Crossing borders I instantaneously found myself in a different human milieu. Quebec at that particular border was not especially welcoming, but I quickly made the mental adjustments. Staying a desolate night in an off-season campground in Nicolet was a surreal experience, as I was making efforts to follow the second presidential debate on my electronic devices in pouring rain.
Another End of the World Forillon National Park
Forillon's National Park
I departed my colorful B&B and moved on the 132. My records indicate I filled up at Depanneur Mont Louis, so I must have continued into the #198. One way or another, I successfully ended up at the southern toll booth for Forillon National Park, QC…
On the way there, colors were getting more and more spectacular:
But as I got closer to the park, I was happy to see human life in full flourish as well:
I took some laundry pics for my collection.
An older man at the booth was willing to speak some English and informed me about the price. He gave me a map and smiled a pleasant good day. The map pretty much prescribed the beach walks between a Grande Grave and a Petite Grave.
I parked at Aux Ameridians (no need for politically correct “First Nations” in Quebec, I guess). I walked down to a beautiful bay, where phoques (seals) were swimming around, popping in and out, exhibiting different parts of themselves, playing hard to get….
Some young Quebeckers were socializing on the beach. A girl on her own was sitting watching the water. I, of course, was all equipped with my walking stick, backpack and extra clothing. They were all dressed summer. She could not see where the trail was continuing. I pointed out the wooden steps a bit further on. After some dawdling, she eventually followed my direction.
The pretty trail did not last long enough. It climbed along some nice streaming water, but very soon merged into a wide boring carriage road where hundreds of people were marching. I could hear their voices when still on the trail, but did not expect the multitudes: it was a weekend and the weather was fabulous.
Believing that was the only way to the viewpoint, I treaded along unhappily. This is not why I bothered to come all the way here. People were walking by a country fence near the beach down below, but I did not know how to get there.
A sign saying “Les Graves” was pointing for a road in the opposite direction just a while ago. People said I should have taken it, but I did not feel like turning back. I told them the road was boring. They shrugged. My mistake. I thought Les Graves was a certain destination the trail was leading up to, but then realized it was the actual name of the trail itself, and that’s why the name was showing in both directions. These are the kinds of confusions one encounters when travelling…
A bit further on, I met a gracious local couple coming down a trail on the other side. I asked them what that was, and they explained to me in fine English that I can get to the “point” either way, but this path was more interesting. I happily took their advice. Despite the lonesomeness of the trail (I was imagining a bear coming up any minute) and its steepness, I walked on, stopping at several viewpoints, where gorgeous cliffs and forested mountains were showing through the trees.
This Land’s End was special also because, as I found out, it was the end of the International Appalachian Trail. There were plaques and pictures and an actual lucky guy who had just made it to The End to the cheers and loving embraces of his family and friends. They were all gathered there to greet him…
And indeed, it was deep blue all the way to the horizon.
The whale observatory required a walk down a nice forested path. Everybody was watching and screaming excitedly for every sighting. As usual, I alone barely saw a thing, despite my good farsightedness … A beautiful Quebecker let me use her binoculars, but I was still out of luck. In contrast, an arrogant local guy was constantly boasting about his sightings but never let me have a peep. Later on, he was trying to out-stride everybody on the walk back. I did see more seals and diving gannets.
Nightall Setting over Forillon
When I got back from the trail to the Ameridians parking, I was expecting an advertised interpreted tour about beavers. This was one reason I did not linger at Land’s End. Beavers had always mystified me, but until now I have never seen any, only piles of reeds and branches purported to be their homes. I did not notice it was already post season for the tour.
