I packed up my gear very carefully, knowing some of it, such as the tent and cycling gear, would say packed for the rest of my trip (Indeed, some of it until the following year.) Luckily it was a nice, warm, sunny day.
On the way into town, I visited the "Musée de la Gaspésie" [Gaspé Museum], a fancy federal project built on the highland overlooking the bay and the city. It was a good way to pass an hour and a half, from 10:00 to 11:30. I looked at historic artifacts and learned a bit more of the history of the region.
From the overlook, I studied the Sandy Beach sandbar I had walked the day before. Except now only the first third was visible as a peninsula. The tip was an island separated from the rest by a healthy stretch of blue, open water. The tide was in!
I arrived at the train station at 11:30 to pack up my bike. I needed help from the station master and special tools to get the pedals off and the handlebars turned so that it would go into the box. Everyone was quite friendly and helpful. I was going to pack all the gear around with me when the baggage man produced a second box and invited me to dump it all in.
Leaving on foot, I just hung around the waterfront area waiting until the boarding time of 14:30. I went back to the same fancy restuarant for lunch. Visited a bookstore to explore more local lore. Walked around the marina looking at the boats. I was glad when I could finally get onto the train.
|The South Gaspé Coast|
|The South Gaspé Coast|
|The Matapedia Valley|
|Gaspe Train Schedule|
|Aboard the Train|
As we rolled along the southern shore of the bay, I had at least 30 minutes to examine the road I would have cycled had I continued. From the comfort of my train seat, it didn't look too bad. With my binoculars, I could make out the familiar landmarks on the opposite side: The church at Petit Gaspé, Mount St. Albans, and Land's End with its lighthouse.
|Approaching Percé on train||Closeup|
Then the train turned to cross over into the next cove and I had a clear view of Percé Rock in the distance. We crossed the bay on a long sandbar called a "barachois" in French (A sandbar that completly closes off the inner part of a cove, forming a brackish lake behind it.). Then we turned into the mountains for a few minutes and, when we emerged, I was looking out upon the Baie des Chaleurs and towards distant Acadia and New Brunswick.
The train ride was fairly uneventful. Most of the afternoon and early evening we move inland along the coast of the ever-narrowing Baie des Chaleurs. The distant New Brunswick shoreline grew closer and closer as we passed through a series of small towns. The southern side of the Gaspé is a lot flatter and more populated than the northern side, with much larger towns. Many of the towns have English names like Chandler, New Richmond, and Carlisle, remnants of historical English settlement. But the residents are now nearly all French speaking.
|Wreck at Chandler, from train|
At Chandler harbour, I saw a sunken ship sitting on its side. I knew none of the details surrounding this find. Also at Chandler I began sharing my seat with a young, twentyish "gaspésienne" [Gaspé girl]. We spent the evening in long conversation, going on through dinner in the dining car and drinks in the bar car. I alwaysenjoy taking advantage of the probably soon-to-disappear amenities like dining cars and bar cars whenever I take the train. The conversation with the young French girl was a trying one, as I had to really put my ear in gear in order to understand her heavily accented French. Ouch! Gaspé French is really hard!
Around Matapédia, at the head of the Baie des Chaleurs, it finally got too dark to see much out the windows. The train turned up the canyon of the Matapédia River and snaked its way up into the mountains to cross over to the north side.
My companion and I left the bar car and opened the window on the platform, where passengers are not supposed to be. The fresh night air blowing in was nice, as was watching the lights of rest of the train glowing in the dark as we turned sharp corners. The conductor was understanding and ignored us in passing.
Before I knew it, midnight and Mont Joli were approaching. I was alone on the platform with my two big boxes as the train pulled off into the night. For a brief five minutes the station had been full of hustle and bustle, as descending passengers got into taxis and cars. Then just as suddenly as it had come to life, the stationmaster closed the lights and the station was deserted.
I walked over across town towards the police station, hoping that my van was all in one piece. It was. The roar of the engine, after more than a week's silence, was music to my ears. I drove back to the train station to get my bike and gear, then back down to the waterfront town of St. Flavie, where I had started my trip eight days earlier. By then it was nearly 13:00. I parked by the water, crawled into my sleeping bag and was immediately asleep.
Then I headed back on down the road towards the Matapédia Valley and New Brunswick, for phase two of my trip. The bicycle trip was over. I was already longing for the next summer.