THE TRANS-LABRADOR HIGHWAY 2010
CHARLOTTETOWN AND PINSENT'S ARM
I turned off Highway 510 with Casey's tripmeter showing roughly 174 kilometres (I forgot to take an exact note) and so all of the mileages that I am quoting along this road are (Casey's tripmeter - 174). That will have to do for now - it's the best that I can do.
There's a sign just here that tells me that this road is called "Charlottetown - Islands and Coves" - or at least, it's what is written on a sign that is very similar to the sign on Highway 516 to Cartwright that told me that the Highway there was "The Metis Trail".
While I'm in a forgetful mood as far as kilometres go, I forgot to record the mileage of the first exciting object along the road to Charlottetown. This is a photo of the Gilbert River, looking upstream towards the south-west.
What is interesting about this photograph is that you can see how the banks of the river have been cleared of evergreen trees - whether by human action or whether by the action of meltwater flowing down here in early summer. What is growing back in its place is deciduous shrub and maybe that's more of an indication of whatever is the climax vegetation around here.
This is the view looking upstream to the north-east. It's a gorgeous wide bay with a little sandy beach over there just right of centre. There really are some picturesque sights around here in coastal Labrador.
And the Gilbert River? I've no idea. The only Gilbert who springs to mind is Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an Elizabethan adventurer and half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. He is known to have sailed to Newfoundland and round about there so it might possibly be that he came here too. But who knows?
The bridge, by the way, is dated like all of the concrete ones around here. This one is from 2003 and so that might give you something of an idea as to the age of the road.
By many of these rivers I've seen a few signs such as this one but I could never approach near enough to read what they say. Skilful use of a telephoto lens and an image-editing program did the business though.
It's a scheduled salmon river (I knew that anyway) and only fly-fishing with approved tackle is permitted, and then only with a licence. The sign is in English and French, but not in any First-Nation language which I find surprising. They could manage to do that on the Upper Labrador plateau . Why not here?
Just after the bridge parked a little way back from the edge of the highway is a caravan. It may well be one of these caravans for the road menders. It's all happening at this bridge, isn't it?
A few kilometres further on (I'm still having memory issues around here) I encounter a quiet little cove. But that's enough about my private life - here's a silent little bay.
What's interesting here is that the place is covered by swarms of dead trees, just like in dozens of places that I stumbled onto in Upper Québec and Upper Labrador. I'm intrigued to know what is causing it all. Is it acid rain from the gold-distilling maybe? Or a major attack of death-watch beetle? Or maybe it is something that I'd rather not know about.
At kilometre 19 there's an absolutely huge lake but it actually takes some time to find somewhere where there is anything like a half-decent view of it.
A couple of kilometres on and there is still nowhere decent, so I reckon that this shot, at kilometre 21.2, will have to do. It's a long way from being perfect but the the only other possibility is to climb up there and stand on that cliff behind me or something like that. it isn't easy.
There are two things to note here. Firstly, the weather. It's all grey and overcast again. I'm having no luck with it at all. Secondly, look at the road surface. This is quite good for Labrador and I wish they could finish other roads in this province to the same standard.
And in other news, you may recall that I was having something of fuel issues yesterday. The gauge on Casey was down to half-full after only 200 kilometres from fuelling up, which was astonishing. Today, I've travelled 191 kilometres since fuelling up and I haven't even dropped to ¾, which is what it should be.
Something peculiar and weird happened at that petrol station at Goose Bay yesterday morning. I think that the difference today was that it was I who filled up the tank.
Approaching Charlottetown, at 25.2 kilometres along the road, I was presented with this sight straight ahead of me. Of course, it pretty soon clicked as to what exactly it was - an airport runway of course.
But let me ask you - have you ever seen a railway … "railway??" ...ed… yes - I'm having brain-fade here. Have you ever seen an airport runway as steep as this one? It's astonishing.
It doesn't take long to reach Charlottetown - after all, it's only 28 or so kilometres from the main highway to here. Well, 27.1 kilometres in fact, said he, having done the calculations at a later date.
"Here" is the road junction to Pinsent's Arms, just a short way outside the town, and it's quite an exciting place to be as there's a roadworks depot, a timber lorry - all kinds of interesting things in fact.
