, Quebec Hydro has become involved in it and has installed a little hydro-electric generating plant to serve the town and its neighbourhood.

There wasn’t very much by the way of detail to tell me anything about it but although it’s not a very big drop the force of the water makes it quite powerful so I imagine that there’s enough power here to run the village and its surroundings.

fish ladder riviere baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016“But what about the salmon?” I hear you say. After all, it’s quite a famous salmon fishing river and one time the fishing rights were owned by a club in Quebec, although control was soon wrestled back by the villagers.

In fact, when they built the barrage they also built a kind of fish ladder at the side of it so that the salmon could move upstream and downstream . I haven’t heard whether or not it’s as successful and whether the fish are a snumerous as before.

fish processing plant baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Meanwhile, I’m back on the beach again heading east. Right over there is the fish-processing plant that we visited when we were here in 2012.

Formerly, it was the forest products that provided the major source of employment in the village. It was quite a hive of industry, with a log flume and even a small railway network, but the 1960s put an end to all of that and the economy collapsed.

Nowadays, it’s fishing and the fish processing plant that provide most of the employment opportunities around here.

gas station convenience store baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016One thing that Baie Trinité does have going for it is that it has a fuel station and convenience store, and you can see it peering through the trees over there, left of centre.

I went in there for a wander around and to my great surprise they sold bread. Baguettes too, albeit frozen ones that need to be thawed out before I can use them. But it’s good news for me – it’s a round trip of just 78 kms for the bread instead of 116 kms.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Out on the western side of the village is the Pointe-à-Poulin. I tried to reach there in 2012 as you may remember but was blocked by the snow.

No such problems this year though. In fact I made it all the way down to the Anse de Sable – Sandy Cove – and not only that, I was chased all the way down the road by three Dodge Caravans full of people and that made me wonder what on earth was going on. It seems to be a popular spot this year and so I shall have to make enquiries as to why they are here.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016They all went over there to have a play on that big rock, that looked as if it might have been a plaque of volcanic lava. I went over to have a chat to them to see what was going on.

It appears that they were High-School students who were out on a field trip along the North Shore of the St Lawrence – and that made me wonder whether the young archaeologists whom I had seen at Godbout the other day excavating part of that cache of seashells were from the same group.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016But anyway, I left them all to it and went for a wander right out to the farthest extremity of the Point.

Or at least, what I thought was the farthest extremity of the Point because each time that I came to what I thought was the farthest extremity of the Point, there was another Point around the corner. I’d heard of a similar phenomenon in mountaineering when people climbed up to what they considered to be the summit, only to find another summit further on.

bed of lava rocks Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016having realised that I was likely to be out here all night at this rate, I turned round and retraced my steps somewhat, turning my attention to the rocks just offshore.

I went for a clamber about and a closer inspection thereof. I noticed that the rocks were not rocks at all but nice, black, smooth and shiny, so it seemed to me that these might also be plaques of lava.

bed of lava rocks Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016You might be wondering about the likelihood of volcanic activity around the St Lawrence, but it does appear to be a recorded fact.

The St Lawrence River valley is situated more-or-less along a geological fault line and there is evidence of techtonic plate movement along here as well as some evidence of prehistoric volcanic eruptions. Coming across outcrops of lava, and even lava fused into airgaps in other rocks, is by no means unusual.

bed of lava rocks Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016But talking of techtonic plate movement, there have been several earthquakes recorded along the St Lawrence in recent years – a score of 5 on the Richter Scale is not unknown. But this pales into insignificance when considered against the events of 1663

Many of you will remember the discussion that we had when we were at Les Eboulements. We mentioned that in that year there had been as many as 33 earthquakes along the St Lawrence, the largest of which caused an entire mountainside to slide into the river.

Anse de Sable pointe a poulin baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016So leaving the lava beds for now and greeting the students, who seemed to be having endless amounts of fun, I walked right back around the bay to the other end – the end closest to Baie Trinité.

I was hoping to see a shipwreck or two, or the remains of a shipwreck maybe, but I was completely out of luck.But it really was a beautiful beach and I had quite enjoyed my time out here. Given a few more degrees of temperature and bit less wind, I could quite happily have stretched out on one of the lava beds.

baie trinite gulf st lawrence river quebec canada september septembre 2016Anyway, I called it a day and leapt into Strider to take me back home.

But halfway down the road before I reached Highway 138, I came to a shuddering halt along the side of the road. That was because the view of the bay that I saw as I rounded a bend was quite stunning. Now this is the kind of beach upon which I could quite happily recline in the evening sun, except of course that the sun is setting behind the trees on the left.
And in any case, I was feeling quite tired by now so I was quite keen to return home to my little room.

I made myself a coffee and retired to my room for a repose and relax before I made tea. Baked potatoes, beans and hotdogs with mustard as usual (it was a good idea to buy that bag of spuds and those tins of beans) was on the menu. And then having done the washing-up, I retired foe the night.

I was pretty exhausted after my long walk around the beach. But at least I have my bread for tomorrow.

And you have 2105 words to read tonight. Serves you all right.

