Empty Days

Thursday, September 02, 2004



P'tit-train du Nord trail.


Here's a site of a small motel in the north that gives a good description of the trail I followed - it used to be a railroad that got partially transformed into a biking path which is a pretty brilliant idea because it's essentially impossible to bike through the Laurentian mountains on the roads - climbs are way too many and far too steep for anyone who is not an accomplished athlete (I tried to leave the trail a few times but it proved completely impossible for me, my bags, and my old bike). The railroad itself goes on for another 300km up north past Mont-Laurier all the way to Val d'Or (the "vallee of the gold" - so called because of all the gold mines up there) but it goes through a huge wildlife reservation with no human presence and rather inhospital landscapes and I don't think they are going to develop it any further - this would bring no touristy money to anyone, plus most tourists can't bike that far anyhow.

Initially I feared that the trail would prove too "well-managed" by which I mean - too touristy and money oriented, but my fears were progressively placated the farther north I went: there are huge stretches that are completely free of any human presence and that's where I finally felt the bliss I was looking for. All the northern portion of the trail, the so called Northern Laurentians, is just gorgeous - that's where I saw all the animals and no people for hours and hours (here's a Wikipedia article describing the area I am talking about).

I reached Mont-Laurier on Saturday. The previous days the weather was just perfect but on Sunday it was gray and raining buckets. I couldn't bear the idea of staying in town just because of rain so I took off anyway, in my vynil rain-suit and plastic bags over shoes: this was the day when I experienced my best biking - in the rain, who could have thought. The trail was completely deserted - that's when I saw all the deer, not to mention the particular beauty of the rainy landscape. Which is to say that a biker should never be afraid of getting wet, unless it's really terribly cold and windy I suppose - which was not the case at all here.

I also cried a lot that day for reasons described in the previous post - the rift between my life and the life I could live there, I fell through the gap.

*

Of course there were adventures on the way. Early on I started taking brief notes on bits of scrap paper as it became evident that the multiplicity of impressions would roll all these little moments into a ball in the end. That's exactly what happened - I am glad I have these notes now as I am trying to put it all together in my head.

*

My whole body aches from the effort yesterday to get past the suburbs as quickly as possible and stiff steering due to the accident with the bike. Now that I am not going anywhere anymore and feeling stuck in hell, it hurts even worse. In the first days of my trip I was also pretty tired at the end of each day - but it never felt as bad because the next day was always full of future, full of surprises. Travel is a wonderful thing - it worns you out but it's worth it.

*

I wasn't able to avoid a raw with my parents yesterday for having turned my apartment upside down - I couldn't take a shower and couldn't cook myself some food, I was really angry due to the bike accident, the city, and having found that I can't look out of the window anymore because it's so deathly ugly out there without the tree-of-paradise. So I basically asked them to go to hell and immediately felt some relief after they left. I guess I will apologize but they full knew they would get on my nerves with this - it's an old subject of contention and they should quit imagining they can make my life better than it is with their "ameliorative" intrusions. Anyway - it was a godawful day and I finally took a shower at 3am in the morning, having waken up in tears with visions of the mountains etc etc etc etc.

*

I spent about a hundred bucks in 8 days for food, drink and occasional expenses like laundry. Not including emergency expenses on the credit card (tire for rear wheel, tube, mirror) - but I won't count it because I'll keep paying the same minimum monthly fee as I've been doing for the past 4 years anyway for my Berlin debt. I spent more than I should have in Mont-Laurier (the end-point of the trail) because I was depressed and because this is what happens when you end up in a big town all alone after a few days on the road. I paid myself a beer at the bar, a snack at MacDonalds, and a big breakfeast in a road diner before taking off on my return trip (rainy night under tarp-tent and rainy morning to greet me: I needed something hot).

To recap:
  • I started out at 10:30am on Tuesday, August 24
  • I reached the end of the trail 240km up north in Mont-Laurier on Saturday afternoon
  • I was back in Mtl on Wednesday September 1st at about 3:30pm

    I wish I could have been gone for much longer than that (could have taken another bike trail, there are plenty in Quebec) but I was running out of money, that simple.





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