Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gaspe - Les Oiseaux

Les oiseaux means "the birds" of course and that's what we saw a few days ago when we visited Bonaventure island, a little strip of land off Perce, which is the eastern tip of the Gaspe peninsula. Veeka and I jumped on the 11 a.m. boat out to this place, which was criss-crossed by trails. My little hiker took the lead and actually set the pace for her slower (and loaded down with heavy purse) mommy as she jogged about 3 kilometers to the other end of the island where we saw the most amazing sight: 60,000 pairs of nesting birds all perched on dirt mounds (nests) and making a huge racket. Their poop emitted enough methane to supply Jupiter for a year and, most fascinating to Veeka, many of their eggs had hatched so if you looked closely enough underneath the sitting bird, you could see a baby chick. It was like something right out of the penguin movie "Happy Feet."
And Veeka, who has watched "Happy Feet" 9.2 million times, quickly understood what these birds were doing in terms of protecting their young from predators. I think this rookery is one of the world's largest such places and the whole northern half of this island was covered with white gannets and their nests. The photo shows a boat with people looking up at the hillside of nests where we were standing.
The next day we took off for the southern half of the island, which was less spectacular by far than the northern coast. Did notice some Anglican churches appearing here and there - aren't any on the northern coast. We stopped mid-way at a very nice zoo here which we liked immensely as the habitats were very natural and there was everything from cougars to seals to moose - a Canadian specialty. V especially took to the two baby moose. Then we zoomed west along the Bay of Chaleurs in the late afternoon driving INTO the sun which was actually the best way to see the area. The light illumined the surrounding foothills and capes surrounding this large bay making the scenery look quite beautiful. Unfortunately late afternoon has become the time my body wants a nap so we've taken to turning on whatever local rock station we can find and blasting the music so the chauffeur can stay awake! Veeka adores anything with a beat, so she bounces around in her car seat.
We have encountered some very nice B&Bs which are cheaper than most hotels. La Maison Verte, pictured here, was where we stayed Thursday night. Really liked the hosts who were helpful to us and I'd definitely come back here again. Would love to try their cool cabin down by the river. This was the first lodging place in several days where I spoke English as we were moving towards English-speaking areas. Had dinner in Campbellton at a Vietnamese restaurant that was closed when we got there but I managed to talk the management into serving us anyway as we were starving. Would have loved to have known how any Vietnamese got to that part of the world.
The Campbellton area was very rural and heavily wooded - lots of salmon fishing and hiking locally - and I left there with some reluctance but I had more than 250 miles to drive to the southern coast of New Brunswick for a stay here right by the Bay of Fundy. We arrived quite late and the hosts had rhubarb and apple crisp waiting for us. Which was lovely after having to fight industrial-strength gnats to get in the door there.

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