OK, so this is more for my own records than anything else. Before I left, I kept saying it was an 18 hour drive from Montreal to Chisasibi but it actually took a bit less than that if I only count actual driving time. Since I had Jacob, and also just because I felt like it, we stopped overnight in two places along the way. But we did make a few stops during actual driving time to eat, pee or just stretch our legs. Unlike the two other times that I went up by car (as a passenger), I actually paid attention to the timing!
Montreal to Val d’Or (15 N to the end, 117 N to Val d’Or):
- We left our friend K’s place at 11:02 AM on Friday, July 30. However, due to construction and a blocked access to the highway I needed to take, I wasted an hour in town.
- We were on the corner of Decarie and Jean-Talon at 12:02 (after looping around because of bullet #1). That is when I reset the mileage counter on my car.
- We got to Val d’Or a bit after 7PM but out of that 7 hours, we were stopped for nearly an hour. We were slowed down on the 117 when it went through small towns (one of them pretty touristy – Mont Laurier) and because of some road work in the Réserve Faunique de la Vérendrye). However, during the second half of the road through the park, I made up for some lost time by speeding along at 120 km/hour or so. I found myself speeding up to 130 once in a while and I had to slow down again.
- So: Montreal to Val d’Or took about 6 hours.
- We stayed at Motel Park. Inexpensive ($140 for two nights), clean, free wireless internet in rooms, small fridge, and close to tons of restos and a residential area with a park for kids. Oh, and a men’s hair place! I needed a haircut, wasn’t sure if there would be someone to cut hair in Chisasibi, so what the heck!
Val d’Or to Matagami (111N to Amos, 109 N to Matagami):
- After gassing up, we left Val d’Or around 12:ooPM.
- We arrived in Matagami shortly before 3:30PM.
- Interesting points: from Val d’Or to Amos (1 hour), the traffic was at the usual level on these small regional highways. After Amos, along with the loss of Rogers service on my cell, the traffic died down considerably, giving me a taste of what the James Bay Highway would be like!
- We did do a 20 or so minute detour to go see a covered bridge near a town called St-Domaine du Rosaire.
- So: Val d’Or to Matagami: a bit over 3 hours.
Matagami – Chisasibi (James Bay Highway to Chisasibi turnoff, then road to Chisasibi):
- We left Matagami around 12:30PM
- Arrived in Chisasibi around 9:00 PM (maybe a bit before).
- Out of that 8.5 hours, we were stopped a bit over 1.5 hour in total. About 1 hour at KM 381 (where the only gas station along the James Bay Highway is) to gas up the car and our bellied, about a half hour at Broadbent River to pee, have a snack and take a short hike and another few minutes at a rest stop to pee.
- The drive was actually really nice! I had only done it as a passenger and had enjoyed it, but I thought that driving would be a pain. Not so! the scenery doesn’t change much (trees, and more trees, many of them damaged by forrest fires) and there are some bumpy areas but being practically alone on the road rocks! I saw a vehicle going the other way every 5 or 10 minutes on average. I passed two vehicles and one passed me.
- At the rest stop at Broadbent River, a small Eeyou family stopped. One of the members signalled me over to the garbage when I was coming out of the outhouse. I walked over and he showed me a squirrel stuck in the garbage! We looked at it struggle for a while then he went to get a branch to stick in the garbage for the squirrel to climb. When it finally got out, there were cheers and applause!
- We saw wolves!! On the highway! When a vehicle going the other way slowed down, I did too, thinking something was up. Then I saw 2 animals crossing the road from my side to the other. From a distance, I couldn’t tell what they were. We approached slowly and saw that one had stayed behind on our side while another sat waiting for it on the other side. They were wolves! I stopped to let the last one pass but it sat on its haunches and looked at me, as though it were saying: “Go on.” I cautiously rolled down my window and took a picture of the one on the driver’s side (I wasn’t on park, I stayed in drive with my foot on the brake). And I took a picture of the one that was waiting for me to go on. So when we actually drove off, we were being framed by two gate-keeping wolves! Given my past dealings with wolves and the fact that I still owe Wolf a tattoo (will talk about this some other time), I thought that was quite interesting.
- Anyway: Matagami to Chisasibi took roughly 7 hours, driving at an average speed of 110 km/hour. Some cars go faster but with my old Camry, I had to be careful on account of the bumps!
So the total driving time from Montreal to Chisasibi was about 16 hours! Not 18, 16! 🙂