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Bonzer Words!: A Short Break

Peter Payan tells of a short break to Canada's Gaspé coast.

Peter writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please do visit www.bonzer.org.au

My latest trip began with a mystery. Betty, an old friend of my mom’s, aged 89, wanted to travel alone to her country house on the Gaspé coast. She secretly rented a car, hid it out-of-sight of her home so her husband wouldn’t suspect anything, and asked a friend to drive it for her. The friend injured his eye before the travel date arrived, and had to decline.

Betty, knowing that I had summered in the area for many years when I was younger, asked me if I would be willing to drive her. She invited me to stay for as long as I wanted. As an incentive, she offered to pay my bus fare home.

Not having been down that way for twenty years, I accepted with pleasure, wanting to see all my old friends, the various houses where I had stayed, and the different sights along the way. The fact that the journey was a seven hour drive—more than 600 kms down-river—didn’t faze me in the least.

Now that I was committed, I asked Betty about the secrecy. She said that she feared not being allowed to go alone if it were known. When I told her family and neighbours that I would be driving, everyone relaxed.

With that settled, we packed the car on the Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning I was at her home at 5:30am, ready to go. The day was clear and bright, promising a very hot day in Montreal, as we left the city.

Seven hours later, after brief stops for lunch and to meet a friend, we arrived at the house. It was just 1:00pm, the sun was shining, and the temperature, for the area, a very warm 25c. With a rising tide, the salt water invited a swim. After quickly unpacking the car, I gingerly tested the water, finding it to be barely 10c. Brrrr! A ‘dip’ was the order-of-the-day, and a quick one it was too, just in-and-out, feeling refreshed but not too chilled.

As a child, I had spent all my summers in the area. The tidal waters, rising over sand and rocks, would be warm on sunny days. We kids found all manner of driftwood—old doors, tree trunks, etc—to make rafts to sit upon and move about as the tide came in. When the tide turned, the waters cooled, and we quickly left the rafts along the shore for another day. Many years later, my own children enjoyed the same activities.

I spent the rest of Sunday and all day Monday doing messages, renewing old friendships, touring the area to see the changes in the last twenty years.

I told everyone that Betty had arrived alone, would be keeping the car, and that her husband would be joining her in a week's time. They said that they would drop by daily just to say hello.

Monday evening, after a day of fitful south winds, the fog rolled in on an east wind. In the 'old days', the lighthouse next door had had a fog horn which, on foggy days, blew every few minutes to warn ships away from the rocks. These days, there is no horn, so fog brings only a damp quiet.

I had decided to return home on Tuesday. As I rose to greet the day at 6:00am, it was just 9C and still foggy. However, by mid-morning, the wind had changed to the west, blowing the fog away and revealing a clear blue sky.

My bus arrived at 11.30am and I was off on a nine and a half hour ride home, with stops to change the driver and to have supper along the way. There were periods of rain throughout the trip but I arrived in Montreal to see a glorious sunset, my ‘Short Break’ completed.

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