Mary Beth Writes

Like I wrote previously, our plan was to turn to the right at the bottom left hand side of the map (see below) and drive east to Nova Scotia and then shoot up to the 7-hour ferry that would schlep us to Newfoundland.

We’d already been driving about 3 days (with stops along the way) and there was at least two more ahead of us. You can see why most people fly…

We turned on the TV in our motel room to see if Hurricane Dorian had settled on a northward route yet.  We were aware, though not too concerned, that Dorian was still churning up the Atlantic.

The TV and radio and Internet news all announced precisely the same thing. “Maybe it will hit eastern Canada and maybe it won’t.”

We went out to dinner and decided to hang out on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec to give Dorian a few more days to clear the coast. 

The Gaspé Peninsula aka Gaspésie (official name) is a triangle of land that sort of looks like a dog’s paw sticking out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is not simple to get there unless you are already at the northeast end of Quebec. Which, handily, we were.

Here is one of the larger truths we learned on our trip - looks can be very deceiving when one peruses a map of Canada. See how small the Gaspé Peninsula is?  We drove around the outer rim of it on a modest two-lane highway for five days. Yes, lots of advenures along the way but seriously, Five Days! 

Here are what to us were the stars of the Gaspé Peninsula show.

1. The houses! Many houses are very close to the coastal highway (20-30 feet is not unusual). One assumes this is because transportation was via water until the past century, when the connecting highway was built. I suppose they built as close to the sea’s edge as they conveniently and safely could. Park hyour boat out in front, as it were. 

The houses are super square with endearingly upright posture and awesome colors! Taffy gold, vivid greens, indigo and reds and pinks.  Often with contrasting trim. It’s a feast for the eyes and I’m glad we didn’t fly over!

2. That highway is super close to the rough and ready waves of the massive Gulf of St Lawrence. It’s a gorgeous drive on a calm day; on a stormy day I would stay home.

 3. The food is great and as I said to Len our first night on Gaspésie, “I didn’t drive this far to eat hamburgers!” We had chowder several times; it was expensive, but we didn’t much care because it was creamy rich with salmon, clams, lobster, and scallops. Also, we had locally crafted IPA beers every evening. I’ll tell you in some other post about ways we were thrifty; but we didn’t try to save money on dinners in local spots. 

Example: Me eating a lobster roll at a picnic table on a chilly evening, while watching the sun set on Perce Rock. With the IPA.

4. Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island! Yes, we SAW this!

 Percé Rock is just offshore from the village of Gaspé.  I took the ferry that cruised around this massive rock and then journeyed on to Bonaventure Island.  You can Wikipedia these places if you are interested in their longer and interesting stories.

Len gets motion sickness easily; he stayed ashore and had a good time walking, taking photos, and apparently camping out in the little French Boulangerie (bakery). I know this because the next morning, when we stopped there to get more of their amazing sourdough bread (my mouth is watering as I type this), the woman who owns the place smiled and said a familiar Bonjour in a “I know you!” tone of voice to Len.  Len is good at making friends over food. (The second time I met him, he brought an apple crisp.)

I didn’t know when I started out that I was going to have such a big adventure all by myself, but I did.

Bonaventure Island was populated by immigrants from Ireland and the island of Jersey in the late 1700’s. A couple dozen families lived there until government bought out the last few folks in the 1970’s. It is a bird sanctuary; more than 200 kinds of birds live here or at least stop by when migrating.

It is home to the largest Northern Gannet population on earth; more than 60,000 of these large, yellow-headed, NOISY, action-packed gulls live on Bonaventure.

I wanted to see them, so I took the tourist boat trip with fifty other folks, disembarked, listened to a ranger offer confusing instructions about how to cross the island to find the gannets. Most of the people from the boat were younger than me (sigh, that is happening more and more) and they went for the climbing path.  I chose the one the ranger said was not too strenuous but he didn’t clearly say where it started and by the time I found it, all the other bird gawkers were gone, and I was on my own.

Fine. I like to be alone. But as I trudged through 3.5 kilometers of rough terrain and some rough wooden steps and many foot paths that wended through blueberry and raspberry bushes … I began to wonder if Bonaventure has bears.  Probably not, I told myself. How could they even get here?  Too far to swim.

Oh, I remembered. In the winter people could walk across the ice. So I suppose bears could mosey on over if they woke up from hibernating and wanted to. Surely the ranger would have mentioned bears if they had them.  I decided to not worry about it. Too much. (There were no bears.)

Also, I forgot to bring my handy-dandy walking stick. And my new knee brace was slipping down my leg instead of bracing my knee. And I was sweating, even though the wind was chilly and strong.

Well, friends, as I walked I did the kilometers to miles math: about 4 rough miles tramping across and around that island. (If you look at Bonaventure blurbs on the internet, you will find people talking about how some 2-year olds do did this easily. Harrumph.)

I’m not a serious bird watcher, but those gannets! I loved them! They don’t just sit around and look pretty. They yell, peck, talk all day to their family and friends. The ones in the mood mate exuberantly right next to others who seem to be reciting bad poetry and singing old sea chanties. There were parents fussing over their large and fluffy children. Birds were flying in, flying out, scooping fish from the waves and bringing them back home.

 Also, when I was on my way back, I passed a young couple with a toddler, who, without even looking up at me, handing me a bunch of little pinecones. What a day.

…   

 Houses on the island from when it was populated.

I was here when the little boy handed me the pinecones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Beautiful, ty

The pictures/all the colors are awesome! Sounds like a really fun adventure

OMG we travelled here too when I was a kid. I don’t remember the hike. I do remember the birds and the rock. And at this time in life, I sure do need those hiking polls. I am learning to take them along even if guides act like it is “easy.”
Leonard's picture

Maybe you looked like you needed pinecones.

Beautiful photos. Eagerly awaiting more of your saga.

What a courageous expedition! Bravo! It must have been so beautiful , and I wonder how many bears watched you go by! I hope Len welcomed you back from your voyage with a huge bag of French pastries ( and ian IPA)?

Loved your description of these social birds and your solo hike. Wonderful!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks for all your comments so far! I was so inspired that I DID go back to find and post my old columns from Hurricane Charley in 2004....

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