Day 11 CCR: Goodbye to Newfoundland and Labrador
It wouldn’t be Newfoundland and Labrador, it seems, if we didn’t ride in at least some rain each day. This morning, once again, we donned heated gear and rain suits before heading south on the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) toward Channel-Port aux Basques and the awaiting Marine Atlantic Highlanders, our ferry back to Nova Scotia. Don’t get me wrong. I love the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and admire the hearty and friendly people, proud of their unique heritage in a challenging land. The rocky, forested land and the surrounding ocean constantly pounding the shore provide a rugged beauty not found in the rest of Canada. But I do wish Steve could have seen it with better weather and through a clear face shield.
As we rode the final 135 miles from Corner Brook to Port-aux-Basques, the light rain gave way to mist which eventually disappeared and left us with dry pavement. Indeed, by the time our ferry pulled away from the harbor, the skies had mostly cleared and the sun showed its face, as if to highlight inversely the soggy conditions we endured for most of our visit. When we arrived in Port-aux-Basques five days ago, the town was completely obscured by clouds and rain. Today the town, named for 16th century Basque whalers who made it a stopping point on their many voyages to the New World (new to Europeans, at least), showed that it really could hold 4,000 hearty souls clinging to its rocky shores.
I’d like to return someday to the Rock, as it is fondly called by many inhabitants. In two visits I’ve seen much of it and was glad this trip contributed to my store of Newfie knowledge. But there are many more towns and villages tucked away on various parts of the island that possess a unique history, often told in small local museums. I want to go there and meet their people.
Newfoundland has a long history, especially when the settlement of the original peoples, the Beothuk, is included and a shout-out is given to the Vikings who briefly settled on its rocky shores in the 11th century. Four other native groups, most prominent among them being the Innu and Mik’maq added their culture and lore to the county, much of it long before European explorers arrived more than 500 years ago and began to make claims to land they didn’t own. British fishermen and British forces ultimately won control of the island after centuries of disputes with France.
Yet, despite its long history, Newfoundland and Labrador (it’s a single province) is the youngest of the 10 provinces, joining the Canadian Confederation of nine other provinces and two territories in 1949, after a popular vote narrowly approved joining Canada. Newfoundland had been self governing since the middle of the 19th century and gained Dominion status in the British Empire in 1907 (equal to that of Canada and New Zealand, for example), with its own government, currency, flag and other governing accoutrements. In the mid-1930s dominion status was interrupted by financial and political difficulties and Newfoundland and Labrador were operated by the Colonial Office in London until after World War II, when the residents voted to join Canada as a province.
Today I said goodbye once again to Newfoundland and Labrador and rode back onto the mainland when our ferry docked about 7 p.m. After riding 2,500 miles to get to Cape Spear from North Carolina and another 570 miles to get off the rock at Port aux Basques, tomorrow the CCR continues to the smallest of the provinces: Prince Edward Island.