Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Goodbye to Labrador

Well, I'm in Quebec, and I'm not particularly happy about it.

Maybe it's culture shock, being back among the crowds and traffic and strip malls, but I'm a bit depressed. I miss Labrador, and I wish I was back there. I want to tell someone where I'm from and get an enthusiastic "Hyah Boyo! Dats a roide!" in response.I want to do a sweat with Max, go on a boat ride through the icebergs, drink wine with the Russian ladies and beer with the road workers while they hit on the pretty bartender. I miss the people of Labrador. I almost miss the black flies.

There are some things I didn't mention here, because I didn't want to upset some important readers (Hi Mom!). The road was a bit trickier than I let on. In Churchill Falls I saw a truck with its transmission ripped off by a large rock, requiring a $2,100 tow back to Lab City, and a trailer with a broken axle. For riders, the penalty was greater. Two riders, part of a group of 12, crashed near Goose Bay. One had a broken rib and a punctured lung, the other was being kept for observation after hitting his head hard enough to crack his helmet. Rob and Jim, from the motorcycle magazine, had to turn back after Jim crashed and had to be airlifted back to Newfoundland. I hear he is doing fine.

There's a great deal of disagreement among trans-Labrador motorcyclists about the difficulty of the road, or the difference between sections of it. Part of that is down to rider skill and experience-- things which challenged me, another rider might find easy-- but I think the greater factor is the changing nature of the road, from the action of the weather and the relentless graders. After a while, you learn to read it, but it requires constant attention.

It's a challenge, and while I didn't set out to put a check mark next to it on some list, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little proud.

I went to Labrador to see what I could see, and I took the time to visit as much as possible, but I still feel like I missed a great deal. Every day, the Trans-Labrador Highway is being paved more and more, and like the road, Labrador itself is changing. The Fermont Road is filled with trucks carrying houses bound for Lab City, to house the influx of workers. Muskrat Falls, where I camped near the Churchill River, will be dammed up soon, the river will slow to a trickle. The Innu will soon have their own homeland, and maybe that will go a ways towards healing the broken spirit of that people, and Cartwright's fate depends on the whims of travelers willing to head a little further up the road.

The road, and the Labrador I saw, won't be the same the next time I come here. Only Churchill Falls, the strange little suburbia in the wilderness will remain unchanged.

I left Labrador yesterday. The exact border is in dispute, but the first sign of Quebec is the great mine at Fermont, with its mountain of tailings and its lake colored an unearthly pink. From there, the gravel road twists through the mountains and over railroad tracks. After a few hundred kilometers of gravel, this was the best part of the road. It passes through Gagnon, a ghost town marked by a few paved roads and curbs (though perhaps not for long), then on to Manicouagan Reservoir, the site of a meteor impact 23 million years ago, with sibling craters all across the globe. The gravel ends at the huge Manic 5 Dam, and I spent the night at the nearby Motel de L'Energie, dusty and tired.
Gagnon, soon with Timmy Horton's

Tonight, I'm on a perfectly beautiful beach, which I've just realized I have my back to, as the sun sets.

One thing I've learned in my solo travels is that the reception I get is entirely dependent on my own attitude. If I put forth the effort, I receive it back tenfold. Right now, though, I'm not up for it. The language barrier seems insurmountable. I think I'm going to walk up the hill and try to find a quiet bar. I'll feel better tomorrow.

Ever forward.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on finishing the Trans-Lab; doesn't sound like it is an easy thing to do this year. Your feelings about missing the place already are echoed by nearly everyone who visits. That's what initially sold me on doing this trip.

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride. I feel like learned a great deal but there is still so much left to experience that you didn't ride my ride for me.