Friday, August 27, 2010

Liverpool, Digby and high tides...

Leaving Halifax we drove to Liverpool, Nova Scotia, the home of both the Hank Snow Museum and the Sherman Hines Photography Museum. Actually we stayed at a camp site called Fisherman’s Cove at a little fishing village about six kilometers up the road from Liverpool, called Hunt’s Point. Like a lot of communities around Nova Scotia, Hunt’s Point has been around since the late 1700‘s. There we drank some wine with two couples from Duncan, BC and Athabasca, Alberta, as well as the owner of the campsite, a little guy with a big bottle of 151 proof rum - we narrowly managed to avoid the rum.

Pictured below are the family owned fishing boats at Hunt's Cove.

The next day we road our bikes around Liverpool and then drove to Summerville where we had lunch at a great little restaurant called The Quarterdeck, which hung right out over the mile-long Summerville Beach. It poured rain but the food was excellent.

Pictured below is Janice with her pound of mussels at the Quarterdeck Restaurant in Summerville. Note the kids' plastic bucket they provide for the shells.

After it cleared a little we drove to Kejimkujik Seaside National Park and rode our bikes around the trails which led us to some very blustery Atlantic Ocean locations. That night, with the weather still soggy, we watched the Blue Collar Comedy Tour movie that the people from Duncan had lent us. That Ron White guy is funny!

Leaving the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia, we headed for Digby on The Bay of Fundy, where tides are the highest in the world. Digby is also the ‘Scallop Capital of the World’. We drove to Sandy Cove where the beautiful but steep sandy beach gave way to an ocean that looked a little too ferocious for swimming. Instead we elected to spend the afternoon swimming, lolling around and having dinner at warm and clear, Midway Lake. Later we headed for the Digby Wal-Mart to crash.

Pictured below is the main wharf at Digby.

We toured Digby by foot in the morning, bought some seafood at the dockside market, and then drove to Annapolis Royal, one of the first settlements in Canada. I believe 1602 was the year it was first settled so, needless to say, there’s lots of very interesting, mostly wooden, architecture. From there we continued on to Wolfville, the home of Acadia University and, one of my fist idols, Alex Colville. His painting of the horse running down the tracks toward an oncoming locomotive was one of the first images I ever saw that made me want to paint. Our campsite, Evangeline, was actually at Cape Pre on the Minas Basin. At low tide, Minas Basin is the largest expanse of mud flat on the continent, and a very important stop-over for millions of migrating birds.

We hung around the campfire with a couple from Vermont and another from Prince George. The guy from Vermont being a real history buff who actually knew more about Canadian history than either of us Canadian couples did. The next morning we toured the Cape Pres exhibit which is dedicated to where the Acadians had been expelled from Canada - very compelling and a beautiful facility.

Driving up the Minas Basin, on a very humid day, we stopped for lunch to watch the tide flow upriver deicededly upriver - a very weird sensation. There are actually rafting tours that ride the tides. Later we found a campsite at Truro that had a nice big swimming pool that we had all to ourselves.

Pictured below are fishermen at The Minus Basin where we watched the tide run up the river.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

15,000 kilometers, World Class Beach and Dr. Poo…

When we left Kamloops we knew it was 7,200 kilometers to St. Johns, Newfoundland. When we got there however our speedometer reading showed we had amassed 15,000 clicks already. This might lead you to think there was no budget involved with this adventure. The truth is we’re pretty well tracking everything we spend and lately we’ve been running a little over budget, what with having to sample the local delicacies and music and so on…
Pictured below are Toutons that we had at Velma’s restaurant in St. John’s. The locals eat them for breakfast with molasses poured on top. Basically they're fried bread dough and taste like Bannock.

Being over budget, we decided to take advantage of some of the freebie campsites available in Newfoundland. After leaving St. John’s we spent the day at Gander Lake at, where else, Gander, Newfoundland. We swam, had dinner and enjoyed the day there before heading for the Wal-Mart parking lot, which of course, is free. The next day we toured Gander on our bikes before hitting the road.

