We arrived at Matagami (Cree for “Where waters meet”) in the late morning. This little town is the last settlement before the vast expanse through which the James Bay Road winds its way. We made sure to stop and fill up our tank completely, as we knew we would not find any more gas for another 381 kilometers. As a safeguard, we were also carrying 5 gallons of fuel in the car. It took up a fair amount of space and the potential risk of vapors escaping wasn’t exciting to either of us, but it was far preferable to running out of fuel in the middle of the wilderness.
The little gas station had a great stock of supplies — everything from frying pans to USB car chargers. There were bathrooms, a shower, and laundry machines. They clearly catered to people like us, about to head for James Bay, and it was reassuring to find a place like that, even though we had brought everything we needed with us.
After fueling up, we took a quick drive through town, to see what Matagami was like. The primary employment for the town comes from mining and wood processing and its character reflects what one might expect from that sort of setting — efficient, utilitarian, no-nonsense. We both liked it immediately. We drove by an “arena” with a lot of cars parked outside; presumably there was a hockey game going on inside.
From Matagami, it was on to our final stop before the James Bay Road — the checkpoint, just a few kilometers north of town.