On Saturday we had planned to say goodbye and move on around the coast, but Storm Dorian, a hurricane you’ll have heard of having laid waste to the Bahamas on it’s path up the east of the Americas, had other ideas. En route to brunch, the town’s inhabitants could be seen strapping down anything smaller than a hatchback, and a cursory eye over the news/forecast gave us concern. We chewed it over at Café de Couleurs, a beautifully multicoloured wooden building overlooking the green and blue patchwork wetland of the Barachois. There was a still a fair amount to get to further round the peninsular, but ultimately the thought of driving, and let alone camping, in that weather – bravado of two ultimate YES people aside – was unappealing and we decided to stick it out another night at the pub and in the caravan. Residents at said pub would later confirm the wisdom of this decision, citing possible 90 mph winds, and no small amount of nerves themselves even as hardened country-folk. Brunch, by the way, was top notch; beginning with the storm-antidote soup of the day, piping hot and filled with much needed vegetables, a smoothie filled with much needed fruits, and finally a shrimp and scallop waffle! Heated argument (is it an argument if everyone is on the same side but shouting?) debates to what extend something can be called breakfast if one simply cracks an egg on top... In my book goat curry, boeuf bourguignonne and pad Thai are all affirmatives.
Gambling that there may still be a ship’s captain brave enough to make the hop over with us to the Ile Bonaventure, we head back into town. By now my road awareness is up to scratch and I’m fully appreciating the sweeping bends, undulations and dense foliage to either side. The ‘incontournable’ or ‘must see’ island is home to one of the largest colonies of gannets in the world, endorsed thusly by Laurence “It stinks and they’ll poo on you for sure”... AND we have to get there by another vomit-inducing sea vessel? Count me in! What a shame then that all shuttle ferries have already been cancelled in anticipation of the worsening weather. With mother nature threatening, and the populous telling us “there really isn’t much to do in a storm but drink” we admit defeat as far as outdoor activities are concerned and set off on a tour. La Societé Secrete – a distillery in fact so secret that I couldn’t identify it on my bank statement the following week when undergoing a fraud check – operates from an old church overlooking the cliffs, so is automatically the prettiest distillery I’ve ever been in, comfortably beating those charming but grimy London railway arches and garages. They’re something of a cult hit, often seen on Tshirts around Montréal, and we pick up bottles of Dry, Camerise (one of many random local fruits) & Cassis Gins along with a new Amaro bitters which I’ve since cracked into. We also grab “one of everything” for friends back in the city. I like the look of one of their very soft jumpers, but am put off by the hipster connection, and besides if I’m grabbing merch, I feel much more affinity with Pit Caribou, where we’re headed next. Tossing our spoils into the car boot, we realise the whip is in quite the state. Logs for a fire, pillows, beer, underwear (unclear whether clean or dirty), charging cables, damp towels, coffee cups, cheese curds (yes from day 1) and unfurling toilet paper – a photo would have served as a good trip summary, but I hadn’t the presence of mind.
Next stop is a return to the Microbrasserie Pit Caribou where we barbecued the other day, and where I buy a cosy hoody in size ‘Medium” which at 6’5 and 190lb puts into perspective the size of some of these rural Quebecois beer enthusiasts! We can’t resist a last drink here, so we grab a takeaway can of Session de Lesseps and climb the rocky ridge in what are now aggressively grey, gusty conditions, and huddle together in crevasse watching the growing waves crash in. In a coup of pathetic fallacy, conversation takes a darker turn, covering the depressing conditions in the northern territories of the country, youth suicide rates, immigration politics and the challenge faced by small businesses choosing product quality and human experience over profit margin. It’s a sign of how universally positive an experience the trip has been that this accidental slide into the sombre doesn’t dampen our mood or lead to any arguments. A perky little lone seal snaps us out of the slump, frolicking in waves which are now a little too close for comfort. We take some of his spring in our step and decide to head inside to the Pub Pit Caribou down the road, and given we’re chilled to the bone, to another alcoholic coffee with our pint.
If this were an English pub, there would be a roaring fire, but trying to to be not too disappointed we seat ourselves – yes at the bar – and listen to the locals shoot the shit, reminiscing about past storms and warning us home early. Comfortingly, they proudly promise the town never loses electricity. More porter Gaspésienne – maybe my favourite beer of the trip – and thoughts having now been turned to colder climes, we set about creating an Autumn/Winter to-do list to help get me through my first seriously snowy season. It’s a classic rainy day activity, filling us with hope and excitement for life-after-holiday. If I make it through even a quarter of the bars, ice-skating rinks, sugar-shacks, snowy music festivals, ski trips and US border-hopping I’ll have put together a hell of an extra-curricular resumé. Free shots from Alex send us on our way down the street to chef Greg - of moose Bolognese fame - manning the pizza oven at Maison de Pecheur, where we sit in the all-glass conservatory, a glorious place from which to witness the lashing rain and howling sea wind. We’re been recommended the cuttlefish, and we can’t decide between a seafood pizza or pasta each big enough for two, so order the full trio of dishes and a bottle of Muscadet which nails the pairing in a big spot. A little breadyness from the yeast echoing the pizza dough, sharp citrus complimenting the whole layer of sliced salmon like a lemon wedge, while acidity cuts through the creaminess of the sauce. We save four slices of the pizza to crack an egg on the following morning. Unable now see the sea 20m away for the sheet of horizontal water-bullets now pounding the panes, and cosy as I am with the wine and carb overload, we surrender in our game of weather chicken and nip home before we become those ‘morons’ I mentioned earlier who need to be rescued by the authorities. The pizza box serves as a crucial shield but as we step outside, a giant power outage plunges us into darkness…and I thought that never happened?
There’s obviously even less to do in a caravan than a pub, but I’ve always had a childish enthusiasm for a good squall, whether it be imagining two Pokémon duelling it out in the skies of my youth, or suspecting a divine participation in the Thai New Year water-fight festival of Songkran. Separated from the deluge now only by 12mm of creaking plywood, the noise is epic and we’re both a-buzz with adrenaline. We haul in our stash of trunk-booze (canned Chardonnay, Raspberry Dubbel, Barleywine) and talk the night away, stepping outside only once more, much later, as Dorian reaches the height of its powers for a naked pee in the punishing open air, just because it would be, and was, awesome!