As you drive (and drive, and drive) into the heart of the Côte Nord (North Shore), the feeling of frontier becomes ever more pronounced. At some point the patchwork of agriculture becomes endless kilometers of taiga, wide swaths of dark forest, tundra, and past that, the steel-gray St Lawrence, stretching to the Atlantic. There's just one way in and out – Rte 138 – evoking an eerie sense of isolation.
This enormous area comprises two regions: Manicouagan (stretching to Godbout) and Duplessis (east to the Labrador border). Statistics here are as overwhelming as the distances you have to drive to cross the areas. The two regions encompass an awesome 328,693 sq km (the size of New Zealand, Belgium and Switzerland combined). In this vast expanse live just over 100,000 hardy souls, mostly on the 1250km of coastline, making the area's population density just 0.3 persons per square kilometer.