Just one hundred metres or so further on we have out first glimpse of the town, and this is rather pretty.
Never mind the town though, and never mind the bay, just look at the state of some of these houses and some of the yards. There's all kinds of stuff accumulating in them. I could be quite happy to live in a place like this, given the conditions under which I live. Growing my crops, though - now that would be a real challenge.
First stop in a place like this has to be the harbour - after all, it's the sea and the maritime harvest that are the raisons d'être for these communities. And so down through the town I drove, all the way out to the far side where the road came to an end.
It's another sheltered harbour similar to the one at Cartwright and you can see something of an assortment of maritime transport in the harbour. But there the similarities end. For while Cartwright is as old a settlement as you might find along this particular part of the Labrador coast, Charlottetown was not founded until 1950.
A local author, Benjamin Powell, had some kind of fancy for the town of Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island and decided that the tiny summer fishing settlement of Old Cove should become some kind of capital of the bay here, with permanent settlers and all the usual facilities.
I'm half-expecting to find the place full of misguided and misinformed Japanese tourists looking for Anne of Green Gables.
Heading back around the bay towards the town, I stop to take another photo of the harbour. Here's an even better view of how much it is sheltered. You can see why it would be an ideal place for a maritime community.
In fact there are a great many sheltered harbours along the coast of Labrador that would be ideal for fishing communities. The problem is that there aren't so many people wishing to brave the winter climate out here in order to take advantage of them. These sheltered harbours ended up being populated by scattered communities of just two or three houses, and I'm going to mention something about that in just a minute.
A little further around towards the town I took yet another photo, this time including a rather dusty Casey in the shot.
What is interesting about this shot is not anything in the image but it relates to where I am standing. This is the driveway of the Community Health Centre, and that dates from 1975.
There have been many initiatives by the Canadian Government for consolidating many of the tiny scattered fishing communities in the coast, relocating the inhabitants into larger permanent settlements so that economies of scale could provide for a better and more complete infrastructure. I wonder therefore if this Health Centre and the date of its founding is anything to do with this.
I do understand that there is a considerable amount of First Nation settlement all around this area. Is it the Innu or the Inuit? I shall have to check up. But whatever group that it might be, modern thinking suggests that they would benefit from 20th Century medical practices, although some other people may not be so easily convinced.
So that was Charlottetown. A really pretty fishing port. There were all kinds of facilities here you know - a restaurant, a variety shop, a take-away food shop as well as fuel. What more does anyone need in a place like this?
The people were nice and friendly too, smiling and waving to me quite cheerfully. They obviously don't know me very well, for if they did they wouldn't be so pleased to see me.
I noticed the airport runway a little earlier as we arrived at the town, and seeing as we missed out on the Cartwright airstrip earlier this morning, I reckoned that I would go for a quick butcher's.
It's just a simple steel-framed and cladded structure - nothing complicated at all. And it's flying the Canadian flag of course and also what is probably the flag of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. But it's not possible to make a close inspection as it's all locked up.
It's a shame that the airport was locked up because I wouldn't have minded having a wander over to the runway. All well.
To make up for that, I set the camera carefully to the horizontal and took a photograph. This will give you a good idea of how steep the slope actually is. Imagine taking off and landing on a runway like that, especially near these houses and between these mountains.
From the airport I drove back up to the junction to Pinsent's Arms because that was my next port (if you pardon the expression) of call. The junction here is at 206.6 kilometres on Casey's tripmeter by the way, so I will be knocking that amount off the recorded distance of anything that I talk about, so as to give you an idea of its whereabouts.
But on the signpost, the place is described as "Pinsent Arms". And I have also seen it described as "Pinsent Arm" and "Pinsent's Arm" so I have really no idea of what the place might be called.
Along this road to wherever it is that I am going, I don't have to wait too long until I find something worth photographing. 2.8 kilometres, in fact.
There's an incredibly steep drop down the road upon which I am travelling, right down into the valley at the bottom. And then, there's an even more spectacular climb up out of the valley. I hope that it's up there where we are heading. It's going to be quite spectacular.
I was right about it being spectacular by the way. Once I'd been through the valley and up to the top at the far side, at about kilometre 5.5, I had to stop to take a photograph of the reverse angle, so spectacular was the view.
