Rallye Perce-Neige et La Région Gatineau--Maniwaki--Mont-Tremblant
The greatest scenery in the world? Maybe. Greatest rally roads in the world? Almost. Best combination? Certainly.
Welcome to Maniwaki, Quebec. This sleepy half-English, half-French town nestled into the "Trembling Mountains" of central Quebec, Canada is just two hours north of the national capital. Although beautiful year round, we're going to talk about a trip I took in February, as a volunteer for "la Rallye Perce Neige 2016." That's the opening round of the Canadian Rally Championship, the main national rally series here. Within that rally series, studded tires are not allowed, and it's always a great show to watch cars slide on ice at incredible speeds. If you thought WRC was hard, you've never seen the Canadians, driving at the same speeds as the WRC, without those silly million dollar WRC cars with their studded tires, fancy differentials and excessive downforce. We play like men up here!
This amazing rock painting is just one example of the native/aboriginal Canadian art work on display in various places all over the area.
You see, though, there's a reason why Maniwaki is chosen as the location for the first event of the year. Not only is it the [second] most exciting rally of the year with the fully icy conditions, but the roads and the scenery are simply phenomenal. Every time I think of a place I'd like to retire in, I think of Maniwaki. However, it's worth mentioning that the reason for retiring in such a place is undoubtedly the tranquility. You're in the wilderness. The nearest city with more than 20,000 people in it is Hull/Gatineau, Quebec. It's two hours away. Maniwaki is desolate, which only adds to its charm. If you're into star-gazing, look no further. Want thousands of kilometers of mountain roads to explore that don't really lead anywhere? Look no further. When you're this far away from the rush of the big cities, life slows down a bit. Indeed, this quaint village is truly an escape from the city life that I know, here in Ontario.
This was the view from my rented cottage (Majopial) for the weekend. Serenity. Tranquility. In the summer, I suspect there would be songbirds and only songbirds. In the winter, there is no noise... Except the rally cars.
And so, on February 6, 2016, I woke up a bit late and frantically attempted to get to my first meeting of the day for the rally. The roads are tremendous fun - I got in trouble for some of the fun I had, I admit. If you want to drive these roads quickly, please actually register for the rally. The stage roads are so amazing! You would not regret registering for the rally if you have the money and the resources.
This is one of the stage roads. It was so great to watch!
Also, the food that's available in rural Quebec is great. It's not like you have to make any sacrifices to your lifestyle because of the location. The locals are very accommodating, the stores are fairly well-stocked for the size of the town, and the restaurants... Oh man, the restaurants! If you happen to find yourself driving along "L'Autoroute Cent-Cinq" (aka highway 105), to get to Maniwaki, you owe it to yourself and anyone you're bringing along to stop in at the Resto Michel Lachappelle (goo.gl/maps/6TRER8mWzTr) for the best food in the province, in my opinion. I gave a hefty tip when I left there. Tell the staff that the rally guys recommended it to you, by the way, so that the people of Kazabazua know that you're there because of the rally, spending money to support the local economy because the rally is in town. It really makes the locals appreciate what the rally brings, economy-wise.
This was the view from the cottage after the lake had frozen. Yes, the photo was above, but I just wanted to give a massive shout out to the Majopial.
As for the actual accommodations... If you don't mind not having cell reception, and you will make do with wi-fi, the "Village Majopial" is the place to stay. It's a massive cottage which is extravagantly furnished but still manages to feel quaintly and beautifully Canadian. The website indicates that the people who own the Majopial speak French and English, but I didn't actually have to speak to anyone. My accommodations were made for me. My roommates and I all spoke French except for one guy who happily read a book instead of joining our conversation. All told, I'd honestly give the Majopial a 4.9/5 star rating and would say that - like with the Restaurant I mentioned above, you owe it to yourself to stay here. If you want to take a trip to see the Rallye Perce-Neige, staying in one of the other cottages in the town of Bouchette is a good bet, since the Majopial will be booked by rally staff and volunteers.