We had two more days to make the ferry back to Nova Scotia so we were picking spots that weren’t more than a four hour drive away. We stopped at Davey’s’s Pond near Springdale where we knew we could camp for free. Again we swam and were enjoying the day when a local told us about a better free camping spot down the road at Goodyear’s Cove, right next to Springbrook, where there was ocean on one side and a pond on the other. We moved to that site and were rewarded right away when a local couple approached asking us if we were on holidays in Newfoundland. When I replied in the affirmative he said, “Here, I have something for you. A piece of The Rock” He then gave us both pendants with a little pieces of Newfie rock. Nice touch! Later we had seafood chowder at a roaring campfire.

Pictured is our free spot at Goodyear’s Cove from the lookout at top of the hiking trail. Also pictured is a whale in Goodyear’s Cove.

The next day we spent swimming and hanging out at Barachois Provincial Park before heading south and setting up camp, along with some people from California, at a free spot just north of Port au Basques. We reluctantly left The Rock the next day. Our departure date was pre-booked so we only had eleven days on The Rock - two weeks would have been better.

Pictured is the M.V. Caribou, which we took both ways to Newfoundland.

We arrived back in North Sydney, Nova Scotia at about 6:00 pm and while I was setting up camp Janice was secretly arranging a jam with a fiddle player who was also visiting from Inverness, Nova Scotia. A guitar player from Sydney was also in camp. The young fiddle player turned out to be monstrously talented. Her name is Kristan Shaw. She’s only seventeen but she's very pretty and dresses like Daisy Mae - I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing her on TV one of these days. It was a little different for me playing that Cape Breton kind of stuff but a lot of fun. It turned out the guitar player couldn’t keep up with Kristan and so mostly tapped the top of his guitar. She had a gig the next night in some other town, otherwise we would have hung around for another day.
Pictured is Kristan and me having some fun in a little hall at the Arm of Gold Campsite in North Sydney where they regularly feature music. Of couse a still picture can never convey the feel of the music.

Heading towards Halifax we toured Louisberg, a World Unesco Heritage Sight where they’ve uncovered and recreated a complete 18th century fortress and village with authentically dressed soldiers, blacksmiths, merchants restaurant waiters, cooks and miscellaneous other servants who shoot cannons, cook meals, wait on customers, tend the animals and gardens, serve grog and stay very much in character - definitely worth the price of admission.
Pictured below is Louisberg.

That night we set up at the Port Hawkesbury Wal-Mart but, following the advice of a local, drove up to Point Michaud for a swim and dinner on the beach. As the sign proclaims, Point Michaud is a‘A World Class Beach’. It was too. Fine, firm sand and warm, clear water.
Pictured below is Point Michaud beach.

We were n our way to Halifax the next day and tried in vain to squeeze our trailer into my cousin’s downtown driveway. There was no way we could get the unit to fit though so we took it to the Wal-Mart parking lot and left it there for the weekend. Martin Kalmokoff is my cousin on my Mom’s side but he and I haven’t seen each other in about thirty-five years. Besides being ten years my junior, Martin was always a bit of a Brainiac, and so while I was jerking around playing in bands and painting, he was off to university right after high school. By the time he was finally done with all of his schooling he had his Doctorate in micro-biology and was living in eastern Canada. He and his partner, Camilla, who is also a scientist, work for the federal government. Martin involved with Canada’s food supply and a self-described "Poo Doctor", while Camilla oversees Canada’s Air Quality Index.

Martin had me eating raw oysters for the first time in about thirty years while we drank too much of his homemade wine. The next day they took us to the obligatory Peggy’s Cove tour and then to Mahone Bay, where we had lobster sandwiches at a seaside cafe, and then on to historic and picturesque Lounenburg, where we watched Dory races and walked the historic town and its many architecturally unique buildings. That night, back at their place, we ate whole lobsters. Janice had been a little worried beforehand about keeping up conversationally with two highly educated scientists but we had some great discourse and laughed a lot. The next day we all walked to the Halifax waterfront before janice and I hit the road for Liverpool and other points west. Thanks Martin and Camilla for being so welcoming and showing us a great time.
Pictured are Janice, Martin and Camilla at Peggy’s Cove and then a couple images of the cove itself.

