DAY THREE part I
ACROSS THE ST LAWRENCE
Next morning, I was up and about early as I had a ferry or two to catch.
The Saguenay Ferry wasn't too much of a problem because it ran quite frequently across the river just here. The Saint Lawrence ferry, however, was another matter, as crossings were fairly infrequent, and in a day or two there wouldn't be any at all.
This was no time to be lying in my stinking pit.
The view from the main road across Tadoussac Point and down the Sageunay river to the Saint Lawrence - well, what can you say about this?
Watching the sun rise over the opposite bank of the Saint Lawrence was probably one of the most memorable moments of the holiday - it was really hypnotic.
What was I saying about spectacular views earlier? It's a real pity that this photograph cannot do justice to what it was that I saw, but that was the story of the photographs and of the holiday.
Anyway, I turned my attention back to the ferry, as one of the boats was carving its way back through the ice towards the Tadoussac side of the river, and it would be here in a minute.
I actually arrived on the other side late the previous evening, and if you've never been here before, you'll have no idea of how confusing it can be.
I was driving along this little narrow road with no-one else in sight when all of a sudden I came across this sign that read "attention - congestion". Being puzzled as to what congestion one could expect here at nine o'clock at night, I didn't really pay it too much attention.
Although I wished I had when I rounded the next bend - when I noticed that all of a sudden there wasn't any more road.
Luckily, what there was was a ferry, already waiting with its ramp down in the harbour.
And a good thing too, otherwise my subsequent sideways slide across the carpark could well have resulted in both the car and myself taking an "early bath". Instead, we had this almost-immaculate slide and drift right up the ramp and onto the ferry and to a standing stop in the correct lane.
I thought it was all so impressive, and I was the one who was driving.
But back to this morning.
I could tell that I was in a French-speaking part of the world, as no-one seemed to have any sense of humour. I was standing next to someone as I took this photograph the following morning, and I said to him "I hope there's enough space in the lifeboats!"
He looked at me with a puzzled expression so I gave him a clue "You know - the Titanic" but he just gave me a strange look and moved away.
You would never believe that the ferry left here 15 minutes ago.
But it was cold this morning for a European (minus 10°C, as I remember saying, a good few years before I moved to live in the Auvergne - and it was going to get well colder than this before my journey was over) so I wasn't in the least bit surprised.
In fact, the cold was such that the Pizza I had left over from the previous night to warm up in my 12-volt oven (great places, Walmarts) had frozen solid, as had the water I was going to use to boil up in the 12 volt kettle (thanks, Paul) to make some coffee.
So having made it back over the frozen Sageunay, I took a nice easy drive up to Saint Simeon. This was where I was going to catch the ferry to take me across the Saint Lawrence.
THE SAINT LAWRENCE
I arrived in Saint Simeon with plenty of time to spare. I think I was the third or fouth car in the queue.
This nice early arrival meant that I could watch the ferry from Rivière du Loup on the south bank pull up to the terminal.
As you can see, she's not the biggest ship in the world, and the St. Lawrence has a history of sudden storms causing great loss of life, disappearing ocean liners and a massive death toll of local fishermen.
I also had time to check out the ferry terminal too, such as it was. There is a simple ramp descending to the loading ramp, with a small office with an information point, a few seats, a payphone (I gave my friend Paul a quick ring from here to tell him I was still alive) and a coffee machine, the coffee of which wasn't too bad for a machine.
Fairly minimalist conditions I have to admit, but there again, the price was fairly minimalist too!
So, load up the cars, find the purser to pay him (yes, you pay at the kiosk on board the ship), and bye bye North Shore.
Now off to the restaurant to have one of the strangest eating experiences I've ever had. In the cafeteria, there was this enormous communal table in a "U" shape, and everyone sits around the outside of it.
The serving wenches are on the inside, and they wander around and slap a mug of coffee, a plate of toast ("Rôties" as they are called here) and a dollop of baked beans in front of you.
And every time you take a sip of coffee - you get a refill.
It was just like something I'd seen in a bad B-feature "wild west" film.
I can't remember how much I paid now, but the value was excellent.
So, once I'd eaten my fill, it was back topside to admire the view, despite the absolutely freezing weather. I reckoned we weren't far off being in mid-channel by now.
And this is the view of the Saint Lawrence - looking west i.e. in the direction of Quebec, or inland.
