Sunday, June 30, 2013


Transportation is turning out to be more of an issue than I had imagined. I was lucky to meet Eugene who brought me to Sandy Point, and even luckier, I realize now, to have found a ride to Grand Bruit. But no matter how hard I tried, a lift from Grand Bruit to Burgeo could not be borrowed, bought or begged (and trust me, I tried all three).

So now I am back tracking a little, and making a new plan. I'm giving up on the south coast for the moment and heading east on the Trans Canada. My next stop will be Little Bay Islands on the north coast, a town which will almost certainly be resettled in the next year or two. There is still ferry service to Little Bay Islands, which means that I won't get frustrated, or worse, stranded. This will also give me an extra week to try to arrange transportation to Brunette Island and British Harbour in advance. Since just showing up in a town and asking around doesn't seem effective it's time to switch tactics.

I must recount the story of traveling to Grand Bruit because it illustrates so many of my experiences this far in the trip. Grand Bruit is remote - If you drive all the way to Port-Aux-Basques, then continue on route 470 for 45km to Rose Blanche, and then catch a two hour ferry to La Poile you will still be 20km by sea from Grand Bruit. In the other direction, the next community is Burgeo, a 50km boat trip. Grand Bruit was resettled about five years ago so there is no ferry or any other way of getting there except to pay someone to bring you.

Now I thought this would be simple - show up in La Poile, ask around, and make it known I was willing to pay a decent price to go. In a town where every family has a boat, every man knows the coast like the back of his hand, and most people work seasonally (and therefore don't have a lot of options for income), I thought I could hire just about anyone to bring me to Grand Bruit.

However, no one was even remotely interested, or at least no one let on that they were. I think this attitude all has to do with money. No one wants to do it for free because it actually is a pretty big chore and the price of gas alone makes it an expensive trip. But at the same time no one wants to get paid for it either - there is an antipathy towards entrepreneurism in Newfoundland that I'm sure I'm not the first to have noticed. I'm certain that it has something to do with small communities, their tendency towards egalitarianism, and the individual's need to not appear as though he or she is getting ahead of the others. Paradoxically, this makes it very difficult to procure services that one needs (like transportation) in a town where almost anyone is able to provide that service. There is an art to dealing with this attitude that I'm sure I don't know yet, but will have to work on if I'm going to get anywhere.

Being an outsider makes the situation even more inaccessible. It is almost impossible to get a straight answer most of the time. One fellow I talked to told me he wouldn't go to Grand Bruit because that's where his wife came from. "When you takes away one of their women" he said, "you don't go back." This problem is further compounded by the fact that I honestly have trouble understanding the accents of the older folks. But in La Poile I thought for a moment I had my in - after the ferry unloaded, a moose appeared on the cliff on the opposite side of the harbour. Most of the men of the community gathered to look (like you would) while I scrambled to get my camera, switch out to my tele lens, and change to some practical exposure settings after a day of experimental photography. I knew if I could get a good shot I would endear myself to the men of La Poile and perhaps secure myself some transportation. But by the time I was ready the moose vanished into the brush, taking my chance of being a local hero with it.

Eventually a fisherman from Port Aux Basques, George Francis, came through and heard I was looking for a ride. He named his price and I took the offer. Arriving in Grand Bruit I saw a bustling little hub of activity. There were a half dozen boats in the harbour, most of them owned by former residents who were there for a few weeks while fishing lobster. My prospects looked good, since at least half of them were now living in Burgeo and planning to go back that way in a few days. However, I couldn't get a single one of them to commit to giving me a ride - each one just said he didn't know when he was going, he didn't know if he would have space, he didn't know if he could do it. I offered quite a lot of money to anyone who would make a special run to Burgeo with me, but that didn't work either. My only guaranteed transportation anywhere was George, who at least promised to bring me back to La Poile on Friday if I couldn't find a ride.

And there was another missed opportunity. A small tour operator was in harbour the Monday I arrived - they were on their way to Port-Aux-Basques, but said they would be going back to Burgeo on Saturday and would be happy to take me. However, they also couldn't promise, they told me they were 90% certain. So basically my options were to take the guaranteed ride back to La Poile on Friday, or wait until Saturday to go to Burgeo but have a 10% chance of getting stranded in the process.

The only sensible thing to do was go back to La Poile, which was disappointing, but probably more than ten times less disappointing than getting stuck in Grand Bruit and running out of food. And that's the reason for my change of plans, and my new philosophy of making arrangements in advance.

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