It is so bright out, I think I must have missed it. I jolt upright, pulling on my glasses and reaching for my phone. It is 4:02 am. “Yes!” I say aloud, throwing back the top of my sleeping bag and crawling out the back window of my truck cap.
The campground is quiet as I make my way to the beach access. I have 15 minutes to find the perfect spot to capture the sun coming up.
I snap a couple dozen shots, then I put the cap on my lens so I can absorb the moment. A young couple are holding hands, strolling the beach, they too stopped to take in the colourful horizon and the crisp sound of waves sluicing over the pebbles
More people gather at the top of the stairway, some take photos, others just stand mesmerized. It will be a gorgeous day for a boat tour to Bonaventure Island. Once the sun is up, I head back to bed for a bit more shut-eye, however I am too excited about the day ahead, and at 6:45 am I find myself sitting outside a bakery.
I hover on the patio with six other people, while the lady flips the sign to Ouvert and unlocks the door. We shuffle through the doorway and form a line to the counter. I come away with a paper bag containing two chocolate croissants and a large coffee, then proceeded to the ferry dock to secure my spot in line for the 9 am ferry.
With the paper bag wrapped about the still-warm pastry, I scoffed it back before the chocolate filling had a chance to melt. I’m licking my fingers, enjoying the last sweetness of it, when a a couple stops beside me and asks, “Is this where we should wait for the boat to Bonaventure Island?”
“Yes, it is,” I answer. This is the start of an hour-long conversation. We share a little about ourselves. They were both born and raised in India. She came from a large city with a population of over seven million and he grew up in a small town. I chuckled at his description of a small town, “It only has a 100,000 people” They met while going to university in the Chicago. When a job opportunity brought them to Montreal, they loved it and are now Canadian citizens.
A long line-up of people are queued behind us. The tour boat maneuvers next to the wharf, a man topside throws a rope to another man waiting on the dock. It is loops over the bollards and the boat is moored. The gate is open and me and my new friends step down onto the deck, then head to the back and take a seat.
The captain slows the boat next to the rock, it pitches into the waves. Our French speaking tour guides holds up her microphone and rattles her speech off . We get a close-up look at Perce rock front and backside, then steam towards Bonaventure Island.
Away from the shelter of the rock, it is blowing a gale. The seas are rough, waves strike the boat and it rolls side to side. I zip my coat up to my chin, then clamp onto the railing. Our commentator even had to grab on, to keep from losing her balance, as we made our way through the corridor between both landmarks. Once in the shadow of the land mass, calmer seas prevailed. Here we could see the gannets nesting on the cliff side, a constant stream of birds leaving and returning as they feed their chicks.. A grey seal basks on the rocks.
Once around a section of lobster buoys, we cut a course to the island dock. I wave good by to my friends and wish them a safe drive home. Shouldering my pack, I go ashore. Just so you know, the national park pass does not work here, it is a provincial park, so I pay the entrance fee of $8, then head up the trail marked birding.
A well worn trail runs through the trees, some of it is steep and I pass many people resting on benches. I push on. The trail turns along the wind-battered coastline for just over 4 kilometers.
I pick up on a faint smell similar to a chicken coop, then I hear the squawking. I follow the path to a viewing center and I am awed by the sight.
Just meters away are thousands of gannets, squabbling over territory, squatting on nests, walking around, fluttering overhead. It is a magical sight
My camera gets a workout, it is nearly impossible to single one out. I head down the path to the second viewing area, there are even more here.
Down the trail about 500 meters, is the finally viewing area. A three tier platform gives scale to vastness of the nesting site from the top.
From the bottom I am only feet away and I stay quiet as I can. One dedicated mother sits silent while other birds next to her fuss. I catch her eye and she stands hunkering over her chick, but looking at me as if to give me a peek at her pride and joy. I have been given a gift to cherish.
I capture one more shot of an affectionate pair, then turn back to the Island village.
I arrive just as the 2 pm ferry is pulling away from the dock. with and hour till the next one, I sit at a picnic table, and eat my second croissant.
There is a restaurant, and I take a tour of a museum and gift shop. A couple of the homes of the former residents that lived on the island are open to the public There are other trails to follow with interpretive plaques telling about the settlers, and pirates.
The last ferry leaves the Island at 3 pm and I am on board. Just a 20-minute crossing back to Perce. The lady at the tourist info center said Forillon National Park is just 90 minutes away and I decide to head there to set up camp for the evening. Please join me for my next story as I drive around the Gaspe Peninsula.
Happy Travels from Maritimemac.
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