My first glimpse of the iconic rock, is at a rest stop about five kilometers outside the town. I lean up against the guard rail and stretch and shift around flipping my camera from landscape to portrait, to get a decent photo without a piece of the information building, or too many trees blocking it. Some how I am convince this is as close as I will get, and I can’t believe they put a big frigging building in the way.
The town is congested… and I pay attention to the traffic, and the random person stepping off the sidewalk onto the street. Patios are filled with colourful umbrellas and people lifting pints and laughing. Shops have neon signs glowing with Ouvert, there doors are ajar displaying t’shirts and hoodies on hangers with the words; Roche Perce and a depiction of the famous rock in a graphic decal.
The main parking lot in town comes into view, I do a quick rear-view mirror check, apply the brakes and turn into lane accessing the pay booth. A sign in the window says, back in five minutes. The gate is up, might as well park. Sitting in the truck, I wait to see if the attendant returns. He does not and I make a beeline for the the tourist information building across the road. Crossing my fingers I don’t get struck by a car or come back to a parking ticket.
The lady at the counter speaks English and I pose three questions; “Is there camping within walking distant of the town?”
” Yes we have two campgrounds, here and here” she put an x by each on the map.
“Approximately, how far is it to Forillon National Park?” “About an hour and 20 minutes” she answers, then waits sensing I have another inquiry.
“Could you tell me where captain Julien Cloutier ticket office is located”
“Right next door.” She points out the window. I gather up my map and brochures, departing with my best, “merci beaucoup.”
A little octagonal shaped hut is the boat tour office. A lady is holding the screen door open inhaling hard on a cigarette. ” Bonjour,
parlez vous anglais?” I say in a low tone. I am never very confident with the few French words I know. “A little ” she replies rocking her hand back and forth, She throws the butt to the ground, squashing it out and steps back inside her booth and closes the door. Stepping to the open window, I say “I would like to see Bonaventure Island as early as possible in the morning. Do you have any openings?”
She pushes a brochure through the window, so I can see it and says ” We have a Roch Perce/ Ile Bonaventure tour, for $38 taxes included. Tours start at 9: am, on the hour” ” I’ll take it” A bargain.
As she hands me my ticket she says. ” If you want to go onto the Island, there is and $8 fee, payable at the national Park office” “Merci” I depart and head back to the parking lot. I must remember to bring my national park pass with me tomorrow..‘
When I arrive back at the parking lot, the attendant is at his post. I stop the truck at the exit gate and tell him, “I came in while you were gone”. He points to a pay machine at the front of the stand but raises the gate and waves me through, and says “next time”. ” Oh, excuse me. I want to go here.” Thrusting my map out at him, I point to the spit of land called Cap Mont Joli.
” You want to see the cross?” he says with his eye brows raised forming a crease in his forehead.
I really just want to take some photos, the tour guide book says it is a excellent view and I already have a picture of a the cross marking Jacques Cartier’s first mass from Port-Daniels-Gascons, but I say ” yes, yes I do” He points the way.
Rue Mont Joli, is a narrow paved road that whines around rocks and houses and ends at a parking lot about one kilometer from the center of town. I get out and start walking towards the white post and board fence and slip through the opening leading up the path. Not five steps in, I hear a voice, boom, ” It is $1″ to access…” I stop in my tracks and pivot around. How did I not see him... I pat my pockets and say ” I am so sorry, I didn’t see you and, I don’t have a loonie on me” His face is Stoic, and I walk back towards him in defeat.” I will return later with a loonie”
Camping au Havre, is very small maybe twelve spots give or take one. It seems to me that the owners have turned their ocean front yard, into a campground. The man in the office smell of cigarettes and with one word and a few hand movements, I deduct he is asking, what do I drive? I point to the paper on his desk, non-service. “Just space for a truck”.
We leave the office and take a tour of the facilities; showers, laundry, restaurant, then he hands me a key to the door. We don’t converse, just lots of nods and hand gestures. I claim my patch among the few remaining spots, then head out on foot to find a meal.
Each restaurant has a menu board at the front of its walk-way, seafood and steaks seem to be the main theme. Undecided, I walk to the farthest building then come back on the other side of the street. I hear music and I am lured into an open-air pub. A man is strumming a guitar and belting out Okie from Muskogee, for a group of people dancing in the courtyard. I initially sit at a picnic table under an umbrella, but when I failed to flag down the server, I moved to the bar, ordered a cooler and took the advice on the translated sign: Take a seat and the waitress will be with you shortly.
Perce, is a tourist town and the locals make their livelihood from the end of June to the labour day weekend. I know they are overwhelmed during this time. Normally, I would shrink from calling out bad service, but in this case, I chased down the waitress three times to take my order, the bartender was looking at her phone while myself and others were lined up for a cocktail. My meal consisted of a shockingly small portion, that was very overpriced. I left my card on the table and hoped they would get the message, they should do better with the next customer.
I took the boardwalk down the stairway onto the beach towards the caves. People were out strolling, and rock-hounding for agate and Jasper. I too stared at the pebbles for the semi-precious stones, while I waited my turn to get a photo of the rock being chiseled by the sea.
With the onset of dark, I thought I would give Cap Mont Joli, one more try but I still hadn’t acquired a $1 coin, and the attendant was still manning his post. I headed back to my campsite stretched out in my chair with a book and watch the sun go down.
Please join me for the next installment Bonaventure-island. Happy travels from Maritimemac.
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