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When we learned that our Adventure Canada Newfoundland cruise was bringing us to Garia Bay for hiking, we asked: "Where is Garia Bay?"

Adventure Canada passengers land at Garia Bay
Adventure Canada passengers land at Garia Bay
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Checking the map of Newfoundland in our ship's lobby, we discovered that it was located on the southwest coast, east of Channel-Port-aux-Basques and west of Burgeo.

Garia Bay history

Once the hunting grounds of the Mi'kmaq people, the area is noted for its Grey River caribou herd. During the mid 1800s, settlers lived in Garia, but by the early 1900s they had abandoned the community. We saw only a couple unoccupied cabins.

After our ship anchored within sight of the rocky beach and hilly coastline, we boarded Zodiacs to bring us ashore.

Southwest coast hike

Stefan Kindberg, our expedition leader, gave us a choice of three hiking routes. All were guided by Newfoundland resource people on our cruise, including author, Michael Crummey and photographer, Dennis Minty.

Hikers climb hill on Southwest Newfoundland coast
Hikers climb hill on Southwest Newfoundland coast
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"Walkers who take the long and medium hikes to the top of the hill will have fantastic views. Those who walk along the beach will also discover lots of interesting things," said Stefan.

He concluded his shore excursion briefing with good advice: "Bring drinking water and sunscreen!"

Tuckamore forest

Climbing the hill, we felt like we were mountain goats. "It's too steep to go straight up," advised Dennis Minty. "It will be easier if you zig-zag." He was right.

We walked over sphagnum and caribou moss so spongy that it bounced back like foam. It was easier to skirt around the impenetrable tuckamores (stunted balsam firs and spruce trees) than to walk through them. Like battered bonsai, they clung defiantly to the hillside.

As we reached the top of the hill, we felt as if we were in one of those Newfoundland TV commercials, filmed from a helicopter. We inhaled the clean, fresh air and enjoyed the panoramic view of Garia Bay.

Pink juniper flowers
Pink juniper flowers
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Newfoundland berries

It was June and many of Newfoundland's delicious wild berries were flowering. Cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus), called bakeapples in the Atlantic provinces, blossomed with five white petals above their crinkly green leaves. The dogwood-like flowers of bunchberries (Cornus canadensis) were also white.

It was too late in the spring to see the flowers of the crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), but we did examine the plant's short, fleshy leaves. The berries, which ripen in the fall, are also called blackberries, but they are not segmented like blackberries that we buy in grocery stores.

We spotted a partridgeberry that survived the winter. "I've seen robins eat these fermented berries and become drunk," said birding expert, Dave Snow, who also accompanied us. "When intoxicated, they can fly into windows or approach you."

We examined the pretty pink flowers and needle-like leaves of juniper shrubs. Nearby, we found more common Newfoundland plants — Labrador tea, pitcher plants and rhodora, which boasted showy purple blossoms.

Map lichen
Map lichen
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Map lichen

The progress of our hike slowed as we stopped to examine and photograph surprise discoveries. In a clearing on the hill, we found the remnants of a caribou leg, complete with hoof.

Further down the slope, our guides pointed our map lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum). Growing on rock, the irregular green patches resembled countries on a map, bordered by ocean.

Near the beach, we discovered several white sea urchin shells. "Herring gulls ate the caviar inside and left the shells behind," said David Snow.

Coastal walk

Back down on the rocky coastal beach, we met Paul Dean, the geology expert on our Adventure Canada cruise. As we walked along rocks, scarred by glaciers, he helped us understand their geology.

"This pink petit granite from the Appalachians is 380 million years old," he said. "In the granite, you can see veins of quartz, the most common mineral on earth."

Pink petit granite
Pink petit granite
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Differences between granite and quartz

To help us differentiate the minerals, he placed small pieces of the rocks on our outstretched palms. "Quartz looks like glass," he said. "Feldspar looks like tooth enamel."

We asked why the feldspar was pink. "It contains potassium," he said. "Granite must contain quartz and feldspar, but quartz does not contain granite."

As we strolled along the rocky beach, he explained that there are granites like this all over the south coast of Newfoundland. "Don't confuse it with Labrador granite," he said. "It is mostly labradorite, which is not granite because it has no quartz."

Paul Dean made our Garia beach walk both interesting and informative. Our hour with him passed quickly. It was time to board the Zodiacs and return to the ship to resume our Newfoundland cruise.


Gros Morne National Park

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Adventure Canada

More things to see & do on Adventure Canada Newfoundland Circumnavigation cruises:

Newfoundland Traditional Music in Black Duck Brook - Port-au-Port

Tablelands Hiking Trail - Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland

L'Anse aux Meadows UNESCO Site Tour - Visitor Center, Trail and Sod Huts

Fogo Island Newfoundland - Brimstone Head Trail Hike

Newfoundland Beer, Iceberg Vodka, Screech and Berry Wines