September 1011, 1999
We discovered the next morning that we
had not been the only guests at Cotê de Surprise overnightthere
had been five other rooms filled! It seems we had arrived on
the last weekend the establishment would be open before closing
for the winter. In fact, had we arrived a week later, we would
not have found much open in the area at all.
Even though the fog was as thick as pea
soup, we couldn't leave without a visit to Ile Bonaventure to
see the gannet colony there. So we had a quick breakfast and
hurried to catch the boat tour. The boat, a small one that rode
the choppy waters like a bucking bronco, sailed close to Rocher
Percé so we could get a good look at the hole in the
rock. Here's what we saw, at close range.
As we drew nearer to Ile Bonaventure,
we began seeing curious heads popping out of the water near
the boat. These were the seals coming out to see who was visiting.
really cute! We also saw a lot of birds, both in the
air and perched on the sheer cliffs of the island. Here is a
passage I lifted from another site (thanks to www.greatadventures.com)
that accurately describes the experience of a visit to Ile Bonaventure:
"In 1604, Samuel de Champlain wrote
of Canada's Atlantic coast: 'The abundance of birds of different
kinds is so great that no one would believe it possible unless
he had seen it.' This spectacle is now limited to remote Atlantic
islets as well as Bonaventure Island where over 200,000 birds
nest in an area of only 416 sq.km. off the Percé coast.
Of these, about 50,000 birds form the largest gannet colony in North America.
Other seabirds include Leach's stormy petrel, herring gull, black
legged kittiwake, common murre, black guillemot and the razorbill,
many of which can also be seen on nearby Percé Rock.
A boat ride to Bonaventure Island allows some interesting walks
among wildflower meadows to the cliffs overlooking the gannet
colony. There are outstanding views of the mainland but this
is not a peaceful walk due to screeching birds and pungent odors.
Generally, the best birding sites in Gaspesie range from Cape
Bon Ami in Forillon Park to the New Brunswick border. Brackish waters,
where rivers meet the sea, as well as sandbars, attract great
numbers of shorebirds. Two favorite sandbars for bird watching
are located at Barachois, just north of Percé, and Carleton.
Shorebirds can also be seen on the northern coast in the saltwater
marsh located at the Baie-de-Capucins."
was interesting to watch the bird socializations. There were
quite a few "youngsters" in the gannet colony, as
evidenced by their gray moulty feathers. Each young bird had
a parent fussing over it. Occasionally the other parent would
swoop down from the sky with a choice morsel for the family.
We caught up with a park ranger at the site, who told us that
each of the parents takes turns going off to find food. Upon
return, the adult bird finds its family in that huge population
by listening for the apparently unique "voices" of
It was time to start back to Virginia.
A long trip. We bade a reluctant goodbye to the Gaspé
Land's End and started driving down along Gaspé's southern
coast towards New Brunswick. We stopped from time to time at picturesque spots,
but none compared to those we had seen along the rugged northern
coast. The southern coast was more densely populated and catered
to the beach crowd. Towards the end of the day, it started to
rain very hard, the rain staying with us for the duration of
the day's drive. It ended up being a very long day as we made
the mistake of not stopping when we crossed over into New Brunswick.
There was nothing for miles, and we were beginning to
worry about finding food and lodging (or even something approaching
civilization at all) when we came across one place in the middle
of nowherethe O'Regal Motelthat had both available.
We were surprised to find mostly French-speaking people in this
The trip down through Maine was long,
as expected. The most excitement we had was seeing a young black
bear scamper across the highway. We still haven't seen
one moose!! We broke the trip up a bit by stopping off in Freeport
to have a look at the LL Bean outlet. We found not only LL Bean,
but a whole town of outlet shops there! We relaxed over a lobster
and shrimp dinner and discussed our thoroughly enjoyable trip
to Gaspé. If you're from Virginia, two days up and two
days back, but worth every long highway mile.