Another summery Gaspesie day. We're pokers this morning. Catch up on the computer, pack up the tent, take showers after the youth hostel rush has come and gone. In the meantime, I sit on the futon couch, noting that the cloth is torn and the sponge stuffing is coming out. The guests leave in batches: an extended family of thirteen, speaking French and Persian, with their own frying pans and eggs, taking off for a drive through the Gaspesie in three black cars. The older women greet me every time they pass me. A very young woman with many tattoos and no shoes looks for her mate. Another young couple pores over a map. The receptionist, who herself has many significant body piercings and strands of pink hair gives advice. Basic stuff. This road goes here, you cant drive here, and so on.
Ed asks if I want breakfast. Sure. He boils water outside on his little stove and makes me coffee and instant oatmeal. Life is good.
But by noon, I think life will be even better if we use the next hours on walking rather than futon lounging. We're going to be taking the late afternoon bus out, but there's time for a small hike. Though choices are limited. We're in the tiny village of Cap-aux-Os and there isn't anywhere you can go except east along the road in the direction of the park, or west, moving down the southern Gaspesie coast. We choose west.
And here's a chance for us to look closely at the village houses along the coast. I quite like the simple look of a typical Quebecois house: it so often is small, with a metal roof and in colors that are harmonious but not at all tame. Pretty. Very very pretty, in my view.
And you can't help but note the weather vanes:
We scoot down to the village beach, too. Though it's too cold for swimming. Even for Ed. In fact, we're getting quite lazy. When a stream separates us from the coastal sands, neither feels like taking shoes off. I wobble over on a log, Ed hesitates. As usual, he builds his own bridges.
I watch Kids dig in the sand. Three boys set out with sticks and other paraphernalia of boy play on a hunt along the river's edge.
And everywhere, there are the purple flowers of the Gaspesie.
Back on the road now. We pause at a church up the hill. I'm wondering how old it is. There's no date on the outside -- just signs warning you to stay clear of the falling ice.
The church yard looks out over the bay. I get into a ponderous mood, Ed falls asleep. That is often how things play out between the two of us. [Upon occasion, Ed will get that faraway look in his eyes. I'll ask then - what are you thinking? He'll say - you, I'm thinking about you, that's all I ever think about. Never once have I gotten a different answer. I take it as a kind way of saying - your thoughts are your own and will always remain thus.]
And now it's time to head back. We need to flag the bus as it zips by the hostel. Good bye hostel.
After the bus leaves our village, it crosses the peninsula, then turns around and retreats west again, but this time along the northern coastal road, following it all the way down to Quebec City. But we're not going that far on this day. We're breaking the return trip more or less halfway, in the equally small village of Cap-Chat. For the first time since leaving Madison, we'll be sleeping indoors, in a cheap motel. And if the bus pulls into Cap-Chat before 9 and if we find a ride to the motel from there, we'll be able to grab dinner at the adjacent restaurant. They say that they make a fine Gaspesie bouillabaisse there.
The four and a half hour bus ride is stunning.
The sun is setting now and the waters of the gulf of St Lawrence reflect the oranges and reds for a long long while, even after the sun sinks down below the ocean horizon.
As we approach our destination, I'm thinking that we are getting dangerously close to the 9 pm closing of the restaurant. I ask the driver if he will let us out before the bus stop, close to the motel.
I don't know that motel, he tells us.
It's just three kilometers outside the village center. Nothing like telling a driver to stop a certain distance before getting somewhere.
But we all crane our necks and we do spot it and the driver breaths a sigh of relief with us, as it is ten minutes to nine. We will get our dinner.
A classic basic motel. I think how back home, we've moved to chains at highway exit ramps. Inns that offer suites and have imposing drive ups. Not here, not this one.
Ed looks at the shower stall. It's old and not a little tattered. He tells me - that's the most basic model. $129 at Menards.
But it's a private shower and it feels luxurious to have access to it at any time. And we sleep well, despite the traffic noises outside.
