Day 6 - Saint-Simeon
Today we say goodbye to Quebec, and the first stop will be the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre. We arrived in a few minutes since it is on the outskirts. In addition to the sanctuary, we find various souvenir shops, a reception center, and a hotel. It is a place of pilgrimage, in the style of other Marian centers such as Lourdes or Fatima, which welcomes every year half a million pilgrims.
As we read, it is the sanctuary where more healings have taken place all over the world. The current basilica is from 1946. Previously there was another smaller one that burned down in 1922. Five minutes from here is the Canyon Sainte-Anne. There is a large parking lot. We put on our hiking shoes, take out the tickets and start following a path that quickly leads us to the top of the gorge. It is a very short and affordable route. We have a gray sky again and rain threatens us.
In five minutes we reach the first footbridge that goes over the river. The water is brown and it looks very dirty, but it is the iron sediments that give it its tonality. We continue advancing along the path that goes along the right side of the canyon. We stop at a couple of viewpoints from where we can appreciate the spectacular nature of the place.
In a few more minutes we reach the lower part, and there we see many people who are making the via ferrata that goes up the left side. There is also a zip line that goes through the throat from side to side. Finally, those who do not do one thing or another walk by a suspension bridge at the end of the jump. All in all, it's all pretty spectacular, and in our opinion, it's worth the visit. The return is from the left side.
We went back to the road and arrived at Baie-Saint-Paul, where we still found a bar open at quarter past three and we can eat. There is not much to see there. So we go back to the highway, which is the one that will take us to La Malbaie. There is a park near the river, although the extension seems to be next to the sea.
Finally, in the late afternoon, we arrived at Saint-Simeon, where we have our hotel booked. It's actually a typical roadside motel, very basic but right for the night, which is what it is all about. The situation is almost idyllic, next to the mouth of a stream and just in front of the San Lorenzo River.
Saint-Simeon is very small but it is strategically located at the confluence of the coast road and the one that goes to Saguenay. After buying some supplies, we dine at one of the few roadside restaurants. It's almost 9:30 at night, although it seems like 12 since there is no one on the street. With the full moon watching us we go to sleep.
Day 7 - Saguenay
Today we woke up a little excited since we plan to do one of the star activities of the trip. It is the whale watching excursion. We had lunch in the hotel garden with a self-prepared sandwich, and we quickly set out to make the 50 km that separate us from Tadoussac. When we reach the fjord, the road ends and we have to get on the free ferry that will take us to the other side, where Tadoussac is located. There are two options, on board a ship or on board a speedboat.
There is a parking lot that is practically full, which gives us an idea of how many people want to do the same. When we are in the queue to hire the tour, we decided that instead of doing it by boat we will do it in a speedboat. These boats can take up to fourteen people, and we take the last two places that are free for that hour. After walking a hundred meters that separate us from the dock, we sit down in the boat. The seats are distributed longitudinally in the middle and the staff sits sideways.
At this point, we must mention that there are several signs warning you that the responsibility of carrying a camera is of the passenger. The crew member, who is conveniently protected in a cabin starts and we start to move away from the coast. I put the camera in my shirt and on top of it I put the bag of the camera.
The sky is very gray and rain is not ruled out. The water splash begins that keeps increasing. We protect ourselves with the hood of the suit. Now the splashes are already showers. We started having difficulties to protect ourselves. The sunglasses that we originally wore to protect us from the wind are already soaked and we do not see anything.
A look at the camera and I begin to realize that we are losing it. The sea is very rough and the waves are considerable. After about six kilometers, the speedboat stops where we are supposed to see whales. I begin to scan the horizon in search of whales.
According to the information provided by the company that manages these excursions, fin whales and belugas were spotted in the last few days. There are no Blue whales at this time of year. Belugas live all year round there, so it should be relatively easy to see some. But we only see a couple of them jumping over the water, and very far away.
Slowly, all the speedboats and a couple of boats gather there. They are all communicated by radio and are notified when someone sees a whale. But as nobody sees anything we are moving to other areas in search of the lost whale.
