Perce, Quebec – I have been to Percé before. I came to Agate Beach at L’Anse-?à-?Beaufils with Marie, a bilingual Gaspésie, to find treasure.
“Instead of spotting the makes of cars, when we were young we went to the beach to find agates. Look for shiny stones,” she advised.
The tiny beautiful stones, still wet, that I picked up were all beautiful colours, with striations of no particular pattern. They were shiny but not agates. The beach had been picked over.
Now I’m returning to Percé and taking a boat to Bonaventure Provincial Park to visit the largest gannet colony in the world and have a picnic lunch on the hill.
Backpackers who nourish secret pans to pitch a tent can gaze lovingly on Bonaventure Island, but their love is unrequited. Bonaventure is only accessible to tourists during the day. A guide assigned to the island tells me they don’t let backpackers with bedrolls and tents on the boat.
Later, in Forillon National Park, I visit the picturesque Cap-?des-?Rosiers Lighthouse, at 34.1 metres Canada’s tallest lighthouse, surrounded by wild pink rose bushes. In front of it on the lawn is a military cannon. In the olden days, a cannon firing blanks was used as a foghorn.
Walking around the lighthouse, I look down at the rocks far below. Harbour seals are sunning themselves while the ocean waves crash against the shore.
The next morning, I travel from Grande-?Grave along the park’s south shore to Cap-?Gaspé – where the St. Lawrence River meets the Atlantic Ocean – to see the blue whales.
Our captain scans the horizon looking for that geyser of air, water and bubbles that spews from a whale’s blowhole at least a couple of metres above the ocean’s surface.
There it is, a huge, grey whale surging up from the deep, pausing momentarily in a magnificent arch of its back before diving again.
Hoping to see it again, we zigzag all over the ocean in pursuit of the geyser, trying to anticipate whether the whale will journey inland or out to sea
There it is.
Our boat swerves and heads for the geyser, keeping a respectful distance. The motor is cut.
It’s awe-?inspiring every time we see it – again and again – the magnificent leap into the air and then down, down, below the waves.
Afterwards I realize I have just seen the earth’s largest animal: up to 33.5 metres long and weighing up to 181 metric tonnes.
Heading back to shore, the captain points out the coves where the whalers once kept their boats, when whale oil was needed to light the world’s lamps. Scenes from Moby Dick flash through my mind.
Later in the afternoon, we drive to the Cap Bon Ami promontory for a panoramic view of the limestone cliffs, the aqua green ocean where hundreds of sea birds disappear into nests in holes in the cliffs.
First the smaller birds, the kitiwakes, which only come ashore to build their nests. They spend almost all their lives at sea. We see a whole row of them, like line dancers, in between two waves.
On an isolated large rock, a young herring gull has a broken wing. He stands with left wing outstretched, touching the rock, the other folded against its body.
What will happen to it?
Eat or be eaten. In all this beauty, Mother Nature can be so cruel.