We awake to mist and heavy dew, signs that it is actually autumn, despite the mid-summer temperatures. I have established that we want to be on road 312, which runs along the southern side of the St. Laurence River. We find the 312 without difficulty but I am unconvinced as to whether we are going in the right direction. I have even dragged out of a dormant brain cell the knowledge that east is ‘est’ and west is ‘oest’. I was helped here by having supported the Timor L’est marathon runner during the Olympics (he was a long way behind everyone else). We cross the same bridge three times but no sign of whether we are heading est or oest, so Chris says we have to ask someone. This is usually his job but he speaks no French at all. We find someone with reasonable English who points vaguely. I just look pathetic and say (in English – I am such a wimp) ‘little road please’. Sure enough, here we are on the 132 est and it is well worth it, with awe inspiring views of the mighty St Lawrence at intervals. What must my north Devon emigrants have thought? A bit different from the Torridge! I love rivers, in fact I think I like them better than the sea. Is this because four generations of my ancestors lived on the banks of the Tamar?
The houses are mostly clapperboard style, single story and with steep roofs, presumably because of the snowy season. Very few have what we would call gardens – just grass and the odd bush or tree. Like Australia, most settlements are linear with a deserted 1950s air. Now we are somewhere quieter we see our first pedestrians and plenty of election posters. Wherever we have been there have been masses of roadworks, accompanied by ‘stop-slow’ boards, as opposed to our ‘stop-go’. Fortunately some of the meagre French vocabulary that I have retained includes the difference between ‘arrete’ and ‘lentement’. I have huge respect for friends who are currently travelling round Europe on the wrong side of the road (for them) through places where, I am assuming, they cannot understand any of the written signs – unless their Albanian and Serbo-Croat is better than I think it is. Not being able to understand what is being said/written is like being deprived of ones senses and I find it very disconcerting. Even the 132 gets busier as we are south of Québec. This is not helped by the narrowing of the lanes due to yet more roadworks. Canadian traffic cones are larger than ours, in fact their tops are exactly level with our wing mirrors. I am not prepared to say how I can vouch for this fact but no traffic cones or wing mirrors were harmed in the course of writing this blog.
We see several twin-spired, silvery churches, maize fields and harvesting being done. The farmers are probably making the most of the weather, which is still lovely. All the farms seem to have two tall cylindrical structures that we presume must be silos. We even find the very occasional pull-in from which to admire the Saint Lawrence. We had programmed the sat-nav to find us a Walmart, the address of which we had ascertained when we had internet access – cunning eh? What seems to be at the end of our route is something rather more upmarket and thus more expensive, than Walmart but time is getting on so we purchase our supplies and then look for the campsite, which is at another address the sat-nav does not recognise. Ha! Now I am justified in having used up a fair proportion of my baggage allowance with the Google maps. Talking of Ha! Westward Ho! often claims to be the only place name in the world with an exclamation mark. Not so! We have just driven through St Louis du Ha! Ha! and it is written thus on the map too.
The sun is starting to set and flashing lights warn us of ‘elevated danger of moose’ but we see none. Probably just as well as at this point we are hurtling along road 85. The site is found just as the sun sets and we draw up on a pitch beside the lake at Témiscouata-sur-lac – beautiful. The place is deserted and the vans that are on site look as if they are semi-permanent; used presumably by weekenders. We are too late to book in so I lack the wi-fi password. I do some guessing but fail – this isn’t as daft as it sounds – I managed to nearly guess an appropriate password (well, I was one character out) when in Scotland; site owners are not known for their cunning passwords. One we have stayed in already takes the prize as their password was the name of a Canadian animal but spelling was not the tech guy’s strong suit, so he spelt it incorrectly – no one will ever guess that! This rates as our favourite pitch so far.