Just three hours flight from New York City and you’re in an area of thick forest and pristine rivers. The Gaspe Peninsula is considered to be the heartland of Acadia, an area that stretches from the eastern Canada provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to the lands known as the Gaspe. The people who live here are made up of French, Scottish and English heritage and are genealogically related to the Cajuns who settled in the American south.
■ Spending the night in a teepee on the river bank.
■ Learning the unique history of the Acadian people.
■ Hearing the sound of water rushing as you dip your paddle into the Bonaventure River.
Our canoe adventure starts at the top of the Bonaventure River, in the heart of the Chic-Choc Mountains. Here the river starts as a small stream, gently gliding through steep gorges and tree-lined banks. The Chic-Choc mountains are the source of the Bonaventure and for the first two days, the river will be quite narrow, just a stream really, but with several sections of fast-running rapids.
Along the way, you go through many forested gorges and rocky rapids. Heading downstream, the river gathers force, as it widens out into the flat plains of the lowlands. The landscape has also changed, with rolling plains stretching out along the riverside. Finally, you paddle into the town of Bonaventure and civilisation again. Here, the Bonaventure meets the Atlantic Ocean. The sea water mixes with the pure water and you can actually taste the salt in it. The whole trip takes six days.
■ The cold water, even in middle of summer, can be your biggest enemy in the rivers of Quebec. You need to dress warmly, preferably with quick-drying or waterproof trousers and wool socks inside your river shoes.
■ While the waters are considered to be quite clean and pollution-free, it’s wise to filter, treat or boil the water before you drink it. Giardia, a disease caused by contaminated water, is a possibility and cause stomach pain and diarrhoea.
DID YOU KNOW?
■ The Acadians were the first French settlers who came to the east coast of Canada in the 1600s. They were farmers, many of whom came from western France, which was environmentally similar to Acadia. To the English, they were just ‘the French’ and became part of the bitter rivalry between the two cultures as the land now known as Canada was settled.
■ The river was the major avenue of communication for the early Acadians was the river, and the canoe was the main mode of transport. The canoes were made mainly of bark and could have been dugout of one large piece of wood and bark. Today’s canoes are made of a different material, but are essentially the same design.
■ Poling is a technique used by Acadians to manoeuvre through the river. A 14-foot pole is used to propel the boat, and to balance the boat when you are going through rapids. The traditional way to do this is to stand up in the bottom of the canoe, something that takes incredible balance and control. This technique has been used along the Bonaventure River for centuries.
Cime Aventure Inc. 200, chemin A. Arsenault, Bonaventure,
Quebec G0C 1E0 Canada
Toll free: 1-800-790-CIME or 418-534-2333 Fax: 418-534-3133
Gaspe Regional Tourism Association
Toll Free from USA and Canada: 1-800-463-0323 or (418) 775 2223
Fax: (418) 775 2234
Tourism Quebec: 1-800-363 7777
The team were guided by Gilles Brideau of Cime Aventure