Pictured: Mahone Bay where we had lunch and Martin softening up Camilla for a sip of her mango smoothie.

Pictured below is Lounenburg.

Pictured below are a couple shots of Halifax harbour and all of us having a beer in downtown Halifax before our departure.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Twillingate, Quidi Vidi and Pippy Park

We hooked up with Dave & Louise Wells in Campbellton, Newfoundland. Louise is Janice’s co-worker while Dave also happens to be the brother of an old friend of ours from Barriere - go figure. They had been staying at Louise’s mother’s island just off Lewisporte and were also seeing to ailing elderly relatives so we were only able to spend the one evening with them. Besides showing us around their old haunts, we saw some places we never would have come across on our own. Trouble was, I forgot my camera, so the only picture we have is of Louise and Janice immediately following the brief rain storm.

The next day we were on the road for Twillingate. That name conjures up storybook images for me while the town itself and it’s natural setting were a perfect match. It was mid-day on a grey day that we arrived at Twillingate but it was still as charming as any little town could possibly be. The next four pics are all Twillingate.

Following Dave and Louise’s advice we stopped at a local restaurant for Fisherman’ Brewis, (sounds like brews). Hard bread is soaked in water overnight, brought almost to a boil and then the fish is cooked in the water left behind from the bread. The bread is re-introduced, mixed with the fish and served hot. It’s accompanied by Scruncheons which are salted pork fat, cut small, rendered down and poured over the bread/fish mixture.

While neither the description or the visual of Brewis appealed to me, it was really delicious, and very filling.

Again as directed by Dave and Louise, we headed for Musgrave Harbour and Banting Memorial campsite. If the weather had cooperated it would have been an outstanding place to hang out, with the Atlantic Ocean just over the dunes from our campsite and Banting Pond (lake) behind us. As it was we caught the tail end of tropical storm Colin or Clyde or whatever it was. The weather was miserable and cold so we watched a movie while the laundry went round. Banting is so named because it’s where Dr. Frederick Banting (the Insulin guy) was killed when the plane he was in went down there. A replica of the plane beside the actual wreckage is featured in the campsite.

We decided to head for St. John’s, North America’s oldest city, in time for the weekend so we might take in some local music and so we could get “George faced on Shit Street.’ George Street is renowned for it’s wall-to-wall bars. We camped at Pippy Park which is only a few blocks from downtown and then took a ride around downtown, Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi, which is a tiny little channel of fish shacks and the Quidi Vidi Brewery.
The picture below is Quidi Vidi.

The pics below are of St. John's Harbour, some of the many brightly coloured houses in downtown St. John -it's not just a few painted like that - almost the entire downtown is very aged with brightly painted houses like these.The last is of the St. John's Harbour Lighthouse with a coast guard ship heading out to sea.

George Street is a bustling hub of activity on a Friday night. The first bar we were in had great local entertainment with a lot of hand clapping and foot stomping accompanying the performers. Between sets different groups of locals would just break into song - lots of fun. Our MLA in Kamloops is Kevin Kruger and he and his wife walked through the door of that first bar. I handed him my business card on the way out, and being the politician he is, I already had an email from him the next morning saying it was so nice to see me. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know who I am. We went to another packed Newfie bar and saw a local but talented band playing genuine Newfie music where we danced, stomped and had too much to drink along with everybody else.

Our last day in St. John's, feeling a little under the weather from our night out in George Street, we took it easy on the sightseeing, save for Cape Spear, the eastern most point of land in North America. It's a spectacular setting with steep cliffs, tundra-like landscape, which is common all over Newfoundland, and crystal clear ocean. The pics below are all Cape Spear.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some things not as they seem

“Try not to project ahead to what things are going to be like, because they rarely turn out like you imagine them to be. And often you‘ll be disappointed.” People that know me well will recognize those words. Now I have to eat them because Gros Morne National Park was far from what I expected. It was beautiful alright, but I was na├»ve enough to believe the travel brochures and travel shows that depict the most incredible natural spectacles, looking down from 2,000 foot shear faced cliffs to the sea. Forget that. The real draw is not Gros Morne itself, which is a big, bald granite mountain, but The Western Brook Pond. In Newfie-speak ’pond’ is the name for any enormous body of fresh water.

