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The Wonders of the Wonderstrands

If you recall, our last stop was in North West River. Although we had tentatively planned to leave there mid day, I often lose sight of time when I follow my nose so it was dusk when we bid farewell to this region and hit that long long (albeit relatively new) road to Cartwright. Did I say that road was long?  I should have known we wouldn’t get there before midnight. 

Sure enough, as the big hand and little hand on my watch were nudging 12, we rolled into the Cartwright Hotel. At this point I wondered if we’d have to sleep in the car or not. Needn’t have worried; an envelope with my name, room number and key was taped to the top of the reception desk, even though the office was closed.  

Barrie could hear voices and music and sauntered into the bar to see some human beings (or so he said) while I sashayed into bed. I noticed a helicopter tied to a pad outside my window. Not something one usually sees in hotels.

The next day was a show stopper. The Wonderstrands.  

Our guides for the day were Pete and George Barrett, owners of Experience Labrador Tours in Cartwright. As I expected to meet two brothers, I was surprised to see that “Pete” was female, and clearly George’s wife. It’s just that she prefers the name Pete to Peyton (and she clearly gets a kick out of surprising visitors.) 

After donning floatation suits and getting into a small boat, we headed to the Wonderstrands—and an impressive and historically significant 54 km sandy beach that juts from the mainland. There, we slid over the side of the boat onto shore—some of us more gracefully than others—and hiked along the ridge of the Wonderstrands. It was like being inside one gigantic theatre. The Mealy Mountains provided the backdrop and the endless beach provided the stage. The surround sound of ocean, wind and birds topped it all off: rugged beauty at its best. 

Part of the scenario includes an old graveyard, where the headstones tell the tale of devastating Spanish Flu back in 1918 that wiped out three generations of a nearby abandoned community. It’s a dramatic story. 

It seems that this region received its name by sea faring Vikings, who called it the Wunderstrands, mentioned in Erik the Red’s Icelandic saga. It’s the kind of place that you just want to hang out for days—all possible with Pete and George. Alas, we had a set itinerary and could only spend the day with them.

After we finished our walk along the Wonderstrands, we motored over to Pigeon Cove where people have turned old fishing shanties into camps. Here, on a big rock, Pete proceeded to heat up stewed moose for lunch. 

Sopping up the moose juice with home made rolls, the discussion turned to food and Pete asked if we’d ever eaten flummies. “Nope,” says I. Pete explained that it’s a thick mix of flour, baking powder, salt and water, fried in margarine and topped with a brown sugar sauce (frequently laced with rum.) By the way, you can add just about anything to flummies including berries, mushrooms or leftover meat.

I’ve since tried this at home and need to tell you that flummies are deadly. Make and eat them at your peril.

Although George has worked for Transport Canada and Canada Post, since he and Pete started the company, he’s invested most of his time setting up various adventures, guiding and exploring. He’s certified as a pleasure craft operator and instructor. Both he and Pete are certified in wilderness medicine. Aside from being a kayak and canoe instructor, Pete’s also an artisan and owns Mealy Mountain Gallery/Fantasy Studios, located next to the shop where they stash all the boating gear. 

Browsing in her gallery and catching our breath before heading onto the next leg of our trek was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Stay tuned for Battle Harbour! 

Note: On February 4th, 2013 Cartwright Hotel was destroyed by fire. They hope to be back in business in the not too distant future.