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Having finished my tour of inspection of the Viking site and L'Anse aux Meadows and taken the circular path back to the car park (I was right about the Coastal Path leading eventually to the ruins), drenched to the skin in this torrential downpour that we were having, it was time to head south.

It was a thoroughly ill wind that had blown this rainstorm in here, and so these old wives are wrong when they say that an ill wind is one that doesn't blow anyone any good. I was thinking that Casey was having a thoroughly good car wash, and all for free too.

And he needs it, as you will know if you saw the photo of him on the Trans-Labrador Highway and he was looking much worse than that as well by now.

The road down south is called The Viking Trail, as you might have guessed. I reckon that this kind of thing is nothing more than a tacky little act of opportunism aimed at enticing the more-gullible tourists. If you are going to give these kinds of names to these kinds of places, then people could not be faulted for expecting to see a regular scattering of artefacts or Viking sites along the highway, and they would have a right to be disappointed when they discovered nothing at all.

I'm probably far too cynical for my own good. Having worked in tourism for many years, I know full well that there won't be anything particular to see along this stretch of the highway. If there were anything exciting they would be trumpeting it loudly, not luring the unsuspecting tourist on a lengthy paper chase all the way to L'Anse aux Meadows, and who will find when he arrives that the place just happens to be closed for the season.

noddy bay viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

Newfoundland is quite the place to be, so it seems, and all kinds of famous people have lived here at one time or another. Whether or not they are stars of stage or screen, and whether or not they might be fictional characters, they all have their favourite corners of the island.

Having seen this particular sign I did spend a few minutes looking for Big Ears Cove but I was not able to find it. it's probably on the other side of the island somewhere.

granchain exhibit dark tickle experience viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

On leaving Noddy Bay, we are back with the silly road signs again.

It seems that the Dark Tickle Experience is round about the same place as the Granchain Exhibit, and so whether you are meant to use the Granchain Exhibit to give your nearest and dearest the Dark Tickle Experience, I don't really have any idea and I wasn't disposed to go out of my way to find out. There are plenty of other things that I ought to be doing, like looking for the Quatermass Experiment I suppose.

shoal cove east labrador coast viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

Well, guess who is a very happy bunny right now? Here I am at Shoal Cove East in a windy, squally, misty, rainy, soaking wet, depressing grey day and I can clearly see the coast of Labrador from here. There's no doubt about it. And there are a great many parts of the western Newfoundland coast much closer to Labrador than this as well.

There shouldn't really be any question about this. If I can see it today in this weather, then just think of what it must be like in a glorious sunny day such as we had at Red Bay the other day .

As an aside, I've mentioned the "coast of Labrador" above, but you will also hear much reference to the "Coasts of Labrador". Whether or not it is contended that Labrador has more than one coast is not really the point. The fact is that the "Coasts of Labrador" was the official title given to the region of Labrador before its status - i.e. its absorption into the Province of Newfoundland - was formally determined.

Now do you remember that back in Labrador I talked on several occasions about seeing little parcels of land, some as small as 10 square metres, all fenced off from the surrounding land, and that I was musing to myself as to what they might possibly be?

cabbage patch viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

I've encountered a couple more over here on Newfoundland and here is one such, revealing its secret in all its glory. It's a vegetable patch, with a load of cabbage growing in it.

I suppose that what they must be are the only patches of fertile soil around here, and so someone has fenced them in to keep the moose and the other wildlife out, and then planted whatever crops that might grow here.

I'd go for brussels sprouts and combrailles courgettes myself - the former will withstand a severe Combrailles winter and so should be fine just here, and the latter will grow just about anywhere in any kind of soil over a short growing season. However I suppose cabbage is as good as anything.

It was round about here somewhere (I seem somehow to have managed to lose some of the notes from my dictaphone - however did I manage that?) that a most curious - well, unexpected - but then having been in Labrador for a week I ought to have expected it - event took place.

I stopped off at a petrol station to buy some coffee (you might have noticed by now that I drink rather a lot of coffee - and you need to too in North America because it isn't anything like what a European living in France would call "coffee". I wouldn't even wash the car in much of it. If the spoon won't stand upright in the mug on its own then it isn't strong enough. Italians, of course, like the spoon to bend when they stir it) and something to nibble on as I was peckish.

