Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 5 - July 25th The "Voyage" Home!

Saturday, July 25th - We were up very early on Saturday morning as we had 8:00am reservation for the ferry...but we had to be on site by 7:00am. We are very fortunate that we had two nice days to tour the Îles de la Madeleine! Unfortunately, but not to our surprise, it was raining...the positive, we only had about a 7 minute ride to the ferry terminal. I wrapped my pack in plastic and loaded in on the V-Star.

Once at the ferry terminal, we had a short wait and then we were loaded on the boat. As mentioned in my day 1 post, the advantage of being on a motorcycle is that you are the first ones loaded and the first ones off the boat! Prior to loading the boat, I looked out at the water and it looked very rough!

Once you are loaded on the boat, the crew uses a large block of wood to wedge your motorcycle in place. I am not sure what they would do for a sport bike with a lower cowling??? You can see very clearly the wedge under Martin's Suzuki...

In no time, the ferry was off and we were out to sea. As I anticipated, it was rough. There was a small boat that left the harbour around the same time we did. The two pictures below clearly demonstrate what we were in for!

About half an hour into the cruise, we passed by Entry Island. As mentioned in my Day 4 post, this is a small Anglophone community where fishing and farming are the major industries.

Since this was the last view of land we would have for 3 hours, I decided that I would take advantage of the photo opportunity.

You can clearly see some livestock in this picture.

For some people, the next 4 hours on the ferry were not very pleasant! I was okay, but barf bags were in heavy demand and the boat staff were very busy dealing with people who were sea sick. Luc, Susan & Martin handled the crossing pretty well too, however, Luc & Martin did not move around too much!

We arrived in Souris, PEI around 1:00pm, unloaded, fueled up and hit the road! It was not raining, but the skies looked like they could explode at any moment! My rain suit did not hold up on the trip to the Îles de la Madeleine, so we stopped in Charlottetown and I purchased a new rain suit. By the time we reached Borden, PEI and the Confederation Bridge, the sun was shining. We drove pretty hard as we wanted to make it home before dark! We did make a stop for supper and fuel and then proceeded home. About 60km from Fredericton, Luc & I split from Martin & Susan as we live on different sides of the river. I was looking forward to seeing my wife and kids!

Overall, this is one of the best motorcycle trips I have ever been on and I would highly recommend it to my fellow motorcyclists! Also, Luc, Martin and Susan are great traveling partners! The 1200km journey and the 5 day trip to the Îles de la Madeleine receives a 5 star rating from me!

Til next time, ride safe!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 4 - July 24th The Tour of Îles de la Madeleine Continues

Friday, July 24th - We woke early to a beautiful sunny morning...the plan for the day was to visit sites of interest on the Islands. Luc and I started the morning with an early morning walk. Again, we were in awe of the landscape and coastline. These pictures were taken about 500m from our rented cottage!

We explored the coastline and came across several sea caves that had been formed by the tides.

After about an hour of exploring, Luc and I returned to the cottage to meet up with Martin and Susan. The plan was to tour the other side of Cap aux Meules Island. We loaded our gear, jumped on the bikes and headed towards a lighthouse at Cap du Phare. I was leading the group and little did I know that I drove by the lighthouse without seeing it. We stopped in the village of L'Étang-du-Nord and Susan told me that we missed the lighthouse. I looked off in the distance and she was right.

Prior to travelling back to the lighthouse at Cap du Phare, I took this picture of a house that views the Atlantic Ocean. Very interesting architecture!

We jumped on our bikes and back tracked to Cap du Phare so that we could check out the lighthouse and take a few pictures.

After touring the lighthouse area, we jumped on the bikes and traveled back to the village of L'Étang-du-Nord. The scenery, like everything else we saw on the islands was spectacular. Here is a shot of the wharf and the surrounding landscape. Notice the shipwreck off in the distance. We asked a local about the shipwreck and he explained that the ship was from Halifax, Nova Scotia and was blown off course during a storm. The ship broke in half!

We stopped for a coffee and enjoyed the view. There was a real cool kite shop in L'Étang-du-Nord and it was fun to watch people learning how to fly and control a kite.

We also took time to check out this sculpture which was dedicated to the fisherman of the Islands.

Since they were trying to pull something out of the water, we figured that we would lend a helping hand! Apparently, this type of photo opportunity is quite popular with tourists!

From there, we took an alternate route to the Village of Cap aux Meules and had lunch. During our lunch, we set out our plan for the afternoon. Martin and Susan wanted to spend some time at the beach and Luc and I wanted to continue touring. We decided to split up and meet back at the cottage for supper.