Wednesday 30th September 2015 – DRIVING THE TRANS-LABRADOR HIGHWAY …

overturned lorry road accident trans labrador highway 389 quebec canada… is not for everyone, that’s for sure. We mentioned yesterday, strangely enough and by pure coincidence, the subject of road accidents along the highway and the subject of lorries driven carelessly cropped up in the conversation.

Now of course I have no evidence and make no suggestion that this lorry was being driven carelessly but this is what can happen when it all goes horribly wrong. You’ll notice the route sinueuse sign of course – the road is like this for about 15 kilometres – and this is suggestive

mud road trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaWe’ve seen some pretty good stretches of the highway of course, but there are also some sections that are thoroughly dreadful. This section is about 40 miles of mud. When the weather is really dry, like today, it’s a pile of dust after dust after dust.

But I’ve been here in the wet winter weather too, and it’s nothing but a sea of mud up to the axles. You mustn’t stop moving forward because if you were to stop, you wouldn’t be able to set off again.

This is what you need to contend with up here.

But let’s go back to last night.

And it was bound to happen. After several nights of really good sleep I had a nuit blanche last night. Mind you, I must have gone to sleep at some time because I was off on my travels again. I was driving a bus with passengers and I needed to leave the bus urgently at a certain moment. However, one of the passengers, who bore a very strong resemblance to Didier from FC Pionsat St Hilaire was having an attack of catalepsy right at the top of the stairs and I couldn’t go past him.

But what with a howling wolf that started up at about midnight, followed by a searing attack of cramp in my leg that went on for hours, and then some other species of sub-arctic mammal trying to claw its way into the back of Strider to, presumably, cuddle up next to me in bed, all of that put paid to any idea that I had of having a decent comfortable sleep.

overnight parking spot sleeping in strider sub arctic tundra trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaAnd it was cold too. All of Strider was iced up outside and inside (although not on the roof – there’s no condensation on there again so this insulation idea is working in spades).

I wasn’t uncomfortably cold like this but what was uncomfortable was that the little butane gas cylinders had frozen up. I had to roll one round and round in my hands for 20 minutes before it was warm enough to light up and I could have a very welcome coffee

hanging cloud trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaThe weather wasn’t very good at first though. Just to prove that hanging clouds are not a phenomenon unique to the Auvergne, here’s a fine example in Northern Quebec.

You can’t see anything very much and vehicles here don’t have rear fog lights and so you can’t tell that they are there until they come looming up out of the gloom like this one. But luckily it didn’t last too long and we could put our feet down.

I stopped for a really long while in Gagnon.

We’ve been here a few times before and so most of you will know that it’s a ghost town. There’s a huge iron ore mine up here and the purpose of the town was to house the workers. The mine was exhausted and so the people moved away and the houses dismantled.

abandoned roads gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaThere’s almost nothing (read on, MacDuff!) here now to remind you that at one time it was a thriving metropolis but it’s interesting to drive around some of the old abandoned streets even though the forest has reclaimed it all.

And this is one of the reasons why I bought Strider – so that we could go for a wander off around roads like this without any worries about what hire companies might have to say about it.

abandoned cemetery gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaThere’s only one thing more sad than an abandoned and deserted ghost town, and that’s an abandoned and deserted cemetery in an abandoned and deserted ghost town.

If you read anything that has ever been written about the town, you’ll note that every single author writes that the only remains in the town are the drops on the kerbs of the pavements in the main street, where the houses used to be, and the airstrip that we have all seen before.

But that’s because one person drove through here without stopping and without going for a good prowl around, and wrote down what he observed in a brief moment, and everyone else (many of whom haven’t even been to the place) who have written about the place have repeated his comments parrot-fashion.

There is not (to date) a single mention of the cemetery. It’s being totally ignored and as far as I can tell, I’m the first person ever to photograph it and write about it.

graves in unconsecrated ground cemetery gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaThe cemetery is in two parts. There’s the actual cemetery proper, and then these graves, on the northern side of the cemetery.

Not one of these wooden crosses (there are one or two proper headstones in here) bears a name but interestingly, the angels on them seem to have at one time been coloured either blue or pink – perhaps to indicate male or female graves

grave plaques cemetery gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaThere’s a panel with a series of grave plaques showing who is in here and when they died. It seems that the cemetery (and probably the town) was in operation between 1961 and 1982

Many of the people interred here have their given names listed as anonyme. This implies to me at least that these people are young children who have died before being christened – hence the unidentified crosses in what might be unconsecrated ground and also the blue and pink angels.

abandoned exhausted iron ore mine gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 138 quebec canadaAn exhausted and abandoned iron ore mine, I said. I’d had brief look at it before but with Strider, I could boldly go where no man has gone before for probably 30 years – good old Strider.

To give you an idea of scale, that little track right down there is wide enough for two vehicles to pass and we’ve driven all the way along from there, past the gigantic mine holes and the mile after mile of mine tailings to perch upon this rocky crag

abandoned exhausted iron ore mine gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 138 quebec canadaRight down there in the distance (zoom lenses are good) is an abandoned Chevrolet pickup and a pile of industrial wheels and tyres, but there aren’t very many physical relics of the mine left.

