A little over a week into our trip, our brother and two friends from Finland joined us in Baie Comeau for the drive through northern Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland.
Baie Comeau, Quebec
Power generation is an important industry in this part of Canada. Power lines crisscross northern Quebec and Labrador carrying electricity from the wilderness to the cities. Numerous dams harness the power of water to generate electricity. Electrical substations fizz, hiss and crackle - you can almost see the sparks - as they transform the voltage level and subsequently distribute and transmit the energy onward.
Daniel-Johnson Dam and Manic 5
Manic 5 is a generating station located some 200km north of the Jean-Lesage Generating Station (Manic 2) in Baie Comeau. Both stations are part of the Manicouagan-Outardes project along the Manicouagan water system, although Manic 2 is also fed by the Toulnustouc river.
The Daniel-Johnson Dam at Manic 5 is an impressive sight. The amount of concrete used to build the dam would build a sidewalk from the North Pole to the South Pole.
Manicouagan Reservoir and Crater
Some 75km further north we began to catch glimpses of the Manicouagan Reservoir. Flying over the area some years before, my seatmate, a geologist, had pointed out the eye-shaped phenomenon and explained that it had been created more than 200 million years earlier when a five kilometre wide asteroid hit the earth and created an enormous crater. The shape and scale can only be appreciated from the air. The next time you fly over the area, look for the 'eye of Quebec'.
The reservoir was created by the damming up of the Manicouagan river after the construction of the Daniel-Johnson Dam, resulting in much higher water levels and a more discernible eye shape.
Standing on the edges of the reservoir, its beauty was greater still. The water shimmered a bright blue and the forests that surrounded it were vast. It was a true wilderness.
The majority of the roads were dirt covered with a few wonderful stretches of pavement. The dirt roads were in good shape, especially given the remoteness of the area, and made for an interesting drive. The scenery comprised mostly of trees, road and sky with an occasional body of water and bridge. No traffic jams, although we did have to stop for construction a few times. Only in Canada is there construction in the middle of the wilderness. The only people we saw were truckers and construction workers.
Labrador City, Labrador
After a long day of driving (approximately 600km) we arrived in Labrador City, home of one of Canada’s largest iron-ore mines, which could be seen long before we arrived in the town.
The night was spent at a campground on the edge of town. The sky was clear and the northern lights put on quite a show. A clear sky also meant a cold night - well below freezing - and we all woke up in the morning covered in frost and ice.