Labrador: Big Land, Bigger Hearts
When the Trans Labrador Highway opened up—making it possible to drive 1,072 kilometres from Labrador City all the way across the province to L’Anse-au-Clair on the coast—Sandra Phinney and her husband decided to make the trek.
Labrador is so huge that the rest of Atlantic Canada (including Newfoundland) could fit quite nicely into it. Touted as one of the world’s last frontiers, Labrador holds beauty that is gob-smacking. There’s something about the light (and air) that gives things a three-dimensional quality. Even that oh-so-long mainly dirt highway commands a certain respect, brought home by signs like the one outside of Churchill Falls: NEXT SERVICE 294 K. CHECK FUEL.
The most striking feature of this land, however, is her people. Hospitality went far beyond what we could consider “normal.” For example, when working on our itinerary, we discovered that it wasn’t possible to find a room in Labrador City. (The next town with accommodation was more than 500 kilometres away—not a good prospect after an eight-hour drive from Baie Comeau.)
Being prepared for emergencies, we had camp gear and hoped to pitch our tent at the Grande Hermine RV Park about 40 kilometres past Labrador City. A friend called on our behalf, but owner Cavel Burke said, “No way! There was ice on the lake last night. Stay with us!” Shortly after we arrived, we were enjoying Cavel’s peanut butter cheesecake while Ned told us stories about the 45-pound stuffed trout on the wall and the white maple tree lodged smack in the middle of the lodge.
Touted as one of the world’s last frontiers, Labrador hold beauty that is gob-smacking.
Fast forward several days to Battle Harbour. This is where Marconi set up the first wireless station and where explorer Robert Peary announced his breakthrough to the North Pole. There are no cars on the island and you can walk the circumference in less than two hours. But you’ll want to linger every step of the way. Luckily for us, the winds picked up shortly after we arrived; we were stranded for four days. I danced a jig!
We spent our time gawking at two icebergs parked behind our lodgings, playing a trivia game called “Newfoundlandia.” (If something is scow-ways is it high, low, damaged or slanted? Answer: slanted.) We also poked around the settlement where many of the original buildings have been restored.
And the food! Thanks to Myrtle Rumbolt, we had stick-to-your-ribs kind of food three times a day, served in a communal-style dining hall up over the general store. I’m forever grateful to Myrtle for showing me how to cook Fish & Brewis.
Labrador. I have enough notes to write a book. I yearn to go back.