Friday, 16 August 2013


I woke up early today, a start to my day which has a certain irony to it. Today is the day when I take the ferry from Baie-Comeau to Matane. The ferry leaves at 2:00 PM. My hotel checkout is at noon. Breakfast at the hotel goes until 10:00 AM. I awoke at 7:00 AM, a full 2 hours earlier than needed on a day with no demands and easy timing. Ah well, that's just how it goes. At least I managed to lie in bed for another 90 minutes before launching myself into the day.

The drive yesterday from Quebec City took me along the north short of the St. Lawrence River, or if you are from here, fleuve Saint-Laurent. The road along this side of the river wanders, at times following the close shore of the river, at times winding up into the bluffs of the high bank, at times wandering up into the low mountains of the Canadian Shield. There are a myriad of small feeder rivers and streams, many of them falling over the bluffs virtually at road side. Other times the road is low aside the main river and these falls are off to the side, sometimes in view and other times hidden just enough upstream that the only hint of their existence is a tourist sign.

It is a pretty road with the river on the right all the way, moving along the flats where the smell of the river slides its way into the truck through the air conditioning, moving up into the low mountains where small farms have been carved out of the ancient boreal north, moving ever northeast while the river widens into the broad inlet of the Atlantic we call the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At this most distant end of the road, the river is strongly tidal with mud flats at almost every turn. The shoreline is rock strewn, random boulders tossed as if mythical giants were playing dice with them. This coast, this river edge, is a navigator's nightmare, sometimes steep-to and other times creeping out far into the river.

Most of the small towns along the way are marked with their spired Catholic churches; the larger towns evidencing their lucre with dual spires and churches copious in space and appointment. The Church is failing here as more and more people turn their backs on this increasingly irrelevant institution, haunted by suspicion and betrayal, looking firmly into the past and seeing the damage this system has left behind. In some of the smaller hamlets the local church is closed, de-consecrated and waiting to be sold off.

The major towns and cities along this line of land, this vast region of wilderness, are resource towns. Baie-Comeau is a paper town, the most prominent welcoming being the two major dams sealing the mouth of the Manicouagan River so that power would be ready and cheap for the mill. Cheap electricity fueled the growth of other industry including an aluminium smelter. It's also the departure point for the ferry to Matane, the eastern-most crossing of the St. Lawrence River. After here, it's nothing but ocean, except for that small interruption of Newfoundland.

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