There are very few tourists heading for Corner Brook, in Newfoundland’s Humber Valley, for the simple reason it is jolly difficult and expensive to get there. The rail connection is a thing of the past. It is a seven hours’ drive to the capital of this 42,031 sq mile island, St John’s. St John’s does have air links with the outside world, but if you want to fly to that airport it will cost you over C$400 one way, from one of the airports within 100 km of Corner Brook (Deer Lake is closest). And yet… this is a township of 20,000 that desperately wants tourists, for its skiing, and hiking and summer-long water sports. Look at the landscape. Getting off Seven Seas Navigator, the gal headed for a hiking adventure, yes, another one. This time the terrain was really tricky, partly because yesterday’s snow – OK it is SUMMER! – had made the root-studded earth footpaths quite precarious.
We learned there are only ten indigenous mammals on the island (moose, which were introduced, have become rampant). The main industries in Corner Book are education and health, and paper mills: the biggest employer, formerly Bowater, is now Kroger. Main Street stores include a firework emporium that is also a pharmacy that conveniently happens to sell birthday cards and ladies’ underwear as well. Nearby are tattoo parlours, three of them. But if you do not like the outdoors, better move away as soon as you can. Our route took us back and forth over Corner Brook Stream, at one point following a hundred year-old wood pipe, about three feet wide, that took water straight down to the Kroger mill – because of its age It was pierced in many places so we had continual sudden shower bursts.
At the end of our three-hour excursion we were dropped at Jennifer’s, listed in the local Visitor Guide under its ‘fine dining section’. We went into this dark room, with dark tables, dark chairs, and had black coffee in glass mugs – and apple cake and whipped cream, on white plates. And then we got into a yellow school bus to ride 15 minutes back to the ship (Navigator has under 500 passengers, and goodness knows how this little port will cope when a 5,000-passenger ship calls in next summer, though it is rumoured the entire island will have a school holiday so all their buses can be borrowed). Back on board Navigator as we prepared to sail, Kroger Mill, which had been receiving long trailers of cut logs at few-minute intervals throughout the day, was still emitting the steam of hard work.
The blessing of travelling this far north during summer is that you do have gorgeously long days. Back home in the Navigator suite that, as always, had evolved into a perfect base for its occupants, it was time for the usual gin and tonic made by Mr Portugal, José, up at my favourite bar counter, and dinner with friends and to bed. And the sunset was memorable. Even with the sea as rough as it was yesterday, namely a Force 10 gale which meant we had to miss out Sydney NS completely, it is the sea, the sky and the sunsets, that give cruising an edge over land-based luxury resorts, however memorable.