There is a microbrewery on Cap aux Meules Island that Luc and I really wanted to check out. We parted ways with Susan and Martin and headed off to the À l'abri de la Tempête Microbrasserie. At the microbrewery, we met a young lady and employee named Isabelle. She took the two of us on a personal tour of the microbrewery...a very small but unique operation. One of the beers that they make is made entirely from products on the Islands, now that's cool! After the tour, we had the opportunity for some small samples of the beer they manufacture, it was all good!

After the microbrewery, Luc and I took a look at the map and decided that we would go to another lighthouse located on Havre aux Maisons Island at Cap Alright. It was not a long ride, but we were taken again to another spectacular view (I know, I keep repeating myself)! In the distance you can see Entry Island, it is a small Anglophone community about 10KM from the interconnected islands. I really wanted to go there, but there was just not enough time to catch a boat and go is a full day trip!

I also took this picture of one of the cliffs near the lighthouse...Luc called it a postcard type of picture!

A few more interesting homes at Cap Alright...

After spending some time at the lighthouse, Luc and I saddled up and traveled to another wharf. We had one last place that we wanted to visit and it was a lookout point that we had scouted out earlier in the Village of Cap aux Meules. We climbed the long set of stairs to the top of the lookout point and here is the view that we had.

Notice the bridge off in the distance, this connects Cap aux Meules Island to Havre aux Maisons Island.

This was our last stop of the day before heading back to the cottage. What a great second day touring the Îles de la Madeleine! We met up with Martin and Susan and decided that we would have a BBQ for supper! Luc's friend Sarah and her friend Marc-Andre joined us! A great two days touring the Islands; my main focus was on the geography and the landscape. If I ever make it back here, I will spend some time focusing on the history and architecture of the area.

We had an early morning boat to catch, so we enjoyed each others company at the cottage, had a few beer and packed our gear.

But wait, the adventure is not over are the day 5 teasers. Get your barf bags ready!

To be continued...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 3 - July 23, The Tour of Îles de la Madeleine Begins

Thursday, July 23rd - The tour begins! We were just ecstatic that we woke to sunny weather and clear skies.

The Îles de la Madeleine or in English, the Magdalen Islands is a series of almost a dozen islands in the Atlantic Ocean, six of which are linked together by narrow sand dunes and causeways. They fall under the governance of the Province of Quebec. The archipelago of the Îles de la Madeleine is located about 105KM from Prince Edward Island and is only accessible by boat and air plane.

The majority of the population are Francophone/Acadian in culture. There is however, a small Anglophone population also located in the region. It is beneficial if you know a little French, we were fortunate as Luc speaks English and French and he was our communication guy!

Our plan for the first day was to check out the six interconnected islands. Our rented cottage was located in the community of Fatima on Cap aux Meules Island. The cottage was nestled back in some trees and was only a stone's throw away from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

We saddled up and left Fatima and headed to Havre aux Maisons Island. I was not prepared for what we were about the see! The countryside was absolutely breathtaking! Large grassy fields surrounded by hills, sand dunes, cliffs and beaches.

The next stop was Pointe aux Loups Island, the smallest of the six. This small narrow island consists mainly of sand dunes, much like an oasis. You look to the left, you see the Atlantic Ocean, you look to the right, you see the Atlantic Ocean...beautiful sand beaches!

From there it was on to Grosse Île and Grand Entrée Islands. We choose to go to Grand Entrée Island first and to stop at Grosse Île Island on the way back through. Again, we were not disappointed by the scenery! We traveled to the end of Grand Entrée Island where there is a large wharf, several restaurants and shops. Fishing along with tourism are the largest industries on the islands. We parked our bikes and toured the wharf.

While touring the wharf, Luc, Martin and I came across a large fishing boat called the Jean Mathieu! Several of the fisherman from the Jean Mathieu were working on a net, when Luc asked them what type of fish they generally catch.

Well, from there a great conversation took place and we spent about an hour talking to one of the fisherman and the Captain of the boat. They offered us a beer and proceeded to tell us about fishing for crab, lobster, mackerel and the seal hunt. I think they enjoyed the conversation as much as we did, you see we are all educators, so we had lots of questions and we don't know much about the commercial fishery.

The Captain of the boat, Denis, explained that most of the fishery was not operational at this time of year and if you saw boats going out they were either out for pleasure or possibly looking for some bar clams. That morning, Kendall, one the Jean Mathieu's crew was out and retrieved some bar clams.

Captain Denis said that the bar clams were excellent, either raw or cooked. He found a knife, opened the clam shell and said, here try this! So I did, the clam meat was quite tender, almost like a scallop. Luc tried as well, but Martin wanted nothing to so with eating raw clams!

