Sunday, July 13, 2008

Magdalen Islands

The Iles de la Madeleine were a challenge to reach, but an incredible unique island combination - five hours or so from the east coast of PEI. The toughest part of the drive for us was getting through the wreckhouse region of western newfoundland.
If you are bilingual you will fit right in - for those of us with less than stellar french conversation skills, we were accomodated expertly by the residents and the folks at stores and camping grounds. We managed to discover quite a bit about the islands as well as get out on the water as much as we could.
We stayed at Parc de Gros Cap where we met Danielle and Frederick who led the sea kayak tours plus provided information on winds, other paddling locations and snorkeling spots.
The best way to appreciate the fragile coast is to see the cliffs from the water - the layering provides a clue to the at risk areas of erosion, the more the layers the greatest risk. Some even recall major losses, in 2002 a huge arch collapsed leading to the formation of one of the stacks outside of Gros de cap.
We found nests of kingfishers and of black guillemots. Black guillemots are related to the puffin. They lay eggs on the cliffside but lay an odd shaped egg that won't roll off the edge of the rocky ledge.
The dunes are incredible. In addition, numerous artisans work on the islands for most of the year - traveling and showing in other loactions between November and March.
A good base for making the trip is Souris PEI - there are often houses for rent in the area or Red Point Provincial park is ten minutes from the ferry. Basin Head just beyond Red Point is a great area for swimming, beaches and away from the traditional tourist areas in PEI.

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