Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 24

About 2:20AM, we awake to the sound of the thursters. It is misty and cold when Carolyn goes out on the balcony. The ship’s search lights are aimed at the tender area on 3 starboard and the back of the ship is lit up, but it is too foggy to really see anything. Back to bed until the normal time. We get dressed to go ashore and head to breakfast.

After breakfast we head to the Observation Lounge to watch the approach to the tiny hamlet of Red Bay. The Labrador coast is in sunshine, but the Newfoundland coast is barely visible through the clouds. Carolyn spots several whales swimming along with the ship as we cruise. Then we see a large hump of land, with a marine signaling tower and what looks like an old light keeper's house on top, sticking out into the water. As we get closer we see a few houses tucked back in a small bay.
About 10AM, the ship anchors off the large humpback rock which forms a protected bay and turns out to to be Saddle Island where Basque fishermen came and set up their largest and most used whaling operation in the 1500's and early1600's.

There are several tours today, a short walking tour and two long ones that head to a light house down the coast, but we decided to just walk about the town on our own. The Basque settlement has been developed into a National Park featuring the results of the extensive archaeological work done on both land and under water in the area. Around 11AM, we decide that there have probably been enough tender runs to get the tour groups off so we head to deck 3. There is still a line as one of the tenders died in the water so we opt to go up to the open deck off the Club, where we can sit and watch for the tenders to start moving again. This doesn’t take long and we are soon on our way to Red Bay.

There is a small welcome center giving out maps and directions right next to the tender landing along with a couple dressed in traditional Basque costumes posing for pictures.
We pick up a map and get directions...follow the the Park's Visitor Center!

It is a little walk over a slight hill and we are in the center of town where we find a cafe/souvenir shop and part of the museum. After a shopping stop for a pin for Jack, we head up the hill, the only road to Red Bay,
for a visit to the little white church and the rest of the Museum.

We want to get tickets for the boat over to Saddle Island to see where the whaling station was. Now, exactly why we have to walk to the uphill museum building to get tickets for the boat ride when the boat leaves from the museum building that we were just in is a mystery! The museum at the top of the hill has one of the four 16th century Basque whaling boats that was recovered from the harbor on display, a chalupa.
If you follow the road out of town around the small bay you come to a walk/stairs that will take you to the top of another hill where there is a really nice view of the area. At the foot of the stairs is another walk that goes along a beach littered with whale bones.
Both look like good walks, but we are told the walk to the start of both is about 30 minutes plus the hill top walk is another 1.7KM return and the beach walk is .5 km return. Carolyn’s knees are not up to that so we stick with our original plan and walk back down the lower museum.
The boat leaves on the hour and we arrive about 12:45. When the boat driver arrives, Carolyn decides she isn’t even up to the 1.7KM walk around the island. As it turns out the tide is out and it is a five foot climb up a pole ladder at the island dock to get off the boat which Carolyn couldn’t have done.
Dick and a couple from Alberta, who are seeing Canada in their camper, go on the trail together. He enjoys the walk as it is well signposted and interesting although there is not really much to see since all the archaeological sites have been reburied and there are only little signs telling you what was found in a given location.

Carolyn spends some time in the lower shoreside museum that tells the story of Basque in Red Bay based on the results of all the archaeological digs over a 15 year period....very interesting. She then buys a couple of local handmade things at the little craft shop in the museum and a cap for Dick before walking back to the tender.
Room service lunch and a nap on the balcony in the warm sun are just what the Doctor ordered.
Dick gets back about 3:30PM and just makes it to the grill in time to get some pizza and a beer.

There is really very little to do in Red Bay, but we still found it interesting. One hundred and fifty hardy souls live there, many third and forth generation. The nearest medical services are 40 minutes away...we found this out because a local fell and it took 40 minutes for the ambulance with first aid to arrive. There is a K through 12 school in the village and there are 19 students and 4 ½ teachers!

Most people thought the tours were not worth it as they used the school buses. Since school is in session now, the tours were rushed so the buses could do the school runs. Too bad the residents didn’t come together and offer rides over to the walking paths...the one along the beach looked very easy and doable by most people if the hour and a half round trip walk from the tender to it was removed. Several people did do the whole walk and enjoyed their day. The weather has been so bad/different this summer, many of the planned cruise calls have been canceled because the ships couldn’t get into the harbor, including the one yesterday. We were lucky and had a beautiful warmish day to boot!

On the way back to the ship Dick strikes up a conversation with a couple who turn out to be one of Carolyn’s CC friends we had never caught up with on the ship. He learns that the plans for the tours tomorrow are all messed up due to the lack of enough busses. The only tour they could get was one that didn’t really appeal and it was scheduled to be on a school bus. Since we have a car rented, Dick asks them if they would like to join us. We meet for cocktails and enjoy a great sunset. Then go to dinner to set up the day.

The dinner is great tonight. We start with an order of caviar with all the trimming....well everyone except Carolyn, that’s not her thing. Then we all have the rack of lamb special with pots of chocolate or strawberry cheese cake for desert. The lamb is done to perfection! We have a nice evening and get our port time tomorrow worked out.

We are not into the evening entertainment, but they have been almost every night and say the various acts have been very good. We have eaten with four of the entertainers and throughly enjoyed them and the dinners, but shows at 10PM are just too late for us. Dick would much rather go to sleep and Carolyn often enjoys a late movie in bed with a pot of tea.

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