The Armpit of Newfoundland

Bay d'Espoir, Central Newfoundland

Summer 2010.

One of the last places in Newfoundland which I hadn't visited yet, was the South Coast's Bay d'Espoir.

There were multiple reasons, including the fact that it's a one-way destination with only about 15 small towns, the fact that there apparently wasn't anything super exciting & the fact that it is 144km (90mi) between the Trans Canada Highway and the first town in the Bay d'Espoir region.

My motivation to see Bay d'Espoir skyrocketed when I heard of someone referring to the area as the armpit of Newfoundland (a derogatory term for an area - New Jersey has been described as the armpit of America).

I don't know how to explain it, but any place lacking pictures, visits or positive reviews (when talking about cities/regions) excites me & actually makes me want to visit. I find that there's beauty in every community & something worthwhile to see in every community...and therefore want to see every community.

You can also add in the fact that I don't put much value in the opinion of people who describe places as the armpit.

It's a 280km (175mi) drive from Corner Brook to even reach the turnoff for Highway 360 (the highway which leads to Bay d'Espoir).

So leaving work on a Friday, by the time Nicole & I drove to Highway 360, then down the 160km of Highway 360 to our campground, it was time to set up the tent & enjoy the evening.

We stayed at Jipujijkuei Kuespem Provincial Park, which was awesome because of its setting, 3pm check-out time, $10 camping fee & desolation.

We heard two or three other couples, but that's not much for a place the size of a provincial campground.

We brought some beers down to the lake & went for a dip, before retiring to the tent before long.

We woke to an overcast morning at our campground; and soon found rain as we drove south.

Systematically driving down all of the highways in Bay d'Espoir, we first went through St. Jacques.

Going through a foothill pass and east to Belleoram, we were both impressed with the beauty.

Belleoram would easily be the most picturesque community of Bay d'Espoir.

As we drove down the roads which weren't wide enough for two cars, I figured that Belleoram had to have a lengthy history.

Belleoram's history dates back to 1774 and that church was built in 1891.

I came to learn that Belleoram was only connected to the Newfoundland highway network in 1972.

Belleoram used to have a lighthouse, but it has been gone for a while. I wanted to drive down to the wharf to see its replacement, and now you've seen its replacement as well.

I would have liked to walk around Belleoram or the nearby trails, but we left Belleoram instead, since the weather was less than optimal.

Although Belleoram's lighthouse was gone, I knew there was still one on an island off the coast between St. Jacques and Belleoram. Therefore, as I drove along, I braked abruptly when I could surprisingly see the lighthouse from near the top of the road.

I've looked at topographic maps and there's a little cove to the lighthouse since Nicole wants to go back down to Bay d'Espoir, we're going to have to see about asking a fisherman for a lift in the future.

We left the highway to go into English Harbour West, as it was another community which used to have a lighthouse.

Now they have this modern beacon.

I made a point to appreciate English Harbour West after talking to one of the residents on the phone.

The woman told me that one day a resident ran into the community and exclaimed that the Coast Guard was demolishing their lighthouse. She explained that before any of the residents knew it, or could go down to the end of the town, the Coast Guard had already demolished their lighthouse and were flying away with the pieces. As I knew what the lighthouse looked like, I understood as she explained that it wasn't very big & that the community would have been happy & able to maintain the structure themselves. She explained that many people in the community had their first kiss at this lighthouse and formed relationships at this place which was only a 5-minute walk from the community - to the people of English Harbour West, the small lighthouse meant a lot.

It's a shame that the Coast Guard didn't offer English Harbour West an opportunity to adopt the lighthouse. How can they not realize how important these structures are to communities outside of navigation purposes? I could maybe understand an old unsafe brick tower...but English Harbour West's lighthouse looked like it needed about as much maintenance as a tool shed.

We drove the rest of 363 towards a few more communities, before returning to our original place and going down the rest of the Highway 360 peninsula.

The next community was Bay d'Espoir largest, the town of Harbour Breton - home to the only land accessible lighthouse of Bay d'Espoir.

Driving through the community to a parking lot, there was a boardwalk through a bog. After 5 minutes of walking, I had now seen Newfoundland Lighthouse #39! With the same lovely star balcony supports as Sandy Point Lighthouse!

We also stopped to appreciate Harbour Breton's impressive Sunny Cottage.

This house wasn't indicative of the housing stock as a whole. As Newfoundland Registered Historical Structures carefully describes it, "An extravagant dwelling amid the relative poverty of an isolated outport community."

We backtracked again & went down the last highway, 364.

The rain increased as we drove down this road & it seemed like a shame. The hills were becoming more dramatic while waterways cut up the surroundings. It seemed like it would have been a nice drive if it wasn't rainy/drizzly.

We continued onto a gravel road near the end of the peninsula, until that I declared that gravel road too sketchy for Nicole's Kia. From there we walked, trying to reach a community which was resettled in the 1960s.

Without a GPS & only a paper map, I thought we would have been fine as the map only indicated one road in the area. We walked for quite a while & didn't see much besides some cabins.

We could have been a few minutes away or not even remotely close. We gave up & turned around, while cursing our failures.

I quickly forgot about my failures when we found an actual open restaurant in Hermitage (we surprisingly couldn't find one in Harbour Breton).

Noticing that they had chili cheese nachos & hot dogs, I ordered both and created my chili cheese soul food.

Since it was $10 to camp at Jipujijkuei Kuespem, and the weather seemed to be nicer inland; that's where we stayed again on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, we approached a set of gates which we had also approached on Saturday morning. I read that you could go for a tour of the Bay d'Espoir Hydroelectric Power Plant & that enticed me in a land where there aren't that many sizable structures.

They couldn't give us a tour on Saturday morning because there was some sort of problem, but they worked with us on Sunday morning.

We were given hard hats, safety glasses & visibility vests, then led through the facility which provides the province with 40% of its power.

Before & during the tour, I wondered if we were an annoyance to the workers, as they surely can't get that many people coming for tours. Thankfully it didn't seem that way, as the man happily led us through the working guts of the plant, the turbine room & the control room.

It was all very interesting & cool to see areas where few people likely go.

One of the most interesting things was the two aerial photos showing all of the land that they flooded for this power plant.

He told us that the dam was really impressive, but after looking at the starting condition of the 60km gravel road leading to the dam, we decided against it.

After exploring all Saturday in the drizzle & the rain, it was time to leave Bay d'Espoir on a beautiful sunny day. I didn't leave thinking it was the armpit of the province or the most spectacular place either, but I did think that it would be a bit unfair to judge a place based on a murky day.

We briefly stopped in Lewisporte for the skatepark, until I grew upset at having to ride such a shitty skatepark.


1 - Belleoram - Explore Newfoundland and Labrador

2 - Bay d'Espoir Hydroelectric Power Station - Wikipedia

3 - Sunny Cottage - HeritageNF

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