TO THE SOUTH SHORE
One of the advantages of having a decent camera like the Nikon D5000 and a a high-quality lens to go with it is that you can photograph objects miles away, crop down the image and enlarge it, and it still gives you an impressive shot, such as this one of the ferry miles out in the estuary.
This is taken from the quayside (such as it is) at the ferry terminal (such as that is too) at Les Escoumins and that ship out there is the one that I'll be catching to take me over to the south shore of the St Lawrence.
Apart from the ferry of course, the first thing that I notice is that the water around here in the St Lawrence is all a reddy-brown colour. Of course this area is quite rich in minerals and raw materials and so there may be iron ore just below the surface.
On the other hand it could be rust from the Empress of Ireland, a large ocean liner that sunk over there somewhere on the far coast in 1914 with the loss of over 1000 lives after a collision with a bulk carrier.
Yes, imagine that. The Titanic was bad enough but this was two years later and in sight of land - or, at least, they would have been had there not been fog. And the disaster of the Empress of Ireland has received nothing like the same coverage.
Having made enquiries of the local fisherpersons ... "blimey - you're at it now" - ed ... congregating on the quayside, it seems that the reservation system for the ferry works by the interested party (in this case, Yours Truly) presenting himself at the petrol station at the top of the hill - the one with the totem pole thing outside on the forecourt.
There's an information desk inside the shop part of the petrol station and it's there that they book you onto the ferry. They take a copy of your credit card and hand you a slip of paper, and then you return to the quayside.
And so I wrote in 2011.
All of that had changed by 2015 when I came here to cross over that year. Now, you have to pre-book your place on the boat. This led to one of those surreal discussions that you could never ever make up - it has to be true because it's just so unbelievable.
I'm not going to write it out because I've already done that before and you've probably read it. But just in case you haven't, you need to go to this page and read all about it here.
But the ferry reservation gives me yet another opportunity to have a good GRRRRRR. When we were on that War of the Worlds thing at Montreal airport, a couple of people stood up to offer their seat to me. And now the guy here booking my ferry for me in 2011 has just told me that I can have a reduction on the ferry if I'm over 65. This is terrible, isn't it?
I've come all of this way to pull a couple of nubile young bimbos, not to be pushed around in a flaming bath chair.
Meanwhile, back at the starsh... errrr quayside, sooner or later a man turns up in a car and he checks your slip of paper against his list. And once he has done that you are ready to board the ferry.
But before you board the ferry you have an opportunity to study it as it passes in front of you and then reverses into its berth at the quay. It's one of those ships that I would describe as "having seen better days".
I wonder what the European transport commissioners would say if you turned up with this ship and asked for a passenger licence to cross the English Channel for hire and reward.
But then again a brief perusal of my accounts shows me that I paid $59 (without the senior citizen's discount) for my crossing. That's roughly £36. Now tell me how much a ferry across the English Channel would cost for a large car and passenger, paid on the spot.
And in any case, I looked far worse than the ship does when I was 30 years old.
And I can't say that I wasn't expecting this either. I passed by here last year on my way to the Trans-Labrador Highway and happened to notice the ship at the quayside. It was that which encouraged me to come up here for a go on it.
I mean, you just have to, don't you? ... "Well, one of us does" - ed.
For the season 2012 however, the ferry is to have a facelift. It's being repainted and then it's off to dry dock in Matane for a full overhaul and its four-yearly thorough inspection for its passenger licence prior to restarting the season, a restart that has been postponed until May 15th.
Mind you, it should be pretty good when it comes out. The budget allowed for the work is said to be $1,360,000, a sum which has not been without controversy.
But anyway, once Noah and his menagerie and Julius Caesar and his soldiers had disembarked from l'Heritage 1, we could load ourselves up.
On board the ferry, you make your way to the cash desk, present your slip of paper and your credit card, and they do the necessary, stamping your ticket as "paid". Don't lose your ticket, though, because you need to hand it in to the guys on the quayside on the other side of the crossing.
All that remains now is that you are taken below and chained to your oar, and off we set into the sunset. At either attack speed or ramming speed, depending upon the whim of the galley master.
I just hope that he doesn't want to go water-skiing - I'm not as young as I was.
The crossing in 2015 was quite rough ... well, it wasn't really. We had plenty of wind to be sure and it was cold, but there was no reason why the ship should have been swaying around as much as she was. Presumably it's because of her flat-bottomed design although I don't remember swaying around like this last time.
Just by way of a change, there were all kinds of exciting people on the ferry and I fell in with this American couple from Massachusetts.
Strawberry Moose won some new admirers of course, because he is such a gregarious moose, and the feeling was mutual.
We had a lengthy chat, during the course of which they mentioned that they just driven the Trans-Labrador Highway. They had done the trip in reverse, so they said, which made me think that they must have had a really good pair of rear-view mirrors, because there was no obvious crick in the guy's neck.
Their vehicle, a Dodge Silverado, had been specially fitted with heavy duty tyres and wheels for the trip. However they had smashed two wheel rims in the middle of a pile of grader debris (I'm not quite sure how) not too far from Churchill Falls.
Someone from the hydro plant passed by a short while later and rescued them, and the damage was repaired at a cost of $160.