We continued to talk about fishing and we started to ask questions about the fishing boat. Captain Denis asked us if we wanted to come aboard. We were like 3 little kids, excited and could not wait to see the boat. Captain Denis, showed us the kitchen, the wheel house and the holding was very cool! Sue was watching us from far away and could tell that we were having a great time talking to these guys! The three of us were very interested in the electronics on board and Captain Denis proceeded to explain how the electronics were used for navigation, etc. One statement was quite profound, he stated that when he first started fishing all he had was a compass to go by, now he is completely reliant on electronics and technology.

We thanked Captain Denis and his crew for the tour and proceeded to find Susan and some lunch! Susan could not stop laughing at how excited we were by the tour of the boat!

After lunch, we were on our way back to Grosse Île Island! On the way, we made two stops; one to view the red coastline and cliffs...

And a second stop to view the beautiful white beach at "Old Harry"!

After a short stop at Old Harry Beach, we moved on to Grosse Île Island. Grosse Île Island is made up of Anglophones who are mainly of Scottish descent. Most work in the fishing industry, there is also a large salt mine located at the entry to the island. The hills on Grosse Île Island were amazing to look at, we stopped at Grosse Île North and climbed one of the large hills so that we could get a wide angle view of the sand dunes and beach.

Here is what we saw from the top of the hill, absolutely stunning!

Here is another view in the opposite direction, you can see the salt mine off in the distance.

And a view looking out at the Atlantic...I could have stayed on the top of that hill all day!

At this point, we had been on five of the six main islands and decided that we would make the trek to the sixth main island, Havre Aubert Island. It was about a 60km journey back through some of the area we had already covered. We stopped for a short rest on the beach at Pointe aux Loups Island and then on back to Cap aux Meules Island for fuel. From what we could tell, Cap aux Meules Island is the main commercial centre for the archipelago of islands.

The cruise across the dunes to Havre Aubert Island was just a beautiful as our morning cruise. We stopped at La Grave and toured the area, there are several small shops, restaurants and pubs located there.

We stopped at a local pub, sat on the back deck and simply enjoyed the view! We also met up with Luc's friend Sarah at this time!

We went to another pub for supper where I had a chance, with Luc's guidance to practice my French! Lets just say that I did okay! We were pretty tired after a full day of sun, riding and touring, so we decided to call it a day and go back the cottage! Sue opted to travel by car with Sarah. Martin, Luc and I proceeded to make the cruise back to Fatima. We relaxed during the evening, had a few beers and talked about what a great day we had!

The plan for Friday, visit site locations that we were interested in, so stay tuned for my Day 4 blog post! Here's the teaser this time...

Day 2 - July 22nd Journey to Îles de la Madeleine

Wednesday, July 22nd - Day 2 of our journey to Îles de la Madeleine turned out to be much more of an adventure than we anticipated! We woke early, enjoyed coffee and loaded our bikes in preparation of our 50km trip to Souris, PEI to catch the ferry. We checked the weather forecast and it was rain, rain and more rain!

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that we had to travel 2.5km down a red dirt road (clay) to reach the cottage we were staying in...well, it rained extremely hard during the evening and that red dirt road turned into a cesspool of water and mud! It turned out to be one of the worst driving experiences that I have ever had...trying to get three loaded cruisers through 2.5km of wet clay, mud and water was horrendous! Click on the picture for a full view!

The rain had made the road very soft, muddy and about testing our driving skills, plus it was pouring rain as we were navigating this road! We were quite relieved that we made it through this mess without anyone putting their bike was that bad!

We stopped at a local restaurant for breakfast and were advised by the locals to avoid the highway to Souris as there was major road construction going on. They advised us of an alternate route which we ended up taking. The ride to the ferry terminal was slow as it rained the entire time. We stopped for fuel in Souris and proceeded to the ferry terminal. Fortunately, we did not have a long wait prior to loading on the ferry.

I was amazed at how quickly we were loaded on the ferry! One of the major advantages of of having a motorcycle is that you are the first ones loaded on the ferry and the first ones off.

Once on the boat, we changed into some dry clothes, got some food and relaxed in the ship's lounge.

I ventured out into the rain to get pictures from the ships bow and stern.

Five hours after the ferry left Souris, PEI, we arrived at the ferry terminal in the Village of Cap aux Meules. I did not have any time to get pictures as it was dark, raining and there was no time as the ferry unloaded very quickly! Fortunately, we had a short ride to the cottage we had rented. We unloaded at the cottage, went for food and settled in for the evening.

Here is a teaser for my next post...

Stay tuned for some stunning scenery!