Monday, July 6, 2015

Land of ancient peoples

St Barbe, NL – We are on the doorstep of Labrador this evening, a few mi-nutes’ walk from the dock where a ferry cros-ses the Strait of Belle Isle several times a day. We’ll be on that ferry in the morning.

The first leg of our drive today as we bid farewell to beautiful Gros Morne National Park was familiar ground; we’d been up as far as Cow Head and back and to parts between several times over the last five days. Our route hugged the coast of the Gulf of St Lawrence, bringing us past picturesque small fishing villages. We passed a few spots that we plan to visit on the way back, because we will have to retrace our steps in a few days.
We did turn off Highway 430 just past Hawke’s Bay to see Port au Choix, where there’s a national historic site. On the way, we passed through Port Saunders. It has a large Marine Services building with a cluster of fishing boats next to it, in and out of the water. As we have seen in many of these small towns, the homes are modest but neat, and there’s a sense of community that has been forged over years of hard work and daunting challenges.

Even the trees along the shore speak of fierce winter gales, with trunks bent low by pre-vailing winds, and branches twisted and gnarled by years of salt spray. Splashes of wildflowers – bright yellow buttercups and pink and purple fireweed, and even frothy white dandelions gone to seed – nestle in ditches and on hillsides.
We were pleased to see the turn-off for the Parks Canada site had space for our RV-and-car package. Inside was a small museum devoted to the aboriginal populations of this region, dating back some 4000 years. Many of the artifacts on display were unearthed at archeological digs in the area. Back in the 1960s a local resident was digging a foundation to build a movie theatre and found an ancient burial site. It’s one of several sites around Port au Choix.

A short video explained the arrival of migrating tribes from four ancient cultures: Maritime Archaic Indian, Groswater Palaeo-Eskimo, Dorset Palaeo-Eskimo and Recent Indian. Each of these depended on the sea for their livelihood, with its whales, walruses, seals and fish. They also fashioned excellent tools from the rocks, and from animals’ bones. We saw some sharpened blades and harpoon heads that were beautifully made, as well as needles and some jewelry made from bears’ teeth.
We had a great chat with Kyle, a Parks Canada guide, who provided lots of answers to our questions with enthusiasm and quite a depth of knowledge.

It was close to three o’clock when we arrived at our destination. This is more of an RV parking lot than an RV park, but we will be able to leave the RV here in security when we make our day trip by car tomorrow. And for a change, we had a home-cooked dinner, including green vegetables!

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