"The Translabrador Highway" Province of Newfoundland and Labrador by jorgejuansanchez
Province of Newfoundland and Labrador Travel Guide: 1,101 reviews and 3,217 photos
The beginning of this unique journey across unexplored territories is Baie Comeau, in Quebec. Further north is the emptiness; no bus service, no asphalted road, wild bears and mooses around, very little traffic which includes some trucks carrying containers with freezing fruits and vegetables, plus some bold tourists in their motor homes. If you do not have a car, the only two ways to cross that territory is walking and hitch hiking.
The distance from Baie Comeau to Goose Bay, in Labrador, is 1100 kilometres. Signs on the road regularly advise you to be careful with the fuel in your car because during several hundreds of kilometres there are not petrol stations.
In fact, as I checked in a map that the Tourist Office in Baie Comeau gave me (they tried to persuade me not to venture to hitch hike, but to take a plane, saying: “C’est la brousse!”), between that village and Goose Bay, there are the following and only stops along that journey into the wilderness:
- Kilometre 22: fuel station plus a cafeteria and motel
- Kilometre 344, Manic 5: fuel station, motel plus supermarket
- Kilometre 383, Relais Gabriel: fuel station and motel
- Kilometre 561, Fermont village: fuel, food, everything
- Kilometre 567, Labrador City/Wabush: fuel, food, everything
- Kilometre 812, Churchill Falls: fuel, food and one motel
- Kilometre 1100, Goose Bay: fuel, food, everything
First Day, 23rd June 2008. I reached the kilometre 344
I walked until the exit of Baie Comeau, and started hitchhiking on the road 389.
About five cars and trucks passed by during the three hours that I kept waiting on the road. The drivers looked at me surprised to see a hitchhiker, but did not stop. I was beginning to think that I had made a serious mistake by trying to hitch hike along that unusual highway.
Suddenly a car stopped. The driver, a man of about 60 years old, told me that he was heading to an encampment in the middle of the forest, at 80 kilometres distance, where he worked, but I would not be allowed to stay there for the night, and it was becoming dark to hitchhike. So he suggested dropping me off in the first petrol station, at 22 kilometres distance, where, in case of rain (it rained every day and every night), I could find a shelter. I agreed.
Once I arrived there I reconciled myself with the idea to spend the night in that place. The cafeteria was closed, as well as the motel because the next day, 24th June, was Saint Jean, holiday in Quebec.
Anyway, I hitch hiked for a while and about one hour later, already dark, a car stopped. The driver was a lady, Suzanne, about 50 years old, and her companion was Daniel, a young friend of about 25 years old. They were heading to the kilometre 250, to an Ecological Reserve called Louis Babel, the first European origin explorer, who arrived there during the second part of the XIX century. They informed me that in that park there was a lake with an island in the middle, and that the whole site was formed by a meteorite that impacted the Earth 210 millions years ago. They said that the place was overwhelming beautiful and sheltered exotic flora and fauna. But since they had only a tent for two people, they could not invite me to go there with them, but they would drop me in Manic 5 instead.
Once we reached Manic 5, I found an empty barrack and spent the night there, on the floor.
Second day, 24th June 2008. I reached the kilometre 567
People are afraid of the unknown. If you hitch hike on the road, they will have fear of you and few will pick you up. But if you ask the drivers directly, in a petrol station or in a cafeteria, for instance, you have more chances to get a ride
And that is what I did. At 6 AM I was ready to hitch hike. I went to the cafeteria of the motel while the customers were having breakfast and requested, one by one, to be taken until Fermont, or further. The truck drivers unanimously refused with the excuse of the insurance, and some customers too at the beginning, declaring that they had no room in their cars (not true, as I realized later on). But when I insisted to their wives, who usually went later for breakfast, they were more willing to take me, and one of them finally said that they would reorganize their bags in their car so as to make room for me.
My “drivers” was a 50 years old couple from Sept Îles. They were driving to Goose Bay too, but slowly, taking their time to visit everything interesting. They calculated that they would arrive to Goose Bay after week later. They were on holidays and wanted to know deeply that part of their province Quebec. When I informed them that the Ecological Reserve Louis Babel was a wonder, they answered me that they had already foreseen to make a stop there for a while, and invited me to go with them.
First we stopped besides an enormous dam, and later on we arrived to the breathtaking Ecological Reserve Louis Babel.
The journey was being wonderful and the nature was picturesque and exuberant.
When we arrived to Relais Gabriel they decided to spend the night there.