The Chevrolet is more modern than that but I have included it in here to give you an idea of the scale of everything, because the site of the mine is immense. It covers quite a few square miles of ground.

iron ore mine gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 138 quebec canadaYou can’t see it clearly in this photo but there is a reason why the rock in the centre of this photo is important.

Before I came here, I wouldn’t have known a piece of iron ore from any other piece of rock but there is no mistaking this one. In the bright sunlight it was glistening and sparkling and was visible from quite a distance away.

In fact, the whole area was glistening and sparkling where the crushed stone had released grains of iron. It didn’t occur to me at the time to pass over here with a magnet and to see what might happen.

concrete retaining wall abandoned exhausted iron ore mine gagnon ghost town trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaWhile you admire (if that is the right word to use) the only real vestige that remains of the giant mine workings that were here, let me just conclude my story of the iron ore mine by saying that it’s just nothing but a huge environmental disaster.

The rape of the countryside here has been encouraged by the Canadian Government due to it being “out of sight, out of mind”. No-one (except intrepid, adventurous … "and self-effacing" – ed … explorers and so most people are totally unaware of what is happening in the darkest depths of their country.

There’s been no attempt been made to clean up the site and restore it to its previous condition. It’s been left as a huge open wound – a symbol of man’s greed. I shudder to think what might happen up in the high Arctic, which is even more inaccessible to people like me.

If the Canadian Government can’t make the big companies clean up their act here, then there is no hope at all for the High Arctic, is there? It’s shameful.

And it’s not just that either.

Look at those graves. These are, presumably, children. But they have no names, no plaques, no nothing. But they do have parents. Why don’t the parents look after their babies, long-dead though they might be? The cemetery is abandoned too and so are its inmates.

People are even prepared to forget their “loved” ones and leave them lying cold and stiff in this inhospitable environment as they move on elsewhere in the search for material wealth.

This just sums up modern Canada if you ask me. They should all be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

lunch stop lake manicouagan trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaLeaving behind yet another really good rant, we head off to Lake Manicouagan and our lunch stop.

This is a beautiful place to stop and the view is really astonishing, but I didn’t have much time to enjoy it. I was eating my lunch and reading a good book and the next thing that I remember, it was 14:41.

Yes, crashed out again, and it’s hardly surprising seeing what a night that I had had last night.

refuge des prospecteurs trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaI went on down the road to the Refuge des Prospecteurs after my little doze.

This is the nearest thing that you will find out here to a holiday camp. There are chalets (this is a photo of just part of it) and activities going on here. Walking trails, sailing, fishing and all that kind of thing. I reckon that it must be a great place to come and spend a relaxing week and I shall be looking to check it out some time or other.

lake manicouagan trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaI’m more interested in the lake, though. Lake Manicouagan is an artificial lake formed by the barrage of the hydro-electric dam at Manic 5. It’s a circular lake with several big islands in the centre, some of which are nature reserves and strictly out of bounds to visitors.

What is really interesting is that the depression that is now the lake is said to be a crater formed by the impact many thousands of years ago of a meteorite, and that must have been something really impressive. It makes me wonder about all of the iron ore around here – is this part of the fall-out from the meteorite?

road works trans labrador highway 389 quebec canadaBack on the road again in the beautiful weather and the lovely autumn colours, and the roadworks are still continuing.

They are currently demolishing an overhanging rock using a hydraulic breaker, and as I drove past, a huge lump fell off it and bounced across the road right in front of me. I almost ended up with a new vehicle out of this.

I stopped at Vallant for another coffee. This was formerly a ghost town but has dramatically sprung back to life just recently. Two years ago in fact, according to the woman who served me. Everything was abandoned but the fuel station is back up and working, so is the cafe and shop, and there are these residential trailers everywhere.

There are a few major construction projects going on in the vicinity and even though it’s not exactly central, Vallant seemed to be the best place to create a workers’ village seeing as all of the infrastructure was already in place

As the evening wore on, I arrived in Baie Comeau and my journey around the wilderness is finished. As is customary, I found a motel here (but not the one I always used to use – we had a disagreement) and while it’s basic, so is the price. But I need a good wash, a shower, a change of clothes and to sort out everything – and for all of that I need the space.

In 2 weeks time I’ll be going home. I’m amazed how quickly time has gone, and I’m rather sad about that. But apart from my night at North-West River (and that was for special circumstances), I’ve fulfilled my ambition of spending every night on the Trans-Labrador Highway sleeping out in the wilderness. It wasn’t too difficult either, although insulation and a ply lining on the truck cap would have helped and a small electric heater of some kind would have been luxury – I’m sure that I could invent something out of s100 watts of halogen light bulbs.

In fact, I’ll do it again too, but I do need to sort out the truck cap.

Tuesday 29th September 2015 – THAT WAS A NICE …

… night too. despite the rainstorm that we had, and despite having to leave my stinking pit twice due to reasons that any man of my age will know, and despite me having a neighbour arrive at some point, I was really comfortable in my little bed. So much so that I was awake and out of the bed long before the alarm went off.

