Us Aussies have a lot to take for granted when it comes to driving. For better or for worse drive right hand drive cars. Driving on they go left takes a little getting used to but touch wood I find it no big deal. This drive in the Canadian spring though proved a little interesting. They have the arrow straight highways we have in Australia that hypnotise you with their repetitiveness and mundane 100 kph speed limits. While this is a journey worth making (train rides are for the lame), I thought I’d share with you a few learnings.
The fun didn’t start at the rental lot either. Getting a rental car in French Canada is about as interesting as going nightie shopping with your mum. The metallic charcoal coloured Volkswagen Passat on offer was about as good as the Montreal rental lot got. The exciting upgrade option was some mincing Dodge mini SUV, which we passed on. Once we hit the highway, It’s winter tyres rumbled along the highway so loudly, I thought we had an industrial boiler in the boot! It was expensive too. About $180 CAD will get you a regular sized car for the day insured. Be warned it’s not cheap!
There’s two main routes you can take to Quebec. We took highway 40 which takes about 3.5 hours because it’s more scenic. It passes through a few pretty little towns. My only advice to you is if the weather is as bad as what we had, then don’t bother with the scenic route. You won’t see anything through the blinding rain anyway. I think Highway 20 is the quicker router, where you’re guaranteed to see nothing, and would shave an hour off of your journey.
It might sound crazy to a Cannuck, but I couldn’t get used to the whiteness driving along the highway. There was melting white snow everywhere and constant water flare up from other cars I found to be incredibly hard on the eyes and tiring. So take care if you decide to make this journey. Make sure you have a passenger and a few coffees to keep you awake too. You will need it. The good news is Canadian cars (at least in Montreal) have speedometers in kilometres per hour and temperatures in Celsius. At least in this weather I couldn’t see any speed cameras and only saw one cop. Once you’re out of Montreal, the locals tend to drive well over the speed limit.
Moving down the highway, I was watching the outside temperature as we barrelled along. It was about 12 degrees in Montreal. But every ten kilometres of so we got closer to Quebec, it was dropping a degree each time. Until we hit 4 degrees Celcius. It gets bloody cold! Seat warmers be praised.
As you get within Quebec city limits, it’s clear the local Cannucks are mad bastards. OK they live with this year in, year out. But where I’m from, when it’s raining cats and dogs and you can’t see 20 metres ahead, we’re not doing 130kph. It beggars belief that as I crawled along in the middle lane, Mr Cadillac Escalade is sipping a 40 oz latte while chatting on the cell phone is pounding down the highway full pelt, merrily tailgating anyone who dare impede his haste. At times my car was aqua planing (bouncing around left to right) in the lane because there was so much water built up on the road. Lucky I guess that Hertz didn’t have the 5lt Mustang I wanted to rent.
Once you’re in Quebec town, it’s not too bad at all. We dropped off the Passat and braved the weather to our hotel. Given we made this trip in the Spring, it wasn’t exactly the peak of winter. So my advice would be if you’re thinking about the journey, then keep watching the weather. If it is a bit average, don’t bother with the scenic route. Lame as it sounds, maybe even cancel your rental beige barge and go the train option instead. Not much fun seeing the sights in a white out!