It's still raining. We move from one place to another, but after an hour and a half, we start our way back to Tadoussac with a great sense of frustration. When we arrived at the port, the boy who was driving the boat invited us to take a short excursion to the Saguenay fjord, as compensation for not having seen anything.
In fact, the probability of seeing some whale is so great, that the company guarantees that if we do not see any whatsoever, it gives us back the money. We did not go there to see the fjord, but to see whales. In short, it was surely the activity that made us most excited about the trip and has been the most frustrating.
After returning the suits rain begins to fall, the moment that we take advantage of to eat. Although there are a lot of tourists with interest on whales, there are not many restaurants in the town. After 127 km through highway, we arrive at Saguenay. This road goes along the left side of the fjord.
Although it runs very close to it, there is a strip of forest that prevents us from seeing a good panoramic view. In Saguenay, we find on the ground floor of the hotel a musical bar on one side and a discotheque on the other. They are also crowded with people, with which we fear that today it will be difficult to sleep. But no, the truth is that the room was very well soundproof and we could sleep perfectly.
Day 8 - Saint-Jean-des-Piles
When we wake up the first thing we do is look out the window. One more day the sky is very overcast and it seems that from one moment to another a good flood of water will fall. When we start breakfast, it starts to rain. We load our bags as quickly as we can in the car and head towards Lac-Saint-Jean. This lake is one of the largest in Quebec.
We take advantage of a small truce to stop on the banks of it and we can see its immensity. However, although the view is cool, it is not spectacular at all. We continue to the ghost town of Val Jalbert. This is the qualifier that appears in the travel guides. We can see the houses of the workers, the convent, the school, the church and other buildings of the time.
The waterfall is also part of the tourist attraction, and there is a cable car that goes up to the top of it. From there we take a short walk to some rapids a few meters away. Everything is prepared with wooden walkways that end in a gazebo. We made the descent on foot, to the middle part of the waterfall, where there is another viewpoint. Also from here, we can see the Lac Saint-Jean in the background.
Next to the mill, where the factory was there is a fast food restaurant, in which we take advantage of to eat some sandwiches. Another spout of rain falls, one more and we have to wait for it to subside. In the news of that day, they said that the previous night there were small floods in the area.
After seeing an interesting audiovisual about the history of the town, and taking advantage of the fact that rain has stopped and the sun has come out a little, we go to see a small comic representation of life in the town. We return to the car, and we have 269 kilometers to Saint-Jean-des-Piles, at the gates of the La Mauricie national park.
Once again, we take a highway, almost without any curve, at 100 km/h and very monotonous, except the final part, where we go parallel to the Saint-Maurice River and the landscape now is spectacular and of great beauty. We arrived at the rural hotel. Without hesitation, it is the worst accommodation of the trip.
There is a strong smell of fish throughout the establishment (there is a restaurant on the ground floor). When we arrived there was almost no water pressure. The bathroom was very small and the shower claustrophobic. However, everything was very clean.
We also had a bad experience, because when we arrived we asked what time the restaurant closed. They told us that at 9 o'clock, and since it was 8:30, we told them that after leaving our bags in five minutes we will be in the restaurant. In fact, after that time we introduced ourselves, and when we arrive they tell us that they can no longer attend to us.
We were in a rural environment and to find a restaurant at that time, without knowing anything, was a complicated task. Luckily we found a small roadside bar where they treated us well. We go to sleep because tomorrow we have to discover the La Mauricie NP.
Day 9 - La Mauricie National Park
Today we have another exciting day. We are ready to discover our first national park in Canada. The rural hotel where we have spent the night is five minutes from the entrance of the La Mauricie national park. That was the reason why we stayed there. A road crosses it in an east-west direction.
At the entrance, there is a shelter where, in addition to reporting on the park, the corresponding fee is paid. The information that they offer us is abundant, with diverse maps full of excursions, on foot, kayak or bicycle. One of the things that caused us some concern was the presence of bears.
Indeed, when we were preparing the trip, and after informing ourselves extensively about the national parks, one of the topics that always appeared was that bears and humans live in the same territory. Then they always told you that these almost never attack humans. In fact, they are very asocial and when they hear the noise they move away.