Realizing it was not happening, I decided, a bit frustrated, to continue the trail backwards to Grand Graves, where a former fish processing center, Hyman and Sons, was located. This is where huge amounts of cod fish used to be dried and processed. There were some historical buildings there, where guided tours were conducted in the morning. By now the site was already closed, so I continued to the dock. Nowadays cod is substituted for lobster, due to people’s changing tastes and attitudes. At the time, lobsters, being crustaceans, were not considered real nutrition …
The sun started to set, so I walked back to the car. Luckily, I kept to the driving instructions of 30 km an hour, as I could have easily bumped into a cute and clueless porcupine that was innocently crossing the road. It was extremely slow and heavy. I, and another car trailing behind me, allowed the poor thingie to complete the crossing at its own pace…
A Piano, a Crunch Cake and New Friends at Forrillon's International Hostel
Next on the agenda for that evening was to finally find the hostel. With a bit of driving back and forth (I had to get out of the national park premises), and with the help of the nice hotel administrator next door, I finally found the Auberge Internationale Forillon. That was an alternative experience for this trip. It was literally the first time I had ample company and enjoyed a community feeling as it should be. The setup indeed determines the interactions!
The young girls at the desk were extremely nice and helpful. One, N., whom I befriended later, assigned me a dorm room all to myself. The private rooms were all taken. I did not ask for any special privileges, but she made this effort out of her own volition. N. spoke good French and English and was friendly all around. She suggested I do my laundry there. I said I did not need to, but eventually got down to the basement to start a cycle.
Dragging my stuff from the parking to the room, I took a deep breath before plunging into the social scene. In the busy kitchen it was dinner time. People of all ages shared the space and facilities, and sometimes the food. Nice smells emanated from big simmering pots and oiled pans and woks. Conversations were carried across the room in a warm and cozy atmosphere.
I wasn’t particularly hungry at that moment, so I went up to the foyer where a nice-looking tall and slim youth with a knit cap and long curls was playing a quiet and off-key piece on an old piano. We got into a talk. I played some. We took turns. There was a French girl, visiting from the real France. They played two hands – he, the accompaniment, she, the melody – and then reversed.
It was soulful and poignant: Yan Tiersen, the soundtrack of Amelie… I felt ignorant. Of course I saw the movie, but often I don’t register the music in my memory or pay enough attention, definitely not to the names of the composers… Tiersen was clearly big in Europe, and the pair surely did justice to the spirit of the piece. Was a great opportunity for me to get into the soulful side as well. I played some melodic Israeli songs, and some improvisations. N., the desk girl, joined in and contributed to the mealange with a few classical pieces.
Between piano bouts I was running up and down the stairs to check on my laundry. Eventually I had it washed and dried, and they all invited me to a wonderful potatoes and veggies dinner (they had some chicken as well). The brother made a wonderful crunch cake for a finale. Both siblings wer also great cooks.
Messengers of Love
N. sat at the table preparing postcards for friends and family. The girl was talented on so many levels. She drew detailed pictures of moose, bears, birds and landscapes on one side of the cards and wrote the message in small, crowded beautiful script on the other. During dinner I found out they were all volunteering at the hostel in exchange for room and board. The French lady was flying back in two days, but N. and her brother were staying a bit longer.
The family is from Pennsylvania, and from the siblings’ description they sounded very rooted, connected and loving. Hippie-style, yet well grounded. Four brothers and sisters. N. was complaining that not enough Americans bother to learn French or visit Quebec – so close, so beautiful, so interesting. I kept silent on the non-friendliness I experienced from some Quebeckers, trying to focus on the better encounters I had later, like the beautiful girls at the whale observatory, or the nice couple on the trail (see above).
I wished I was as loving and as open as N. People like her succeed to get the most closed and negative people to open up. It’s a gift, but I noted to myself it’s worth trying to emulate, even if I am not naturally inclined that way.
The Missed Aurora
The volunteers said the night before there was a rumor some people saw an aurora. Indeed, the B&B owner said he sighted it from his back yard. They drove quite far to be able to get a view, but came back frustrated, so we did not even try that night. Plus it was cold. Bummer, but it means I’ll need to get back!!! I put a V on “puffins“, but “auroras”…That’s still pending!
All that happiness and loveliness cost only 30$ for the night and included an unlimited use of a warm shower with ample space and enough shower cabins – no coins, no sudden stoppage of the water current, no arduous procedures to get the water flow… I felt just as safe leaving my stuff in the room as I did in the campgrounds, unlike the feel in some European city hostels I’ve been to…
The next day I followed the advice of the B&B owner and drove to Perce and Bonaventure for one of the most spectacular experiences of my trip.