September 26, 2007:
Today we drew closer to the provincial border of Ontario - although we're not planning on crossing over yet - there's one more place to visit before we do. During our ferry crossing of the St Lawrence from Matane to Godbout a couple of weeks back, a very nice man approached us. From a few tables away he'd watched us pawing through maps and planning the upcoming days of our trip. At first he spoke in french, but since our french is extremely limited to the basics he was only too happy to communicate with us in english. He turned out to be a retired policeman. He asked where we were heading and as we explained our plans he couldn't resist to point out one of his favourite locations. He told us that we had to visit Parc Omega in the town of Montebello, Quebec which is near the border to Ontario. Since we were heading in that general direction today we decided to take him up on his advice .... and we weren't disappointed!
Parc Omega is a large open air wildlife reserve covering an area of 1,500 acres - with some large enclosures for the carnivores. Visitors can drive through in their regular cars along a well maintained dirt road. Once in the gates you are instantly surrounded by wildlife. Canadian geese resting on the shores of a small pond, Wapitis and deer wonder over to the vehicle in search of carrots (that are issued at the shop if you want to feed the animals). We didn't bother with the carrots but we had some very close encounters anyway.
Wild boars use the road to wander from one wallowing hole to the next, with cute little babes trying to keep up with the trot of their parents. Chipmunks, squirrels, and birds dart about in the trees or on the ground and are constant companions on the journey through the park. Raccoons, the cute creatures which look like bandits with their face masks, are less curious of visitors. They amble across the road and scamper up the trees and into the houses which have been dotted around the park - they look super cute when they peer out of the windows of their little houses.
The reserve has a number of enclosures to keep the carnivorous animals separated from the others. A pack of Timber Wolves pace around in their enclosure, keeping an eye on a young raccoon who'd wandered in and climbed straight up a tree for refuge. Coyotes rest on a rocky platform with a view of the surroundings, while Arctic Wolves hide in the shade of the trees. Nearby a herd of American Bison roam free in a large field and seem to live in harmony beside the Fallow Deer. We finish the circuit with the Black Bear enclosure and watch for a while as three young cubs climb trees and play.
We did a couple of circuits of the park before leaving since on the first trip around we got the lay of the land, then chose where we wanted to spend more time on the second trip round. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience from the comfort of our truck and the road was large enough even for our camper. There are also several walking trails in the park but it was time for us to hit the road again.
We drove to the town of Plaisance near Gatineau which is situated opposite the city of Ottawa across the Ottawa River. We parked the camper at the campground in Parc de la Plaisance and enjoyed a pretty sunset - tonight would be our last night in Quebec.
You may remember about three weeks ago I mentioned that we were nervous about entering Quebec from New Brunswick. Our previous experience of Quebec was not so good regardless of our attempts to speak what little french we knew, the locals refused to talk with us (at least most of them).
Now that we have travelled through Quebec again - we have to say it was an extremely enjoyable experience and nothing like the last time. People were friendly, and conscious of our efforts to communicate and they tried equally as hard to communicate back. There was only one person who made it difficult for us at the ferry terminal at Matane just before our departure to Godbout. As most international travellers are aware, unless you're fluent in a language, any deviation from what you know of sentences and words can sometimes throw you off. Usually we explain that we don't speak fluent french only the basics, but this guy wasn't letting us off with that - claiming "this is Quebec, I only speak french" or something like that. So we still don't know what he said to this day! Oh well, our whole experience of Quebec made this one time event insignificant in the larger scheme of things. The scenery in the parks of Quebec is outstanding and the old town districts in the cities of Quebec and Montreal have managed to retain their old time charm.
So tomorrow we enter back into english speaking Canada through the city of Ottawa in Ontario the most heavily populated province in Canada.
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