lundi 16 septembre 2013

Wonderful road trip around Gaspésie : 2300km in 5 days

A 5 day fun-packed adventure in Canada!

The main reason of my trip to Canada was to visit my sister who is now living in Montreal. I loved visiting the city, but I already visited the place a couple of years ago. 
During the week my sister was at work. I'm not the kind of person that likes to 'just stay put and relax'. I get bored, I just can't stay put when I know there are many places to discover not far away... 

So instead of just hanging around Montreal I decided to go on a road trip during 5 days. 

I chose to drive around and visit the gorgeous peninsula of Gaspésie
I rented a car and started carefully planning my trip...
I had 5 days to drive 2300km, on my own, plus loads of interesting places worth visiting. 
It was going to be through! 
On internet you see people asking if you can do it in 15 days or 3 weeks... I took up the challenge to do it in 5 days.

Before I spurt out all the photos of the aventure a quick warning. 2300km in 5 days is a lot of driving, especially being on your own. 
It can be tiring and driving tired = danger. 

If you're visiting the Quebec region, Gaspesie is definitely a must (the most beautiful places I have seen in the area are here), but take more time than me to visit it!

I don't want to sound as if I'm 'boasting' or a 'professionnal' driver. No. I'm just used to driving long distances and in harsh conditions. When I'm touring around the desert I drive from dawn to nearly midnight on dirt tracks and sand dunes. And when I bring the cars back and fourth from Morocco to France we drive the 1200km in one day. I've been doing it for more than 5 years now. I know when I'm tired and when to stop and also what essentials things you need to bring with you :) So I knew that 2300km in 5 days, with loads of stopping to visit places, would go fine.

So here we go! 
The tour of Gaspesie in five days!
No makeup, hair in a hell of a state (kind of looks like the french Bleu-Blanc-Rouge flag!) ... Bel's in adventure mode!

Day 1 : from Montreal to Rimouski 

Monday morning, off too pick up the rental car in Montreal. 
I had booked the cheapest I could find, supposedly a small car like a VW polo or Renault Clio. 
At the rental place the girl behind me looked at me from head to toe and said : 'You've got the Ford Flex'. What is a Ford Flex? We don't get them in Europe or Africa! 
Next question : 'It's rather big...' 
When I explained that I drive a Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee she seemed more relaxed. 

When I saw the Ford Flex I understood why she seemed concerned. 
At the top of my 1m60 height I looked like a midget next to the car! It was enormous! Not as high as my Jeeps but way longer! A 7 seat beast full of all fancy options (the seat and steering wheel move when you get in or out of the car, it 'talks' to you to tell you to be careful and you talk to it to control the radio, it slows down automatically when you get to close to another car, in case of emergency braking the whole front window flashes red... even the leather seats had AC! For once I wasn't stuck to leather seats while wearing shorts!) 

It was an amazing car at a first glance, and even more amazing to drive (on roads and dirt tracks! So comfortable!) !
The brand new Ford Flex! 
It kind of looks like a car from the future!

So, from Montreal I hit the road. 
A nice peaceful drive along the St Lawrence river. 

First stop : St-Jean Port-Joli.

A cute little village know for its artesian wood carvers.

I stopped to have a wander around a couple of other cute little villages along the Saint Lawrence River, like Kamourasaka.

After a long day of driving I stopped for the night at Rimouski. 
I ate a delicious crepe (roquefort cheese and apple) in town and slept at the CEGEP Rimouski. A great deal for accommodation! It's basically university student rooms that they let for the summer. Cheap, clean and calm. Just what I needed to get a good night's sleep before heading off again!


Day 2 : From Rimouski (Park National Bic- Gardins of Metis - Cap-aux-roses) to Forillon 

Up at 6am. Time to test the Ford Flex on some gravel roads! And time for me to get me hiking boots on. 

Parc National du Bic

The Parc National du Bic is a beautiful peaceful place located in the St Lawrence Estuary.
There are many coves, capes, bays and islands that you can discover by foot or on bike.
I went for a long hike up to one of the highest points where I could get a great view of 'L'anse Mouille-Cul' and 'Cap à l'Original'.
A lovely view from the top.
It was still early morning, I was the only one hiking. The weather was nice and cool. Only the mosquitos were there to bother in this peaceful place.
There a lots of other tracks for hiking or cycling, and mmany other activities to do in the pard, but I had a tight schedule to keep up with. 
Around 9am I was off.

The Canyon des Portes de l'Enfer

The Canyon des Portes de l'Enfer (Hell's Gates Canyon) in Saint-Narcisse-de-Rimouski begins with the Grand Sault waterfall and stretches nearly 5km between steep and narrow rock walls up to 90 metres high.
There are lots of hiking trails that lead to stunning panoramic views.
This little guy made me jump! 
I was walking along on my own and wandering if there were bears in this forest, and what might happen if I ran into one... when suddenly this deer jumped out of the bushed into the middle of the path right in front of me! 
So glad it wasn't a bear! 
There is also a 63m high suspended foot-bridge
It is the highest in Quebec.
You can feel it wobble when you walk on it. Not great if you're scared of heights!
Specacular view from the bridge.
View of the waterfall from the bridge.
To get to the bottom of the waterfall you have to walk down (and then climb back up) 300 stairs!
After all that morning hiking my legs were rather tired. 
Time to get back into the car and head off to Metis to visit a botanical garden.

