Arundo - An Expedition Accross the Rugged Trails of Quebec

In April 2024, Charly Dupasquier went on an expedition across Quebec, mostly following the Quebec Bikepacking Traverse route. 2000 km of rugged trails, both to raise awareness about the auto-immune disease she suffers from and to learn more about the territories.

: Charly Dupasquier
Photo Credits: Richard Mardens & Charlène Dupasquier

On April 23, 2024, I left Ottawa with my partner Tony and my filmmaker friend Richard Mardens, on our ruggedly equipped Panorama bikes, for a month or more. The goal? To reach Percé via forest paths and unpaved trails, crossing several wildlife reserves, regional parks, SEPAQ parks, and ZEC, mostly following the Quebec Bikepacking Traverser route. But this expedition is much more than just a bike crossing of Quebec. It's a quest for resilience. Because I'm carrying an extra burden... an autoimmune disease of chronic pain called Axial Spondyloarthritis, diagnosed three years ago. My true mission? To raise public awareness about this disease that affects thousands of people, launch a major fundraising campaign for the Canadian Spondylitis Association to help those affected and inspire them to engage in sports and cycling, make a documentary film, but above all, make peace with this darn disease that has held me back for several years.

We traveled approximately 2,000 km and climbed 19,600 meters of elevation through Quebec's wild landscapes, its boreal forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains, to reconnect with nature, ourselves, and to show that movement and the outdoors are powerful remedies against these diseases. We knew the terrains we would face would be beautiful but challenging: muddy, rocky, sandy, strewn with holes and roots, and occasionally some asphalt to link the sections together. My partner and I chose the new Taïga EXP. For its configuration, robustness, and versatility. We both opted for a rigid fork to have the least amount of mechanics to possibly repair. Richard went for the Taïga with a front suspension. We did not regret our choice! It is simply incredible to see how much confidence we can have in our mounts in the maze of chaotic trails, descents on rock blocks, or even soaked paths. The Taïga EXP navigates everywhere with disconcerting ease! The bike's frame and the curved handlebars allow me to adjust my position throughout the day. This is lifesaving for my spine. A perfect bike for off-the-beaten-path adventures!

It was an adventure in every sense of the word. A physical adventure on very diverse forest and mountain trails; a human adventure where sharing, mutual aid, and encounters were incredibly enriching; and a spiritual adventure leading to inspiring and transformative learnings and introspections. There was plenty of adaptation and creativity! From fording rivers due to destroyed bridges, encountering somewhat bold bears, dealing with spring weather and the trail conditions playing tricks on us... Twice, impassable trails in the backcountry of the Laurentians and thick snow at the summit of the Gaspésie Park gates forced us to change our itinerary on a dime, adapting to the territory of the in-between seasons. But what a discovery! Our territory is so rich and beautiful that these detours only made us more rooted in it, with amazement. We experienced intimate moments with wildlife, including moose and bears, particularly in the Matane Reserve. And what can be said about climbing the Gaspésie, those mountains where one of the populations of the woodland caribou, endangered, lives. Such a powerful and fragile environment at the same time!

After an exhausting and tough first week through Gatineau Park and the Papineau-Label Reserve, doubting my abilities, the transformation even reached my state of mind. Trapped in pain and dark thoughts, nothing guaranteed the success of my endeavor. Yet, each day, I pushed my limits and I started again the next day. The elevation gain increased, but I was there, pedaling, as the adventure, encounters, and landscapes unfolded. In the middle of the expedition, we experienced one of the most magical evenings of my life, under the almost surreal dancing lights of the auroras of all colors on May 10, 2024. I realized I was living a precious and incredible adventure and that I was very fortunate to allow myself this heartfelt project, to live on my bike across a beautiful province, accompanied by people I love and can count on. At that moment, each climb, each mountain, each mud puddle gave me back my freedom, my essence, and the obstacles disappeared. As my friend Richard, who was cycling alongside us with a camera in hand, says, you have to take the trail as it comes and the weather too! A beautiful letting go.

To connect with our territory, we need to explore it, traverse it, and the same goes for ourselves. This bike expedition allowed me to make peace with my illness, which is far from being a hindrance to my sports passions, adventures, and crazy projects that I still plan to achieve. And adventure biking is a perfect alternative for people with these kinds of diseases. As long as we adapt at our own pace and adopt the right mindset, anything is possible. Everyone has their Everest, after all!

We reached Percé on May 23, 2024, after 30 days of whimsical bikepacking, filled with anecdotes, tears and laughter, camaraderie, joy, and pride. The fundraising campaign is a success and continues to this day, as does my pilgrimage. And this certainly won’t be the last adventure on my Taïga EXP, which will take me through the mountains of the world! Each expedition transforms us, makes us grow. The story is long to share! Soon, a conference tour and a short documentary film about this adventure will be released. It will be the best way to let you experience the Arundo adventure in all its emotions and discoveries!

To follow Charly's adventures: @charly.d.adventure

Photo Credits: Richard Mardens & Charlène Dupasquier