Read a day to day account of young Michah, a CanGeo Challenge finalist’s experience
Day 1, Louisbourg.
After flying into Sydney yesterday, I woke up at the Cambridge suites in downtown Sydney feeling very tired. I got out of bed and realized that Timothy, Xavier, and I had to have breakfast with our chaperones (Emma, and Alexandra) in fifteen minutes. I woke up Xavier and got ready for a day in Louisbourg and a fancy lobster dinner. I went down for breakfast where there were many options (not very many for me because I can’t eat gluten). There I found out that we had two hours to pack our bags and get ready for Louisburg – we had a lot of time. After finishing breakfast, I went back to my room to start to pack. Once I finished packing I put my bags in the lobby of the hotel and waited for the bus. The bus was on time so we loaded our bags and got on the bus to Louisburg. After 45 minutes we got to Louisburg where we had an amazing tour of the fortress and how life would have been like in the fortress. After that, we went for lunch in one of the restaurants serving traditional food that the people of the town would have eaten. After lunch, we decided to go up to the walls of the fort where we took a picture holding the Canadian Geographic flag. Deciding to go back down we stumbled upon a chapel where the Winnipeg youth chorus happened to be performing a couple of songs. Once they had finished we went outside to see that some sort of ceremony was starting, it was a historical re-enactment of public shaming for a soldier who had stolen a bottle of wine. We heard his sentence and watched as he was paraded through town and was forced into the stocks. With only fifteen minutes left for our visit, we visited the museum and looked around the building until we had to go. Once we had gotten off the bus in Sydney we boarded the RCGS Resolute. There was a not brief “briefing” of the trip to come and then a lifeboat drill both of which were quite boring but very necessary so I forced myself to pay attention. Then we went to our rooms before supper to find a very nice room for us. We stayed there until we were called for dinner where I had a lobster and a salad (I had a salad for each dinner over the trip). After dinner, we went to bed anticipating Sable island the next day.
Day 2, Sable Island
Today started with a wake-up call saying that we were approaching Sable Island and that we would be there soon. So the three of us: Xavier, Timothy and I got up and went for breakfast along with our chaperones. After breakfast, we packed ourselves bagged lunches. Afterwards, we went down to our cabins to wait for the gangway to go to Sable Island. A while later we learned that the seas were too rough for the zodiac to go to Sable island from the side we were on so we had to go around the entire bank of sand which is much larger than Sable island so Xavier, Timothy, and I looked outside at the oil rigs. We decided to eat our bagged lunches and around three we made it on to Sable Island. We walked around the beach for a while and saw a couple of horses and some seals.
Later when we went to the biggest freshwater pond on the island, we came very near to some of the horses. We saw arctic terns, Ipswich sparrows, and common terns. We had a guide talk to us about the importance of the grass on the island and the history of the island. After what seemed like a very short time on Sable island we had to go back to the ship so that we could make it to Bird Island off of Cape Breton the next morning. We got back in time for the next day’s briefing and a wonderful dinner. After which we went to bed.
Day 3, Bird Island, Ingonish Nova Scotia
Today started in the same way that the rest of the days on this trip started. Getting a loud knock on our doors at 7:15 meaning that we had to go for breakfast. So, Xavier, Timothy and I had to get out of bed to go to Bird Island in the morning. Once out of my room I went up for breakfast and ate some gluten-free bread and an omelet. Afterward, we got ready to go on a zodiac cruise around Bird Island. When we got the call to disembark we went out for gangway and got on a Zodiac. With that, we started going around the island where we saw: cormorants, bald eagles, puffins, razorbills, and of course gulls. We actually saw a bald eagle with a dead gull in its claws getting pursued by a lot of gulls trying to get their next meal (cannibals). After that, we went back to the ship so that we could get to Ingonish for the afternoon where the two chaperones, Xavier, Timothy and I planned to go to Baddeck to see
Day 4, Charlottetown PEI
Today was the day that we had agreed to go souvenir shopping in Charlottetown because we were not going to very many other places where we could do that. When we got out of bed, we knew that we’d have to hurry up because our chaperones always wanted us to be ready around a half hour before we would actually go to shore. So we ate breakfast and got back to our rooms to wait for gangway when we learned that gangway would be delayed so we waited in our rooms until we could disembark. After waiting for a while we got off the boat and boarded the bus to Charlottetown. Once there we saw the province house under renovation and we went a model of the room where the fathers of confederation met. After that we went around downtown doing touristy things like buying souvenirs which we did until we had to go back to the boat. So we got back on the bus and got driven back to where we had landed. We got back to the boat and waited around until briefing and dinner. After dinner we went to bed.