And it was warm (well, comparatively warm), to such an extent that I stood outside Strider, lowered down the tailgate and made myself a coffee in the open air. And it was here that I engaged my neighbour in conversation.

He and his wife were from Newfoundland and had a 1999 Chevy pick-up with a camper back. They’d come round from Baie Comeau and were telling me about the road. We discussed fuel consumption too, and he dismayed me by saying that he could do from Goose Bay to Blanc Sablon on just one tank of fuel. Mind you, it cheered me up to a certain degree when he said that he had a 135-litre tank. That compares to Strider’s 70 litres or something. And how I wish I had that size of fuel tank. But of course I will settle for an improved fuel consumption.

strider cable car remains churchill falls rest area trans labrador highway canadaHe knows the area here quite well and he drew my attention to the structure under which Strider was parked.

According to him, these are the remains of a cable car. Before the highway – and the bridge – were built, they still needed to pass stuff over the river to whatever settlement was over on the other side and to start the construction of the plant and cabins that formed the basis of the town of Churchill Falls.

if what he says is true, then it can’t be true about the cable car at North West River being the only one in Labrador. But we shall see what they mean by all of this.

churchill falls river gorge trans labrador highway canadaAnother thing that he knew was the footpath that led to the best view possible of the falls, although it’s not possible to see the falls in all their glory – the best views are just inaccessible.

It’s quite a hike, although not a difficult one, but it’s well-worth the effort. I was pleased to reach the end pf the path because there’s a splendid view of the gorge itself from there. I’ve never seen a view quite like this – the Grand Canyon excepted, of course Apparently, I’m 240 feet up just here, according to the Neighbour from Newfoundland.

waterfall churchill falls trans labrador highway canadaHe was right about the view of the falls not being spectacular. The falls themselves are spectacular, of course, but you just can’t reach the immediate vicinity of them, or found a spec directly opposite to take a good photo.

In any case, the falls themselves aren’t anything like as spectacular as they used to be. They really were impressive back years ago but the river was diverted to provided the drop for the hydro-electric power plant and so only a small fraction of the water falls over the waterfalls today.

crashed pick up trans labrador highway canadaMy neighbour also told me of a crashed vehicle that was lying on its roof further on down the road.

And so I kept my eyes peeled, and I found this one here. It’s not on its roof of course but it hasn’t half been knocked about. This gives you yet another clue about the state of the road around here. As for the yellow tape that’s around it, that’s Police marking tape. It shows that the Police have inspected the vehicle, and that it’s sealed off to warn people not to enter.

crazy quebec lorries overtaking me trans labrador highway canadaBut it’s not by any means the state of the road that’s responsible for may of the accidents – it’s the state of the drivers.

The speed limit along the Trans-Labrador Highway is 80 kph and I have the speed limiter on Strider set at just 80 kph. But everything on the Highway is going past me like I’m standing still, including these two lorries. And these aren’t just simple artics either, these are two of those road-trains pulling two trailers and these road trains are notoriously unstable at the best of times on the best of roads.

double load twin tractor units trans labrador highway canadaAnd talking of unusual loads on the road (although road trains aren’t by any means unusual) how about this one? We started off with a police car in front flagging down the traffic and telling us to move right off the edge of the road. And then this came along.

This is some kind of huge electrical unit, and it has two lorries in charge of it. There’s one pulling it, and the one behind it is pushing it along. The purpose of the pick-up in front is to clear the road because with the configuration that this unit has, it can’t even take a bend like this and keep on its own side of the road. It took up most of the road.

cottages near labrador city trans labrador highway canadaI’ve been noticing, as I’m sure that I have already told you, that there’s some kind of urbanisation taking place along the Trans-Labrador Highway. This is the lake that we’ve all seen before, about 40 kms out of Labrador City, when we came by here on previous occasions.

There was a cottage there previously, but now we seem to have a couple of other cottage down by the lakeshore. And this is the kind of place where I would like to live, with this really gorgeous backdrop and a really beaautiful view of the lake in front.

iron ore mine wabush trans labrador highway canadaLast year when we were in Wabush, we heard all kinds of sories about the iron ore mine closing down and how people were going to desert the town in droves.

I made a diversion into the town to see what was going on in here, and as you can see, the buildings of the iron ore mine are still there standing. And furthermore, I didn’t see anything that suggested to me that people were deserting in droves. There were no more houses up for sale or to let than you would expect to see anywhere else.

But of course, that’s not to say that things won’t be different in another year’s time.

I stopped off at Tim Horton’s for the internet and a coffee, and then I went on to Fermont, in Quebec, for fuel as it’s the last station before the Northern Quebec wilderness.

I also went to look in the “boomerang”. We saw a photo of it last year – it’s the big, high, long building that has a huge shopping gallery on the ground floor and a pile of apartments up above. I’ve never been in there before (except to sound out the hotel in 2010) and so I was curious to see what it was like.

