Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Three Men, a Cave, and an Island of Wolfhounds

Bella the Cargo Ship is ready to service the Lower North Shore and you have a ticket to embark on the adventure of a lifetime . She will bring you on a journey of isolation, and a new kind of cold that you have not experienced before.  Each port-of -call takes you deeper and further into the desolate, barren lands of the North.  This is not a cruise. You must be quiet and stay  out of the way- but you are welcome to come observe!  Hop aboard! Hear the language, taste the food, and see the strength of an ancient people who have endured and survived on this unforgiving, foreboding land since time unknown.

                     Let me show you to your quarters!

Here is the route!  Precious cargo will be delivered up and down along the coast of the Lower North Shore.  If you miss a stop while you are sleeping- don't worry!  You will return along the same route on the way back, and hit it during the day time.


 Here is a small fishing village called Kegaska!  Most of the people here speak English, but  French and Innu are more common as you continue further North. 

       You can cast a tall shadows on the high Tundra!

You find a shipwreck on the shore.  It is lonely here- something stirs deep inside, but you can not explain.

         Now the People will know we were here!

                   In some places, the way is tricky with tight passages!

   There is beautiful Bella in the background, docked at Harrington Harbor.  Keep her in your sight now! You must watch when the cargo is all unloaded- she can not wait for you!  This man has come on the ship.  You see, he was once the pilot who delivered supplies to these communities by air back in the 1950's!  These were the days before the cargo ship.  He  has come to see his old route (by ship now) one last time. He recalls and reminisces of those people he held so dear in these strange lands. He tells you about an Innu man who  always asked him to bring  Kentucky fried chicken.  The Pilot did not find this man, and for the rest of the trip he had a far away look.  You are humbled by these stories of a place and people lost in time.

There are no roads on these isolated communities. Instead, residents age 8 to 88 drive four-wheelers around the rocky islands.  When the ship comes to drop off supplies, the four wheelers appear as if ants running down a hill- little black dots against the white tendrils of snow, making their way down to meet the ship!

The passage way between the rock formations is very narrow. It is terrifying as you will see  here!  You believe for a moment the ship will smash into this rock wall, you brace for the impact! 
And look, there is a baby iceberg bobbing along in front of this little home on a rock island.  What do you think it must be like to live here?

          The channel widens, the sea has turned to ice. POW, BANG, SWISH!  The bowels of the ship echo as the vessel rips through those ice sheets.


  This man is named Christian and he has come all the way from France.  He speaks a different kind of French, not like the French of  Canadians.  Christian looks out in awe at the sea of ice. You see, he is chasing icebergs!  Yes, and so he will not be returning once the cargo ship reaches her Northern most stop.  Instead, he will walk off in Labrador and continue further North.  You never hear from Christian again- but you are sure his dream was fulfilled.  He would have surely seen the Greenland icebergs that  brake off and migrate to the Canadian arctic!

             Look how far North you have come!

 And this man is a lawyer from New York!  He is the only other person on the ship that can speak English and so you are happy to meet him.  He is trying to go around the entire world slowly- by boat, train or on foot.  He gets off at Labrador, but he does not go North with Christian. Instead, he takes a ship to Newfoundland, and eventually explores Nova Scotia, PEI, and the Maggie Islands seemingly without any concern or concrete plan.  The Lawyer is taken in by the allure of isolated communities, and the culture of island people. He seems as a happy child, eyes wide in wonderment, and not much at all like a fast-paced New York Lawyer! 

Every stop brings a new kind of cold. The air and the ice and the wind becomes your new world- that is all that there is.  There are no distractions, you must face it. Each stop takes you further away from anything familiar, further away from everything you have ever known.   And so you shed little layers of yourself, until there is nothing left and no where to go, and you must come face to face with yourself.  

The people who live and work this land will leave you touched.  It seems they are only  surviving- but there is a resolve about them that lacks the anxieties seen in the modern world today.  

There is a special connection between this cargo ship and the communities she serves. The ship acts as a conduit between these two worlds and the people that live here. At every stop, the  Maitre D'  will go down into these villages to speak with the locals.  He will purchase their fish and shellfish and exchange goods.  For dinner that evening, you will have Salmon freshly caught from the Jupiter River, or you may just have a Lobster  trapped that day from Natasquan!

With fresh fish served 3 times a day you suddenly realize the cold does not strike you so quite so  hard. You feel strong in your body, you stop shaking and your senses become sharper.

Most of the people that live on the lower North Shore live semi-nomadic lives. They move to the coastal waters to fish and trade along the shores in the summer.  In the winter they migrate inland, following the rivers and waterways to hunt and cut wood for heating.

It is a happy day when the cargo ship brings supplies from the mainland.  The people will meet the ship excitedly and take their goods away on there ATVs.  Gasoline, wood, food and other provisions are offloaded.  You go down to meet these people - with hand gestures and broken language they will give you the warmest welcome.  You may trade your gifts and novelties for some of their carvings and  artwork made in their traditional ways.


You are looking for Marguerite's cave.  Marguerite de La Rocque was thrown overboard by her father here on the Ilse of Demons.  He was angered that she had fallen in love with a deck hand.  She survived in a cave somewhere here and gave birth. She fished and hunted and was rescued years later by a fisherman.  Eventually she returned to France and became a school mistress. You never find Marguerites cave as the snow is too deep.  You resolve someday to come back and find that cave.

On the way back you stop at the Anticosti Island.  On a map, this island appears like an amoeba about to be swallowed by the great mouth of the Saint Lawrence seaway.    You walk into the little village and for a moment you think there is Irish Wolfhounds everywhere.  But they are deer. There are only 200 people that live on this island but there are 200,000 deer. These deer are in the driveways, and lying by garages and sleeping under the doorsteps.  

 The deer come up to you  and you feed them some dates.  What a strange island you have found yourself - where the deer roam the streets and where there is a waterfall bigger than Niagara Falls.  You will certainly hear the stories of 400 shipwrecks, a one-time chocolate factory, and a ghoul that haunts the island to this day.

The ship plows on and you are almost at the end of your journey.  You  have sea bass for your supper that night and head into a lounge area.  There are Innu men and mothers with small children taking this ship back to a neighboring village.  

  The seals have come, as far as the eye can see. By the tone of their voices you know it is an exciting event marking a seasonal passage.  They speak quietly in their ancient language.  It becomes like a lyrical rhythm- a song lulling you into a strange sleep as the ship ebbs and churns.

The ship pulls into port for its last stop.  You have embarked on journey that has stripped you down to barebones but renewed your spirit in doing so.  Somehow you must turn your back on it all head home. You must face South. You do it- and you vow for the clutter not to pile up on you again, but it comes back in time.  It always does. And so you look back over your shoulder just one last time, and hold off as long as you can.