As you are driving on Route 333 you come to a top of a hill revealing your first glimpse of a spectacular view of “The four corners of the Earth”. From that moment, you have a sense of being forced into their world; the world of tenaciousness, survival, endurance and strength.
Fogo is one of nine villages on Fogo Island: Tilting, Joe Batt’s Arm, Seldom, Stag Harbour, Island Harbour, Deep Bay, Eastern Tickle, and Cape Cove being the others. In the early 60's, these villages thrived on the northern cod fishery and shipbuilding. In 1992 the government declared a moratorium on fishing northern cod putting 40,000 people out of work in Newfoundland, Fogo Island was not spared. There are plenty of remnants everywhere you look of what it used to be.
The fishing industry being all but dead, employment is very limited for its inhabitants. After graduating from high school, those wishing to continue their post secondary education have to leave the island and very few come back. Many of whom that have remained on the island, have found work in Western Canada; the islanders refer to this as "doing the fly in and fly out". We noted that a few come back to retire after being gone for many years. I guess home is always home.
The locals are very welcoming and eager to make you feel at home. One day my husband and I were walking toward a Brimstone trailhead for a small hike when a local stopped just to chat wanting to know where we were from, where were we heading and simply wanted to know what did we thought of Fogo Island. Stopping at the local restaurants the waitresses eagerly wanted to share with us what traditional meals they were serving that day. Let me just say; they still serve the northern cod.
Their homes are what we will forever remember. They are known as The Salt Box. They are a very square with a door in the middle of the front of the house and small windows on either side of the door and three on the second level. During our stay in Fogo, we actually stayed in one of them. These homes are very similar in styles and shapes but more importantly, give you a sense of intimacy.
Fogo Island seems to have been given somewhat of a rebirth with the Fogo Island Inn situated in Joe Bett’s Arms overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Today this Inn provides employment for craftsmen, artists, service providers and other who cater to the many tourists visiting the Inn. In Partnership with the Inn are very distinctive studios located across Fogo Island where artists from around the world are invited to participate as an “Artist in Residence”. Do I dare say; I am hoping to be an artist is residence on Fogo Island some day.
Fogo Island is a place rich in culture, a place that welcomes you with open arms and a place you can feel like being!