Labrador Daze
by Jim Low
Copyright 1996

Join me on my journey to Labrador last summer:

You discover that the Trans Labrador Highway has been passable by cars (with a little luck) since 1994.  What are you waiting for?  Head to Baie-Comeau, Québec in your little Chevette with your tent and sleeping bag, and drive up the partly paved Manicouagan Highway to Labrador City in western Labrador.

The first part of the Trans Labrador Highway is considered good.  It’s a gravel road known as “The Washboard” which leads you to Churchill Falls in the middle of Labrador.  You soon learn why it has that name—it’s like riding over the surface of, well, a washboard.

When you stop to make your picnic lunch, you have a pleasant surprise: lunch has already been prepared for you.  With all the vibrations over The Washboard, the jars have their lids jarred loose (now you know why they are called “jars”).  Of course, the jars that you carefully set upright were jarred onto their sides.  The tab holding the bread in the bag is also jarred off, and the bread is free to spread out.  Voilà—the peanut butter and jam have miraculously spread themselves over the bread, and you have ready-made peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  Enough for a week, no doubt.

Passing Churchill Falls, you reach “The Pit Run.”  It’s not as good as The Washboard.  It's the pits all right.  Pitted with large boulders jutting from beneath the surface, and pitted with potholes between the boulders.  Watch for the strategically placed potholes where the wheels go down as a bolder sticks up underneath the car and—voilà—no more underbody of a car.  The speed limit on The Pit Run between Churchill Falls and Goose Bay is 50k/h.  That means “We dare you to try going that fast!”  In your Chevette, plan on doing the 288km Pit Run in 15 hours over two days.  20k/h is pushing it.  There are no facilities along the way, so you pitch your tent off the side of the road.

Even as you travel through the wilderness of Labrador, you find many friends.  They are mosquitoes and black flies.  Of course, you welcome them with “Deep Woods OFF.”  You can almost hear them cheering “Oh boy, dessert with our dinner” as you carefully apply the wretched stuff.  You put on the head net.  You then have an especially cosy relationship with those bugs inside the net.  One word of advise:  don’t try eating with the net on.

Camping in the true wilderness of Labrador, the only toilet is that provided by nature.  You learn not to tie up nature’s toilet too long.  Besides contending with our insect friends, you learn that the next time you visit Labrador, you will bring an ice scraper.  It's a real challenge using credit cards to scrape ice off the car windshield on a frosty July morning.

By the time you complete The Pit Run, your appearance matches that of the pitted road.  Don’t you just love having all those love hickies from those loving bugs?

Having reached Happy Valley-Goose Bay, you complete the Trans Labrador Highway branch to Northwest River before returning to Goose Bay for the 36 hour ferry ride through Iceberg Ally to Lewisporte, Newfoundland.  Don’t even think of the Titanic as you pass icebergs!  You quickly drive to north-western Newfoundland where you catch another ferry back to Labrador, then drive the Labrador Straits trail to the 16th century Basque whaling station at Red Bay.  Along the route, you look over the Strait of Belle Isle to enjoy the sight of many icebergs.  You have now traversed every road in Labrador from one end to the other—all two of them.  I hope you enjoyed the challenge and adventure as much as I did.
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