Jardins de Métis (Reford Gardens)

The Jardins de Métis (Reford garden) is a wonderful botanical garden where you can find more than 3000 different varieties of plants. 
Perfect for an afternoon stroll!
Not ony do you come across lots of beautiful and strange plants, there are also modern sculptures scattered around.
The blue poppy is the sort of emblem of the garden. It is very rare and hard to grow.
The Himalayan blue poppy is one of them marvels of the plant world. Native to the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet, it grows at altitudes of 3,120 to 4000 metres.

The garden also holds the International Garden Festival.
50 designers participated in the creation of the 26 stunning, modern and unique gardens.

Back on the road for a long drive along a very scenic road. 
Bright blue sea on one side and lush green trees on the other.


You find many light houses scattered along the St Lawence Estuary and the Gaspésie coast. 
Just before dusk I stopped at this one : Cap-aux-Rosiers

In 1759, it was from Cap-des-Rosiers that the French caught sight of General Wolfe's fleet navigating towards Quebec City. This place was also witness to many shipwrecks including that of the Carrick where 130 Irish immigrants perished. 
The 37-meter lighthouse was built in 1858 and is the highest in Canada. 

I spent the night not far from here, in a nice friendly youth hostel at the entrance of Forillon National Park. 


Day 3 : Forillon National Park & Percé

An early rise and shine! 
Up and off at 6am to visit Forillon National Park.
Created in 1970, Forillon National Park lies at the tip of the Gaspé. 
Its sublime sea, cliff and mountain scenery encompasses 245 km2. Forillon protects a representative sample of the Notre- Dame and Mégantic mountains as well as certain elements of the Gulf of St. Lawrence maritime region. 
The term ‘‘Forillon’’ was used as early as 1534 by Jacques Cartier in his accounts of his voyages to Canada.
Champlain also mentions it in a text dating from 1626: [...] one league from the cape of Gaspey is a small rock they call the farillon, a stone’s throw from the mainland [...].
The word forillon thus appears to designate a small, rocky islet standing erect. But the exact location of this forillon remains uncertain. It may have been the remains of a rocky outcrop, visible only at low tide, at the tip of the Gaspé promontory that mapmakers called ‘‘La Vieille’’, or the other rock – no longer standing – one league from Cap-Gaspé, described by Champlain.
In any case, the name forillon is now associated with the peninsula harbouring the magnificent national park that proudly bears the same name. 
View of Cap-aux-Rosiers
There are lots of different hiking tracks around the parc, but yet again I was tight on time.
The receptionist at the youth hostel advised me to go on the hike (a 5km walk, well climb) to the highest point of the park, from where you get a spectacular view.
The tip of the Gaspé peninsula.
Percé Rock in the distance.
'The Savages Cove' ... I would have thought they'd have changed the name...
The is also a nice little waterfall in the park!

After having visited Forillon all morning I set off to Percé.

Percé & Ile Bonaventure

This was THE PLACE that I had been wanting to see in Gaspesie.

Percé, member of the association of Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec particularly well known for the attractions of Parcé Rock and Bonaventure Island. 
That afternoon I set off on a boat trip to get a close up look at the rock.

The massive rocky cliff is called by several names, such as le richer de percé, Pierced Rock, Split Rock or Percé Rock. The names is attributed to the pierced rock that formed an arch of 20 meters height on its seaward southern end, as though a needle had cut through the rock.
When it was seen in 1603 by the French geographer and founder of Quebec city, Samuel de Champlain, it had only one arch. However, in 1760, a picture of Percé Rock drawn by an English officer showed two arches, one of which collapsed in June 1845. Percé rock's two large holes were cut through by the sea waves. One of the holes seen now is an arch described as "gothic arch of rock", which is about 20 metres (66 ft) high. 

 A small boat can pass through the arch during high tide. Of the two arches, the outer arch, which had collapsed with great force in 1845, is now seen as remnants in the form of an "obelisk".
During this trip my camera SONY NEX nearly died...

I found the rock really fascinating, so of course I took loads of photos... 

The captain said that I could stand out on the front of the boat to get some good pics. The sea was rather rough and choppy. The waves were throughing our little boat around. Suddenly the boat hit a wave staight on. The water went flying over the whole front. I just had time to shove my camera under my leather jacket. I was soaked! The camera was a bit wet, but to my great relieve it still worked :)

After having floated a bit around the rock, the boat then went to the Island Bonaventure.
Seals lazing next to the island.
Thousands of birds use this island as a nesting area. (Sailing around it it really stank!)

