Friday, August 14, 2009

Canada V: We Will Rock You, Tadoussac

We suspected the driver of the Gaspe peninsula bus had a couple of lucrative sidelines going. Several times during the four hour trip from Quebec City to Tadoussac the bus would stop on a dark lane and a small boy would come sprinting out to deliver a box of oranges or to take possession of a parcel carefully wrapped in brown paper and string. This suspicion was confirmed when less than five miles from our destination we pulled in to the car-park of a roadside restaurant and were told that we were stopping for forty-five minutes, like it or not. The waitress refused to serve us Irish coffees unless we ordered a meal each (she didn't clarify whether her qualms were legal, financial or moral) so we kicked up the road to a one-pump garage and asked if they had a torch we could buy. They didn't; or perhaps they just didn't understand our pidgin French. By now the sky was inky, and the prospect of pitching a tent in the pitch dark, by the light of a novelty keychain flashlight, wasn't appealing.

When we finally arrived in Tadoussac it was like we'd stumbled into a Quebecois replaying of Woodstock. Around the bonfire people were strumming and swaying, while strangers got acquainted in the shadows of the beached pirate ship. Minutes after we arrived the band started playing, amid clinking beer bottles and stamped approvals. Slinging down our backpacks in the corner we went to try and find someone who could tell us where we could set up for the night. A girl with long dark hair and a preternaturally chilled-out voice gestured vaguely into the darkness.
"It's easier in English, yes?"
Yes. Sometimes.
"There are some spaces. Just find somewhere you like and tell us where it is."
She smiles and turns to the next travel-creased punter. Dutifully we grab our bags and trudge outside. It's been raining all day and we're in flip flops. By the light of the fire we see a level area crammed with tents, and then a dark hump of trees, rocks and canvas. Swearing quietly, we scramble up slippery rocks with packs on our backs, looking for a free wooden platform where we can set up.

It's a marker of how dark, wet and confusing it is that it takes us the best part of an hour to find one. Behind us the Frog Rock band provide a pounding background track.

It's a new tent, and the only other time we've put it up was on a lazy Saturday afternoon in Fort Greene. Now the conditions are decidedly more adverse. With a bit of Heath Robinsoning we finally get the pegs in and stumble and slide back down the hill to pay.

Half an hour later, when we're sitting out on the deck, we get talking to a guy from Montreal.
"So you're camping... here?"
Uh huh.
"You know there's a campsite down the road where you can hear the whales from your tent, right?"

We shrug, clink beers and go back to listening to the good people of Tadoussac rock out.

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