Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 26th – Fjord Delight in Saguenay

Today we had one of the most scenic cruises that you can do in Canada, as we passed from the wide St Lawrence River into the breathtaking Saguenay Fjord, and sailed for 50 miles past its sheer cliffs and verdant scenery.

For the humble lecturer, this experience isn't quite as relaxing as it is for the passengers who just sit back and enjoy the scenery – I was up on the bridge giving a narration on the natural wonders we were passing. There were quite a few whales (mainly beluga and humpback) making fleeting appearances as we were gliding along, but they tended to disappear as quickly as I could point them out. However, the vistas scarcely needed words to enhance them – they spoke of the incredible power of Mother Nature in grinding out this glacial valley with its tall cliffs (up to 500 metres high), and silent dark waters (up to 270 metres deep).

Half-way down, we stopped in front of the famous 10-metre high statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks the fjord, pausing to play a rendition of Ave Maria by Quebecois songstress Celine Dion. I'm not Celine's biggest fan, but even her warblings made this a fairly haunting moment.

Of course, a visit to Saguenay is all about the fjord, so the more mundane town of La Baie where we docked (with its rather ugly aluminium smelter) can potentially be a bit of an anti-climax. However, we got a warm welcome from the incredibly enthusiastic meeters-and-greeters in their traditional costumes, and most people went out on tours to get re-acquainted with the fjord, through bus trips, hiking, or kayak trips.

We decided to do our own hiking trip, so we trekked about 3kms out of town to the start of the Sentier Euchet, a rough track through the trees up the side of a steep hill. As we huffed and puffed our way up, occasionally we'd get some tantalising views of the fjord, and once we reached the top (marked by a huge cross), the views were tremendous, its rows of cliffs seeming to stretch into infinity.

Saguenay provided almost too much natural beauty for the brain to process in one day.