You can see on the skyline where the road comes over the summit back there and that was more-or-less from where I had taken the previous photograph. I then drove all the way down that slope from there, and I'm now on what was the skyline in the previous photo.
And so over the brow of the hill and down the other side of the slope and almost immediately - just 500 metres or so further on, there's a smashing view of a lake. Or is it a fjord?
Anyway, it doesn't really matter what it is. It's certainly beutiful. In fact I was ebginning to think that this road down to Charlottetown and Pinsent's Arms or whatever was the most picturesque part of the whole drive so far.
There isn't any doubt at all though about the objects in this photo, taken at 16.6 kilometres along the route. In this view there is a lake, and in the background is a little cove and the sea.
Of course there are lots of electricity and high tension cables bringing power to the settlement, but with all of these coastal heights in the neighbourhood, what on earth is wrong with having half a dozen wind turbines up here? Take my word for it - it's certainly windy enough.
At about 17.9 kilometres I come across a shrine for someone named Damien Burden. It's quite a strange thing to encounter just here.
Now you might probably think that it is grotesque or gruesome, me photographing this shrine and using it for some kind of tourism purposes, but there's a little more to it than that. I used to have a girlfriend at school and her middle name was Burden. It was such an unusual name to call a child and so I asked her about it. She replied that this was the maiden name of her Scottish father's mother, and it was the practice in the kind of family from whence she came to incorporate that surname into the given names of the eldest child.
For their summer holidays they always used to go to places like the Outer Hebrides and the western coasts of northern Scotland, but my curiosity in those days was never sufficiently aroused to enquire into the reasons for that. All of those areas were depopulated during the "Highland Clearances" and many people from those parts were just stuck in ships and shipped off to Canada. So maybe there is some kind of family link.
Or maybe there isn't, and its just a coincidence seeing the name.
At 21 kilometres we burst out of the hills and right into the coastal shoreline. This is open water and it looks absolutely gorgeous just here. I only wish I could find a really good point to take a photo that would do it justice.
I don't know if I mentioned it but the road down to here is called "Islands and Coves". Looking at this photograph, you can see why that might be so.
Just a kilometre or so there was another superb view of the bay that is on the other side of the road. This is more like a river estuary here and is sheltered from the Atlantic winds.
The town of Pinsent's Arms or whatever it might be called is actually within the estuary just here and thus protected from the winds off the sea - I suppose that a good sheltered harbour is the reason for the settlement being here.
And note the deciduous shrubbery here - we are definitely having something of a maritime climate just here.
Just a few hundred metres further on there was another spectacular shot of the bay looking out towards the Atlantic. I could quite easily have taken a hundred photos down this last couple of kilometres towards Pinsent's Arm, so beautiful was it around here.
It really is a shame about the weather though. Just imagine clear blue skies aith an early autumn sunset behind me shining over my shoulder onto this scenery.
The significance of this photo, apart from its own aesthetic appearance of course, is that there was a glint of something right over there in the distance. That means firstly that there was a slight hint of sun - the first that I've had for a while - and secondly, were they the windows of Charlottetown in the distance? "No, they weren't" ...ed
I really don't know what more I can say about this. Bearing in mind that I'm a Pisces and I'm only really happy close to water, I reckoned that this part of my journey was the most beautiful of all - and that by a country mile too.
Isn't this just absolutely gorgeous?
Right down there at the end of the road is Pinsent's Arms
Or Pinsent Arm
Or Pinsent Arms
Or Pinsent's Arm
Or even Penson's Arms ( and its very many derivatives) because I have seen the name of this settlement spelt in all of those different ways, and more besides.
It's one of those places that is proud to announce the number of inhabitants that reside there. At the last count there were 55. And as I drove down into the village very single one of them came out to see mes arrive. It's the kind of place where I would really like to live. I might not have a clue what I'm doing but everyone else here would know.
In a community such as this, stuck up the end of an inlet, the sea would be the most important factor, and the quayside would be where everything would be happening. And accordingly, I made my way down there.
I asked some of the locals, who were congregating on the pier attending to a fishing boat, exactly what they were fishing for now that the cod fisheries have collapsed. I was told that whelks and scallops were the licensed catch these days.
