There is something so therapeutic about cycling. The low humming of the tires, the occasional creaking of the chain, and the soft, gentle brush of the wind against your face, your hair, your ears… And occasionally, you come stumble on sights and sounds that make you smile, make you realise again what there is to explore and experience in this world. When I am on a bike and peddling hard, everything else seems to disappear. Family issues, relationship woes, the looming thesis deadline… All of that seems to vanish so naturally.
I only learned about the bike ride a few days earlier. Purely by coincidence I met someone who happened to be a bike enthusiast. She talked excitedly about the 256km ride around Lac St Jean, in central Quebec, on a bike route known as Véloroute
des Bleuets. I was almost instantly hooked and eager to pack my bags. The route passes trough quaint little villages and vast stretches the farmland that is typical of the Quebecois countryside, and true to its name, there are supposedly bits along the route where an abundance of wild blueberries can be found, especially at this time of the year.
We were four people in the group, and each of us had come equipped with sleeping bags ready to camp along the route. The weather, for the most part, was beautiful, and the scenery stunning. The landscape is varied, with rolling green hills, dense forests and vast tracks of blueberry plantations and pasture for grazing. Most of the time, there are glimpses of the shimmering blue lake and cosy little islands to be had, and if not, the route tours through petite villages and hamlets with cheese farms, ateliers, microbreweries and cute little shops selling local handicrafts and arts. A reserve manages to preserve elements of the livelihood and culture of the natives before the European settlers arrived. There is even a ghost town, with abandoned and caved in houses, reminding passerbys of the colourful lives that once were before the local timber industry went into decline.
Averaging around 85km a day, we toured the lake guided by well marked signs. Part of the route is biking on the shoulder of the main road, which can be a hairy experience, especially when trucks zip past with such noise and fear. But much of the route is made up of paved and well maintained cycle-paths that wind and meander through the ever-changing landscape. Every corner turned was an eye-opener, every bend a surprise waiting to be unraveled. At the end of each evening, even though our muscles may be hurting and sore, we smile at one another. In our smiles lie that understanding of having achieved something together and knowing how far we have come solely based on our own two feet and determination.
A definite highlight was seeking refuge under a pavilion, where we watched the thunderstorm unleash all its doom and fury. The rain drops were large like pebbles pounding on the earth, while the wind was like a hurricane, threatening to strip bare the trees. The sudden discovery of wild blueberries, hiding so inconspicuously in the undergrowth, was another memorable delight. We feasted and feasted, replenishing our tired bodies, and savoured that soft, natural sweetness which seemed to melt in our mouths and leave us yearning for more.
It was definitely a trip to remember, and one I would gladly do again, for it reminded me once more the reason why this is “la belle province“.