blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tuesday, to the Baie des Chaleurs

August 7th

Belle Isle Bay (near Saint John) from above
On a bright, clear day we were able to take off north to Charlo airport across the wilds of New Brunswick, a 1 hour 50 minute flight north up the St. John River to the Gagetown area, then further north, crossing a hundred miles of forest. There wasn't much to look out for on the map. We crossed several rivers, such as the Southwest Miramichi, the Little Southwest Miramichi, the Northwest Miramichi (those names telling a story of confusion among the early explorers?) and the Nipisiguit River, where it became more hilly below us, sighting Bathurst Bay to the east. Then came the Tetagouche and the Jacquet River and our first sight of the Baie des Chaleurs / Chaleur Bay ahead, widening out from the mouth of the River Restigouche. This area is full of pack ice in winter, so the map informs me, so "chaleurs" may be an exaggeration.

On landing at Charlo we taxied up to the fuel pumps next to a much larger aircraft, a Hercules:



Wild and hilly scenery in northern New Brunswick
The airport was manned by one man; it used to have commercial flights landing here, but now it has been closed to commercial operations and looks as if it belonged to a ghost town, full of empty chairs and abandoned car rental desks. The citizens of Charlo and Dalhousie feel bitter about this neglect: "It's political!" we were told.

There's a Best Western hotel at Dalhousie, the grandly named Manoir d'Adelaide (a black and white portrait of the lady, a severe Victorian matron, hung in its lobby) where we got a room, not so swish as our accommodation at the Saint John Hilton. Adelaide's rooms and corridors, 22 years old, smelled of wet carpet and a corner of our room was still very damp underfoot. We wondered why the carpets had needed cleaning until we noticed a sign outside the hotel––Congratulations Linda and AndrĂ©––that explained it.

Causeway over Eel River
The bi-lingual Restigouche area is sadly run down, as we heard from our taxi driver and the Wikipedia article about Dalhousie reinforces that story:
Following the closure of the pulp and paper mill in 2008, Pioneer Chemicals closed a processing plant on the western edge of the town. As a result of the closures of these industries, the New Brunswick East Coast Railway and its subsequent owner CN Rail announced that it was declaring the railway spur into the town surplus. [...] The town's only remaining industry is the Dalhousie Generating Station, a thermal power plant operated by NB Power, which is in the process of being decommissioned. While there are several smaller employers, the largest employer in the town at the current time is the Dalhousie Nursing Home.
The fishing industry has gone too (at Tim Horton's, I overheard a local man complaining about the fishing restrictions) and the paper mill has been demolished, obliterated, leaving a wasteland on the shore. This piece of land could be turned into something spectacular, given the natural beauty of the area, but the question is, can enough money be made available? "What can we offer tourists? the Dalhousie council must be wondering, although the long distance buses and ViaRail trains no longer stop here. According to the leaflets we saw, the Eel River Micmac reservation has some new tourist outlets, you can go duck-spotting on the marsh by the causeway or you can book a guided tour of the church graveyard, starting at 10 p.m.

The cash register on display at the Dalhousie museum
Strolling around the town, we found the Provincial Court and a regional museum. The young gentleman who welcomed us to the museum was extremely attentive to us (maybe his only visitors that day) walking round with us and telling us what every exhibit was. They had smoothing irons, wringers and very old washing machines upstairs and a glamorous cash register among the historic artefacts downstairs. There isn't a lot of history in these parts, with nothing to display between the prehistoric giant scorpions and the 19th century lumber trade.

From there we walked in the sun to the RV campground by the beach with its lighthouse and view of rocky, bird covered islands (the Bonamy Rocks) near the shore and beyond them the great bay and the distant hills of the GaspĂ©sie on its other side. If only they could "sell" this spectacular scenery to more visitors and if only the tourist season lasted more than six weeks a year, the people of northern New Brunswick might stand a chance of economic recovery, but two-thirds of Dalhousie's population have moved away, including most of the younger generations; its most thriving business at present is a rest home for seniors.

After supper we went for a walk to the dock near our hotel and met a woman on a fishing boat clearing up a mess in rubber gloves. Some youths had trashed her boat "... and the police are useless," she told us. The dock smelled of shellfish, taking me back to my youth on the Yorkshire coast. Beside a flock of resting seagulls, we sat on a piece of driftwood on a beach choked with old sawdust and watched the sun go down.

1 comment:

CWC said...

Hmmm...so nothing's changed since I left in 1977 after spending my first 18.5 years in PEI and Moncton.