Not that I know much about natural history and that sort of thing of course but if they were whelks and scallops in that bucket that they were unloading from a boat at the quayside, then I am going to be getting my eyes tested as soon as I get home.
Another thing that I was interested in clearing up was this anomaly about the name. I accordingly adressed the aforementioned locals a propos the subject and the reply was that the village is officially called Pinsent's Arm.
And just as the name itself is …err… vague, so are the origins of the name. According to the Labrador tourist authorities, it was named for the judge, R J Pinsent, who was appointed to the Labrador Coast circuit in 1963 - but seeing as the settlement became a permanent community in the late 1950s, a few years prior to his appointment, it is difficult for me to reconcile this fact.
Having said that, I have tracked down another judge called R J Pinsent. I've no idea who he might be, but he is known to have written a report to the Governor of Newfoundland about a visit that he made to the Labrador coast during the course of his official duties during 1871. He ought to have been aware of this area, but whether this area was aware of him in those days is another matter.
Other people, however, suggest that it might be named for one of the earliest traders who worked the Labrador coast, one Andrew ... err ... Pinson.
Putting all of this into perspective, it might be said that no-one has a clue about anything at all around here, least of all me.
Another thing that I was told by the locals is that there is a view of the Atlantic Ocean from the back of the town.
And so following the directions, I picked my way thorough the town dump, the scrap cars, the damaged lobster pots and the abandoned everything else, squeezed past a lorry and hiab that was moving some other stuff around, and there I was.
Next stop over there, about 2000 miles over there in fact, is Ireland.
And so that was Pinsent's Arm - and a pretty little place it was too. I had to admit that I was enjoying this whole journey around here. And the people here, just like everywhere else in Labrador so far, are just so friendly and helpful. It makes a really pleasant change from many other places that I have visited.
And this time making careful note of the reading on Casey's tripmeter, which was showing 231.4 kilometres, we turned round to retrace our steps.
This kind of thing is all pretty ominous, isn't it? People have been out in the summer cutting down the timber, chopping it into firewood lengths and stacking it up for it to season through the autumn, such as autumn is around here.
A more bucolic scene you could hardly wish for, but it's the presence of the sleds already in position to be loaded up for transport home that tells you all that you need to know about this place in winter.
I've not seen any huskies or anything like that to pull the sleds though. I suppose that skidoos and the like have taken over from them. But with fuel at $1:32 a litre, surely the dogs would work out cheaper, as well as being much more (or "mush more" - we are talking dog-sleds here) environmentally-friendly. It would certainly be much more fun for a tourist like me.
At the junction with the road that runs between Charlottetown and Highway 510, Casey's tripmeter is showing 255.5 kilometres, meaning that to Pinsent's Arm it is 24.1 kilometres. And here am I in France complaining that my nearest shop is a mere 6 kilometres away, and I don't have 10-foot snowdrifts to contend with for 7 months of the year either. I really ought to count my blessings.
And so I now have a quick 27.1 kilometres to drive in order to rejoin the main highway.
Just before I rejoined the main Highway 510, I noticed these three crosses here. You may recall that I saw a few similar ones dotted about in Upper Labrador and they intrigued me somewhat. And so being stopped in the right place at the right time I went down to have a look at them and take a photo, as well as to satisfy my curiosity.
However, my curiosity remained unsatisfied as there is absolutely nothing at all to indicate who is there, what they are doing there, when they were placed there and why they are there, although one has some flowers on it which seems to indicate that someone is doing something about it.
The ground though seems to be a sphagnum moss bog and I just walked down there and squelched my way to the site, so surely they can't be burying people in there, can they?
I mentioned that I was already stopped when I saw those crosses. The reason why I stopped was nothing to do with them.
What I had seen on the right-hand side of the road upon which I was travelling was the old road. I was persuaded that it might have been the old road along here prior to the modernisation of the infrastructure in 2002. Funnily enough, so was the lady who lives in the sat-nav because as soon as I turned the car round towards that road, she picked it up and directed me off down there. How bizarre!
As an aside, something else that I have been noticing arond here are little areas, maybe 30 square metres or so, that are roped off from the rest of the terrain for some reason and I've no idea why. That's going to be worthy of some kind of investigation.
But not now. Highway 510 is looming up again, just ahead of me.
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