Day 5, Les Isles de la Madeleine
The Magdalene Islands are formed by a string of small islands, some of them connected by sandbars, while some of them are not. These small islands in the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence have their own distinct history and culture from the rest of Quebec. Onboard the ship, Xavier, Timothy and I were excited to see a different side of Quebec (as we had all been to at least some parts of Quebec before) and decided to do different activities in the afternoon. We had all wanted to do a “zodiac cruise” around the closest island to the ship, but Xavier and one of the chaperones decided to go kayaking during the afternoon while we had wanted to do a bus tour of the islands. So after a gangway was called the five of us got on a zodiac. We saw amazing red hills and a seal. During the afternoon, we went on a bus ride around the island stopping in different places where we learned about the culture and ate some of the food of the Magdalene Islands. We stopped at a brewery where Timothy, our chaperone and I decided to go for a walk along the beach, (we saw a shipwreck) afterwards we stopped at a smokehouse where we learned a lot about the history of the fishing industry on the islands. The second to last stop was at an old lighthouse where we just looked at it because we were not allowed close to it to prevent erosion. Finally, we stopped at a cheese factory where we ate some cheese and learned how the cheese was made. I really enjoyed the tour and it gave me an opportunity to at least somewhat understand the culture of the islands. Once we got off of the bus we took a zodiac back to the ship for the hour-long briefing and an amazing supper.
Day 6, Gaspé Peninsula
Today was not a very exciting day for me, although we went and saw many natural wonders such as the Perce rock and the huge gannet colony, I enjoy learning about culture and history of regions not really the natural side. So although this might have been the highlight of the trip for some for me it was not. Waking up we all knew that we would go on a hike around Bonaventure Island so we ate a fair amount so that we would have enough energy for the hike. (although it was quite easy) Once we heard the call for the gangway, we got on a zodiac boat to the island. Once we got there we waited for our guides to give us a briefing about the trail and then we started. The chaperones, Xavier and Timothy all hiked quite slowly so I ended up hiking around the island by myself until I saw the gannet colony. There were a lot of birds, near ten thousand gannets. I stopped and waited ten minutes for everyone to catch up, quickly growing sick of the smell and after a half-hour looking at and much less pleasantly smelling a lot of birds I continued on the hike. After finishing the hike I waited around 30 minutes for the rest of our little group to finish and then we went back to the boat for an exquisite lunch. Then we went back to shore to the tourist town of Perce where we went around looking for souvenirs that were not way too expensive. We found none so we decided to go take a tour in a zodiac around the pierced rock. It wasn’t very exciting for me but it looked kind of nice and there were some birds that were kind of interesting but really for me, it seemed like a waste of time. After the tour, we went back to the ship for a briefing and dinner.
Day 7, Anticosti Island
For some reason, I have always wanted to go to Anticosti Island. I don’t know exactly why I have wanted to go there. It might be something about the fact that it is so hard to get there and that it has a population of around 250. It might also have to do with its long history of getting bought and sold by different companies every twenty years although I really don’t know. Anyway, I had been excited for our visit to the island. Then I realized we were just going to be on the beach sitting around not going to the small village of Port-Menier. So disappointed knowing that the day could have been a lot more exciting, I woke up and got ready to disembark. I had a great breakfast and packed a lunch of stale bread with meat and cheese. Before going to the beach we got a short zodiac cruise around some of the cliffs of the island where we saw a lot of birds. After the cruise, we got dropped off at the beach to try to amuse ourselves, there were musicians playing on the beach and some of us went for a short cold swim. I went paddleboarding for a half hour. Falling off the board only once. After our time on the beach, we went back to the ship to prepare for a geography trivia night. We had a quick dinner and then we started to read the questions for the fifty or so people who came. The night went fairly well with the winners winning year-long subscriptions to Canadian Geographic.