It's no wonder then that Jacques Cartier really thought he had discovered the North-West passage when he sailed up here in the 1530s. This was just so impressive in real life.
It's really hard to credit that this is in fact merely a river and we are already God knows how many hundreds of miles from the mouth.
This ferry took 75 minutes to cross over, just like the Dover - Calais ferry.
However the main difference is that Seafrance or P&O or Eurotunnel want £200 for a car and passenger, yet this company here wanted $40 CAN (about £18).
Eat your hearts out you Channel-crossers. How can the European companies justify charging you £200 for a similar crossing, particularly with the volume of traffic that crosses the English Channel?
I mean, the only way to get across the Saint Lawrence otherwise is to drive back to Québec and cross over, and then drive back up the south bank of the river, which is probably not far short of 100 miles.
This ferry company has no competition at all at this time of the year yet it charges only £18. There are endless means of taking a car across the English Channel, yet, strangely enough, they all charge a near-enough identical extortionate fare.
It's hard to think that, looking at this photograph, the ferry left here just 4 hours ago. This is a tidal estuary yet it was certainly cold enough to freeze all the water around the ferry terminal.
I bet you didn't believe me when I told you how cold it was just here.
So, now we had arrived on the south bank of the river. Where to next?
The map said the quickest way to Centreville, New Brunswick was up and over the mountains and across the Québec - New Brunswick border at Edmunston. So, to the music of Johnny Winter's "Rock and Roll Hoochie-coo" the car and I set off.
Through the town of Rivière du Loup (a nice, compact small waterfront town that would be worth a little exploration at another time,) and out into the mountains. Then a warning sign!
"Road between Cabano and Dégelis closed due to snow".
"Not for me it isn't" (well, not until I'd had a good butchers, anyway). "In for a penny, in for a pound. I've come here all this way to experience this".
As it turned out, the road wasn't that difficult to pass, and it was well worth the effort I made to drive through it.
Strange names (like St Louis du Ha Ha!) to make the mind boggle, and that was another place that was simply inviting me to go to visit it. But not today. that will have to be for some other time.
The road up over the top of what are effectively the Appalachian Mountains took me past some beautiful rivers and lakes.
I just wish it had been safe enough to pull over onto the side of the road to take a few photographs, but there was that much snow on the banks that you never know what you are going to be parking on.
Then over the border into New Brunswick, and it started to snow again as I began to descend the hill.
NORTHERN NEW BRUNSWICK
And just look at this. Isn't it amazing what you find at the side of the road? Well done that man there - it is indeed a Lancaster bomber. It's parked up on a corner of Edmundston Airfield - on the border between Québec and New Brunswick. It's a wartime version, so the sign said - one of only 3 left apparently - but all its military gear has long gone.
I've never seen a Lancaster in the flesh before, so I was impressed to see it, even if it was a symbol of a genocide, mass murder, and war crimes.
As Winston Churchill said in a memo to to the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of Air Staff, dated 28 March 1945
"It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed"
Comments such as these have a rather ironic ring just when the USA and the UK, the main protagonists of this genocidal terror bombing of 1943-45 are denouncing "terror bombing" committed by other people.
What I did notice was the size of it. It's nothing like as big as I expected it to be, as you can see if you compare it with the Cavalier in the photograph just here.
Lancasters flew at a height of 18,000 feet, which is just over three miles high, and at a speed of about 240 miles per hour.
Now I've no idea of the muzzle velocity of one of Kammhuber's 88s, but it must have taken a few seconds to hurl a shell over 3 miles high in an upwards direction. If you say 5 seconds, for example, then the aircraft has advanced about 1500 feet in that time.
There were no computers, so the gunners were predicting the range and likely course by a mix of visual contact, primitive sighting arrangements, logarithm tables, sextants, and the position of the tea leaves in the bottom of the cup.
And all the time someone was dropping bombs on their heads.
One author describes the difficulties of the British anti-aircraft gunner earlier in the war with less-sophisticated equipment
"By the time the sound locator had tracked the target and established its course, the predictor had calculated its future position, the gunner had set the fuse and aimed and fired the gun and the shell had taken a full minute to reach its destination, a bomber could have travelled six miles in any direction".
In the period 1943 - 1945, the Royal Air Force lost about 5,000 bombers on operations.