It’s certainly a labyrinth on the ground floor, but what surprised me was that a good proportion – probably 30% or 40% – of the shops were closed down and empty. At least the Co-op food store was open, which is more than can be said for the one in Labrador City which seems to have closed down since last year.

mont wright trans labrador highway 138 quebec canadaThe road out of Fermont into the Wilderness goes past Mont Wright and the Arcelor Mittal iron mine, what is said to be the largest iron ore mine in the world, and it’s the reason for the town of Fermont being built – to house the workers. Mont Wright was once a mountain, but so much iron ore has been extracted that it’s fast becoming a hole in the ground.

The mine tailings stretch for miles, and from here up on a ridge at the back you can see some of the workings. And I do mean “some” because they also stretch for miles. It’s really impressive from that point of view, but we saw last year what has happened at Gagnon, another huge iron ore mine. When that was exhausted, it was simply abandoned and is now an environmental disaster.

trans labrador highway 138 quebec canadaAnd now, from the beautiful morning that we had today, we have now descended into a dreadful and miserably wet evening up here.

We’re having wind, fog and squalls of rain and although you can’t see it, we are back on the dirt road. And a miserable wet and muddy dirt road it is too, with very little sign (if anything) of any improvement to match the major work that has taken place on the Labrador side of the border.

beautiful sunset red sky sub arctic tundra trans labrador highway 138 quebec canadaI’ve found a place to park for tonight. It’s in a lay-by and I’ve dug myself in in behind one of the emergency telephones, with a lorry to keep me company through the night – although he didn’t stay for long.

And the weather seems at last to be improving. There’s a beautiful red sky right now, and so that might promise well for the morning (at least I hope so) but it’s cold, so I’m going to snuggle myself down in my sleeping bag and keep warm like that.

Friday 11th September 2015 – WHAT A NIGHTMARE!


There I was on my travels last night and who should come breezing in but Nerina. She’d left me two months ago but now she had discovered that she was pregnant and so wanted to come back. No wonder that I awoke all cold and sweating!

I’d been elsewhere on my travels too. I’d been quite friendly with a group of girls and every time I went around to see them their mother used to shout at me “and wipe your feet!” and this went on for ages. But then one day they announced that they were selling up and going to have to find somewhere else to live, and so I answered that there were some nice big houses by Pebble Brook School, in Buchan Grove in fact (which of course, is nowhere near Pebble Brook School but anything is possible when I’m voyaging during the night)

That latter bit does in fact have some significance for anyone who can remember events of 40 years ago, but if you weren’t around just then, then you missed out on events of earth-shattering importance.

All of the foregoing might lead you to suppose that I had a really good night’s sleep, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. I just couldn’t drop off, for a start. I was awake for hours, and then I had another bad, uncomfortable night where I kept on waking up.

But eventually there I was, with a coffee. But not a shower. It’s another pay-shower and I don’t have any quarters. But it does go to show just what good value the Goose Point Campground at Alburgh was.

Talking of campgrounds, I can’t stay here two further nights either.It’s Homecoming Week here at the High School (hence all of the sports) and there’s quite a few inter-school competitions this weekend. The campground is therefore full but they’ve squeezed me in elsewhere for tonight and then I have to move on. Not that it’s a big deal because I could be quite comfortable here if I had decent accommodation.

north beach burlington vermont usaAnd talking of things being decent, after I’d bought my butty for this afternoon I went down to the beach to eat it.

First time that I’ve been down here and it certainly is a nice place to be. I’ve not seen a beach quite like this except when I was on my travels at the start of Spring last year when I went down to western France for a week.

north beach burlington vermont usaIn fact this whole area reminds me very much of western France, which is probably what attracted many of the early settlers here. Because this area was first settled by mainly French settlers from Nouvelle France.

In fact, if you look in the telephone directory, you’ll see loads and loads of French surnames. I was sitting behind someone called Gagnon and they announced the name “Tremblay” for one of the players on the hockey team last night.

north beach burlington vermont usaBut just a word of warning if you fancy coming down here visiting in a school bus or something – there’s a 9-foot height limit under the abandoned railway so you’ll need to leave the bus miles away and walk down.

As for me, no trouble with Strider. That’s another reason for having a Ford Ranger. he fits anywhere that a small family car will go. And so I was able to sit and eat my butties in peace and enjoy the nice weather. Summer was back today.

After lunch I went up to Home Depot and had a plank of cheap OSB cut for the floor of Strider. I’ve had it cut to 40″ by 6’and I’ve now encountered another problem. And that is that with his boot liner, he’s not even 6 feet long and that means that

  1. I have to cut down the wood further (good job that I have a saw
  2. My camp bed won’t fit in the back of it

And so I can see that I’m going to have to make a bed to fit it. But then, I was half-prepared for this anyway – hence the circular saw.

Back at the High School, I armed myself with a press permit (Radio Anglais has a lot to be said for it) and so I was authorised to take photos of tonight’s football matches

football refereeing girls soccer match burlington high school seahorses colchester vermont usaWe started off with the girls against Colchester High School, and the first thing that you’ll notice is the refereeing.They don’t have one referee and two linesman but two referees (possibly one from each school) and the pitch seems to be divided up by an invisible diagonal line, with each referee administrating on “his” side of the line.

This was how the hockey was refereed too last night but I just thought that that was usual. School hockey refereeing has probably come a long way since Joyce Grenfell refereed a hockey match at St Trinians.

