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Nick & Tim’s Travel Diary

Friday, 22 Aug 2003

Location: Riviere-Du-Loup, Canada

Map7150 km

Bonjour from Quebec! The Province that has amazed us for its generous people and its amazing cycle paths. Well, back in Montreal which seems like ages ago now, we had a good tourist day. In the morning we headed out to the old town and looked at all the old buildings. We were also trapped at the side of the river for a few minutes by a mile long train. We read about the massive blackouts in New York and Ottawa and were glad we missed them. After lunch Tim headed up to Mont Royale to check out the city from above and walk in the park while Nick had an afternoons rest. The rest was tough though, with the humidity in the college we stayed at being outrageous.
Next day it was back on the trail, and yet again Quebec proved to be the world capital of cycling with a nice “Green Route” out of the city. A policeman on a bike even took time out to tell us we had right of way in front of cars turning right. Cool. Our problem with being caught by rail crossings morphed into a problem with boat crossings as we had to wait ten minutes for a cargo boat coming down the locks of the St Laurence and under the draw bridge we had to cross. It was actually pretty cool to see. A very big boat that may well have come from Lake Superior (same as us) making its way through a very narrow passage. Eventually the trail took us out of Montreal and into the countryside for another fantastic ride next to a canal – the Chambly Canal. The ride was fast along a nice canal, once again there were plenty of Quebecers out on their bikes as well, avoiding our overloaded bikes with fear. Another bridge went up in front of us too, this one for the rich on their pleasure craft. After a long days travel we arrived in Granby and went on to the Velo 2000 camp ground. A pretty cool camp ground in the forest. Despite the name we were the only cyclists there and our trip caused some amazement with the owners.
Next day was a pretty good one. The trail followed an old railway for most of the day through fields and trees and was very flat. It also went through the Mont Ormond Provincial Park. This park was quite beautiful, set amongst the Appalation mountains. Lots of maple trees and not many conifers, making it quite different to the West. The cycle way went the whole way through it and we saw the first nasty hills since Ontario – none too bad however. In the afternoon we saw a small town called North Hartley (not a very French name we think) which reminded us of believe it or not ... Sydney, or Pittwater to be precise. We stopped for a drink and to hear a band playing in the bandstand. In the evening we arrived in Sherbrooke and asked a couple of joggers where the campground was in town. Low and behold, those joggers turned out to be the first set of amazingly generous people we met in Quebec. Barry and Kristine kindly told us where the campground was, and then told us that we would be far better off staying in the empty appartment they have in their building. As if this wasnt enough they then proceeded to apologise for not putting us up in their place (they had friends visiting) and bought us pizza! Thanks guys – you truly put Sherbrooke on the map for us. Turns out Barry spent some time in Oz, he`s also an Ironman. We wish we could have heard a few more stories from him and Kristine, but we were off early that morning for the first half of the trip to Quebec City. Both days saw us travelling on a good path through some fairly Prairie like areas. The villages and towns we passed through were pretty nice however. Victoriaville was interesting with its many old people on motorised wheelchairs spinning on the path. I guess thats what you do there. The second day saw Tim having to get numerous repairs done to his bike. First a broken spoke mended in a little town and then on arriving in Quebec city a whole $250 replacement drive train – it wore out. The repairs were done by Matthew the best bike guru we`ve met yet. He was extremely meticulous and even made Tim feel particularly guilty about not greasing various parts of his bike regularly enough.
Our arrival to Quebec City was scenic coming in over the Pont de Qubec (Quebec Bridge). As we mentioned before we had met Pierre and Bridgitte on the "P`tit Train Du Nord" and they had told us to give them a call when we arrived in Quebec City. So we gave them a call and they welcomed us warmly into their house. We now call them Saint Pierre and Sainte Bridgitte, because the hospitality they extended us for two nights was nothing short of incredible. We arrived at their beautiful house on the River and were greeted with a barbeque and a pool. Not to mention their children William and Charlotte and later Bridgitte`s sister Paule along with Michel and their children. We also cannot forget to mention Mocha the dog and Q-Tips the cat, both important members of the family. A night of story swapping was had (and some nice wine) and then William kindly donated his room for us to sleep in. Next day Ste Bridgitte insisted on taking us on a tour of Quebec City. First a walking tour of the old town, town walls and parks and then a driving tour of Ile D'Orlean (Orlean Island) in her convertible VW Golf. The old town of Quebec is an amazing place with its old buildings and the chateau. Everything is in pristine condition and you can tell that Quebecers have pride in their city. The drive on the island was a sensational experience, the island is quite beautiful and there is no shortage of places to stop. We made a stop at the Chocolatier for some calories to burn on the trail and also at an Apple Cider tasting place (a Cidery?) where we tasted some very delicious ciders and apple liquers. We also bought some of the freshest and tastiest apple juice we've had. Just across from the island was the Chutes - a massive waterfall. We climbed to the top of that and got pretty wet doing so. Lots of fun.
That night it was back to the Maison for chicken burritos - a typical Quebecois dish! William kept us entertained showing us the amazing amount of stuff he has collected in his life and Charlotte and Q-Tips put on an interesting performance also. The whole family - Mocha and Q-Tips included then went out with us for ice cream in Quebec, a good experience with the drive back being hi-lited by us being taught all of the noises that animals mack in French by the kids!
In the morning we were pretty sad to leave, Pierre and Bridgitte opened their house to complete strangers, but we left as friends. We won`t forget their generosity any time soon. Living with a happy Quebecois family for two days is something everyone should do!
Riding out of Quebec, we took a ferry back across the river and started our way towards Riviere-Du-Loup. A two day ride, made good by a slight tail wind on the first day and a roaring one on the second. Both days the scenery was excellent, farms and hills and a river that keeps getting wider and looking more like the sea. We camped at a campground offering good rates to cyclists, it also had a site right next to the river which was nice. In the middle of the night a skunk decided to raid our rubbish bag, we weren't sure how to approach that one - not wanting to be sprayed in the middle of the night with bad odour. As mentionned the second day (today) we had a massive tailwind. Perfect. We arrived in Riviere-Du-Loup after only 2hrs45min of riding our speed being over 40km on the flat. Apparently the water in the river is salty now as we approach the Atlantic - that's pretty exciting.