Our day began at 7.18am with a text message buzzing into my phone from my Mother in England wishing us a happy wedding anniversary. Thank you! It was. We had to be up early anyway as we had booked places on a whalewatching tour. The area is a bit of a whale smorgasbord apparently and several species hang around the tip of the penisula on an all you can eat binge. One which is spottable is the Blue Whale, which I would give someone’s eye teeth to see. Possibly even mine. Every time I say “Blue Whale” Tom says “its the largest animal on earth”, and so it is.
We drove round to the south side of the peninsula about half an hour away. Just outside the campground I spotted a small black bear by the roadside. It gave me a hard look for a moment and then ambled off into the undergrowth. But still, a bear!
At the jetty in Grande Graves we donned yellow oilskins and boarded our open boat. There is only one boat allowed to operate here because we are still in the park, and that means no crowds, but it also means there are no other boats to act as spotters… The sky was deep blue and the sun would have been scorching but for a steady wind, which created quite a swell once were in the open ocean. It was probably no more bumpy than usual out there but it felt pretty heroic pounding up and down through six foot troughs creating explosions of brilliant white spray.
On the way out we saw the dorsal fins of a couple of porpoises, and sadly that was as close to whales as we got. For two and a half hours we crashed about scanning the horizon and spotting some frisky dolphins, but the whales had either eaten their fill and gone home to slump in front of the telly, or were further out than we were. The captain offered us a freebie on another trip though so we will try to go tomorrow. I’m still hoping to see a Blue Whale. It’s the largest animal on earth.
It has been such a pretty day though. The sea is a deep blue and the high piney ridges are a vivid green, stopping abruptly at a wall of sandy coloured cliff. We drove a little further down the coast, had tuna sandwiches and hardboiled eggs on a pebbly beach and then broke out the bikes.
We were aiming for the tip of the peninsula, where the international bit of the Appalachian Trail starts. There was a bike trail along a stony track which was punishingly steep in places. We could see seals in the water below as we sweated and strained. When we saw the track suddenly soar skyward – an impossible wall of gravel – we left the bikes and walked. On the top was a white lighthouse with a red cap and a stone marker which appeared to be the start of the trail but was irritatingly vague about it; “the trail which starts here in Forillon” I wanted it to say “here at this spot where you are standing”.
The marker itself didn’t mention the Trail and had one of those slogans on it which are designed by committee and don’t quite work. It said something like “Foward to 2000”. Hmm. Not the greatest shelf life for that one. Great view though and a nice exhibition in the old foghorn station. I tell you, I have learned more about foghorns on this trip…
Going back seemed, irritatingly, to have just as much uphill as the way there. Tom ended up in the ditch at one point adding yet more abrasions to his scabbed little-boy knees. We deserved the icecreams we pulled from Harvey’s freezer when we got back.
So back to the campsite for books and tea in the last of the afternoon sunshine. After supper we walked back along the shoreline, a big peach coloured moon rising at the end of the peninsula in a pinky blue sky. Tom scampered about doing “magic tricks” with cunningly hidden rocks that he cunningly hid right in front of us. A couple of seals wallowed about offshore, birds floated or pretended to be part of a rock.
As we were coming back we noticed odd splashes in the water, as though someone was throwing handfulls of sand. They were shoals of little fish either being chased by something or acting out some kind of smelty exuberance. Several distinct groups swished and swirled just a few feet from the shoreline and when they got close you could see them leaping out of the water. Some had gone too far and were flickering and gasping on the beach just beyond the waves. I threw a load of them back in, doing my bit for wildlife preservation. I have my fingers crossed that tomorrow we will spot something bigger – like a Blue Whale. It’s the largest animal on earth you know.