We woke pretty early to a cleat but windy day. A little after 6am I was by the shower block washing up from last night and waved hello to Mr Roadtrek. As we sat catching up on stuff and enjoying the morning sun ne wandered over for a cat, seeming to enjoy the opportunity to practice his English (a first so far for Canada). We talked about our plans for Canada and he gave us some hints and tips of must see places, one of which, parc Bic, we have already passed without stopping.
As the conversation turned to motor-home travel and Roadtreks in particular it was obvious that he wanted to see inside. His face lit up when Stef said to come and have a look. Five minutes of comparisons between his and our ensued. I found that, as in South America and most of Canada so far, I was slightly excluded from the conversation. It is very definitely a place where people address men first, their accompanying females only if it is absolutely necessary. I find it all very frustrating, almost more so because I have no choice but to accept the state of play!
Once chappie number one had disappeared, another one turned up. A quirky, semi retired travel agent from Montreal who is traveling with two teenagers who he hardly knows. Odd! If we are ending up back in Montreal he said he would consider buying Mortimer from us. He could not get his head round the fact that we would not leave Canada via Montreal. He has left us his phone numbers so if we do go back to Montreal we can call him and he will show us parts of the city that are not in the tourist guides. By this stage it was around 8am and we were both ready for breakfast. Still Madre Tierre style - fresh fruit, yoghurt, granola and maple syrup.
Our first stop of today was Eole Cap Chat, a near by wind farm. It is quite an interesting site to visit and has very enthusiastic and welcoming guides. We sat in on the introductory chat given by a very excitable French speaking guy. The only bits I understood were a few numbers and Stef, fluent in French, also struggled with the Quebecois accent. The English speaking guide was equally enthusiastic as he took us through his explanation.
The first windmill on the site (1988) was experimental and used for research purposes. Costing over $30m it is the tallest vertical axis wind turbine in the world. It looks like a giant beater for a food mixer. Built in collaboration between Quebec Energy and a private company it has not been used for twelve years. Contract renegotiations failed when Quebec energy only wanted to pay five cents for each kilowatt of electricity rather than the twenty five cents they had paid under the first contract. At the same time an iron disk got into the oil supply (perhaps conveniently?) which meant that the turbines had to be shut down, needing repairs.
It is huge, standing one hundred and ten metres tall. The tour takes you to the base of the mill and shows you the turbine, brakes, machine used to clean the electricity before it goes into the national grid etc. When it operated the lead used in its construction created electromagnetic fields so it resulted in health concerns for workers and visitors.
Around Eole (as the vertical turbine is called, after Aeolus the Greek god of wind) has now been built a modern wind farm. The turbines are horizontal axis and computer controlled to turn as the wind direction changes and to stop if the wind speed gets too high. To allay environmental concerns about noise pollution as well as health concerns, the blades are now built from fibre glass. All you can hear is a swishing as they turn ad there are no longer electromagnetic problems. Although the turbines themselves are ugly individually the wind farm in its totality has a strange form of beauty, especially when viewed from a distance. We had great views of it this morning from our campsite.
As it was English speaking the group was small. Two Brits who moved to Canada in 1969 and two Americans here looking for information. A wind farm is planned near to where they live and people are not happy about it. Their trip seems to have convinced them that wind power is a good thing!
A little farther up route 132 we turned inland,. heading for the Parc National de la Gaspésie. Since we have been in Canada we have spent many days sitting in a hire car or in Mortimer driving around and we need to get back out walking again. Heading inland, we were driving through mountains covered in fir trees, a solid wall of green and more the typical views of Canada we had been expecting.
The information centre gave us a booklet on the park with details of the different walks available. The information was given in a functional way and the woman behind the desk gave the impression that she could not get rid of us fast enough (French speaking again!). We booked our campsite for the night and as it has no facilities we filled up with water and dumped our waste before heading further into the park.
To get ourselves back into the walking habit we decided to do one of the shorter, easier walks this afternoon and a longer one tomorrow. Our walk today took us up to the tope of Mont Albert. The path led through pretty fields full of colour with wild berries growing all along the way. This must be seventh heaven for botanists. I wished I had a guide or a leaflet so that I could work out what plants we were seeing along the way. The higher we got the more the wind picked up. At the summit there was a small viewing platform offering 360 degree views of the park. It is the type of view you cannot do justice to with photos and I have no chance at all of capturing it in writing.
The air is fresh and clean and invigorating. We had both been feeling a degree or two under and this helped to blow away the last feelings of "unwell". On the way back down after a "there are no mooses here only Caribou" conversation, we saw a moose. It was grazing about twenty metres away from the main path. It seemed totally oblivious to the people getting close to take photos and happily carried on munching away. A truly spectacular sight.
It was a good warmer up walk which we did well within the expected time listed in the guide book. Good to know because our planned walk tomorrow, to the top of Mont Jacques Cartier (a tiddler at 1268m compared to South America) has an ascent three times higher and a pretty good wind chill factor!
The route through the park to the campsite is a little white road on our map, a wide non paved road in reality. With so many trees around there are warning and indicators about the risk of forest fire so I suppose the road serves a dual purpose as a fire break. Unlike South American dirt tracks, this one is well maintained with few pot holes, lumps and bumps and it is not long before we are at the campground.
Each of the sites is pretty well secluded and they are big plots with a fire pit and picnic table. The campsite is quiet, just us and a few other sites (all tents) are occupied. The wind up here is pretty strong an in the shade it is cool, enough so that fleeces were our and we kept on our socks and walking boots, the first time in weeks they have been needed. It really is in the middle of nowhere. With the luxury of having a generator on board we decided to give it a go (Stef's camera batteries are about to konk out and the rechargeable back up ones are flat). I had a flick through the manual. It is boring stuff and the previous owner had not even looked at them (no creases on the spine). It is as simple as flicking the switch but I suspect we should pay some heed to the "do this and that after every x hours of us" style warnings.
With the generator switched on the peace and quiet of our surroundings were shattered I found i noisy and wondered what our tent based neighbours thought, probably "lucky buggers have electricity and heat". As we were christening our new barbecue we also went for a wood fire which took two attempts to get it going. The wood we had bought at the national park information centre was damp and simply smoked a lot. Fortunately we still had dry wood left and the combination of the two worked.
We had another charcoaled feast, watching the full moon rise through and then above the trees. As with so many other things we are seeing here it has a magical quality. We have found ourselves just sitting and staring at sunsets, moons, water, the sea, just pondering life, the world and the universe and thinking about how lucky we are to have this opportunity. Even with our wood fire, the cold edge to the wind drove us back inside Mortimer. We dropped a couple of buckets of water on the fire to stop any sparks flying, cleared away dinner and shut the door to the outside world.
It was only 9:30 by the time we were tucked up in bed - early by normal standards but we had been up and about at 6am this morning so not so bad! With no-one else around we had left the curtains open and were swathed in moonlight. Being full, the moon was so bright that it was hard to see the stars as there was too much light. Racing by overhead was one very bright spot of light that Stef had also seen a night or two ago. It is definitely not a star and we think it is probably a satellite, or maybe the space shuttle or maybe visitors from Mars!!