Unless you’re prepared to hire a helicopter, and I don’t know if that’s even possible, or to take a week-long hike into the wilderness, the closest you‘re going to get to The Pond is what is pictured above. The boat tour must be booked in advance but people we talked to confirmed it to be one of their “trips of a lifetime.” Of course you’d be looking up at the cliffs, not down. The pictures we normally see in brochures are from the top and are looking down to fresh water, not the ocean . Nothing wrong with that, its just not what I expected. Apparently the Western Brook Pond is some of the freshest and most pure water on the planet.

Don’t get me wrong. The drive along the seashore provides lots of interesting viewing in itself. Thinking though that there might still be something we were missing about Gros Morne, after a long day of driving, on the way back home I convinced Janice to take the fifty-five kilometer trip into Trout River. We got there just as the sun went behind the clouds and again, without a boat tour there’s not much to see of the unique topography of that area. We came home a little deflated but very happy that we’d stopped the day before at Port au Port Peninsula because it had actually provided us with much more visual stimuli than had Gros Morne. Lesson: Book the boat tour of The Western Brook Pond in advance.

We left our campground at Funland near Cormack and headed for Springdale, about halfway to one of our destinations, Campbelton, where we’re going to meet one of Janice’s co-workers from the Hot House Bistro. We set up camp at the Indian River right above the falls and headed for a little place called Beachside, but turned back because the road was too rough. We stopped at what looked like a free campsite and asked a local about things to see. He said we should turn back around and go to beachside, so we did. Man, was it worth it. An incredible little ‘secret’ cove at the end of a road where we were shown exactly where to go by a couple of friendly old guys that were there to watch the Killer Whale feed on the Catlin. (sp?) Little fish that kind of resemble sardines. We probably never would have found it on our own. Not only did we get to see one of the most beautiful places either of us have ever encountered, we got to see the whales and the hundreds of gulls and the sea hawk that were there for the same reason as the whales. We couldn’t believe our luck.

All of these little fishing outposts have been abandoned by the government since the death of the Cod Fishing Industry. All of their infrastructure, including roads, wharfs and schools are in disrepair. Most people are now forced to go out of province to work in mining, forestry or ,mostly, in the oil patch. Anybody interested will need to go up Hill Road, past the big grass field to get to the lookout.

Before hitting the road for Campbleton we took a quick trip to Rattling Brook to check out the 800 foot waterfall.

Photo: A lighthouse at Lobster Cove at Gros Morne.

Photo: A little fishing outpost at Green Bay, Gros Morne.

Photo: Western Brook Pond from the boat launch. Wear good footwear because it‘s a three kilometer walk in to the launch. We rode our bikes.

Photo: Tiring of her recent “mundane” antics, after a sip of western Brook water, Janice decides to take flight. Yes, its windy there.

Photo: Some of the gulls that were at the cove at Beachside to feed on the Catlin.

Photo: A Killer Whale surfaces while feeding at Beachside.

Photo: Janice heads down the stairs to the cove for closer inspection. The stairs were built by the locals.

Photo: The beach at the secret cove at Beachside.

Photo: A lone jelly fish at Beachside.

Photo: Some of the 205 stairs at Rattling Brook Falls.

Photo; The 800 foot Rattling Brook Falls.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Disenchantment, Chance Encounters and Love Struck baby…

Our plan to do the Cabot Trail got soaked by pouring rain so instead we went just up the road to Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, where we waited out getting the truck’s oil changed before strolling the sopping streets. Alexander Graham Bell purchased his summer home at Baddeck with the proceeds he received from his invention of the telephone. He and D.A. McCurdy then joined forces to launch Canada’s first powered aircraft from the iced over Lake Bras D’or at Baddeck in 1909. That Lake is also billed as the world’s largest inland sea - still not exactly sure just what that means…

Later in the day we drove through the rain to Inverness where two lifeguards were the only people, besides us, to brave the weather . We looped back to our campsite via Mabou, and then watched a movie while the downpour continued. The forecast was for more of the same so we planned to delay our trip to the Cabot Trail, which we had hoped we’d get in the next day.

