Leg; 592 miles / 953 km
Total; 13,148 miles / 21,160 km
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Language in Canada is very interesting. Before we got to New Brunswick our ride was exclusively through English speaking provinces. New Brunswick is the only province that is officially bilingual and the other two ‘maritime’ provinces – Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island – have dispersed pockets of Acadian French, so you never know who speaks what. We’ll come onto Quebec soon….
Our first stop after Cap Pele was Cocagne. We had been contacted by local framebuilder Gabriel, who was following our trip on Instagram and offered to host us. This was our first experience staying with French Canadians. Gabriel and his wife Julie are Acadian French – their first language – but both speak excellent English. They explained the nuances between Acadian, Québécois and ‘international’ French. We learnt that visitors from France find it very hard to follow Acadian / Québécois, while French Canadians can understand ‘international’ French easily as all the movies they watch are interrupted / dubbed as such. We also had an awesome evening fuelled by local beers and steak. And we got to see Gabriel’s incredible Altruiste bicycle creations.
After Cocagne we were due to stay with a Warm Showers host in Miramichi but headwinds brought our ride to an abrupt end. We called it a day at the Kouchibouguac National Park, where we decided to take the trails north to Miramichi. We only lasted a few miles before the aftermath of all those winds – trees strewn across the trail – forced us onto the road again.
We followed the main highway out of Miramichi. We were feeling pleased that we’d ignored everyone’s advise because it was so scenic. Chris was taking photos of the trees – to try and capture the many shades of green – when a bear ran across the road in front of us. A pickup narrowly avoided hitting it and stopped to check we’d seen it before we unwittingly got too close. This was only our second bear sighting of the trip to-date and we were ecstatic. The driver seemed confused; guess it’s nothing special to a Canadian to see a black bear!
As we cycled to the very north of New Brunswick we could see the start of the famous Gaspesie. Numerous people had recommended we ride around the remote peninsula but we were also warned that we may encounter winds akin to those we had at Cape Breton. At Campbellton we checked the forecast and the headwinds looked like no fun whatsoever. We reluctantly decided to cut off the Gaspesie and ride north to the St Lawrence River.
As soon as we crossed the bridge into Quebec the language barrier hit us. All signs in Quebec are in French only, which seemed odd since all English speaking provinces translate signs to French…. Just a few miles over the border we stopped at a rest area and had to explain our trip to a local using charades. Luckily, Ties has excellent language skills and knows enough French to blunder through supermarket transactions and secure accommodation.
We reached the St Lawrence River at Mont Joli and quickly discovered something else about the Gaspesie winds; east of Matane the winds completely change direction and prevail from the northeast. We were delighted. We got blown all the way to Quebec City! We also saw more cycle tourers than any other section of our trip, and they were all going the opposite direction. We felt very guilty waving at them as they struggled to make any headway. But we also knew we’d endured our fair share of headwinds and would inevitably hit some more before the journey ended.
Just passed Parc National du Bic – which we avoided cycling through because you have to pay an extortionate fee – we made the rare decision to take a gravel path off the highway. We had no idea where it was headed but we were reassured by ‘la Route verte’ cycling signs, and intrigued by the accompanying ‘la Littoral basque’ motifs. After a mile we came to Som very strange looking yellow gates that were just big enough for a bicycle but said ‘propriété privée’. Despite our dodgy French, we could translate that! Confused, we carried on. Our nice flat ride along the river instantly became a gruelling climb with climbs up to 20%. We took a rest and two québécois ramblers started chatting to us. They speak great English and explained that four brothers had allowed this section of la Route verte to come through their private land. They had even paid for the infrastructure and become local heroes as a result. Buoyed on by this great story we struggled up more hills and eventually came to a lookout built on a suspended platform that juts out above the trees and river below. This was one of the best views of the entire trip and has become one of the highlights we mention when people ask us about our favourite parts of the trip.
Eventually we rolled down to Levis where we took the short ferry over to Quebec City. We took a few days off in the city to celebrate our two-year anniversary and recuperate. Despite the tailwinds, it had been a tough few long days and we enjoyed being tourists for a bit in a bizarrely European looking city!