Some were shot down by night fighters, some ran out of fuel or had mechanical problems, some were involved in collisions, some were hit by bombs dropped from above and at least one was hit by an aircraft falling out of the sky on top of it, but flak certainly accounted for more than a few.
One book on the subject reckons that flak accounted for between 1.25 and 1.75 per cent of all sorties, regardless of other operational losses. And given the foregoing, that is absolutely remarkable.
This reminds me of an anecdote told to me by the navigator of a Lancaster bomber. Whilst on their way to bomb Germany, they came under attack from a German nightfighter and the rear gunner was screaming out instructions to the pilot on how to evade the fighter.
"Have no fear" said the pilot, a rather religious boy. "The Lord is with us"
"He might be up there in the front with you lot" retorted the gunner "but he's not down here in the back with me!".
Now the story behind this particular Lancaster, number KB882, is that it was built sometime in the spring of 1945
It's said to have flown 7 combat missions over Germany as well as several assimilation flights, all of which were undertaken with 428 Squadron, RCAF.
It was then laid up for several years before being converted to a photographic reconnaissance role.
From 1952 until 1964 it was with 408 Squadron and involved in the project to photograph the High Arctic regions of Canada. Upon retirement, it was bought by the city of Edmundston in 1964 at a cost that was rumoured to be 1500 dollars, refurbished, and then flown to the airfield.
Some advertising blurb I saw states that the aeroplane "has been in good hands ever since".
It only needs a quick glance to see that they are joking, even though the condition of KB882 is no laughing matter.
There are stories that it was still flying until the 1970's, but close inspection made me wonder how that could have been possible. One thing is certain, and that is that it will never leave here under its own steam ever again.
It absolutely amazes me how people can just abandon something like this and let it rot away particularly as it's such a rare machine. Pretending it's doing something useful while it's sitting here quietly rusting away is shameful, if not downright deceitful.
There was an announcement in summer 2006 (some 4 and a half years after I saw it and presumably in response to the storm that I whipped up about this poor machine) - is that even the owners now privately admit that it has deteriorated badly.
They admit that many items from the aeroplane have disappeared. Apparently they are are going to spend some time on it and
They are also going to install a donation box to help them with their "restoration plans" - by this they presumably mean they are going to save up so that they can take off the engine cowlings in another 20 years, if there's anything still left of the aeroplane by then.
My own personal opinion is that everyone else ought to install a collection box so that someone else can buy it from clowns like these who have no idea at all of what it is they are supposed to be doing.
They are simply going to end up totally destroying a rare, if not unique, piece of aviation history simply because they don't have a clue. Forty-two years it's stood on this site, and in that time it's been transformed from an airworthy flying machine into a pile of derelict scrap, and it's been twenty years.
I've been trying to interest a few other aircraft museums in taking on the restoration work, and I know some people in Chama, New Mexico who will take good care of it. This aeroplane ought to be somewhere like this rather than in the hands of rank amateurs who have no idea how to look after it.
It seems to be a general thing in Canada, something that I don't understand at all.
Several years later I was lucky enough to be allowed to sit behind the controls of another Lancaster bomber owned by another museum elsewhere in Canada.
I mentioned to them the scandalous story of KB882 and askend them if they would like to take on the project of restoring this machine if I were to buy it. There response was
"ohhh! We can use it for spares for ours!".
And that filled me full of disgust as well.
What has happened to this aircraft while in the hands of the city of Edmundston is a scandal and ought to be a national disgrace. It is a piece of machinery with a history, and deserves to be treated with much more respect than these fools have been giving it.
But I hope you have more luck than I do as they don't reply to me whenever I write. But at least my web page has provoked a response from somewhere.
Next stop was Edmunston shopping mall. I had some errands to run, seeing as I was going a-visiting.
And once we had sorted out the shopping and after I had hit the highway again, my stomach was telling me that the next stop ought to be lunch, and fairly soon too.
If I remember correctly, it was already after 3 o'clock but I wasn't worried about the time - I was worried about making progress.
So I pulled off the highway and into the nearest town that looked like it might sell food, and organised for myself a vegetarian sandwich and coffee at a "Subway".
The town was called Grand Falls - or Grand Sault, and this in the photograph are the great falls. This is what you call impressive, what, even iced up.
Then back southeastwards along Highway 2, the Trans-Canada Highway, racing a diesel-powered train all the way to Florenceville.
I was nearly at my destination. Centreville was only a stone's throw away