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Ferry to Corner Brook, NFL
Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 6:30pm by Lolo
160 miles and 3.75 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay
Newfoundland was the part of our journey that we were most excited about. No one we knew had ever been there, so we really felt quite adventurous. We weren't sure just what to expect. I'm embarrassed to admit now, that we pictured a backward, undeveloped island where it would be a challenge to even find groceries. That's why we almost went into a panic when we discovered that our plan to stock up on groceries while still in civilized Nova Scotia was thwarted by the fact that it was Sunday, and all stores in Nova Scotia are closed on Sundays. We were just going to have to take our chances in Newfoundland.
The first clue that my perception of Newfoundland was totally off base was the ferry. Apparently, we weren't the only ones adventurous enough to make the 5-hour crossing to "The Rock." Lined up ahead of us were about 100 other RVs with the same idea in mind. When the time came, we and our adventurous RV brethren drove our vehicles onto a huge vessel that had more facilities and entertainment than our home town did. The boys (and Herb and I) loved it. We didn't know where to start. We made base camp in a set of comfortable chairs in front of the movie screen and the boys wandered from there. We watched movies, listened to live entertainment ("Newfie" music) in the lounge, shopped in the ship store, had lunch in the restaurant, and played Scrabble. Before we knew it, we were docking in Port Aux Basques--but we weren't ready to get off yet!
We ran up to the upper deck of the ship to catch our first glimpse of Newfoundland. The water was eerily calm and the late-day lighting was perfect. Beyond all the activity on the dock and in the surrounding town, we could see the magnificent Long Range Mountains rising in the distance. I knew right away that this island was going to be something special to us.
We drove west out of Port Aux Basques on Route 1 East. I know that sounds confusing, but the road quickly turns east once it rounds the southwestern tip of the island. Besides, there really isn't much road east of Port Aux Basques--just a 20-mile stretch that dead ends at Harbour Le Cou. Beyond that, the only way to reach the towns, or outposts, east of that is via a ferry system. There are no roads to get there. Now that's remote, and probably a lot closer to the original image I had of what Newfoundland would be like.
It was pretty near settling down time for the evening when we got off the ferry, so we knew that we had to start thinking about finding a place to spend the night. We hoped it wouldn't be an issue because of all the other RVs on board trying to do the same thing. I think most of them just drove the 9 miles to J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park, but we decided to drive on a little further. The drive, which paralleled the Long Range Mountains, was stunning.
We knew from the Woodall's Guide that there was a campground in Cordroy Pond, about 50 miles north of Port Aux Basques. There wasn't much at all along this section of the highway, including cars, and it was now totally dark, so we got a little worried that we would miss it--and there wasn't another campground for quite a ways. We all crammed into the front of the cab and carefully scanned the roadside for a sign for the Wishing Well Campground. Finally, we saw it, but just barely. We pulled into the gravel road that lead into the campground and the first thing we saw was a group of campers sitting around a campfire next to a fully lit and decorated Christmas tree. Apparently, it was Christmas in Newfoundland or at least at the Wishing Well Campground.
We entered the office where we were greeted by a very affable and talkative gentlemen (our first official "Newfie"), who spoke with an interesting accent, which included ending each sentence with an inquiring, "Eh?" He was quite apologetic about the fact that they currently had no "hydro" (apparently this was "Newfie" talk for electricity), but we didn't care. All we really needed at that point was a place to park and sleep. In response to our question about what we owed him, he told us, "$10. Dirt cheap, eh?" You betcha, especially since it was $10 Canadian. His friendliness was so genuine and refreshing. We had heard the people of Newfoundland were friendly and if this gentleman was any indication, this was going to be a great week.
The next morning we continued north towards Gros Morne National Park, first stopping in the city of Corner Brook, where our friend from the campground the previous night said would be a good place to stock up. He wasn't kidding. Besides the Wal-Mart, there was a Dominion supermarket, nicer than any grocery store I have ever been in. The boys happily ran around Wal-Mart while Herb and I shopped. Except for a few issues like having to order cold cuts in grams rather than pounds, we did great and came out with a shopping cart overflowing with good stuff. The boys did okay too. Tommy bought this really cute stuffed hamster dressed like a Canadian Mounty that played the Canadian National Anthem whenever you squeezed its foot. And to think I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find groceries on Newfoundland. However, we did find out later that there really wasn't much else nearby and that residents would regularly travel over 100 miles to shop in Corner Brook. It's like there are tiny pockets of civilization surrounded by miles and miles of remote and undeveloped land. I think we're going to like this place.
The Marine Atlantic ferry docks at the southwestern tip of Newfoundland in the town of Port Aux Basques. Adjust your watches because Newfoundland has its own time zone, which is one half-hour ahead of Atlantic time.
From Port Aux Basques, Trans-Canada 1 leads north and runs parallel to the spectacular Long Range Mountains. An hour's drive north of the ferry (about all you want to do when arriving at night) is the Wishing Well Campground, 3 miles east of Cordroy Pond, a good place to stop for the night.
2 hours north of Cordroy is Corner Brook, Newfoundland's second largest city and a great place to stock up on groceries and supplies before heading to Gros Morne National Park. At the Corner Brook Mall there is a Wal-Mart and a very well-stocked Dominion Foods store.
Ferry to Corner Brook location map