Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Edge of the Wild
Travels in Western Newfoundland, Part 9
A taste of the southwest coast and Rose Blanche

Hello!  If you're new here you may want to visit the Travelogues page in order to read this series about Newfoundland in chronological order.  And now, the last episode in this series...

A pleasant, winding road leads east from Port aux Basques for about 30 miles, along the southern coast of Newfoundland, past several small, picturesque towns, culminating at the town of Rose Blanche.  Although this area has the reputation for stormy seas and numerous tales of terrible shipwrecks on the rocky coast (as well as an epic story related to a dramatic rescue of shipwreck victims by a heroic dog), on the particular day of our visit, the skies were cloudless and the ocean a calm, deep dark blue.  As with other areas of the province, each town along this route has a hiking trail of some sort that visitors are encouraged to follow to learn more about the area.  Photographers would do well to seek out these trails, as they often showcase the best that the villages have to offer in the way of already dramatic scenery.  Try not to miss this area.  It's not far from Port aux Basques and the ferry, and between the green, rocky, treeless hills, the wandering streams, ponds and bogs, the ocean vistas, and the village trails, this is an action-packed place for a photographer.

At the end of the road, lie the two adjacent towns of Rose Blanche and Harbor LeCou.   

Harbour LeCou
We came this way in part because I had memories from an earlier jaunt to Rose Blanch in 1991.  At that time the Newfoundland fishery was still in operation and Rose Blanche was an active fishing village.  The fishery closed in 1992, and the town has seen a steady population decline of year-round residents.  As with elsewhere in the province, compared to 20 years prior, there are many fewer boats in use, and many more abandoned ones.  In my own humble opinion though, Rose Blanche and the surrounding area is still one of the prettiest areas in the western part of the island, with trim, well-kept houses, positioned along crevices and gorges through the rocky hills leading to natural harbors along the sea.  The first time I saw it two decades past, near twilight, with the lights twinkling in the houses perched along the cliffs and channels, some of them literally cabled to the rocks to keep them from blowing over in storms, it seemed surreal.   During our recent visit, in the broad light of day, it was more solid, but still intriguing.   

An area of Rose Blanche
Rose Blanche's official trail and tourist attraction is its spectacular stone lighthouse and museum, which is open for self-guided tours for a small fee.  The lighthouse dates from 1871 and was severely damaged in 1939 during a storm.  It was a ruin when I visited in 1991, but it has since been meticulously reconstructed with much loving care and accuracy.

Rose Blanche Lighthouse
A wonderful panoramic view of Rose Blanche can be had from just behind the lighthouse, looking down the channel that leads to the town.  Other fine views can be had by exploring around a bit in the town itself, but in the tight quarters of the narrow streets it's easy to find yourself in someone's driveway or yard with no easy way to turn around.

Rose Blanche
In addition to the remarkable lighthouse and picturesque town, another sight in the area is the presence of an outport.  Outports are small villages that are located beyond the reach of Newfoundland's road system and can only be accessed by boat or on foot.  Almost all of them are abandoned now, as is the village of Petites, the outport near Rose Blanche, though at one time it was home to over 300 people.  It is only accessible by boat (though backpackers can bushwhack to it through 20+ miles of mountains and barrens (here's an interesting account of hiking in, along with some photos of Petites: http://macdonald.typepad.com/cc/2006/05/backpacking_to_.html).  It is clearly visible in a longer lens or binoculars and there is a sign pointing it out near the start of the lighthouse trail.

From Rose Blanche, those with more time can take a ferry that visits other isolated outports along the southern coast of the province, that are still inhabited.

The outport of Petites
At this point in the trip I had switched from my usual Canon DSLR gear to my small, micro four-thirds Panasonic G3 due to a malfunction in my "walk-around" Canon lens.  My guess is that the wave that crashed over me during the boat trip up Western Brook Pond had done damage that took a few days to have an effect.  Everything on this page is taken with the G3 except the outport shot, above which was taken with a 400mm (640mm equiv.)

The following day as we clanked across the entrance to the ferry, and parked next to an 18-wheeler, also bound for Nova Scotia, far to the southwest, I found myself already planning the next Newfoundland adventure.  My most critical advice for travelers heading to The Rock, as the Newfoundlanders call their home: take absolutely as much time as you can.  This is a huge place, and unless you plan to stay only in the capital city region, you will be driving hundreds of miles no matter what you do (and the roads are, in general, quite good, even in the rural areas.)  We had 11 days to go up the peninsula and back, and we almost always found ourselves trying to cram as much into each day as possible, from early morning until late evening.  We also weren't able to fit in even a single "down" day, and found ourselves sometimes eating dinner or doing laundry at 11:00 at night.  And we really only scratched the surface of this marvelous, beautiful place.  Have I mentioned that we only saw the western part of the province?  The larger, more populated eastern side, as well as Labrador, will need to wait for another time.  Photographers, be ready for rain, wind, salt and glare!

This post brings to an end the "Edge of the Wild, Travels in Newfoundland" series.  Next time will be a visit to a vastly different place: Upstate New York's Adirondack Mountains in Autumn.

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible trip! Loved your narrative and photos. I long to go.