It is populated by one of the most important gannet colonies in the world. about 120 000 Northern Gannets nest here.
They are beautiful stunning big birds.
When feeding, these birds are spectacular high-speed divers, plunging into the ocean from a height of 10–40 metres (33–130 ft), with their bodies straight and rigid, wings tucked close to the body but reaching back, extending beyond the tail, before piercing the water like an arrow. 
 Their nearly vertical dive can reach speeds exceeding 100 km/h (60 mph) before entering the water, allowing them to penetrate 3–5 m below the surface, and occasionally swimming down to 12–15 m. If the dive was successful, gannets will swallow the fish underwater before surfacing, and will never fly with the fish in its bill. 
Although they are strong and agile fliers, they are clumsy during takeoffs and landings. 
After having dryed off and warmed up from my boat trip I headed off to a beach not far from Percé to go and look for pretty pebbles. I love to collect shells and stones when I'm on a beach, I find they make great personnal souvenirs!
The Percé area beaches are well known for their colorful pebbles among with are hidden lovely semi-precious stones such as agates and jaspers.
The authentic general store dating back to 1928 is also worth a visit.
The interior decor of the store reveals past tradition through a variety of artifacts.
Here is the youth hostel I stayed at. A great place full of friendly people :)


Day 4 : Percé - Parc National de Miguasha - Causapscal - St-Jean-Port-Joli 

Up at 4am to watch the sun rise! 
I am crazy
But it was worth it. There was no-one around and it was breathtaking watch the sun come up behind the Percé Rock.
Northern Gannets flying and diving around the rock early against the golden sky.
Time to hit the road again. 
I really loved Percé, and really wanted to stay longer, but I only had 2 days left to get back to Montreal and still some places to visit.

On the road to Nouvelle I had some company : 2 punks with their dog! A gorgeous couple!!! :)

Parc National de Miguasha

Here, fossil fish and plants tell their stories about life that existed on our plant 380 million years ago, at a time when species were making the transition from sea to land.
Parc national de Miguasha is a real treasure of natural heritage, one that will marvel young and old alike...who will hear a story as fascinating as that of the dinosaurs. 
Because of its well-preserved fossils and their importance in understanding a page from the story of evolution, the park has been placed, since 1999, on UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage List.
3D fossil!

Not far from Nouvelle, while driving along the Baie des Chaleurs I stopped to take a photo : You can see Quebec on the left side and New Brunswick on the right.

There a lots of cute covered footbridges.

Causapscal : Salmon 

Main tributary of the Matapedia River, the Causapscal River is renowned for its huge salmon. Situated in the middle of the wilderness, it offers tranquillity and wonderful landscapes. 
It gets its source from the Causapscal Lake, flows through the mountains on down into the heart of the small town of Causapscal into the famous pool of the Matapedia River, Les Fourches.
The Causapscal River produces some of the biggest salmon in the province of Quebec , some of them can reach 25 kg. The river generates one of the earliest runs of salmon on the east coast.
Underwater camera that films the big fish!

I went down to the falls to try and see some jumping upstream. I had been told that as it was so hot I probably wouldn't see any jump...

...but after quite some time waiting I did see a few! 
And managed to catch one on photo (so proud od this pic!) They are really amazing fish!

I drove till dusk, right back to St-Jean-Port-Joli where I stopped in a nice little auberge for the night. I was so tired!

Day 5 : St-Jean-Port-Joli - Wendake - Montreal

Another day of driving. I just stopped of at Wendake, a Huron amerindian reserve to visit the interesting museum. Then headed back towards Montreal under torrential rain.

That's a quick (well long post with loads of photos) glimpse of my 5 day trip around Gaspésie! 2300km, what a drive!

It is must to visit if you're ever over in Quebec, but with more time!

Let me know what you think :)

12 commentaires:

  1. followed back :)

  2. Amazing pics, looks like soooo much fun!

    1. Thanks! It was an amazing trip :) I had a great time!

  3. Wow! I really admire you ;) Respect! what a great experience :) you visited many amazing places :)

    1. Thanks! Don't know if I deserve being admired, I just like getting out and visiting places :)

  4. Wow that was a tough ride I think, all on your own! The places you visited are beautiful :) I think I would have never done that on my own... in fact, I''ve never BEEN on my own so cudos to that! I would have rather stayed with my laptop in bed ^^"" I will be living on my own next month for the very first time and I am so excited! Think you might be a great adviser since you seem to handle being alone pretty good :) (That kinda sounds weird. It's meant as a compliment! :D )

    1. It was a long drive, but well worth it! I would have really regretted it if I hadn't gone. I've been on trips on my own a couple of times now (australia...) :)
      Awesome that you're going to live on your own! That's an adventure in it's own way! I'll give advice if I can!

  5. I loved your trip and your pictures. I believe it was difficult, but will be forever in your memory. Kisses!

    1. Thank hun :) It was long but like you said I'll never forgot the wonderful places I visited!

  6. Such a wonderful travelling dary, well done! This way you will never be able to forget about your trip) Thank You for sharing such a nice post, those photographs are breathtaking! I just want to give you a piece of advice, if it's possible try to make pictures bigger size, would look much better)
    Wish you a blessed day ahead!

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it and it wasn't too long and boring ;)
      Followed your advise and made all the pics bigger. Looks much better!