Behind the counter was a woman, and we started to talk about Labrador, and then Québec, and then Ontario, and Europe (I can talk all day "not with a bayonet through your neck you can't" ...ed). A car pulled up for fuel so the woman went out to serve him, and on leaving the shop said to me
"you stay there and we'll talk some more"

I suppose that despite the heady delights and attractions of the Viking Trail, strangers, foreigners, travellers, especially those with a little time on their hands, are few and far between. Whilst the television, the internet and the newspapers bring in the odd bit of news every now and again, having an interactive tourist who you can actually interrogate must be something of a novelty for folk living out here.

The north-western Newfoundland coast is really miles away from anything, figuratively as well as literally.

st barbe labrador ferry terminal viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

A short way further on I finally arrive back at St Barbe, the ferry terminal at which I arrived last night from Labrador - or rather Blanc Sablon in Québec. The terminal is not actually on the main road, but down a side turning a kilometre or two.

It's a fine spot for a ferry terminal too - this long sheltered arm just here that would protect the harbour from the worst of the weather.

I can remember there being a motel just here (I think) and a few other bits and pieces, but I'm not sure now if there was a petrol station. But whether there was or whether there wasn't isn't an issue - I noticed plenty of those in the vicinity as I took the road north last night although they did thin out dramatically the further north that I travelled.

st barbe labrador ferry terminal chrysler pt cruiser viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

There's precious little of anything else though. I didn't notice a ferry company office here (although that isn't to say that there wasn't one) - perhaps that's the purpose of the white hut just there. The weather is still being awful with this torrential rainstorm that I've been driving through for the last hour or two, and so you can understand my reluctance to go for too much of a wander around.

Mind you, with a little bit of luck this torrential downpour might clean Casey off for me. He's just there, the white Chrysler PT Cruiser underneath the white wooden cabin.

Having lunched at the quayside (a couple of bread rolls, a tomato, a few lettuce leaves and some really nice spicy vinagrette sauce that I found in a small shop somewhere near Tracy in Québec), I set off on my merry way southwards.

impressive headland spur glaciated valley viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

It was not long after leaving St Barbe that I began to notice what was to become a significant feature of the Western Newfoundland coastline - these impressive north-south ridges that have been sliced away, either by some kind of geological fault that may possibly have led to the separation of Newfoundland from the Mainland and created the Strait of Belle Isle, by the action of a glacier travelling along the Strait during a major ice age, or by a combination of the two.

The "steps" in the headland just there would seem to indicate that some kind of glacial activity, and in successive waves too, has contributed something to this.

Just minutes after taking that photograph, and as I was passing more-or-less right underneath the headland, a rather large rabbit leapt out from the undergrowth and hopped off across the road. Are rabbits indigenous to Newfoundland, or were they brought here by European settlers?

I still don't seem to have advanced very far from St Barbe and I am yet again detained - this time by some kind of weird meteorologial phenomenon. I've been driving along the shore of the Strait of Belle Isle for a little while and whilst it is wrong to say that it is like a millpond, it's certainly not wild and turbulent.

localised storm viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

However this changes dramatically at one certain point. There is some kind of really fierce localised storm here and in just one particular spot there are these huge waves that are just springing up from nowhere in the sea.

I've never ever seen anything quite like this before - there is spray and everything shooting across the sea from this spot. And as the car passes by where this phenomenon is taking place, we are thrown about as if we are in the middle of a hurricane. What is even more surprising is that this gale, or hurricane, or whatever, is blowing from onshore out across the sea and not the reverse, which is what you might expect.

Even more surprising that that is that just half a mile or so further on, we are back to our millpond again - well, comparatively-speaking, that is.

And, of course, you will have noticed what there is running across the centre of the photograph from the middle out to the right-hand edge. "Can't see the mainland of Canada from Newfoundland" indeed!

bairds harbour doctors brook truncated headland ridge glaciated valley viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

A few miles north of Baird's Harbour I encounter not one but a whole series of these truncated ridges and headlands, with layer upon layer of stratified rock, which you might have been able to see had the weather not been so gloomy. These ones here are actually situated in a community called Doctor's Brook.

Looking at how the feet of the ridges have been eroded away into a shape that resembles the base of a letter "U", I would suggest that there has in fact been some kind of major glacial activity in this area at some time in the past. A river valley would form more of a "V" shape.

I've not said anything much about music while I've been travelling around, have I? That's a surprise because music is something that is quite important to me and there's always something or other playing in the background wherever I'm about.

Right now I'm listening to Hogwash by the Groundhogs, and in particular the track "3744 James Road". The opening lines
    For seven hours six miles above the ground
    each trip is a year off my life
    Just longing for the minute we're down
    like sitting on the edge of a knife
    Apprehension is itching my stomach
    anticipation of the things ahead
    This coffee doesn't help the situation
    just wastes two minutes instead

reminds me of the (eventually-successful but after a long while of trying) hunt for a decent and realistically-priced cup of coffee at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris while waiting for my flight to over here a couple of weeks ago.