The Seahorses scored just as I was entering the ground (I was late). Their n°10, whose play was very reminiscent of Les “the Truck” Davies at Bangor City in the Welsh Premier League, chased after a long ball forward (I would have given her offside by a foot, but never mind) despite being well-marked by her limpet-like defender.

And as the keeper came out for the loose ball, the n°10 kept bustling forward, shrugging off a few tough challenges, got her head to the ball and nodded it over the keeper’s outstretched arms into the net.

A proper “English Centre-Forward” of the type that followers of the English Premier League haven’t seen in years.

girls soccer match burlington high school seahorses colchester vermont usaBut the Seahorses couldn’t keep it up. They were, unfortunately, possessed of a “Pionsat” central defence, and anyone who has been a regular reader of this rubbish will know what I mean by that. They don’t seem to be able to clear the ball, dither about and are indecisive when the ball should be kicked upfield, into touch, or anywhere else for that matter, and this led to their downfall.

The central defence, from a fairly inocuous position, hang on to the ball too long instead of clearing it, and of course they eventually lose possession. And the result of that is, as we all were expecting the moment that the n°6 didn’t kick it upfield as soon as she had the ball, was inevitable.

It goes from bad to worse too. One lesson that I’ve always tried to drill into my young strikers in Pionsat’s 2nd XI is that no matter how hopeless a cause looks, you always follow the ball in. At this level, anything can happen, and young Florian has scored a few goals doing just that.

girls soccer match burlington high school seahorses colchester vermont usaHere, a superb shot is well-saved by the Seahorse keeper but she can only push it onto the bar.

The Colchester n°5, playing inside-right and who was easily the best player on the field (and I told her so after the match – her name is Rachel apparently) was following up the shot and with the Seahorse defence being slow to react, she got her head to the ball and that was the winner.

girls soccer match burlington high school seahorses colchester vermont usaIt nearly wasn’t though. The Seahorses kept on going forward, without much luck, but here one of the girls has a shot from the diagonal corner of the penalty area, beats the keeper but hits the post and rebounds back into play.

There’s not another Seahorse close enough to capitalise on the loose ball, and this just goes to show the benefits of following in rather than standing around watching.

girls soccer match burlington high school seahorses colchester vermont usaMost exciting moment of the match was after about 15 minutes of the second half.

The Seahorses won a free kick and it was a beautiful strike right around the end of the wall. But the Colchester keeper produced an equally beautiful diving save to push the ball out for a corner.

But you’ll notice the two Seahorses on the right – quick enough off the mark that time, but strangely, no-one running in on the left.

But the result was the right one – Colchester always looked more dangerous going forward and were more organised in defence, choosing the simple but much more effective option of clearing the ball at every opportunity.

And I’ll tell you something else for nothing too – I’ve seen a bigger bunch of girls playing football in the English Premier League too than I saw out here tonight. This kind of match is the kind that would send shivers down the spine of any woman’s football team in any other country.

As for the boys’ match against Middlebury, this really was a game of two halves. Or two keepers, in fact, as Middlebury changed keeper at half time. And this is something that is amazing me – the substitutions.

We had rolling substitutions, which you expect at this level, but not at the speed that they were doing it. Every couple of minutes there was a substitution, and at one stage they made a substitution just 20 seconds after having made a previous one. Not only does it break up the game, how on earth do you build a balanced, confident and cohesive team with all of this going on?

middlebury tigers goalkeeper dives bravely at the feet of burlington high school seahorses attacker vermont usaThis was just like last night’s match – pretty much one-way traffic, but this time all flowing towards the Middlebury goal and the keeper had to show some real heroics to keep the ball out of the net.

This here is not the only example of him bravely diving at the feet of a Seahorse attacker. He did it a couple of times, and it’s just as well because his defence was just a little shaky and were rather short on skill compared to the Seahorses

burlington high school seahorses hit bar middlebury high school tigers vermont usaHere’s one that the keeper didn’t get to, but no matter. The ball, played in by the Seahorses n°14, who was the best player on the field in this match, hits the top of the bar and goes out of play.

But the Tigers (as the Middlebury team is called) defenders need to be much closer in on the attackers to stop them having these shots on goal. Giving them half a yard of space is inviting trouble.

And so as you might expect, with all of this dominance and one-way traffic, Middlebury break away upfield, the first time that they have kept possession in the opponents’ half, and take the lead.

A goal out of absolutely nothing and so unexpected that I wasn’t ready, but a 40-yard hooker right over the diving keeper’s despairing wave (he might have got his fingers to it) and dropping neatly in the top right-hand corner of the net. Absolutely inch-perfect.

Of course, I have no photo of it, but by pure coincidence, there was a goal scored in the Welsh Premier League a few weeks ago that was a stunning carbon-copy of this goal. Check out Neil Mitchell’s goal for Newtown (Y Drenewydd) in this clip.

burlington high school seahorses equalise middlebury high school tigers football match vermont usaBut with just 6 seconds to go (nice big digital displays here) Burlington finally find their way past the keeper.

