Labrador- where Honesty and Simplicity reflects in individuals, landscapes and Oceans!!
Lest did I know about the big land, its story and its culture when we started planning a trip to this eastern-most province in Canada. Our initial plan was to drive through the island of Newfoundland, which was promptly interrupted by my wife’s idea of covering a less explored region of Labrador. I believe her urge to flaunt was the most important drive for the inclusion of the South-East coast of labrador in our itinerary.
After spending 5 days exploring East, North and North-West parts of Newfoundland (details of which I will leave for another day), we took a ferry from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon, QC. Within minutes of driving from the port, the big land welcomed us to its magnanimous lap.
Our first stop in the labrador was Point Amour lighthouse in L’anse au Clair. It is the second-highest lighthouse in the whole of Canada and the highest in the Atlantic region. This lighthouse with 132 steps to the top, once housed more than 680 member crew of vessel Raleigh, which had sunk 200 yards from the shore. Each step offered space to crew members saving them from extreme winds outside the walls. Both history and beauty from the top of the lighthouse mesmerized us, and our 3 year old just couldn’t get enough of ascent and descent of the steps. We had to carry a shouting kid out of the lighthouse, fighting with all her strength to climb up this tower of goodwill again. The story of this lighthouse had set the tone for what was to follow in the next few days.
We had booked our stay through Airbnb at L’anse au Loup, but before we could reach there my stomach shrugged me for a basic necessity- food. With just one cafe and a fast-food restaurant in the vicinity, we unwillingly agreed on fast food. The name “Fast Freddy’s” reflected what was about to hit us. Loads of fries, Poutine, and a hamburger made “Fast Freddy” sound “Fast Fried” to me. Food was relatively ok, but going over-board on Fish n Chips over the last few days had made us a bit fishy of fried stuff.
With a full stomach and partly satisfied taste buds, we reached our accommodation to hear the surprise of our lives. On enquiring for the key, the host told us that he has never locked the front door of his house in the last 27 years he has lived here. No one does. Now coming from the city where kid’s bike has to be stuffed inside the apartment for the fear of an addict carving the chain and selling the bike for his next puff, this was unrelatable. With heavy heart, I unloaded our stuff from my tired Rav4 to the house. The evening was made better with Screech, that I had picked up from a local store just after entering L’anse au Loup. Black Rhum and an amazing sun-set diluted all my worries of sleeping in a lock-less house.
The hustle of a crying kid who had just learned the power of the word “No” and was abusing it to its full extent in annoying her parents, was the start of our drive to Mary’s Harbour. As we left the town, road construction and heavy fog multiplied our annoyance. Our twisted foreheads needed something special to get back in shape and special it was. As we descended a hill to get across the fog near Red bay, we noticed a shimmer of reflection coming from the ocean. It took us a minute to realize that we were actually lucky enough to view an Iceberg in Red bay in August. I immediately off-roaded to a narrow path which showed some promise of a better view. Traveling barely a km on a gravel road, we reached a spot where we could see the wonder called Iceberg, a first for us, bright and clear.
As much as I wanted to cherish this wonder a bit more, our bookings at Mary’s harbor for battle harbor did not allow us the luxury. We decided to visit Red bay again the next day and take a boat to see it closer. We reached Mary’s harbor in another 90 minutes. A brief wait and then we boarded our speed boat to Battle harbor. We started our day trip with lunch at the cafe (there’s only one on the island), which was moose chili over the rice. With all the anticipation and hype of watching the moose during our trip, the only place we could do that was on our plate. After an amazing meal, we started exploring a recently abandoned island (as recent as 1960) to understand the lives of people residing in the once most influential center of trade in Labrador. Going through the history of settlement from 1770 to 1960 with a local who had actually seen the resettlement of 1958 which had literally put an end to a once flourishing center, I could feel the strength of time right in my face. With thoughts and memories of breathtaking views, we left Battle harbor for the mainland at 4 pm. On our journey back to L’anse au loup, we tried catching another glimpse of the iceberg but the fog was too thick. Our dinner at Whalers cafe at Red bay was enjoyable though. Tired, we hit the bed in no time.
Next day we started again for Red bay in anticipation of viewing the Iceberg up-close. After a brief argument on breaching our budget with my spouse, the sheer pull of Iceberg made me agree on the unbudgeted cost of a boat ride to Iceberg. With fog still obstructing any visibility, the news we got from the restaurant was quite disheartening. Iceberg had moved further and no one would venture into the fog unless they see where the iceberg is. Hoping for the best, we started exploring how Basque whalers from Portugal shaped this fishing village with a treasure that lighted whole Europe- Whale oil. Having gone through artifacts at the interpretive center, we decided to take a guided tour to Saddle island to understand more about the history of Basques. Again, a local who had seen the excavation of an under-water ship with his own eyes in the 1970s guided us through the island, sharing his tit-bits mingled with the story of Red Bay and Saddle Island. Though we could not have another glimpse at Iceberg, the stories of Basques left us overwhelmed.
Since we had a ferry to catch at 3:30, we moved out from Red bay at 1pm stopping multiple times on the way back to absorb as much beauty of this vast land as we could.
But wait.. Post is not over yet.
Once on ferry, we wanted to get our last bite closer to the big land. As I reached for my wallet, there was no trace of about 350 dollars that I had stuffed in there a few days back. So much for no locks, I thought and whole ferry trip was spoiled not from the loss of money but with the loss of a belief that such a flawless place did exist on the face of the earth. Alas! Flawlessness in the beauty of labrador throughout land and seas could not be matched by men.
But then I realized that I definitely saw the money the previous day while handing over some cash at Mary’s harbor. I decided to call the store which I had frequented multiple times to get beverages (milk for my kid and Screech for myself). With access to Google, I could readily reach the store, where a friendly voice greeted me. Hello! Jackie from Earle’s store. I asked her if they had found any money yesterday or today to which the answer was yes. Their CCTV helped them track the sequence of events which showed that I had dropped the money while taking out my credit card. A customer had found the money, who handed it over to the manager, who in turn informed the owner. After initial questions to ascertain that I was the one to whom money really belonged, She asked me to come over and pick up the cash. But I was already reaching Gros Morne in Newfoundland. So she told me that she will ask the owner to Interac transfer the money to me and took the necessary details. As expected I received the money in the next 2 days
It is amazing how small incidents shape our perceptions. With $320 back in my account, the honesty of that random customer, store manager and owner of the store, as well as memories of tranquil landscapes of labrador, I will always remember the labrador as land untouched with human greed so far!!