A few words of introduction about Emmanuelle
There are people on this planet whose life courses are out of the ordinary. We’re lucky enough to know one, and she’s a member of our milesopedia group.
Her name is Emmanuelle. Cheerful, hyperactive, energetic, in her late thirties… but we’d think she’s barely 30.
Self-employed, private trainer and group classes instructor. Specialities: yoga, bootcamp, aquafitness and cardio boxing.
In fact, she seems to have fallen into the magic potion when she was little: she’s like a 1000-watt energy bulb.
Her two passions: sports and travel. And forget spectator sport and trips on the south shore… although, there are some very nice hikes.
She likes walking, running, climbing, skating, biking, paddleboarding, scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Did I mention walking? She also loved her adventures in hang gliding, trapeze, parachuting, Australian rappel and rafting.
Anyway, she’s enthusiastic.
In her mid-twenties, she learned from her father, a contractor, how to renovate buildings and then sell them. Flips, as they say. Over here, jackhammer. She buys the materials with a free credit card that gives her AIR MILES and since Rona allows her to earn miles, she spends them at Jean Coutu for her travel products.
A first contact with the world of rewards that she appreciates.
Two duplexes later, she sells everything and decides to celebrate entering her thirties by leaving alone for seven months to Asia. I told you, she’s a girl on the move.
She buys her plane ticket and has no idea that it could have been free or almost free. She likes to travel on a small budget.
Guide in India and Nepal
She arrives in Kuta, Bali. A city she loved so much that she will named her future dog in its honour. Then Thailand and India, which she will visit six times, because she simply loves this country and eventually works as a guide for India and Nepal.
And Emmanuelle insists that she is, in spite of her great energy, a “slow traveller” who walks the streets and takes the time to get in touch with people.
She sleeps in youth hostels, in people’s homes, in tents, or she does couchsurfing. She has already slept several nights in the passenger seat of her rented car in Mallorca, Spain.
A minimalist. To move around, she relies on hitchhiking, walking, biking, taking the bus, or renting a car.
As a person with a strong sense of human ties and a citizen of the world, our member makes friends easily and still keeps in touch with many of the people she meets on her travels.
In 2017, while reading “Les flèches jaunes” by Amélie Dubois and lounging on a beach in Mexico, the idea of walking the road to Compostela took hold. It’s the first time she’s heard about this journey.
A few months later, she’s there.
The difference between a dream and reality is basically just a date! (I think I read that somewhere.)
36-litre Osprey Kite bag on her back, Salomon running shoes and merino wool socks on her feet.
She prides herself on being the only one who hasn’t had a blister among all the walkers. Her secret? The NOK anti-friction cream that she started coating her feet with every day one month before the start of the journey, and during.
For our general culture, the Catholic pilgrimage “Camino de Santiago”, known in English as the Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Spain), where tradition has it that the remains of the saints are buried there.
However, this is no longer why the majority of contemporary walkers do it, but it is still a time of introspection for many, even a spiritual approach.
After a trip to France and Belgium with friends, Emmanuelle tackles the “Camino Francès” at the French-Spanish border: from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela, 792 km. Then another 100 km along the Atlantic coast between Fisterra and Muxia.
She makes a French friend along the way, Mateo, and not wanting to stop their journey, they take a bus to Porto and then tackle the “Portuguese Camino” to Vigo.
For a total of 1,200 kms in 42 days, with the last stage completed at night to arrive before the tourists.
Emmanuelle keeps a precious memory of all these hours in solo or duo followed by festive meals in the inns where she met people from all over the world.
Finally, let’s add that a few days were spent on a bike because of a near tear of the anterior tibial muscle and recommendations from the doctor and the physiotherapist to stop the expedition.
Emmanuelle, however, preferred to continue the mountainous section on a rented bike rather than give up, before resuming her hike.
Did I tell you that Emmanuelle likes to walk?
