Bike Trips: Gaspé Peninsula:
July, 1992


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2002

[Back to Previous Day] [Return to Main Menu]
(See Copyright Notice on Menu Page)

Day 8: Forillon to Gaspé

Wednesday, July 29, 1992

Around the Bay to Gaspé

(La Carthèque Map: 1992)
Forillon to Gaspe
I was up at my usual 06:00, and packed up and ready to go by 08:00. I went over to the next campside to say my final good-bye's to Gilles and Josée and then headed on out of the park in the direction of the town of Gaspé itself. G & J indicated that they might go on into town for breakfast, so I was sort of watching for them as I ate my wonderful crêpes at a tiny restuarant in the town of Cap-aux-Os [Bone Cape]. In the end they didn't come by, so by 10:00 I set off without them.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Newspaper Ad: 1992)
Forillon Restaurant

I was only planning on a short ride that day, just into the regional centre which was the town of Gaspé itself. While I could clearly see the town on the other side of the bay, barely a mile away, I was going to have to travel 30km by road to get to it. The road followed the north side of the bay far inland to its head, and then crossed and turned east again to follow the south side back out. Though only 30km in distance, this road was going to end up taking me 3 hours. The small ups and downs of the road were not really bad at all, compared with some of the hills I had already been over, but the effect of the last few days on my legs seemed cumulative. Even the one-day rest did not fix it. Each small hill became a killer, with me inching my way up the slight grade in my easiest granny gear.


I took a break on the way in to visit Fort Peninsule, an old war battery from dating from the Second World War, when Gaspé was a fortified harbour. It was a very interesting museum. Hidden in the cliffs above the harbour were underground concret bunkers hous­ing huge cannons. I was to later see that these bunkers were totally invisible from the ocean side.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Supplementary: Photo taken on 1994 trip)
Guns at Fort Peninsule
 

The museum opened up a corner of Canadian history I had never imagined. Although quite near, the St. Lawrence was a major battlefield of World War II. German U-boats sank 22 allied ships in the Gulf, just off the coast from many of the small towns I had went through. The shoreline and harbours were the scene of pitched artillery battles between shore batteries and offshore U-boats. The long coastline was virtually impossible to defend against the random landings of German commando squads.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Gun Emplacement at Fort PeninsuleCorridors at Fort Peninsule
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Pillbox at Fort Peninsule
 

The Gaspé batteries them­selves were never attacked. Three such hidden forts established a crossfire over the nar­row, long bay that would have been suicide for any enemy vessel. A long sandbar closed off the mile-wide approach to a channel barely two hundred feet wide, a channel closed in wartime by a steel submarine net.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Supplementary: Photo taken on 1994 trip)
Sandy Beach Sand Bar
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Supplementary: Photo taken on 1994 trip)
Sandy Beach Sand Bar (Detail)
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992 (enlargement))
Closeup: Note end of sandbar and buoy
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Gaspé Harbour from Fort Peninsule
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992 (enlargement))
Closeup: Cruise ship in harbour
 

On my way after about an hour, I continued on inland. It seemed like I would never reach the head of the bay. I was fully 9km further inland, past where I had seen the downtown buildings of Gaspé on the opposite shore, before I finally saw the road drop down from the cliffside to cross what was left of the bay. At this point, it was mostly tidal marsh. There were a few empty mud channels (It was low tide.) in amongst the vast expanse of bullrushes and other watery plants. The highway dropped down onto a causeway leading across the marshes to the cliffs of the other side.

The going just got worse and worse. The smallest upgrade was torture. I began to have doubts about whether I could go on to my secondary destination of Percé. Gaspé had been my primary destination because it was the rail head. The train that I would take back to Mont Joli started out in Gaspé. Percé, with the famous Percé Rock that featured in all the tourist brochures, was another 70km further along.

It was 13:00 when I finally climbed over last ridge and raced down into the town of Gaspé itself, not a town really, but actually a small city. When I spied a waiting train sitting at the station, I knew that my decision was made. It was time to pack it in. I knew that the Gaspé train only ran twice a week so, fearing that it was about to leave, I raced to the station. It turned out, though, that the train was parked until 15:00 the next day.


Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Gaspé: Rail Head
My train awaits
 

I had to climb back up quite a serious hill along the way I had come into town in order to find the campground. Once my My tent set up and I had gotten lunch at the small campground restuarant, I headed back on into town.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Ville de Gaspé Flyer: 1992)
Gaspé: Shopping Centre on Hill
My first objective was to secure a ticket on the next day's train. As I was riding back through town, to the shopping centre on the far hill where there was a travel agent who could sell me a ticket, I knew that I was coming rapidly to the moment of deci­sion. I hesitated. Percé was only 70km further away. Should I just go on? While the train came somewhat closer to Percé, it did not really serve the area. And boarding with a bicy­cle at a small stop would not be as easy as at the main staion. (Via Rail required that bicy­cles be disassembled and placed in special boxes.) I might well have to backtrack to Gaspé again, making for an additional 140km altogether. Talking with people in the campground, I had been informed about the road, "Y a pas mal de bonnes cótes à monter là bas!" [There's some real serious hills to climb over yonder!]. And the next train would not be until Saturday. Wondering even as I tendered my credit card whether I would regret the decision, I made my purchase. I was committed. 15:00 next afternoon.

