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Category: Canada (2005, world trip)

We woke early again this morning. It was warm and snug under our sleeping bag but the outside air felt cold. Not wanting to put on clothes and walk for five minutes to go to the loo I, for the second time (first yesterday) benefited from the luxury of our on board facilities then crawled back under the sleeping bag and zonked out again for half an hour.

There is absolutely no noise here and we could be the only people left alive on earth. I have lost track over the last few days  of how many times Stef has enthused about this lifestyle and said how much he is enjoying it. I keep reminding him that with a motor-home you are not really camping and that in any case you have not really camped until you have had days where it has been continually peeing down with rain, you are soaked, as is all your stuff and you have no hope of drying out. Now that is camping!

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Flying flags

We had a leisurely breakfast enjoying the view and I tried to suss out how cold it would be on the walk today The wind still has a cool edge but the sun is strong and warm. At the top we know there will be a wind chill factor but I heat up quickly when I walk and suspect the wind chill will not be an issue for me. As ever we opted for layers.

As we are unlikely to be back down from the walk before we need to vacate our campsite space we drove down to the car park where the showers are and parked up there. Even though we were up early, by the time we had showered, made sandwiches for lunch and washed up we only had a few minutes to spare before the bus left (at 10:00am!) to take us to the start of the walk. This area of the park is home to a herd of one hundred and sixty caribou, a species under threat as their natural habitat is eroded and their young, easy prey for boars and wolves, have a low life expectancy. To help protect the caribou, a shuttle bus runs from the campsite to the base of the walk up Mont Jacques Cartier.

The bus is a school bus, the typical yellow ones you see in American films. There is a short, inaudible tape of information but the on board Parc Canada guide repeats the information also - stay on the paths, do not pick flowers etc and if you see a caribou stop and give them right of way and use it to get good photos. Apparently they are very short sighted and you startle them if you do not stop as they cannot see you are there.

With an ascent of 450m, the 4.5km walk to the top is harder than yesterdays. Average time to the top is two hours and that is what we did. The first section was uphill through forests all the way. The air was heavy with the scent of pines and there was the constant sound of running water from the mountain streams trickling by. With only one stop to catch my breath, and one to peel off layers of clothes we reached the half way point at Lac Rene, one of many dotting the surrounding countryside. Here the wind chill kicked in and layers of clothes and a hat were donned for the rest of the walk. The last section is through alpine pampas so there are no trees to provide shade or to act as a wind break.

The winds were pretty strong, reaching up to 50km/h and the wind chill took the temperature at the top down to -5C. It was worth it though for the views. Again I cannot do it justice, you will simply have to packs your bags and come and see for yourself. Years ago the Canadian Army had a communications post here but now only the concrete foundations remain. Manned throughout the year, I reckon you must have played up pretty badly to get yourself stationed here through the winter.

Grateful that we had taken a picnic we sat and enjoyed the view and I finally cooled down to such a degree that I finally had to succumb and put my fleece and gloves on. The wind chill was incredible. At the small observation post Stef walked out of a sheltered part into the wind and his clothes all billowed out as if he was on a parachute jump.

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Diaries at dusk

The way down was faster with us slipping an stumbling over the loose rocks that form most of the path. Strangely, it seemed to take longer getting down than coming up as there were no obvious mental staging posts that I remembered from the way up. When we got back down, the bus to take us back to the campsite was due in twenty minutes and we both sat and chilled. I had a battle with a persistent bug which kept crawling up my leg. It looked like a meatier version of a daddy long legs but had a two inch spike sticking out from its rear which, if it was a sting, looked as if it would be nasty. The bug won and I left my perch in the shade and went to join Stef in the sun.

We had seen no caribou today but I am sure there is still time left to see them before we leave Canada. Back in Mortimer, we headed again for the coast and for route 132, the Route des Navigateurs. Running through Mont-Saint-Pierre, which had nothing much going for it we carried on to Mont Louis, a small village stretching one block deep around a wide bay. The campsite is on a small promontory and its cafe is a great spot for watching the maritime world go by.

Having set Mortimer up for the night, we headed to the cafe (which also has internet access, although it was slow) for a coffee and to catch up on diaries. While Stef was inside getting drinks I looked out to see three whales cruising the bay, well really I saw their water spouts and a small part of their backs. This again prompted time just gazing and watching the whales - fabulous. As time moved on it started to get cold so we headed into the cafe, switched to alcohol and Stef set to work uploading photos. I now have my written diary up to date again - just eighty pages to put onto the web! - and have just enjoyed yet another spectacular sunset.