But we must not lose sight of the fact that they are wild animals, and in certain situations, they can be potentially dangerous. Getting too close to the children or a surprise encounter are infrequent but also complicated situations to control. Finally, they tell us how we should act in these cases.
With all this precedent we asked the information girl about the bears. With a smile from ear to ear she told us that the black bears are there. She recommended an excursion of about six kilometers. We choose the one that leads to Lake Solitaire. The route passes through the forest, which is good because the sun does not reach directly. In the middle of summer it is appreciated, but on the other hand, there is not much opportunity to enjoy the views.
The sky begins to get overcast and a storm threatens. Luckily, only a few drops fell and we were able to make the entire journey without getting wet. We found enough people. In about three hours we are back in the parking lot. We continue our route inside the park and the next stop is at Lake Edouard. Here there is a large camping area, a fine sand beach on the lake and a shop with a cafeteria.
There is also a picnic area, with barbecues, tables, benches, and fountains. We sit to eat some sandwiches. There are caravans mostly, immense compared to the ones we usually see around here, few shops and also some motorhomes. When we finish eating we take a walk around the lake since there are several trails from there. It is all flat and we found many people, especially entire families.
We continue our route and stop at the Lake Wapizagonke area. One of the most common activities in the Canadian parks are the multi-day excursions with canoe or rabaska in the local language, moving away towards wilder areas. At this point, we find a house where we can rent the kayak, the store and everything we need for adventure.
They also give us a can to put the food and at night hang it from a tree to prevent a bear from coming and take it away from us. The bears have an extremely fine sense of smell and they like to steal the food of others. The maps are very detailed and they indicate the routes to follow to jump from one lake to another with the kayaks on the back.
At the same side of the house we see the indication of another path and as we go well of time we decided to take another walk around the lake. In the various reception areas of the car parks, there are some boards where people can write the animals they have seen on their excursions. When someone detects the close presence of bears, they must inform the park staff.
I suppose it is always better to prevent and avoid a conflictive encounter. Also, if they detect that someone is getting too close, the park staff tries to keep it away from the areas frequented by people. We continue our route and after a couple of stops to see the various lakes, which in the end are all very similar, we stop again, in this case in the area of Shawinigan.
Fortunately, in July, the day is long, and we still have some time to make a small trip of about three kilometers, specifically one of the waterfalls that seem to look good. But at the beginning of the trail, we find another sign warning of the presence of bears. In the beginning, the path goes parallel to small waterfalls with a very gentle slope.
In addition, people, instead of following the path, walk on the same side of the water. Once we reached the top we discovered a seemingly not very large lake that forms a very idyllic corner. Actually, to be more exact, it is the tail of Lake Wapizagonke that we have seen before.
On the shore of the lake there are some wooden footbridges and we advance to the point where the path separates from it and goes into the forest. And here we end the tour, as there is another sign warning of the presence of bears, with the difference that in this case explicitly prohibits the passage from there. After seeing the panorama we turn back and go back where we had come from.
We took advantage of the last moments of sun. After making a couple of stops to see the landscape, we left the park with the feeling of having enjoyed quite a lot of everything we have seen.
We go to dinner at Shawinigan, which is the county capital, and when we finish we get back to the hotel and sleep.
Day 10 - Mont Tremblant
Today we wake up late, enjoying our cozy room. The feeling is like being at the grandparents' house. We wake up with the smell of coffee and the breakfast of other travelers who leave early to start their route through the park. I go to the balcony for a while and I really enjoy imagining myself in the middle ages. It is not difficult because there is nothing in the surroundings besides other small houses and forest and more forest. Winter here must be hard!
We had delicious breakfast, including a buffet of homemade exotic jams! One more day, after breakfast we get behind the wheel of the car and go out on the road towards the Omega Park. By the way, at this point, we have almost controlled the issue of automatic change, although some day we still have the temptation to step on the clutch when starting.
In about three monotonous hours we reached the park gates. The Omega park is an extensive enclosure in which we can see several species in semi-freedom on a signposted route. The truth is that we saw deer, bison, wolves, bears and some other common species, but not others more elusive.