I went to the restaurant and asked the customers if somebody was heading to Fermont. A man, of about 55 years old, from Montreal, asked me why I was hitchhiking. I replied that it was the only way to get to Labrador overland from Baie Comeau and, furthermore, I was short of money after two months travelling around North America. He alleged that his company does not allow picking up strangers. Then I went out and started to hitch hike. After half an hour or so, the truck driver changed his mind and invited me to accompany him until Labrador City.
The truck was huge, carrying refrigerated cargo to Labrador City because, as he said, in Labrador they do not produce anything and all the food has to be carried from Quebec.
He was very pleasing man; his name was Alain. He explained me many anecdotes occurred during his frequent journeys from Montreal, and has seen many bears and mooses. Until that moment I had not seen any big animal in the Trans Labrador Highway, apart from some porcupines.
We traversed Fermont, but did not stop. Then we crossed to Labrador City, inhabited by about 9000 persons.
It was only midday, so I walked out of the town and began hitch hiking in direction to Churchill Falls.
I noticed a bower (that in Spanish we call “glorieta”) in the middle of the Peace Park, with roof, where I would sleep.
Third day, 25ft June 2008. I reached the kilometre 812
The next morning, at 7 AM, I was again on the crossroads, at the start of the Freedom Road, the Route 500.
One hour elapsed, two hours, three hours, and nobody stopped. I was desperate. In Quebec to get a ride was much faster. Finally, around midday, a young man stopped and took me 40 kilometres further. He was working asphalting the road. When we arrived at his destinations I saw that there was a single road with space for a single car only, so all the cars had to stop. When they did it, I asked the drivers if they could carry me to, at least, Churchill Falls, and soon an old gentleman agreed.
The new driver was the postman. He did everyday the same trip of 245 kilometres each way, to bring the mail.
During that journey I saw my first gooses in Labrador.
Churchill Falls was a very original little town of about 900 inhabitants with the houses distributed in such a way that they were forming a great quadrilateral square, and in the middle there was a complex sheltering the only hotel (the Midway Travel Inn) with the only restaurant in town, the only supermarket, the only bank, school, swimming pool, public library (with free internet), gymnasium…, in short, everything was there, only there.
Churchill Falls is a new village and owns its existence to the Hydroelectric Power Station, which gives work for the entire population. I read that it is the second largest underground power station in the world, second only to another one in Quebec.
In the Public Library I was informed that I could have a free excursion to the Hydroelectric Power Station. I immediately agreed.
Soon came two young girls, very pretty and pleasant, and drove us (me and a couple from Toronto) to the Power Station, where we were given helmets and during a couple of hours we received technical explanations about the Power Station, saw a didactic film and descended in a lift underneath to see the gigantic turbine and all the complex. After that we returned to Churchill Falls.
The couple, Gerald and Doris, aged 80 years old each, had driven the Labrador Highway with their car, all the way from Toronto, via Baie Comeau and Labrador City. They were heading to Goose Bay, like me, and from there they would board a ferry to Newfoundland to meet their daughter.
I asked them if they could take me to Goose Bay the next day, and they agreed.
It was cold outside, and that night I slept in the complex, over a bench. Previously I asked permission to security (two ladies) telling them the truth, that I was short of money and could not afford to pay the hotel, and I was granted it. In the middle of the night I woke up and noticed besides me: fruits, drinks, chocolate, yogurts, cheese, ham, sandwiches…!!! I had food for at least two days. Thanks security ladies!
Forth day, 26th June 2008. I reached the kilometre 1100
After my breakfast (the fruits and sandwiches left by the security ladies), I went to the first floor, to the room of Gerald and Doris, helped them to carry their suitcases to their car and, at about 8 AM, we left to Goose Bay.
After one hour or so, a car coming from the opposite direction stopped, opened the glass window and informed Gerald to be careful and not to go out of the car because he has seen a black bear 200 metre ahead.
We drove those 200 metres, and…. Oh! How wonderful! A great male bear was crossing the road. He looked at us but did not pay us much attention and continued his way, indifferently, until he disappeared into the forest.
Before reaching Goose Bay we stopped for a break and Doris invited me to drinks and sandwiches. Then we saw the welcome sign in a huge wooden monument informing us that we were arriving to Goose Bay, a village of about 8000 inhabitants.
They dropped me off in the downtown and they drove to their hotel.
I made it!
- Pros:There is still adventure in this world
- Cons:many mosquitoes
They will give you a lot of information, sailings to other parts of Labrador, dates and prices of the ferries, etc. A... more travel advice
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