the adventure continues:- cycling though the French countryside invigorates the spirit………

After being in France on and off for sometime now, I have to say there are many amazing things to do here. I have spent most of my time in a little village where the population is about 220 people full-time. There are no stores and definitely no restaurants. However it does have a beautiful forest about 600 metres from where we are staying and it has great paths and trails to wander through and to cycle through.

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Taking off and heading for the forest……

I arrived back here in Boursonne in Picardie with Karine five days ago. After sleeping for about four hours on day one and resting a little on day two, we decided to step straight back into our exercise routine. The thing that makes this special is the stunning environment we get to do this in.

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The contrast in this shot is truly incredible….I love it…
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Beauty and Sacrifice…..

The forest and the villages have an ancient feel and the history in this region is very impressive. 12th century churches, man-made weirs, cobble stone paths and robbers hideouts are just some of the great things to see.

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The 12th century cathedral dwarfs the local houses…
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Across the canal the village is incredibly cute and almost medieval…

I have always wanted to cycle through the French countryside. We decided to do a ride that took us through 5 or 6 villages, along the old canal and back through a part of the forest, where we startled a young fawn from its afternoon feeding frenzy. 20 kms later we arrived home tired but exhilarated.

Cycling gives one the opportunity to get places relatively quickly, but also allows you the time to take photographs and take in the stunning sights along the way. The poppies are blooming currently and the varying colours of green contrast with the deep orange and brown of the winter leaves on the ground. The wheat has a gorgeous golden hue that contrasts against the forest and the brooding sky.

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Poppies blooming amongst the wheat…..
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Cheeky Bugger………..love this photo….

I have been looking forward to riding around here and would recommend it as the premier mode of transport through the area. As I rode yesterday I was grinning from ear to ear with excitement. This was a bucket-lister for me and something I had spoken to my friend Tracey about for years. I am yet to ride to the closest bakery for baguettes in the morning or to the cheese shop for the days new release, but it will happen….…Believe me!

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I have always wanted to do this and get the shot….tick!!!

Our second ride of the week took us to a very unique part of the forest: Cave du Diable. It is an old hideaway by the look of it, or possibly a distant underground entrance to one of the closest castles in the area. It is built under a sandstone cone that seems to protrude through the limestone sub layer. The whole area is built on sedimentary rock (limestone) with the exception of this bulge at the top of one of the hills……very unusual indeed. We even discovered a few suitable rocks to do some bouldering on.

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Sand paths and sandstone protrusions everywhere…sitting on limestone bedrock….
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Miss K psyched, topping out on her 1st, first ascent. Unknown V0 traverse.
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First ascent of “Fighting the Frilled Neck” V3. Height 1.2 metres. 8 moves in total.

20 kilometres later and some very beautiful scenery including a very brooding sky again, we arrived home. I am loving riding again and I am very very happy to be doing it in this stunning part of the world. 🙂

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the adventure continues:- walking bare-footed through the grass makes flying a grounding experience…

As the Boursonne town church bells chime four, I decide after yet another couple of hours sleep to try and motivate myself to wake up. It doesn’t feel like jet lag, but it is most definitely that. Having not slept at all on the flight from Montreal. It is only six and half hours in the air and that allows for a few movies and the picking up of a six hour time difference. I do though, acknowledge that I am truly shattered right now.

I stand up and open the windows to let the country air flow in and out of my lungs and survey the surrounding area. It is now officially summer and the place is teaming with life. Birds of all kinds are sweetening the day with their sounds as a low flying plane drowns them out momentarily. The sun warms the room and I think to myself “C’mon Craig do 45 push ups and then you may feel better!”

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Beautiful little place to be………..

The push ups definitely define my level of enthusiasm for the afternoon as I complete then all and I am keen to continue to exercise. I am doing my shoulder stabilising workout that I was super keen on before leaving for the USA and Canada. Notice immediately that it feels really good to be doing something physical after the medium haul flight.

I decided to wander through the garden and just ground myself a little. This is something that I learned many years ago when travelling as a musician in Australian. It is super important to just walk through the grass bear-footed and feel the earth in every town. It gives you a sense of belonging to the area, even for a short period of time.

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I love this wood pile….its 1.8 metres tall and 15 metres long……..you could build a cabin with it.
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Japanese Maple……..just lovely and very zen.