As we arrived at noon, we took the opportunity to eat some sausages in the cafeteria at the entrance. Then we buy a bag of carrots and we put the car in the queue to start the circuit. After about a hundred meters the cars begin to stop, and indeed the deer is approaching. It is very funny because they get to put their heads inside the car in search of the coveted carrot.
Further on, the circuit continues and halfway through it we arrive at a car park and an entertainment area next to it, an ice cream cart included. A kilometer from there, more or less, there is a farm where common animals live like rabbits, pigs, turkeys and some chicken. We and most of the people do the short walk.
From the farm, there is a circular route through the forest that leads to a sugar hut, where the maple syrup is made, so characteristic of those lands. However, in this case, it only has a decorative function, at least at the time we spend there.
When we return to the parking lot we move to a nearby area to see a show with wolves. There is a wooden platform where the visitors are there, while below there are a few wolves that come up there in search of the pieces of meat thrown by a caretaker, who at the same time gives explanations about these animals.
Once we have returned to the car park we take the car again and start the return journey through the bear zone. We took the opportunity to give the last carrot to a deer that apparently was not fed up yet.
We left the Omega Parc very happy and now we are heading to our next destination to Mont Tremblant! We have reserved a small little hotel that has the advantage of being next to a lake. We did not know how much we would use it but we were surprised to see the lake. We arrived at the hotel. We left our things and look for something to eat!
We decided first to the town to eat something and then go up to the activity center to have a first contact with the area. We were a little confused because in this area there are several places with the same name (or very similar). Tremblant Village is a resort that is about 10 km from Mont Tremblant. There is a series of buildings. I do not know if they are hotel or holiday apartments that are on top of a tiny mountain.
Tremblant is a ski resort in winter and in summer has several activities such as zip lines, kayak rentals, among others. It also has a kind of little town atmosphere but in reality, they are hotels, restaurants, and shops. We took several turns before finding the right places because when we look for Mont Tremblant in the GPS, it takes us straight to the town. We were looking for the activity center and ended up at the resort in the middle of a mountain.
We ate at a small hamburger and hotdog in a place that we thought was very traditional. It was quite good, and then we started off towards what we thought was called Mont Tremblant Village. We ended up pretty lost and had to back down at least twice. But it helped us to see the area and we also had the opportunity to see a deer on the road. We stopped and looked at it. It looked at us, and we offered it a carrot (like parc omega), but it doubted us too much and finally moved away.
We finally managed to get to the activity center we had seen in the photos. Arriving in the area is a little confusing because there is parking around the hotel area. Each hotel has its own car park and there are also public ones. We left by car and started to visit the famous little town.
We found it a bit artificial, being an area created for tourism, but that does not stop having charm, just that it is too perfect. We walked for a while aimlessly, entering the shops, trying to buy a souvenir, until finally, we reached the top of the area, which is where the activity center is. The truth is that we did not plan to do any activity since our hotel has a lake. We plan to enjoy it all the next morning.
At dusk we went to the little hotel, passing before a supermarket to buy our food since the hotel is isolated from any civilization.
Day 11 - Ottawa
The next morning I get up early to go for a walk to the lake and enjoy the views for myself. A little later, after breakfast, we spend the whole morning playing in the lake, using the canoes, kayaks and pedal boats offered by the hotel free of charge to their guests.
We had a great time! With much sadness, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we had to say goodbye to the lake. Personally, these moments on the lake were the best part of the trip. I really enjoyed being in the kayak (I had never done it before), touching the icy water while there is a radiant sun, getting close to the shore and enjoying the pine trees and all the beautiful vegetation of Canada.
Although I was several hours, I lacked time to enjoy it, to absorb all that, to fill my eyes, my lungs, my skin, those sensations, smells, and humidity. We have to go now! When we managed to get away from here, we headed towards the parking lot. We passed through the town again to eat burgers!
After 170 kilometers we reached Ottawa. We check-in at a hotel located in a block of flats, something old, located in the heart of the capital of Canada. The parking is very small and we occupy the last square that is free. Next, to the hotel there are a lot of bars and restaurants and being Sunday there is a lot of entertainment.