However, it’s not until 2018, after:
- three more flips
- four years living full time in a Winnebago, which took her and her dog Kuta across the Arctic Circle, among other things
- several diving trips (Aruba, Roatan Utila in Honduras, Mexico, Australia, Croatia, Cayman Islands, Belize)
That her friend Valerie, an author from our group, will introduce her to milesopedia and her community, and the possibility of getting free plane tickets.
It didn’t fall on deaf ear!
And here is what she found out:
She usually redeems her points to get free airline tickets.
She also benefits from free access to the airport lounges which she enjoys thanks to the passes allocated by her new cards.
The BMO World Elite Mastercard gives her, for example, 4 free annual accesses!
Finally, she embraces the Aeroplane program, which she calls “the greatest program in the history of mankind”. Nothing less! Take a note of it.
For everyone’s enjoyment. Here are the two trips Emmanuelle paid for in the past few years with her points. Supporting photos.
The Great Hike of the GR 20
Mateo, the French friend she met on the way to Compostela in 2017, suggested they hike the GR 20 in Corsica in August of the following year.
This is the trek considered by many as the most difficult in Europe with a height difference of 11 500 meters on a 180 km long trail.
The climbs sometimes require using your hands, and the descents are no easier. It is an arid, rocky terrain with a succession of peaks that give the hiker little respite.
Some parts of the route even involve passages with ropes or chains when the season is advanced.
However, there are about 20,000 hikers who try the adventure every year.
It seems that more than half of them give up the dream of completing it after only a few days.
Knowing she was in great shape, Emmanuelle accepted the challenge and bought her first plane ticket with her points.
In July 2018, she left for Europe with a 48-hour stop in Prague to visit the city. She added a few road trips in Croatia and then went to Italy with friends. There again, she hiked a lot.
And because I’m a lucky girl, we arrived in Dubrovnik on the night of the World Cup final against France. France won, and by pure chance we met some of Mateo’s French friends. I’m not even telling you about the party that ensued!Emmanuelle
Then comes time to start the GR 20 in August: “14 days of intensity x 1000”, according to Emmanuelle.
“Since we wanted to walk ‘from Sea to Sea’, we first walk from Calvi to the trek.”
They chose to tackle the beast from north to south. The most difficult part of the GR20 awaits them there because the duo chose to keep the less steep part for the end of the journey.
The backpack she carries weighs 14 kg compared to 8 kg for the Compostelle backpack.
She has put on warm clothes and a very good sleeping bag because if it is hot during the day in the mountains, the nights are cool and sometimes even cold.
However, as the hike progresses, the backpack gets lighter as the food gets scarcer (snacks, protein, oatmeal etc.). She has her Solomon’s running shoes on her feet and has brought her walking sticks.
Emmanuelle and Mateo finished happy and proud in Conca on the seaside two weeks later.
- They first chose to sleep in the shelters they had booked in advance (whereas for Compostela, this was not necessary). Hwever, exasperated because of the bed fleas that abound, they decide one evening to finish their night on the helicopter tarmac and sleep in tents rather than in a refuge for the rest of the trip.
- They buy pasta, legumes, preserves, cakes at the shelters’ mini grocery store. These are supplied by air at the beginning of the season. Warm homemade bread is offered with jam as breakfast for those who buy it. Food and meals are expensive. Emmanuelle bought herself a watermelon for 8 Euros.
- They wash themselves in ice-cold water…
- They start their day at sunrise and finish it around 2:00 pm. Rain often starts to fall in the middle of the day and thunderstorms can occur. The rocks then become slippery and there is the possibility of rock fall. Emmanuelle felt the danger after accidentally leaving the white-and-red lines that marked the trail. She got stuck in a landslide. She obviously got out of it, but she was scared to death.
The GR 20 is indeed a good physical challenge but also a challenge to surpass oneself. I’m taking home a sense of accomplishment and pride in having met exceptional people along the way, in an unforgettable experience.Emmanuelle
Their stay continued in Corsica towards Bastia.
