Friday, August 27, 2010

Fjords and Waterfalls Along the Southwest Coast

From Grand Bruit we sailed on to Burgeo where we again encountered some incredible Newfoundland hospitality when a man named Jim took us for a two hour drive into the barren highlands of the Long Range Mountains. The rugged land was strewn with huge glacial erratics--pieces of rock left behind from the last ice age and full of lovely lakes (locally known as ponds).
Two of the most beautiful spots that we visited in Newfoundland were The Grey River fjord and Lahune Bay. Grey River is an outport with no road access housing around 160 people. It perches at the foot of the looming cliffs near the mouth of the fjord. The fog lifted as we navigated about six nautical miles into the Northwest arm. Otters frolicked on the shore as we passed and bald eagles flew overhead. It had rained earlier in the day (needless to say) and several waterfalls cascaded down the steep walls. A few small cottages were hidden in the trees at the end of the Southwest arm. We spoke to one of the residents who explained that his regular home was in the Grey River outport but they kept the cottage so they could “get away from it all.” He directed us to a spot where we could safely land the dingy and explore the waterfall and river flowing into the fjord. With the monkeys on our backs we waded up river (each only falling in once) until we found a nice picnic location. Desert consisted of M&Ms and a few blueberries that were just starting to ripen on the river banks. Lovely.
Our next anchorage in Lahune Bay (Deadman’s Cove) was equally beautiful. The high cliffs create some significant wind effects so we set two anchors (at 30 degrees off our bow) before heading in for a good climb in the hills and a splash in the waterfalls. Ahhh, the views were spectacular but words are inadequate so you are better served by switching over to the pictures to get a real impression. Our walks are becoming somewhat less tiring as Emma has taken to hiking herself and rarely needs to be carried anymore. Even on long hikes! Hooray!

Francois (pronounced Fransway by the locals) is a lovely community perched on the cliffside in the Francois Bay. It houses 134 people, 21 of whom attend the local K-12 grade school. Francois is one of the few outport communities that has taken advantage of its unique cultural and natural advantages and has successfuly marketed these to a very specific tourist community. As such, in addition to the still viable lobster fishing, there are a couple of thriving B&Bs. Hiking around the bay is wonderful and the community has invested much into the maintenance of the trails. There is a wonderful freshwater lake up on the hills above Francois but it was a little too cold for us to swim. Emma and Macsen still enjoyed sloshing about on the muddy banks and spotting bullfrogs. There are two small stores stocking a wide selection of food and goods and these act as a gathering place in the early evenings. The monkeys loved stopping in at these time as they were guaranteed to get some candy and compliments.
Grand Bank is located on the Burin peninsula and differs significantly from the outports we have seen to date. It’s current population is approximately 2500 people and it is accessible by road. Grand Bank was the nucleus for much of the Grand Banks fishery and a consolidation point for Fortune Bay and for trading with the French in St Pierre and Michelon (just over 20 nautical miles away). As a result a merchant class took hold here so the older houses are much larger, there is a fish processing plant (built to process fresh fish following the decline of the salt fish industry) and it has a more industrial feel and a more sprawling community. It is still at heart a fishing village. A group of older men meet almost nightly on the wharf to tell tales about the old days and make music if the mood takes them. These men have incredible stories of huge catches, colossal storms, incredibly dangerous and taxing conditions (year round fishing in snow and ice) and a wistful sadness when they tell of a livelihood lost.

In short, the Southwest coast of Newfoundland is absolutely magnificent, both the raw nature and the communities, and the people are extremely kind and generous. If it weren’t for the weather you might think it were perfect. We have experienced a few bright sunny days but much of our time is spent in the rain and even more is spent in the fog. This just makes the brief glimpses of breathtaking scenery all the more special. Our love affair with Newfoundland continues...

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