Before leaving the shopping centre, I decided to stock up on some cash. I felt somewhat helpless standing in front of the banking machine and noting that there were numbers only on the keypad, no letters. I only knew my password as a "word". It took me a moment before I guessed that the number/letter combination probably mimicked that of telephones, so I had to walk over to the pay phone to figure out my password. It's amazing how the slightest things can defeat one.


Sandy Beach Hike

From the water's edge, it was impossible to see to the end of the sandbar. The beach seemed to stretch on endlessly until it disappeared from view. Behind the beach was marshland and beach grasses. I locked my bike to a log, packed some gear into my pack, and started hiking.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Sandy Beach, from shore
 

On and on and on I walked. Soon, looking back, I could no longer see where my bike was parked, or even the road I had come down. I reached a point where a serious decision had to be made. The grassy interior of the sandbar vanished and the beach of one side met the beach of the other. Clearly, this area was under water except at low tide. I even had to take my shoes off and wade through some areas in water almost a foot deep. Off in the distance, I could see that the high knoll of the grass started up again. I was still far from the end. What worried me was that I did not know which way the tide was going. Was it coming in or going out? If it was coming in, this section could be under serious water within an hour or so.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Sandy Beach: Mind the tide!
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
The Dissappearing Gap at Sandy Beach
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992 (enlargement))
Closeup
 

Screwing up my courage, or casting worry to the wind, whichever, I continued on. Soon I could put my shoes back on and trudged along on the dry sand. As I neared the end, I encountered thousands of birds, mostly seagulls. The grassy interior was clearly their nesting area and my presence was making them very nervous. As hundreds of them flew up into the air over my head and they all shrieked, I began to get even more nervous (I was still worrying about the tide, looking for any sign of its direction.)

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Looking towards Ocean from Sandy Beach
 

When I finally reached the end, I felt I could nearly touch the north side, where I had been earlier that morning. I could almost read the writing on the sides of the trucks passing on the road, high up on the cliff. The far side, where I had started walking was lost in the distance. I could not even see the other end of the low sandbar. It was strange how the sandbar was so visible from the highlands, and yet nearly invisible from the level of the water. I could see how ships could get into trouble. The old concrete and iron works from the war era were still visible, the machinery for opening and closing the heavy, steel subma­rine net. Interestingly, I knew from the morning that I was only a few hundred feet from the Fort Peninsule battery, but I could see no trace of it, it was so well hidden.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Bouy at end: Looking towards Ft. Peninsule
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992 (enlargement))
Coastline Closeup
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Sandy Beach: Looking back towards land
 

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Sandy Beach: Chain emplacement at end
 

Once at the channel, it was clear that the tide was going out as the water had a visible current heading seaward. And sure enough, when working my way back, I did not have to take off my shoes and wade through the low section. It was now dry.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Period photo: taken in 1992)
Sandy Beach: Near Shore
 

The sun was nearly setting by the time I finally got all the way back to my bike. I hardly felt like I had the energy to climb back over the ups and downs that had gotten me there, so I walked the bike along the fairly level railway roadbed until I had passed the most serious hills.

Click on photo to enlarge
(Quebec Tourism Brochure:1992)
Gaspé: Harbour & Bridge
I stopped back in town at a fancy restuarant and treated myself to codfish for dinner. After learning so much of the history of the region, and how it had been built on cod, "la morue", I decided the trip would not be complete without a taste. It wasn't bad, but it was just fish.


Click on photo to enlarge
(Ville de Gaspé Flyer: 1992)
Gaspé: Shopping Centre at DowntownGaspé: Restaurant
 

It was pitch black by the time I headed back up the steep hill out of town and towards my campground. The campground, which had been empty when I had left it in the afternoon was now teeming with tents and campers, all strewn out in the open field with no markers between the sites. I had a pretty good time finding my own tent.

As I lay there in my tent, looking out the flap at the stars, I felt kind of sad that this phase of my trip was coming to an end. I had been 8 days living on the road with my bicycle, more than double my previous experience in riding to Quebec City over 3 days in 1990. I felt good about what I had accomplished, but was sad that I could not go on to Percé.

Daily Report

I had ridden 30km that day, over two hours riding time. Although it felt like torture going over the tiny hills, I had not really been riding that slowly, for my average speed was 15km.hr. [See the Kilometrage Study for more details]

Top
[On to Day 9]


Prepared by Roger Kenner
January, 2002