Breakfast is of the backpack type though: instant coffee, instant oatmeal again. And now we have a whole day before us.
What's there to see here? Ed asks.
The mountains are bigger here than in the Forillon Park, but you need a car to get to them.
On the motel website it says that you can visit the wind turbines. There is a vertical one -- largest in Canada, or the world, or something.
Just up the road!
Oh, a handful of kilometers.
Out we go. And it's not unpleasant to hike the road here. There are wide shoulders and the sounds and smell of the ocean waters of the Gulf are quite energizing. And, too, we pass the occasional small shop. Like this old man's moccasin house. He makes all the shoes by hand, from local deer hide. His Indian girlfriend showed him how to do it.
Does she still make them too?
No, she went off some years back. But I stayed. With my dog. He plays the piano, want to see?
Where are you staying? he asks me as I admire Mr. Beethoven.
The Fleur de Lys motel.
The man at the desk, the owner's son, he wears my moccasins.
This is the kind of village where you know who wears your shoes.
I'll stop by on my way back. We're heading for the windmills.
That's far! Good luck with that!
I'll say this: it is beastly long, but at least it is an interesting walk. We stray off the road a bit, along the water's edge. And when hunger strikes, we are lucky to come across a sign that advertises fresh vegetables. The group of farmers, new arrivals to this region, are taking a lunch break...
...but they pause and scramble to sell us a few tomatoes, cucumbers. And a jar of pickled relish. For future use.
And we pass too, a park with a lighthouse...
... and with an unusual set up. This is what Canadians enjoy doing in their spare time:
Ed is tempted to try, but I urged us on. The turbines. We still have to get to the darn turbines. On top of some hill or other. Requiring a climb.
They are waiting for us at the wee little wind turbine station. We're the two English speaking visitors, walking all the way from the Motel du Lys. Crazy.
We have our own guide, because we're the only English visitors this day. He's a local man who served in the military for several decades before deciding, when his wife got sick, to give up work that required travel. To Afghanistan, for instance.
Our guide has his work cut out for him. You have no idea how curious Ed gets about the details.
Just wait, I'll get to that part, our guide will say.
Okay, but why...
I do love his presentation. And his casual, unassuming manner. I'm not an engineer, he says, even as he overwhelms me with the details of wind electricity.
I learn a lot. Not only about the mechanics of windmills, but also about their introduction here in Quebec, where energy is linked more to water than to air.
See that broken one? That stands on my uncle's land, he tells us. Well, my uncle died three years ago, but when he signed the contract, he agreed to take $3000 per year for the use of his land. Now they're paying farmers $10,000 per mill!
We ask how many tours he gives each day. Many. I work 9 to 6, seven days a week. But it's seasonal. Only the four summer months.
And during the other months? Oh, I sort mail at the post office. And I occasionally carry the dead bodies to the cemetery. What do you call that in English? Ah, a pallbearer. I always wondered.
He gives us a ride back to town. Such a kind man. Saved us a dozen kilometers on the road.
Do you get tired of living up north here?
People who come from outside, like from Montreal, stay two years, then head back. Too quiet for them. Me, this is what I know. My wife and I have a daughter. Keeps us busy.
A Chinese girl. She's thirteen. She'll be going back to school next week.
And in the winters, is there snow?
Is there snow! Four feet one day and you shovel it and you get four feet the next day! The only thing is, you have to drive so much. You need a doctor, you drive to the big town. That's just fifteen minutes. But you need the hospital, it's three hours, or to Quebec City, that's five hours.
Back in Cap-Chat, we pause at a bistro pubbie type place and get refreshed with a Quebec apple cider. Of the harder kind.
And we walk to the motel and then back again to the pub, adding the kilometers: ten, fifteen, twenty. That's okay. Legs are strong now. And the sound of the ocean waters is ever so good for the soul. As is the lobster sandwich. With fries and plenty of mayo.