As usual the forecast was wrong and we were able to drive The Trail after all. I’d have to say it was a major disappointment. In Nova Scotia they bill Cape Breton as The World’s Second Most Beautiful Island. No mention is made of which Island is first. I can think of a few...

The drive is mostly through the trees. The roads are terrible with no shoulders so bicyclists attempting the route are definitely taking their life in their hands. Luckily for us we had been forewarned about trying to pull any type of RV through there. There are a few spots on the eastern part of the route where the road is steep, with the drop to the ocean even steeper, but one could see far more spectacular scenery in forty-five minutes on the Sea-to-Sky Highway than what takes six hours on The Trail. Granted there was a nice beach at Ingonish but that was riddled with jellyfish. The only part of the drive that we thought was really worth the trip was the southwestern part where Acadian settlements start at Cheticamp and run southwards for forty kilometers or so - where the houses had character and where you could actually see where the land meets the waters of the gulf.

Ok, maybe I was a little cranky because it was a hazy kind of humid day that didn’t lend itself much to picture taking but apparently that is pretty common on hot summer days there. I can see that it could be a spectacular trip if you got it on a clear October day, when the trees are in full autumn glory, but otherwise we wouldn’t do it again.

The chance encounter:

Our ferry to Newfoundland was booked for 5:45am Saturday morning so we had a day to kill in Sydney, Nova Scotia. At the Tourist Information Bureau we asked if there was anything going on. The woman happily replied that, “Yes, Rock On The Dock is on tonight featuring Prism.” No way!
We walked next door to The Delta and enquired if they had an Al Harlow staying there. “Why, yes we do.“ came the reply, and he handed me the phone. Five minutes later we were having coffee with Al before he rushed off to the radio station for an interview. Too funny. We couldn’t stay for the concert because the ferry was loading at 4:00am but Al had promo’d us a couple of tickets to his current lineup the summer before last in Kamloops anyway.

Love struck, again:

The ferry parking lot at Sydney was basically a tailgate party while we waited for the ferry. The Nova Scotians and, even more so, the New Foundlanders are unbelievably friendly. Almost to a person they stop and talk and offer things to see and do. They’re proud of where they live but they have a great sense of humour about it too.

Even as the ferry approached the dock in Port Aux Basques we new we were going to love New Foundland. The ferry cost $677 for the 180 mile round trip but is worth every penny. The scenery is just like you’ve seen on TV, only better. The sea is pure and powerful and pounds white foam against The Rock at every turn. Our first day in we camped at Kippens and took the two-hour loop around the Port Au Port Peninsula. Unbelievable. Everyone, especially Canadians, should see and feel New Foundland.

… it’s 6:30 in New Foundland., four-and-a-half hours ahead of you Left Coasters.

Tomorrow we’re off to Gros Morne National Park. Can’t wait.

Photo: The sodden beach at Inverness, Nova Scotia.

Photo: The cable ferry at Englishtown, Cape Breton which saved us about a half hour on our way to The Cabot Trail.

Photo: The Keltic Inn at Ingonish on the Cabot Trail. A haunt of the rich and famous for the past 65 years, it apparently boasted the best restaurant on Cape Breton Island for 45 years until it closed last year due to declining revenues.

Photo: Outside the Info Center at Sydney, Nova Scotia, where they told us Prism was playing.

Photo: Al and us outside The Delta in Sydney.

Photo: The ferry as we depart at 5:45am from Sydney.

Photo: Our first glimpse of New Foundland from the ferry.

Photo: The harbour at Port Aux Basques.

Photo: Port Aux Basques lighthouse.

Photo: Ships Cove at Port Au Port peninsula, NF.

Photo: Sheaves Cove at Port Au Port peninsula, NF.

Photo: A brook, yes brook, they don’t call them creeks in New Foundland, runs into Sheaves Cove.

Photo: Janice rearranges the topography at Sheaves Cove.

Photo: Three Rocks Point at Port Au Port Peninsula, NF.