KAMOURASKA, Quebec — When the pandemic descended, the boundless vistas and crazy sunsets of Kamoraska became a distant, unattainable dream for this Virginia cyclist. It is one of the most beautiful places in Quebec and, for me, an annual touchstone that I could no longer touch.
It finally came within reach. On August 9, the day Canada conditionally reopened the border to American tourists, my car was loaded with bicycles and ready to go. But I was not. I had postponed the required coronavirus test too late to ensure timely results.
On Labor Day, with my documents now complete, I headed north, crossed the border and was soon cycling across a tapestry of storybook villages, canola fields and wild roses along the wide expanse of the St. Lawrence River.
Americans looking to experience Canada’s vibrant autumn or its winter landscapes can do so again. But getting here means jumping through hoops before leaving. And being here means adopting hypervigilance against the virus. Canada doesn’t mess with COVID-19 – and doesn’t suffer from it like people in many parts of the US are now.
those hoops? You must be fully vaccinated to enter Canada as a tourist. You must have a PCR-type COVID test taken no more than 72 hours in advance, with results ready to be presented at the border if you can drive or board at the airport of departure can.
You must pre-register with the Government of Canada and obtain a code. If you are tested again at random on arrival and found positive, you will need to preface the basics of a backup quarantine plan.
You can’t be like that guy from Atlanta the border guards were talking about when I was crossing. He had pulled over from home a few nights earlier, with no vaccinations, no tests, no pre-registration and no hope of coming to Canada, more than 16 hours ago.
I went across the Thousand Islands Bridge in Ontario, where there was no waiting. Before I could get to the border station, two officers checked my vaccine and test documents, where I re-checked the information with my US passport. The guard asked a few questions and happily sent me on my way.
In nearby Brockville, people were wearing masks outside as well as inside. They were masked on city streets, in waterfront parks and in parking lots. When I indulged my unnatural craving for Tim Hortons coffee, mostly rare in America but pretty much everywhere in Canada, a group of about 10 people went together.
They were masked, but not socially distanced. The staff immediately ordered them out and told them to re-enter properly, doing a few different things at a time.
This was in contrast to the slackness on the Interstate 81 corridor and much of upstate New York, where some customers were masked in stores off the highway and no enforcement of distance was apparent. After my visit, New York’s St. Lawrence County was seeing new COVID cases at a rate 12 times higher in Ontario than across the river.
When I arrived in Quebec the next day, the vigil in Ontario intensified. These were the early days of Quebec’s vaccine “passport”, the first of its kind in Canada.
Residents over the age of 12 must have a passport to sit inside or outside restaurants, bars, concert halls, outdoor events with more than 50 people, and most other public places that are not deemed essential. Outsiders do not need and cannot obtain a passport, but must present an ID showing a home address outside Quebec as well as vaccine proof. Vaccine proof is not required to stay in a hotel in Quebec but must be shown to be in the lobby and other common places to visit.
Entering once again the bustling l’Estaminet restaurant in Rivière-du-Loup, my friend Suzie Loiselle, a tourism officer for the vast Quebec maritime zone, asked her phone to be scanned by the host. Stopped the passport app.
“Sufficiently Protected” – “Sufficiently Protected” – flashes on the screen in green. With him and my vaccine card, we got our seats.
Like Ontario, Quebec was hit hard by the pandemic, before Canada overtook its vaccine shortages and overtook the US and much of the world in vaccinations. Now, 70 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, compared to 55 percent of Americans.
“We went through hell in those first three waves,” Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubey said while announcing the passport. “People want to get vaccinated and they want to live a normal life.”
For many Americans, a system that records people’s movements in public places is a no-go. In Quebec, Loisel said, it has achieved widespread public acceptance in its early stages. “Most of the population really wants access to things that were closed during the pandemic,” she said. Now they have the freedom to move and assemble again through a government app.
I stayed in Auberge sur Mer, as I usually do, in Notre-Dame-du-Portage, a village on the outskirts of Rivire-du-Loup, a plain room next to the elegant main house and its fine restaurant In. Here the broad river is transitioning into the sea, on the other bank the distant Charlevoix mountains. The view from the balcony of my room and across the shore is lovely.
The bicycle ride to Kamorska and back, some 40 miles or 64 kilometres, passes through misty islands and fog fringes that are shrouded in coves under a sky that always seems turbulent, except in the stillness of the morning. It’s a recipe for spectacular sunsets, which attract crowds from all over Europe at the usual time, with kayaking, whale-watching, hiking, cycling and dining.
The road here is part of Route Verte 1, a major phase of Quebec’s vast network of more than 3,300 miles or 5,300 km of cycle routes. The Route Verte (Green Way) system was developed to offer cyclists safe long-distance roads, such as guaranteed spaces for cyclists in campgrounds and accredited with safe bike storage and healthy foods. Inn.
On this seaside trail and other roads in the hills of Kamaurska, you can ride your bike in peaceful solitude. You may find that the solitude of your own choice is very different from the solitude a virus imposes on you.