Emmanuelle returned home after a boat trip to Italy to see Rome, while Mateo returned to his motherland.
Ecuador - Amazonia - Galapagos Islands
In 2019, Emmanuelle leaves alone for Quito in Ecuador. She’s using her second free plane ticket. She’ll be in this part of the planet for a month.
She explores the city for a few days and is surprised to be out of breath while riding up a sloping street, while a young man passes her on his bike as if he were on the flat. Only the next day does she realizes that the altitude of the city at 2800 meters, and it leaves its mark.
However, she quickly gets used to it and leaves the city by bus for Amazonia.
This new portion of the four-day trip to Deep Amazonia was organized thanks to the Ecuador Solidarity Networ, which provides informed advice and discounts on various services. She highly recommends it.
Emmanuelle takes the night bus for seven hours, followed by two hours by pirogue with a guide to reach the Cuyabeno reserve, a nearly flooded forest.
She stays at the Guacamayo lodge. She shares the space with a small group of six people guided by Tamara, the local expert. Her room is on stilts with alligators as ground floor neighbours. Nice.
During her excursions, including a nocturnal one, she saw a dozen species of monkeys, anacondas, pink dolphins with which the group swam a little before the piranhas or caimans had time to join them.
She then returnsed to Quito to meet her tour partner. Mateo arriving from France.
They left for Mindo, in order to hike the Sanctuary of the Waterfalls. Then to Otavalo where people still wear traditional clothes on a daily basis.
At the local market, she discovers the sugar cane juice she confesses to having abused. Since she’s so active, the sugar probably quickly left her system. No need to worry.
From Otavalo, the duo travels to Laguna Cuicocha in the Cotacachi reserve, then to the Fuya Fuya mountain for memorable hikes to Laguna Caricocha.
They were now at an altitude of 4,280 metres, touching the equatorial line and finishing these few days with a 5,000-metre trip to the Cotopaxi volcano.
We went the extra 200 metres because we wanted to touch the ice!Emmanuelle
Then, they did other hikes, always backpacking and sleeping in refuges towards Quilotoa and Bagnos. This last city is colder but also more touristic; giant swings for Instagram photos, waterfalls, small restaurants, offers to get massages.
Their dyad escapade will end in Porto Lopez with two dives in very cold waters in the company of manta rays. Emmanuelle still remembers being impressed by a spectacle of whales and dolphins that never ceased to surprise them in their natural habitat and by this turtle that moved under a ray as if it were an umbrella.
The two friends left each other afterwards.
Direction Galapagos for Emmanuelle. She is eager to pursue her animal discoveries in ecosystems that stand out in her eyes.
With her visa in hand, she travels from one island to another by ferry. Three islands where she stayed in an inn and couchsurfed.
- Santa Cruz: for its marine iguanas and giant turtles that she meets while cycling along a sandy road.
- Isabella: for its turtles, sharks, sting rays that do a real choreography while moving around. For the discovery of seahorses during a dive. For its caves and its flamingos.
- San Cristobal; for its sea lions that live there as kings and queens on the beaches, docks, sidewalks.
She ended her trip with a zodiac tour offered by a local guide to approach a Peruvian boat whose illegal fishermen have just been arrested by the “Ecuadorian Fishing Army”.
Then it’s time to go home.
In COVID time, Emmanuelle explores Quebec’s hiking trails.
She is currently modifying her Honda Hatchback to build a cocoon where she can sleep in the summer. She had to put a stop to her plans because of the pandemic:
- of climbing Kilimanjaro,
- of safaris in Kenya,
- and a stop on the island of Madagascar.
Her Aeroplan miles and the taxes she paid were returned to her.
We asked her what she would like for the coming months and years.
So here’s for those who are interested: nothing less than to discover the whole planet, preferably with a male soul mate as passionate as she is. A bonus if it understands the magic of the Aeroplan program that she doesn’t fully master.
Good luck Emmanuelle in all your projects.
Do you know a member who stands out from the group and whose profile you would like to see? Please let us know!