We all tend to rush around and try to see and do everything we possibly can when travelling and never get a sense of where we are. We are all to up in our heads and miss the history in the earth. I know it may be a little existentialist for some of you but just try it next time you go somewhere. Even for the night. Just walk and breath and think about no much at all. Its truly cleansing.

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Home Sweet Home…….

It is now time for dinner and in Boursonne that means homegrown veggies, salad and cold meat…..oh and red wine too 🙂

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and this is where dinner came from….well the salad part of it anyways……

 

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

– Mark Twain

the adventure continues:- Limestone, Pizza and Poutine, great beer and good mates.

Leaving the Riviere Saguenay and National Park at Riviere Eternitiè was a little sad as we had been so fortunate to have seen what we had seen. We headed to Saint Simeon for the night and in the morning we had a look around and then we took the ferry. Now the ferry takes an hour to cross the Saint Laurent and you have time to look around and see all the islands scattered across this massive waterway.

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Private residence in Saint Simeon, including the beach………

There were sea lions just bobbing up and down beside the ferry and then we started to see these beautiful white Beluga whales ducking and weaving in the water. Truly a beautiful experience. We arrived in Riviere de Loup and fuelled up for the next few days. Google provided a Micro Brewery that was our next port of call Fous Brassants was a great place to sit and eat and have a cold beer while we searched for our nights accommodation.

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The riverside moors in Saint Andre……..

We decided on a little B&B in Sainte Helene called Gîte des P’tites Madames. It was just the right thing for the next two nights. Since we were climbing in the area and it was close to the crag. Not much around but close and quiet.

We arrived and there was no one there to greet us and so we headed off to Saint Andre to buy our climbing permit from the camp ground. We had a wander to the local lighthouse, watched the sun set and headed back again. Still no one there. After a quick phone call they were on the door step. They were out and about for the evening and hadn’t checked the emails coming in that afternoon.

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Petite phare (little lighthouse) in Saint Andre, Quebec CA.

We settled in for the evening and we were out to it in no time……until 4:00am when the freight train ripped through town and shook the house and the town for about three minutes. Once we relaxed and drifted back off to sleep we slept through and woke around 7:30am. Coffee was required immediately and breakfast was being prepared downstairs. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted through the entire house.

After breakfast we packed our things and we were off to the crag. Super excited and ready for a good day out just getting to know the area and the rock. We hiked in the two and a half kilometres to the crag know as “The Amphitheatre”. A quick look around gave us the lay of the land and we began the first of our days routes. Easy, easy and more easy was the way and fun, fun ,fun was the reason. We had two days and just climbed the classics.

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Happy hiker in the beautiful forest approach on her way to the base of the crag.
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From the same height as the top of a crag classic “Moby Dick” 5.11b (6c+)

The limestone was unusual and the climbing a little different but over all a fun time was had. What made it even more awesome was running into a few mates from my home gym who were in Montreal on a conference and they decided to be at the same crag on the same days as us. So great to catch up with Francois, Alex, Josh and Martin.

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After a day at the crag………..Carb Loading!!! Photo ©karinekrysiakdeberdt

Sorry there are no climbing shots, we were all too busy having fun and doing as many routes as we could. 🙂

the adventure continues:- a vertical walk across an ice carved cliff……just the right thing.

Arriving in Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay this afternoon after our relaxing start to the day was a very exciting thing. Karine and I had decided to go on a bit of an adventure and we were a little excited. Driving around this beautiful area and taking in some of the most incredible sites has been a very privileged experience.

I think I am safe in saying that neither of us ever thought we would have the opportunity to see this amazing part of the world. Thanks Mario and Kaew for the loan car and the suggestion to head northwest.

Driving into the park it was inspiring to see the huge granite cliffs on other side of the road. They were so smooth from glacial ice flow that they seemed unclimbable. We new there we some routes there, however there were not many compared to the amount of rock on offer. 500 million years and 5000 feet of ice had certainly taken its toll on this awe-inspiring place.

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Another beautiful fjord shoreline….

The real reason for being here was our little adventure for the trip. Miss K had seen there was a Via Ferrata on offer in one of our tour guidebooks and this was why we were here. 590 metres long and approx. 300 high with an 80 metre long 30 centimetre wide foot bridge near the end. Neither of us had done a Via Ferrata before but we both wanted to.

Not knowing what to expect from the experience we wandered down to the meeting area and filled in all the appropriate paperwork and signed in. K had booked it online so it was all good and ready when we arrived. Having a few years of climbing experience I thought it would be a little different to experience this and so did K.

