Sorry for the long silence devoted fans – internet connections have been of the non-existent or steam-driven varieties and have involved shivering on a bench somewhere – this one is little better as regards speed but I am at least undercover.
Last night’s ‘quiet’ pitch did not get any quieter. To the loud train hooting at frequent intervals add our neighbour refilling his water tank after midnight, accompanied by a door banging extravaganza to rival our cruise neighbours (see July’s posts if you are new to these ramblings). I was dreading negotiating our way out of St. John’s in rush hour but by dint of ignoring the sat-nav, it was accomplished. We were surprised to see the amount of effluent in the river as we left the town. I had feared that today would be main roads and heavy traffic but although the roads were more major than some, we were lucky (or unlucky) if we saw more than two cars at a time and the scenery was still good, if a little repetitive; one tree does after all look very much like another of the same species. We are noticing the gradual reddening of the trees as we travel on.
Road 7 north then Highway 2 and we were heading back for Québec along the River Valley Drive. Don’t you just love it when the sat-nav says ‘continue for 332 km’? This route follows the border with the US and we can see Maine just over there. It would be much quicker to cut across the US but we don’t feel up to arriving visa-less at border security. We decided to give ‘the world’s largest covered bridge’ at Hartland (shades of home) a miss. Surely this is just a tunnel? I am not keen on tunnels. It seems that all towns have to have a by-line announcing some superlative claim to fame. Apart from Hartland’s covered bridge and yesterday‘s highest tides, we spotted ‘the French fries capital of the world’. Really? Who bestows these titles, or are they self-styled?
Today’s was quite a long journey but went very well for 273 of the alleged 274 miles. Rather too well it seems. Partly because we were aiming for a site unrecognised by the sat-nav – in fact the whole town was a sat-nav no show – and partly due to roadworks meaning that the sorties were fermé and my French not being up to the alternative instructions, oh and the out of date sat-nav maps, which meant we were supposedly driving in a field, we got horribly lost. We stopped and asked directions of a lady who strangely didn’t understand my truly excellent execrable French any better than I understood her English. That helped not at all and one hour, 30km and some very rough roads later we were back where we started. This is the point at which you a) burst in to tears, b) vow never to leave the country again, c) head for home, d) do damage to the sat-nav/your travelling companion – or indeed all of the above. I try again in a shop where someone speaks English. By this time Chris has been driving for five hours and needs a cup of tea; this is bring out his xenophobic tendencies. Miraculously the shopkeeper’s instructions work and we are compensated by being back at the beautiful Témiscouata-sur-lac site, with a lakeside pitch. We take a walk into the town of Notre-dame-sur-lac. Chris cannot find any boats that impress him but we do watch a seaplane land.
The weather is humid and we think we may be in for a storm. Lakeside pitches are all very picturesque but this does mark the return of the hordes of flies and battle lines are firmly drawn. Normally I am a great respecter of all forms of wildlife but even I join in with attempts at swatting. Also on the wildlife front, there were numerous Canada geese on the lake when we arrived. Needless to say they were beyond photographable reach by the time I’d had the much needed cup of coffee.
After another very warm night and a beautiful sunrise over the lake, it is humid when we set off. I am suffering from some self-inflicted injuries as a result of our battle to exterminate the flies. Chris brandishes a tea-towel with menace and to great effect but I just seem to end up hitting myself and I already have a blackening thumb nail and several bruises. We manage to cope with the detour occasioned by yet more roadworks. For all these roadworks, some of the roads are in a pretty dreadful state, presumably because of the huge heavy commercial vehicles. Many roads seem to just be a thin layer of tarmacadam, with very little foundation.
As we are heading along road 185 nord it begins to drizzle. We have seen very little rain so far and it turns out that our windscreen wipers are about as reliable as the sat-nav. All they seem to do is spread an opaque smear across the windscreen. Opaque is not a good look whilst driving and will be even less so as we head west on the busier highway 2 but we manage. This is known as the Route du Navigateurs and follows the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, for the most part a little further inland than the 132, on which we travelled east. We do get glimpses of the river and the road is a lot less busy than I feared. As we drive alongside the railway a goods train heads east. It was pulled by two engines and had a total of seventy nine carriages. That has to rate as a superlative. The local town is obviously missing a trick. No sign of ‘we have the biggest goods trains in the world’ notices (NB that’s because they don’t – see later post).
We arrive at our campsite at Plessisville with only a five minute detour. There was a rather tense moment when there was a width restriction due to, guess what, roadworks. We had a bit of a debate as to whether or not we were less than 3.4 metres wide – turns out we are – just. This is another deserted campsite, with many vans that look as if they are permanent fixtures but are not currently occupied. A man with very little English says he will be back at three or four. We take this to mean ‘make yourself at home and come and pay me later’, so we do. We also decide to do rather more washing than normal, possibly not the best option on a drizzly day. Having done the making ourselves at home bit, after four we dodge the showers and take a muddy walk down to reception to pay. There is no one about, just a notice that says the site re-opens on 16 May – oops. There is another notice that is beyond my French but seems to be something about arsenic on the site. Surely arsenic is the same in any language? Oh, great. Now we are about to die of arsenical poisoning. One or two people do seem to be on site, clearly they are not in fear of poisoning, which is encouraging. None are the owner and we fail to make ourselves understood. We spot a lady in the distance on a golf buggy, she waves but doesn’t come and ask us for any money. I worry in case she garrottes herself on the washing line we have erected between the electricity wire pole and a handy tree. I have the bright idea of shoving a likely amount of cash through the letter box tomorrow morning. That would work well if there were a letter box.