A diagonal ball in from the right wing finds a player totally unmarked in the centre of the goalmouth – absolutely shocking defending, this – and he doesn’t have any problems whatever finding the back of the net. Nothing the keeper could do about this.

And so at half time, we have the goalkeeping change. And this is where the roof falls in on Middlebury because up to now, the keeper has been a one-man show on his team.

burlington high school seahorses take the lead middlebury high school tigers vermont usaAfter just 55 minutes of the match there’s another diagonal ball out across the penalty area to the right-hand corner and the keeper rushes off his line, even though there are two defenders out there.

Now I know that he’s not going to reach it in time, but anyway he’s out there, and it’s an easy matter for the attacker to sidestep him and slot the ball into the empty net.

But never mind that – just look at the two Seahorse attackers there. Where’s the defence?

And it goes from bad to worse. From the kick-off the Tigers lose possession and a punt upfield from the Seahorses, again to thet right-hand corner of the are produces a weak shot to the keeper, who has stayed on his line correctly this time, and the ball goes right through his hands into the net.

burlington high school seahorses attacker middlebury high school tigers goalkeeper brilliant save vermont usaBut let’s not criticise the keeper. Here he is, in a one-on-one with a Seahorse attacker, doing the right thing by coming out just far enough to block the sight of the goal, forcing the Seahorse attacker into a shot, and then spreading himself wide enough to get something on the shot and push it wide.

That was an excellent save, and credit where credit is due.

So the Seahorses made hard work of what should have been a comfortable win, because the Tigers defence was dreadful and had it not been for the heroics by the Tigers keeper in the first half, this could have been an embarrassing result. You can’t play with a central defence of Lord Lucan and Martin Bormann and get away with it.

Thursday 25th September 2014 – A NATIONAL DISGRACE

I settled down last night in a comfortable little spot in an old abandoned sand quarry on the shore of the lake, but I wasn’t there for long. An hour or so after I had gone to sleep we had a torrential downpour that awoke me, and of course a sodden sand quarry is no place to be in a vehicle like a Dodge.

undercover shopping mall labrador city trans labrador highway canada september 2014I promptly removed myself and set up camp on the car park at the back of the mall – the only covered mall in the whome of Labrador, apparently.

It seems that this car park is however the hang-out for the local youths and so there was some noise going on for a while, but once they all went home to mummy, that was that. I don’t remember a thing, except for the occasional squalls of rain

I was awake before the alarm too, 06:20, having had a really good night’s sleep, and then I went off to find an internet connection.

But it has struck me while I’m here at this shopping mall that places like Tim Horton’s are a huge environmental disaster. There’s a queue of about 50 vehicles at the drive-in (and not just cars and vans – there’s a couple of lorries in this one), engines all idling away pumping who knows what into the atmosphere, and then everyone receives a throwaway fibre cup that ends up in landfill or the local stream or on the side of the road.

Big fan that I am, especially as they now offer free wi-fi to all their customers and I am an eager subscriber (it’s how all of this rubbish gets onto the net when I’m on the road), I always take a reusable thermal mug with me when I go in.

What there needs to be is a couple of severe environmental taxes on issuing a throwaway packaging and for using the drive-in.

labrador city trans labrador highway canada september 2014After the coffee, I went to the grocery shop to buy a few food supplies for the next leg of the journey and wandered off around the city to take a few selected photos. We’ll start the day as we mean to go on and to make up for all of the photos that I took but were lost were lost last time that I was here.

And then after that it was time to hit the road.

world's biggest dump truck fermont quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014Crossing into the Province of Quebec I paid a visit to Fermont. This is a company town owned by Arcelor Mittal and services the astonishing iron-ore mine at Mont Wright.

The showpiece of Fermont, well, for me at any rate, is the world’s biggest dumper. To give you an idea of the size, my mouth is level with the centre hub of the wheel, and the tyres are 37:00×57 and there aren’t too many any tyres bigger than that.

arcelor mittal iron ore mine mont wright trans labrador highway canada september 2014This is just a small part of the iron ore mine at Mont Wright. Its size renders one speechless, and if it can render me speechless then it really must be something, as any of my friends will tell you.

But as far as I am aware, there is nothing like this mine anywhere else on earth. Its scale is staggering and its proportions are breathtaking. The heap of mine tailings stretches for mile upon mile upon mile.

highway 389 quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014The Trans-Labrador Highway becomes quite simply Highway 389 once we have passed the border between Quebec and Labrador, and this is what you can expect from the highway. And in places it’s far, far worse than this.

And to prove that a lack of skill and ability in Maths will never ever hold you back in the Quebec Government, we are told on the Quebec Tourist Information Service’s daily road reports that one can travel the 67kms between Mont Wright and Fire Lake in 1 hour at an average speed of 50kph.

Cartier Railway marshalling yard Fire Lake Quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014Talking of Fire Lake, the old iron mine that was mothballed years ago has been resurrected and now working full-tilt.