As we clipped in and began the ascent I kept thinking to myself “there really is nothing to hold on this beautiful rock, it is completely blank.” K was leading the group and powering up the face. Now I am clipped and now I am clipped again kept running through my mind. It was a real blast just climbing this amazing rock in such an easy and undoubting fashion.

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Miss K enjoying the ascent……..
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180 metres up and you can get a no hands rest……..super good fun! Photo ©karinekrysiakdeberdt

Reaching the broken slab section on the route I clipped in again and said to K “SMILE!!!” And the look on her face was priceless. She looked so happy and pleased to be there. “Are you having a good time?” “Yes its great, so beautiful up here.” We took a couple of photos, being careful not to drop the camera or phone and continued up.

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The view from halfway up the slab……OMG!!!

Cedric our trusty guide had said there was a surprise up around the corner and sure enough there was. The surprise was a 6 metre long single foot wire walk-across with a single cable to clip into and hang off while crossing. Totally awesome in fact.

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This was a real test….indeed.

We crossed cable and continued to traverse across the face of the cliff and up a ladder, round another corner and there it was………the foot bridge. 60 metres below was a raging torrent of icy cold fjord water pouring down into the Riviere Saguenay. We all crossed the bridge effortlessly and it was a fabulous view of the cliffs and the fjord from the bridge.

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The bridge that tests mental strength and the view that truly helps along the way. Photo ©karinekrysiakdeberdt

Walking back down to the finish, still connected to the cable was pretty cruisy, but we were so happy to have done this and it was a great experience indeed. Would recommend it highly to anyone.

If you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin.

– Katharine Butler Hathaway

the adventure continues:- from the summit of Mont du Lac Des Cygnes to the sunset of Riviere Saguenay.

Waking early this morning didn’t feel that great as I needed a good nights sleep after our long day yesterday. I woke at 5:15 am, looked at my phone for the time and realised that it was the start of the day weather I liked it or not. Feel somewhat rested I was however looking forward to the hike that was planned for the day. Doing some serious exercise always makes me feel better even though it feels hard some times.

Breakfast was served at Gite Fleury 8:00 am sharp and we had a lovely spread of local produce and the conserves were just divine. Diving into the fruit platter was also a great idea as I knew I needed a good and solid start to the day. The coffee also helped a lot as did the conversation around the breakfast table.

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Le Parc de Grande Jardins

Heading west to the Parc de Grands Jardin was just fabulous, the scenery spectacular and the day was just incredible. We arrived  at the visitors centre and checked in, paid and sorted ourselves a bit, then headed out to the trailhead. Miss K was ready to go and I was right there with her. We took off and set a good pace for the 4km, 480 metre vertical trail that would take us to the summit of Mont du Lac Des Cygnes.

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Possibly a road less travelled by……
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Lake George

As we ascended the wildlife came to greet us, squirrels running around and birds calling out to all letting then know there were humans around to mess up their day. The landscape and flora changed continually as we continued up. We went from birch trees to lichen moorlands to alpine meadows to a crusty granite cap at 980 metres ASL. This was to be vantage point into the magnificent Charlevoix Crater and out across to the Saint Laurent River.

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The view from the summit of the mountain…..
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The author on the edge of the cliff feeling very relaxed indeed……..
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A little impromptu peeble wrestling in Parc de Grande Jardin on the summit of Le Mont du Lac des Cygnes, Quebec CA.

As we walked around the summit and began our descent Miss K spotted a black bear and two cubs roaming on the ridge about 350 metres from where we were. This was truly incredible and something that we had both hoped to see. So amazing to be that close……..To be honest I was very nervous about it as female black bears are extremely dangerous when they are nurturing their young.

On the way back down to the trailhead we took our time taking in the scenery and the flowers blooming. We even spotted a fairly rare carnivorous orchid species. Even the rangers at the visitors centre were impressed that we had found it. We arrived back at the trailhead a little bit tired but very satisfied with our adventure.

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This is one hungry meat eating plant…..
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Natural contrast……..enough said!

We headed off further east towards Saguenay with an appetite and a desire to shower. It was about an hours drive through incredible pine forests and lakes to our destination. We had a beer or two at a bar we found in downtown Saguenay and booked a place to stay for the night.  It was now time to head to our accommodation and go for a stroll along the beach. The description of the area in the booking page was very accurate indeed.