They didn't tell me the exact circumstances of the accident but it does prove my point that it's not necessarily the vehicle that's the issue out here - sometimes it's the driver as well. But I do wonder how fast they must have been travelling.
Another thing that surprised me was that they still had graders working up there. Judging by the number of graders that I saw up there last year I reckoned that surely they must have finished the work a long time ago.
Strawberry Moose is always very interested in what is happening around him and so he's straight down to the pointed end to have a good look at our destination over there, silhouetted against the setting sun.
Where we are actually going to is the town of Trois Pistoles, a settlement dating from the end of the 17th Century, although it is said that is was a regular haunt of Basque fishermen prior to that date.
His Nibs also made another friend on the boat. A young boy called Thomas took quite an interest in him and wanted to be photographed. And who is Strawberry Moose to refuse another photo opportunity?
So while Tomas and Strawberry Moose were having their photo taken I was talking to Tomas' father about the town of Trois Pistoles, the destination of the ferry. It appeared that he is related in some degree to the Ouellet family, who had a great deal to do with the construction of the town, and so he was telling me something of its history.
I mentioned to him how beautiful I found this region to be and he agreed completely. He said that at one time he packed his bags and went off to live in Montréal, but within five years he was back.
Ohh look - here's our friend. The ship that has been following us down the St Lawrence all day. You've noticed from the earlier photos of it that it's owned by a company called Euronav, and the name of the ship is written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
My Greek isn't up to what it used to be in the old days and it took me a while to figure out. But if my reading of the Cyrillic alphabet is what it ought to be, it's called the Cap Gorg, and I can't quite make out at this distance its home port but it may well be Piraeus, which is the port of Athens and that would fit in with the Cyrillic alphabet and the name of "Euronav". I'll check when I return home.
Which I did.
Euronav is a tanker company with an office in Piraeus. And they very kindly listed their fleet for me. There is a Cape George which, in Greek, is Gorg, and so that might well fit the bill. It's a tanker of 146,000 tonnes built by Samsung, presumably in Korea, in 1998. She's 274 metres long too, although she might not look it.
And not only that - our ship has found his little brother. He's farther down the estuary and so there is no hope whatever of reading the name of that, even though it appears to be painted on the side of the ship in larger letters.
And it's not so little either. The Cape George, if that's what the previous ship is, is one of the smallest in the fleet. All I can say is that this one here must have been farther away than I thought.
But look at the height of the sides of the ship and its length. I don't think that there would be many people who would like to be out in a Winter North Atlantic gale in that.
There is one occasion that springs to my mind the story of the landlubber leaning over the side of a ship, "sharing the suffering of the afflicted", as Alec Guinness famously said in Father Brown and a passing sailor said "the trouble with you is that you have a weak stomach"
"Rubbish" retorted the landlubber. "I'm throwing it as far as everyone else".
It's always nice as well to look back to where we have been as well, because if everything goes according to plan (not that plans have ever had very much to do with anything that I have ever done, as I'm sure that you all know), I shan't be going back onto the north shore of the St Lawrence on this visit to Canada, except when I have to catch my aeroplane.
It's goodbye then to Highway 138 and its goodbye too to the Charlevoix, or, rather, au revoir because I shall certainly be back - and sooner rather than later as well. Be in no doubt about that.
It is definitely one of my most favourite places in the whole of North America.
Another thing that is important is for Strawberry Moose to provide his devoted band of followers with the evidence of his presence at many of the locations that he visits. So here he is clambering over a lifebuoy belonging to the ship and marked with the ship's name
This does remind me of the story about the sinking of the Empress of Ireland and the cries of "man overboard" - which further reminds me - do you have to say "person overboard" these days?
Anyway, we have the cry of "man overboard!"
"Throw him a buoy!" shouted someone, to which one of the steerage passengers picked up a very young male passenger and heaved him over the side.
"Not that kind of boy - a cork buoy" shouted the first person
"How am I supposed to know where he comes from?" retorted the passenger
On that note, I went off to the cafeteria and had a couple of rounds of toast on board. That took me up to landing time.
So here's the town of Trois Pistoles as you can see. A really good view, isn't it? But then what do you expect seeing as it always takes longer to travel on a ferry than it does by road.
But despite that, holidays aren't quite the same if you can't fit in a ferry crossing somewhere along the route, no matter where you are. And I suspect that this is going to be my last one on this trip, even though we've hardly started yet.
It does however give me a good-enough excuse to come back another time and see the town. There is in fact quite a lot to say about it but I'll save it for now until my next visit.
I must admit that I enjoy taking to people when I'm on my travels. There is so much that you can learn from people when you are in a different environment and as well as that, when you are stuck for a while on a ferry, it makes the time pass so quickly. So much so, in fact, that I didn't have the chance to have any chips.
So with having missed out on my chips, I'm looking for something to eat and a place to park up for the night. Eating is not necessarily an essential as I can always rustle up something with what I had with me, but sleeping is quite important.
In 2015, I was having major health issues and so I went to look for a motel on the edge of town. I wasn't in the kind of condition to doss down in the Ranger. This is where we leave our combined journey.
But for those of you here in 2011, I seem to remember from my visit here in 2001 that there's a huge lake some way south of here at a town called Cabano. That seems to be a good bet to find a quiet car park.