Day 8, Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is stunning. With picturesque fjords and the majestic long range mountains, Gros Morne national park is amazing. Xavier, Timothy and I were looking forward to a day of hiking. We had decided to do the extended hike option which was a very steep 5km hike which was just going up the side of a mountain/ hill sort of thing. After breakfast, we got on a zodiac to the shore so that we could walk a kilometre to the start of the trail. When we had gotten to the start of the trail Xavier felt sick so he didn’t go on a hike. It was steep, so everyone else was walking quite slowly. That started to bother me about a quarter of the way to the summit so I decided to start hiking at a decent speed. About an hour later I got to the summit, just in time to see Timothy, Alex and Emma struggling up a part of the trail that I had passed 20 minutes earlier. About 25 minutes later they appeared at the summit. After a couple of pictures at the summit, I had decided to go back down. I told the chaperones and walked for an hour down. At the bottom, there was a tourist information centre with an exhibit on the history and geology of the region, which was very interesting. After everyone else was done their hike we walked back to the dock. We got on zodiacs to get back for lunch. Afterwards, we went back to shore for a short walk through the tablelands which were interesting and I learned quite a bit about how life survives in the tablelands. After the walk, we went back to the ship for a briefing about the next day and dinner.
Day 9, Francois Newfoundland
The previous night at the not so brief briefing, we learned something that shook completely what we would be doing today. It was announced that we couldn’t go to Francois because of the weather, so it was announced that we would be doing a tour of La Poile bay on the south coast of Newfoundland. The three of us woke up realising that we would get to La Poile bay during the afternoon so we were getting ready for a day mostly spent on the ship doing nothing. We ate breakfast then went back down to our cabin to do whatever we could do to entertain ourselves. At noon we had lunch in the dining hall and went to the observation deck to see where we were. It was very windy and we saw that we were entering the bay. I went downstairs to get my phone for pictures and came back up realising that it would be very hard to get a good angle because of the wind. I took a few bad pictures and went down to the cabin again. An hour later we got the call to disembark so we got ready for a zodiac cruise around the bay. It was amazing. The hills surrounding the bay were very steep and there were a couple waterfalls around the bay as well. On the way back the driver told us that we could hold on to a rope at the front and stand up leaning back. So I tried that, it was odd but it was exhilarating. When we got back there was a briefing and dinner, afterwards there was a kitchen party, but I’m scared of people so I didn’t go.
Day 10, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon
Waking up and getting ready for gangway, Xavier, Timothy, and I all knew that today was our last excursion, but that it was also going to be one of the more interesting excursions. The previous night we had signed up for an hour-long birdwatching tour and a tour of the historic island of Ile-aux-Marins and in the afternoon a short hike. Because of what we would be doing in the morning we were all excited for gangway so when we were called for gangway we hurried down to get on a zodiac. We went over to the island of Grand Colombier and saw razorbills and puffins. It was amazing how many of them there were. Then we went over to Ile-aux-Marins were we learned about the culture of St. Pierre and Miquelon as a whole and also learned how life on Ile-aux-marins had been different from that of life on St. Pierre. (Although, Ile-aux-marins is now uninhabited.) After our tour of the island, we went back to the ship for lunch. After lunch, we went to shore for a short hike across the island of St.Pierre, which took about two hours. It was a nice enough hike but it didn’t help that the start of the trail was at the top of a very steep hill and was across the road from a power plant. We walked along the trail to a rock that looked out to the island of Grand Colombier and then some of us including me decided to walk down a smaller path to another large rock that was right at the shore. Sadly, the path followed a stream so the trail was quite muddy but we made it and the view from the rock was interesting so I think it was worth it. Afterwards, we went back to the ship and down to our cabin to prepare for the captain’s supper. The supper was good, but I was sad that the trip was coming to an end, so I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the dinner.
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