So much so that out here at Fire Lake in the wilderness miles from anywhere we have a connection with the Cartier Railway that runs between Mont Wright and Port Cartier and not only that, there’s a marshalling yard here for the freight trains taking away the ore and this was certainly not here in 2010.

abandoned cemetery ghost town gagnon quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014There is no sadder place anywhere on earth than in an abandoned cemetery, except an abandoned cemetery in a ghost town. And here at Gagnon we have a real ghost town complete with the aforesaid.

Being a mining community, it was abandoned when the ore at Gagnon Mine gave out (sometime in the late 1980s) and many of these graves relate to comparatively young people as you might expect, being a mining community. There are people whose date of birth is later than mine so they would all have family and friends, but I do wonder how many of these still have visitors and whether the Catholic Church sends a priest up here every so often to say mass over the departed souls.

Or are these people abandoned too?

gagnon iron ore mine highway 389 quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014I made the effort to hunt down the old mine workings and eventually, after much binding in the marsh and scraping the underside of the Dodge (missing the sump by millimetres) I found them.

The mine is just a huge scar in the land that is now filled with water and is nothing but a huge lake now. But I was horrified to find that the mine tailings are piled up everywhere all over the place and absolutely no effort has been made to clean up and restore the land.

gagnon iron ore mine tailings highway 389 quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014This is a shocking indictment of the Canadian Government’s laissez-faire attitude towards the rape of the countryside and there is an environmental catastrophe up here. But because it’s out of the public view and no-one ever comes up here except intrepid … "and modest" – ed … adventurers such as Yours Truly, it’s quite okay.

I am ashamed to report this, and the Canadian Government should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for having allowed it. The abandonment of the victims of man’s greed and the desolation of the countryside just goes to show to what depths humans will sink. That hole must be hundreds of feet deep.

autumn colours highway 389 quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014On a brighter note, they were clearing away the edge of the road when I was up here in 2010
to improve the visibility and to give the local fauna a sporting chance of motorists seeing them before crashing into them, but they seem not to have kept up the work.

It’s all deciduous trees that have thus grown back and the autumn colours here are stunning. It really is the most beautiful place on earth and autumn really is the most beautiful time to see it, especially when the sun is out.

camp queen highway 389 quebec trans labrador highway canada september 2014From here though, it was a thrash (such as one can do around here) down the highway to Baie Comeau and a motel for the night. It’s a week since I’ve had a shower and even I’m starting to notice it. Tomorrow I’ll be crossing the St Lawrence to the southern shore, New Brunswick and civilisation.

And as I go, I’ll leave you with this photo that I took along the route, and let you make up your own caption for it.

Monday 11th October 2010 – I’M IN LABRADOR CITY RIGHT NOW …

… in probably the most expensive hotel in which I’ve ever stayed in all my life, even when someone else was paying the bill. But that’s what everything is like around here. To give you an example, the petrol in Baie-Comeau is 108.4 cents per litre – at Manic 5 (the intermediate stop on Highway 389) just 213kms north, it was all of 132.4 cents. And a small mug of coffee cost me $1:50 instead ot the usual 50 cents.

highway 389 trans labrador highway canadaSo what I decided to do was that instead of spending three or four nights on the trail I’m going to do it in just two.

So today, I’ve driven 604 kms over some of the worst roads I’ve ever driven in the mud, rain and snow (it’s snowing outside) and a 12-hour day with 68 photos included, and here I am halfway round. And I’m exhausted too.

riviere manicouagan manic 5 dam hydro electric power station highway 389 trans labrador highway canadaBut the road is an adventure. The first 213 kms up to the immense barrage at the hydro-electric dam at Manic 5 (short for the Manicouagan River Dam no5) is a surfaced road and to drive this far was quite easy.

And the dam is certainly impressive too – it’s enormous and the photo can’t possibly do it any kind of justice.

highway 389 trans labrador highway quebec canadaAs for the rest of the road, it is as you find it.

Generally speaking it’s compacted dirt but in the weather we are having just now it’s mostly mud and there are places along the trail where lorries have sunk in. It’s slippery too in the wet and I’ve had Casey across the road a couple of times when I’ve not been concentrating.

gagnon ghost town highway 389 trans labrador highway quebec canadaFor a distance of several kilomtres through where the ghost town of Gagnon and its iron ore mine used to be, not only is the road surfaced but we even have a stretch of dual carriageway.

However, it’s not been maintained for probably 30 years since the mine closed and as a result it’s worse than parts of the dirt trail. And then once you cross the Cartier Railway line further along there just isn’t anything really – rail traffic has put paid to any pretext at keeping up the road and you have to pick your way between the potholes

tundra sub arctic scenery highway 389 trans labrador highway quebec canadaBut once you climb onto the Labrador Plateau you find yourself in the sub-arctic tundra. It’s totally wild up here, but beautiful and spell-binding

There are no grasses, just mosses and lichens and stunted fir trees.

And I’ve spent so much time up here admiring the view that I’ve lost the light and it’s snowing heavily again up there. I grope my way down in the dark and snow to the valley and Labrador City, and here, it’s teeming down with rain and there’s a biting wind.

Tomorrow I’m going to catch up on a couple of things I missed and then I’m going to do the second half – to Goose Bay.

A mere 520 kms.