Canada Stories and Tips

The Trans Labrador Highway Hitch-Hiking

The beginning of the Trans Labrador Highway Photo, Canada, North America

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.
According to a map that the Tourist Office in Baie Comeau gave me, 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

I was fascinated by the adventure to cross that unknown land. During that same journey to North America I had already crossed the Trans-Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek to Whitehorse, in Yukon, and the Trans-Mackenzie Highway from Peace River to Yellowknife, in North Western Territories. Now, in order to complete the series, I had to enterprise the Trans-Labrador Highway.
There I go!

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 was heading to an encampment in the middle of the forest, at 80 kilometres distance, but I would not be allowed to stay there for the night. So he suggested dropping me off in the first petrol station, at 22 kilometres distance, where I could find a shelter. I agreed.
Once I arrived there I noticed that the cafeteria was closed, as well as the motel because the next day, 24th June, was Saint Jean, holiday in Quebec.
About one hour later 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 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, Suzanne learnt through the supermarket employee that one of the barracks of the motel, the number 26 B, had been booked by a group of Quebecois tourists for the next day, but that night was empty, so I would be able to spend the night in the wooden corridor, for free, sleeping on the floor, because outside was raining, and there were plagues of mosquitoes. When Suzanne and Daniel went away, they gave me drinks, sandwiches, chocolate and a bag full with fruits. Merci beaucoup!
I slept happy and even had a shower, taking good care the next morning to leave the place clean, thus the coming tourists would not notice that a stranger slept there the previous night.

Second day, 24th June 2008. I reached the kilometre 567
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. 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, invited me to accompany him until Labrador City.
The truck was huge and the driver was very agreeable man; his name was Alain. He explained me many anecdotes occurred during his frequent journeys from Montreal, and had 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.
I found a place to sleep, a bower (what in Spanish we call “glorieta”) in the middle of the Peace Park, with roof, where I would spend the night.

Third day, 25ft June 2008. I reached the kilometre 812
The next morning, at 7 AM, I was 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 forming a great quadrilateral square, and in the middle there was a complex sheltering the only hotel, the only restaurant in town, the only supermarket, the only bank, school, swimming pool, public library, gymnasium…, in short, everything was there, only there.
Churchill Falls owns its existence to the Hydroelectric Power Station, which gives work for the entire population.
In the Public Library I was informed that I could have a free excursion to the Hydroelectric Power Station. I immediately agreed together with a couple from Toronto (Gerald and Doris) who, next day agreed to take me to Goose Bay in their car.
It was cold outside, and that night I slept in the complex, over a bench.

Forth day, 26th June 2008. I reached the kilometre 1100
In the morning 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 had just 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!

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