Friday, August 11, 2017

Southern coast of the Gaspé

Gordon:  While I was discreetly cooking breakfast over a backpacking stove set up outside the door of our hotel room - probably the only one doing so in the upscale establishment- we were treated to a great natural show on our last morning in Percé.  Presumably feeding on a large school of fish in the bay, hundreds of gannets were diving into the sea.  It was as though the sea was being strafed by machine gun fire.  Backlit by the sun rising over Rocher Percé, and accompanied by the sound of the birds striking the water, it was an amazing spectacle.

We were unable to arrange accommodation for the evening after we left Percé.  The official at the Tourist Office said that everything, including the campgrounds, was fully booked for the following two evenings.  However, when questioned, he did say that it was legal, or at least permissible, to wild camp on the beaches.  The town that was our destination, Newport, has no fewer than four rest stops (Halte Municipale) which are a wonderfully frequent amenity on this coast.  We selected the Halte with running water and a flush toilet, and cooked our dinner on one of the convenient picnic tables.  There are a couple of small islands just offshore that support gannet colonies, so while we reclined against a driftwood log we were treated to their unending show.  At sunset we set up our tent and had a great sleep.  When we got up in the morning we found that we had been joined by another tent, as well as a couple of young women sleeping in their car.

When we were staying in a campground on the northern coast of the Gaspé we met a friendly couple, Denyse and Daniel, who were camping in their VW van.  Denyse suggested that we contact her when we reached Bonaventure.  This was our destination after Newport, so we followed up on Denyse's invitation and found ourselves camped beside her cabin on the bank of the Bonaventure River.  This is a crystal clear salmon river that runs from the interior of the Gaspé.  It is very popular for kayaking and canoeing, with organized trips up to four days in length.  Denyse took us swimming and kayaking on the river, which was quite wonderful.  We were also introduced to her mother, sister, uncle, son and friends ... Denyse comes from a large family and seemed to be related to most of the people in the area.  The next day she joined us for the first 45 kms of our ride to Carleton-sur-Mer, stopping at a Halte for a lunch of locally smoked mackerel and cod, amongst other delights.  We had a wonderful time with Denyse (Daniel had unfortunately returned to work in the Eastern Townships.)

The place names for many of the towns in this area are English, a legacy of the United Empire Loyalists that settled here.  There is also a large number of people of Acadian descent.  Bonaventure, for example, is a predominantly Acadian town, with an Acadian museum and abundant Acadian flags.  The result of this cultural mixing is that most of the population is bilingual, with conversations bouncing between French and English, depending upon who is present.

1 comment:

  1. Fun fact: my ex's mother was born in Baie des Chaleurs (or Bay of Chaleur if you're bi). Maiden name Lapointe, married name Campbell. When the family left the area and moved to Belleville, Ontario, to farm, my ex's mother denied all her French heritage and became more Scottish than the Scottish. But I met the great-grandma in her tenth decade and she was as French-Canadian as pea soup.