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The author standing on granite smoothed by glacial ice flow in the fjord lands of Quebec on the shores of Riviere de Saguenay……..can it get much more incredible…….????
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The incredible sunsets…………..simply incredible.

We loved our stay at Auberge de la Riviere Saguenay.

 

 

the adventure continues:- with WOOFing complete……we hit the highway north east on a road trip…

So after our goodbyes at the farm and our work week completed we headed off in our loan car for about a week of exploring the northern shores and hinterland of the Saint Laurent River area in Quebec. We had book our accommodation for the first night late last night and we knew we had a five or so hour drive ahead of us today before we reached our place of rest for the evening.

As is quite normal now, our road trip started out smoothly with the navigator holding my phone with Google Maps shouting out street and road names in a beautiful Aussie accent. Now think about it, have you ever heard an Australian with a broad accent say French street names……It’s absolutely hilarious and Karine and i just kept on laughing until the machine stopped talking. Makes for great and fairly cheap entertainment on the road.

We arrived in Baie Saint Paul, a pleasant little town on the river and immediately we noticed it looked like the town in the “The Truman Show”. It is just picture perfect and incredibly clean to.

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Welcome to the Truman Show………picture postcard……

We parked the car and walked to our destination just in time for a late lunch and our first beer of the afternoon. Another town with yet another micro brewery, however the beer was better then I expected and we tried another one just to be sure.

Locating our accommodation was a breeze and we were welcomed at Gite Fleury by Francois the owner. He showed us around and we settled in and freshened up. Francois told us about a walk that we should do through the bay area and back into town, so we wandered off and had a look around. It’s a very pretty place with some great and very photogenic places to visit.

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Old wreck on the beach in the St Laurent River.
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Bais St Paul Beach

Dinner was at Orange Restaurant; the food was a delight and we indulged in a Margherita each as an aperitif to cleanse the palette. Talking about our day and laughing about any number of things that we had seen and heard over the course of the day. We then walked back to our place to clean up and settle in for the evening.

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The lovely walk back to town
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Some fun with Miss K………thanks for the photo!

If you need somewhere to stay when you are travelling around in Quebec and you happen to land in Baie Saint Paul, be sure to look up Gite Fleury and say Bonjour to Francois and Mario from us!

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Gite Fleury…….a fabulous little B&B in Baie St Paul

Also if you want to help out on a great project and do some serious WOOFing (Work On Organic Farm) in the Montreal area send me a comment on this blog and I can get you in touch with my other mate Mario. He appreciates all the assistance people give him. 🙂

the adventure continues:- farming is not for the faint hearted……just like climbing, but hurts more.

This morning started out with a drive to the gravel pit as we needed to have weighted bags to hold the plastic down. Mario does this to kill the weeds and help prepare the composted soil ready for planting. It feels very strange to be doing seriously physical work day in day out for hours on end. I am definitely not used to it and my body is letting me know on a regular basis too.

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Organic happiness….its a lovely farm

It helps being fairly fit and healthy with doing this sort of work but the body doesn’t hold up as well as it used to I must admit. The back aches a little more the hamstrings tighten a little tighter and my overall recovery is a lot longer. Like climbing, this physical activity is not for the faint hearted. You have to give your all the time and turn it on quick and hard when it is necessary.

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The red beast….

Yesterday we did an indoor gym session at Horizon Roc in Montreal. K and I had to do the top rope accreditation and the lead climbing accreditation before we could do anything. I understand its a requirement but it costs money for each of them and if we did this in every gym we would be near broke because of the cost just to get in and climb.

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Kaew and Karine working hard in the sun….

We had a great time climbing though and K and I are now very inspired to train again. This is especially good for me as I have not really seriously trained at all in two years now. I want to and I love it, but with travelling as you all may know it gets difficult sometimes. We climb a fair bit but not every week and not consistently at the gym either……..That costs lots of money every time you have to join.

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super Mario doing what he really loves other than climbing.

Seeing Mario and Kaew is great and spending time together is really very good fun. We all get in and cook, clean and farm together so it makes the house and the farm move along quite nicely which Mario is very appreciative of. I know this because he keeps telling me. They are a wonderful couple and very much in love and in love with their little piece of environmental contribution. It’s an organic farm and I have to say the veggies are divine.

As I write this Karine is making an apple pie for this evenings dessert and Kaew is making Pad Thai lunch. It all smells so good. We are also very driven to eat given the work we are doing. It creates an appetite like no other.

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The French pastry chef is in the kitchen and happy……..