August 24th — September 5th
Text by Layla; photos by Layla, Ljuba, and Sasha
Upon moving to Quebec in June 2000, we decided that before we settle down in one place to first travel and see Eastern Canada. I longed for the serene horizons, gentle flowers, and abysmal waves of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and so, on the 1st of September that year, we set off on an almost 3 months journey around Quebec planning to venture as far as the eastern provinces and possibly even visit the dreamlike island. But it got too cold, too snowy, and too windy too soon; so, we focused on Ontario and Quebec postponing our plan for, what turned out to be, 9 years.
Finally, early morning of the 24th of August 2009, we headed east.
View Maritimes 09 in a larger map
We took Champlain Bridge off the island of Montreal and drove through the scattered suburbs of the Southern Shore, following route 20 past the city of Quebec to Sainte Flavie along the southern shore of St. Laurent river and to the Gaspesie driving through the Quebec landscape of suburbs, refineries, and the forever hazy grasslands.
There was a surprise along route 20 to Quebec: a large sign in the middle of nowhere, hovering over a desolate landscape like doomsday, announcing the promise of compassion by Quebec police, who, it turns out, not only forgives, but does it twice over:
So, go figure, who, when, why, how and where receives police forgiveness. What remains certain, though, is that they have forgiven the mass murderers of the trees, animals and humans native to these parts and who have vanished without a trace within only a couple of centuries.
Quebec’s landscape reminds me of the desertification of the Darfur region in Sudan, where, in a span of a decade and half, humans have turned the Savannah into a death camp, inflicting silence upon the land – a silence that dwells with death, rendered invisible by the principles of humanism, a philosophy that treads over the agonising planet, killing all for the sake of humans. Romanticised through literature, art, and film, suffering and murder appear to the civilised as an ideal of goodness and beauty and from that point on, everything gets convoluted as suffering becomes the inspiration for art and the food of the civilising machine. In this landscape of death, the shabby, bush-like pines and birches stand like the bonsai versions of a full potential stumped out by civilisation and its perverse standard of beauty that values the maniacal grandeur of leaders and the infliction of pain on and belittlement of all else.
Just after Rimouski and Mont-Joli, we turned right on 132 and by night drove into Campbellton, the first town in New Brunswick from the border with Quebec.
We often hear stories about Americans not knowing the geography of the country they inhabit. Our friend Anne-Marie, an anglophone from Montreal married a Nova Scotian a few decades ago. When she moved to Digby Neck, people asked her: «So, did you have difficulty with immigration crossing the border from Quebec?» We all laughed at hearing the story, but on second thought, the line between the Francophone world and the Maritime provinces is palpable and not that imaginary. Since worldviews are about how a group of people choose to organise their surroundings and space and while the civilised attitude differs little across the provinces, I couldn’t help noticing some differences, and not only on the level of the historical antagonism and today’s resentments between the Francophones and the Anglos.
New Brunswick was nothing like I imagined. First, as soon as we saw the «Au revoir Quebec» sign followed by the «Welcome to New Brunswick» one, the bumpy Quebec road transformed into a smooth highway and the number of cars decreased drastically (probably, the roads were better because of the lower number of cars on them and so it was easier to maintain them) — even though upon return home, the statistics revealed that the low number of cars is due to the lower population and not because of better public transportation or lower number of cars per capita, since in 2006 statistics state that there were 581 vehicles per 1000 persons — putting NB at the higher end: the highest rates for vehicles per capita were in Yukon at 769 and the lowest in Nunvaut at 103.
A second difference with Quebec is also related to roads and cars. All these years of travel around the world, especially on roads and highways, I constantly got exasperated by the selfishness of the engineers and developers who designed roads solely for the practicality, safety and purpose of humans. Regardless of the number of times that I’ve seen animal victims of hit and run incidents lying on the road, my heart aches each time as if it was the first. Why can’t they (human animals) build ramps or fences with passages under the road for our non-human co-worlders, I always asked myself.
In New Brunswick, much of the road had fences on the sides with sporadic wildlife tunnels under the highway. Of course, the motivation is, probably, still humano-centric, since the province has frequent moose crossing the road and the collision with drivers could endanger humans, I am, nevertheless, relentless in my position that only when the hearts of humans opens to include the well-being of all living and non-living beings will a real shift towards a viable world occur.
Third, emerging out of Quebec, the horizons of green and blue gave my heart a jolt as I relished at the sight of so many more trees. Much of the wood is young, obviously replanted where the old forest has been cut down. But then, I learnt the sinister truth that until recently, pesticides and fungicides were sprayed by planes all over the forests and water. Sadly, like elsewhere in the civilised space, the habit was still the same: shave the grass and cut off trees.
Campbellton, NB August 2009
continued in part 2