Another thing that was happening around here was that I was overwhelmed by a wave of fatigue. I'd been feeling the fatigue for a little while and normally I can manage to pass through it but right now I was going to have to stop and crash out. I'm still not fully recovered from my serious illness in 2003.

coastal view strait of belle isle bellburn viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

This is the spot that drew the short straw - a short distance to the north of Bellburn. You have to admit that given the shortage of decent parking places with impressive views (you mostly have either the one or the other, and it's been quite some time since I've had the other) I could not have done much better than this. It really was a nice place to be

I was out for well over an hour, and when I came to, I noticed that the weather seemed to have improved somewhat. That's a good sign for I was becoming quite fed up of the dreary drizzly day. Perhaps I ought to crash out more often.

daniels harbour truncated ridge headland viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

And so back on with my travels and as I approach the settlement of Daniel's Harbour (you'll notice that everyone has a harbour around here - it shows you just how dependent upon the sea the whole area used to be) there's a whole series of these impressive truncated ridges.

This particular one has a splendid valley running off up there inland and it's probably the nicest setting of them all so far. Again there's a "U"-shaped lower part to the valley.

truncated ridges headland viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

About 2 miles further on we are still in this range of truncated ridges and headlands. On this particular mountain there was a most spectacular rainbow. Unfortunately this doesn't appear on the photograph despite my best manipulations "PERSONipulations, please" ...ed so you will just have to take my word for it.

And I am wondering what kind of geological activity has created the flat tops on some of the mountains here. Was the hill formerly part of the valley floor and eroded flat by initial glacial activity before there was a seismic uplift of the terrain followed by further glacial activity? It's interesting to speculate.

truncated ridges headland glaciated valley western brook gros morne national park viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

I am now at Western Brook and I'm still in this range of truncated ridges and headlands. This set is probably the most spectacular and I do recall waxing lyrically about it for some considerable time. It's some kind of massif leading into the interior of Newfoundland and may well be the Gros Morne National Park - that's somewhere in the vicinity, so I recall.

I was especially impressed with the ("U"-shaped) valley that you can see. All in all it was quite splendid.

Now I did mention the change in the weather just now. You may recall that a while ago when I was talking about that localised storm that I noted that the wind was blowing off the shore out to sea. In the couple of photos above you will notice that there is a run of blue sky above my head i.e. on the coastline, and the clouds have retreated a short way inland.

What seems to have happened is that the wind has changed direction and is now blowing from off the sea onto the shore, moving the weather front back a couple of miles.

gros morne national park weather front viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

You can even see the weather front in this photo. Look right at the top of the image and you will see the clear sky that's visible now that the changing wind has pushed the clouds back. And you can actually see the clouds, stalled just over there. The warmer, lighter air has risen over the mountains leaving the colder, damper and hence more dense air just pinned back against the mountains.

Encountering weather fronts like this is also quite exciting - at least, so I reckon.

And another thing too - the temperature. It's 12°C here just now. It hasn't been as warm as this since I can't remember when. I bet that it isn't anything like that over there in those clouds and the gloom

I'm noticing now that I am having "light" issues. It's 18:35 right now, which means that in Québec it's still only 17:05 (what with the hour-and-a-half time difference) and I'm rapidly getting to a stage where I can't see anything. Another 15 minutes, I reckon, and the light will be gone completely.

moose viking trail newfoundland canada october octobre 2010

But before it goes completely dark I have just about enough light to take a blurred photograph of another one of Strawberry Moose's cousins, who slowly ambled out across the road in front of me up this road somewhere as I was approaching Deer Lake.

And the drama isn't over yet. In the pitch black night with Deer Lake just a couple of miles away, the car in front of me (I'm second in a line of three rushing through the dark at about 100 kph) suddenly throws out the anchor and shudders to a stop. In the light of his headlights I notice four legs of a moose disappearing into the darkness at the side of the road.

Once we all get going again I notice that the driver in front has slowed right down. This close encounter that he has just had has clearly put the wind up him. In fact it does remind me of the scientists who managed, after many unsuccessful experiments, to cross a Rottweiler with a bicycle pump.
"This'll put the wind up the postman" they argued.

But back to the story. I've said it before and I'll say it again that you cannot take any chances at all with moose along these roads. They can cause a lot of damage, not just to the car but also to the occupants inside it.

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