At 7am, it is already 12 degrees centigrade. I am a little worse for wear today as I slept on my “Good Night” chocolate. Trust me, this is not a good thing to do. It isn’t pretty. I guess my cold was getting the better of me last night and I forgot to put the chocolate in the dresser drawer with all the ones from previous nights. I slept on it instead! Just think about that.
At breakfast it sounded like the ship had been taken over by a company of seals. Germs seem to be taking over the place. I am no longer the only one coughing.
The Ghost Coast of Labrador is technically behind us and has been for several days, but as we continue south (more or less) our next destination is the Change Islands. Located between Notre Dame Bay and the Labrador Sea, this group of three islands is the home to about 300 and was at one time, a main port for fishing schooners sailing to Labrador. Two of the islands are populated. The middle and most southern are separated by the “main tickle”, a narrow strait. The most northerly is most difficult to reach while the southern ones are more populated, boggy and treed.The town, itself, straddles the tickle. Back in the 1700s it was first populated by Europeans as part of the seasonal fishery.
A stiff breeze carries the spray from the zodiacs as they return to the ship to ferry the next group of us back to the main dock in town. Daniel Payne, from the ship, as well as other musicians from the islands, fill the air with fiddle tunes. The locals are out in full force to greet us and so begins another amazing show of Newfoundland hospitality. Cars line the road leading to the pier so that any who wish can just pile in and be driven to the school, on a short tour, or to the beginning of the Squid Jiggin’ Trail. No one here is worried about seat belts or over crowding. Always up for a challenge, I lug my tripod and hop into a car to be let off with others at the beginning of the trail. The view is breathtaking. The climb just takes what is left away. The other hikers begin to diminish in size as they scramble over the rocks more efficiently than I do. The trail is narrow and rocky. Parts have been provided with handrails and safety lines. The tide is out as we work our way around the bay and exit the trail near the white church clad with wooden siding. It was built in 1896.I am part of a group of stragglers that wanders downhill past the post office. The tickle is lined with salt box houses, nicely kept and in most cases painted the same immaculate white as the church. The stages are painted up in traditional red ochre. One by one, people stop to converse with the ponies that watch us closely as we pass. Descended from those brought to the island by early settlers, they have adapted over the centuries to the harsh realities of life in this out-port. They developed thick manes, heavy winter coats and close-set legs that helped in walking the narrow paths. They are reported to have been hard workers with good temperament. In addition they were able to survive on little food. According to Rare Breeds Canada, and despite their strengths, these ponies have now been declared to be in danger of extinction. Over the last twenty or so years, the population has diminished from 12-13,000 to 88 that are now registered. Most live in the Change Island Newfoundland Pony Refuge. A few are located elsewhere in Canada and the United States. Their demise is attributed to the establishment of ant-roaming laws in the 1960’s and the advent of snowmobiles and ATV’s that usurped their work. In the A. R. Scammell School auditorium, the locals and the visitors mingle to the benefit of all. (Scammell was the native son who wrote the Squid Jiggin” Song.) More fiddle music sets the stage as tray after tray of home made goodies replenish the buffet setup in the middle of the gym. Gallons of coffee are consumed. There is much laughter and the buzz of constant conversation fills the air. Being social is a good part of outport life and today I am again the beneficiary of this endearing hospitality. References: http://www.changeislands.ca