Every summer I go on a solo bicycle tour, carrying all of my gear and camping.
This year I chose the spectacular, east coast of Quebec! My Gaspé bike tour was by far the most amazing bicycle tour I have done yet. (My 3rd solo bike tour)
Breathtaking, rugged scenery along the ocean, beside cliffs and mountains, great hiking, meeting tons of really super friendly people, challenging climbs... it was a phenomenal experience and I had a big smile on my face from beginning to end. (Well... except maybe for my one very rainy day and when my chain broke...)
It was also the most challenging and I biked 710 kms in 11 days.
The drive to Maria from Montreal was about 10 hours. My Warmshowers.org hosts, Audrey and Charles live in a big house built in 1900, with their cute son Edgar, 14 months. They were so warm and friendly and they had agreed to let me park my car there and stay over my first and last night.
My first day was a big day, 111 kms, going up into the Appalachian mountains in Gaspesie National Parc where I planned to spend 3 nights. I had chosen to do the circuit clockwise as I had read how strong the winds were on the north shore and wanted to make sure they would be at my back!
I started with a very gradual climb following the Cascapedia River, with much bigger climbs towards the end of the day.
I was so excited, that even though I had a nice bedroom in my host's house, I hardly slept. That combined with the big drive the day before and being very busy working and preparing before I left, I was pretty tired.
I knew that the Parc sold some basic food staples but no fruits and vegetables, so my bags were quite heavy, with veggies and some fruits to last me 3 days, plus a lot of trail mix, home made granola and power bars etc.
I was so pumped to finally be on my way at 8:30, a beautiful, warm, sunny day!
At 10:00 AM a motorcycle went by and gave me the thumbs up, which had me feeling a little choked up. Only 2 hours into my trip and already I was being encouraged and supported, that felt great!! And this was certainly a sign of things to come.
Two women on bikes decided to pic-nic here too. They had done cycle touring together in the past and we had fun sharing stories. The road was pretty quiet, with very few cars and just the occasional fishermen.
One small rain cloud went over me later in the day, but it was simply a refreshing break on a hot day. After traveling 72 kms I climbed over some pretty big mountains for about 20 kms, before heading back down into the park. I arrived around 5:00 in the afternoon.
After a shower and dinner, I found out that my brand new Thermarest self inflating mattress had a leak! Oh no! I imagined I might have to sleep on the ground for almost 2 weeks! I managed to find the small slit and repair it with a small patch I had brought along for patching inner tubes. It worked perfectly! Saved, and very grateful for my friend Eric, who had suggested a few years ago that I bring along the tiny patch kit on my bike trips
I awoke filled with joy to be in the forest, in the fresh air, a perfect sunny day, birds singing and the sound of the river close by!
I was still tired after not having slept very well, my first night in my tent and I decided it best to have a rest day and hike the following day.
I would be following the "Route Verte" cycling route all along the coast, and 2 of the campgrounds I had chosen were part of "Bienvenue Cyclistes," Welcome Cyclists," offering reduced rates for camping for those travelling by bicycle (in the parc, 8$ instead of the usual $31, bonus! )
After a relaxing day of lounging and reading, I walked over to the upscale Gite du Mont Albert and enjoyed a nice beer on the terrasse.
I was a little disappointed that it was cloudy the next day as the mountain peaks were in the clouds, but at least it meant it wasn't going to be too hot. The girl at the information desk had warned me that this was a very strenuous, long hike with lots of rocks. I figured they just said that to everyone to discourage the out of shape people....But it turned out to be true!
I was on the path by 8 AM. It was about 5 kms of a steep climb, which went very well. The top was very windy, cold and in the clouds, so I was very happy to eat an early lunch with some other hikers inside the shack at the top.
When I got out of the clouds, the views were so incredible, and I saw some caribou in the distance. The trail was not a nice packed dirt path, it was all large rocks, which made the going very challenging and slow! This went on for 5 kms! I was happy I had rented poles. This was also part of the International Appalachian Trail.
I rested quite a few times, and made it back to my campsite by 4:30.
Since that was my first hike of the year, my legs were so sore, but I figured no one ever died of sore muscles!
It rained overnight but I was happy it wasn't raining the next morning as I could dry out my tent with the hand dryer in the bathroom and pack it up, but the weather forecast called for heavy rain. :(
I did get caught in a huge torrential down pour that went on for a few hours. I was soaking wet and cold by the time I made it to St. Anne des Monts on the North shore, about 40 kms away. I stopped in to Tim Horton's to try to dry out a little. The hot chocolate was heavenly and the place was packed. I chatted with others who were travelling by motorcycle and who were also wet.
Within an hour, 3 different people told me that I was very courageous to be doing the Tour de la Gaspésie alone by bicycle. Everyone was friendly and I was very happy to speak French fluently.
It was cloudy in the afternoon and spit a little rain now and then. I pulled into the campground close to dinner time and a big black cloud brought in a huge storm. I tried to put up my tent but the skies opened up and it got soaked. I bundled it up and ran under the shelter and made my dinner.
The rain wasn't letting up so the owners said I could sleep inside the "family room" in the basement. It was a really nice big room and I joined Pierre, another guy hiking the Appalachian trail and Solange, a woman who had done cycle touring in the past, who was traveling by car as she thought the hills in the Gaspé would be too hard for cycle touring. Sylvain, the guy I met in the parc was also there, but he decided to sleep in his tent. We had a fun evening sharing travel stories.
I took my time getting going as I only had 68 kms to go. A couple who were camping in a trailer, had witnessed my rather dramatic arrival, and dinner in the little shelter under the downpour the night before. They wanted to chat with me and take my picture. The woman told me I was a "championne" lol!
Sunny, 31 kms westerly winds with gusts to 44 kms! Yes! I was so happy to have chosen to go clockwise, as I now had tailwinds! I sailed along the flat roads hugging the coast, often cruising at 34 kms/hr.
Sylvain had told me that Camping au Soleil Couchant was really nice (means Sunset in English) and wow, it was gorgeous! My neighbors welcomed me and started chatting right away, and Huguette made me a delicious salad.