Texas to Labrador (5)

The Canadian Maritimes

It’s difficult to know where to start this report – I have let too much tar pass under my wheels since the last one!

SUMMARY OF ITINERARY:

Edmundston, NB- Grand Falls, NB.

Two-day interlude for bad weather, during which I rented a car in order to see part of the Gaspe and the Acadian Shore of New Brunswick. Highlight of this trip was getting a flat as I entered the Gaspe during a spectacular thunderstorm, and therefore having to change the wheel of an unfamiliar car while getting more than soaked!

Grand Falls, NB, to Monckton, NB.

Bad weather caused another day trip by car, during which I visited some of the famous Bay of Fundy geological sites (Joggins, Parrsborough: as well as Fort Beausejour, at which the British deportation of the Acadians started in 1755).

Monckton, NB, to Prince Edward Island, to Les Iles de la Madeleine, back to Prince Edward Island, then on to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Bad weather caused another 3-day car trip, during which I made the circuit of the southern part of the Nova Scotia peninsula. I visited Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, Shelburne, Liverpool, Cape Sable Island, Yarmouth, Digby, and Annapolis Royal. Returned and spent one day in Halifax enjoying the Tall Ships Rendezvous.

Halifax – Antigonish – Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. An average of 70 miles of short steep ups and downs each day.

Statistically, in the month that I have been in the Maritimes, I have ridden 1250 miles, a slower rate than previously, but this has been the “Tourist Heart” of the trip. I have now ridden a total of 4,130 miles.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TRIP:

Edmundston: stayed at a B&B converted from an old Catholic Boys’ Boarding school, run by a truly wonderful couple, in a beautiful setting. (Mont l’Assomption)

Grand Falls, NB: The waterfalls here are truly spectacular, and the geology even more so. The visitor center sits on the crest of a thrust-faulted anticline, the rest I will not bother you with.

Across the river from the visitor centre is an inconspicuous monument to the “Sons of Martha”, the workers and engineers who built the hydro-power plant at the site. This has engraved on its four sides a poignant poem contrasting the “Sons of Martha”, who strive for control of nature and organization and physical betterment of mankind, with the “Sons of Mary”, who are content with worshipping the wonders of God’s world. The latter are assured of Heaven, whereas the fate of the “Sons of Martha” is much less certain, as they risk not only their mortal lives but their souls in their strivings for control.

All down the St. John River, Union Jacks flying from buildings and flagpoles in yards. When one old chap who was flying one stopped in front of me to check his mail, I took the opportunity to ask him why he was flying it. “Because, young man, that was the flag I served under, and nobody ever defeated it. So that is the flag that I will always fly.” (Apparently, the “old” Canadian flag that I remember from my youth, was never “official”). Loyalty seems to be a Canadian characteristic.

Perth-Andover, NB: Coming across a little take-out restaurant in the middle of nowhere just as it was beginning to rain hard. Being offered a lift by the owner up to the TransCanada Highway so that I could get to the nearest Motel before the rain came back again. (The only time I have “cheated” – saved me a steep 1-mile climb).

King’s Landing Village, NB: A wonderful collection of old buildings representing pioneer days in the area. Some of the buildings were from the 1890s, which means that the house I grew up in is now a Museum piece. They have orchards of traditional apple varieties, and they grow buckwheat, gooseberries, and rhubarb. There are several similar villages in the maritimes representing the pioneer cultures of the different ethnic groups: the British Village at new Richmond on the Gaspe, and the Acadian Village at Caraquet in NB. Also an Acadian village at East Pubnico in NS, and a Loyalist Village at Shelburne, NS. At each one I visited I spent a lot more time than I meant to. The mosaic of cultures and settlement histories that make up this area is fascinating: imagine, for example, after the American Revolution, several thousand United Empire Loyalists arriving with their slaves in tow, at the same time that several thousand free Black Loyalists were arriving. The tension was so great, and the land the Black Loyalists were given was so poor, that many of them eventually left to help found Sierra Leone.

Moncton, NB: Arriving in town just in time to see the tidal bore go past the visitor center, and then finding a wonderful B&B for the night. Joggins: finding a fossil palm stem in the cliffs, then seeing the tidal bore on the River Hebert, and then catching the same tidal bore on the Maccan River a few miles further on. And at Maccan – a strange collection of life-size painted figures in someone’s yard.

Prince Edward Island: meeting up with, and traveling for a day with, some cyclists from Montreal. All 3 of us getting into the campground at Cavendish (“Anne of Green Gables”) for the price of one. Then our car-borne friend Benoit, arriving after the park was full, being smuggled onto the same site for free. Singing Acadian songs at a campfire in the park; meeting the musicians and getting invited to hear them in Cahrlottetown. Being in Summerside for the annual lobster festival and street party, and hearing some incredible young musical talent playing and singing Celtic and Acadian music. More musical talent in Charlottetown and Cavendish.

Passing a girl on a scooter being towed by two huskies. Visiting the site of the annual MicMac Pow-wow at St. Ann’s on the north shore. Racing to Souris to catch the Ferry to the Madeleine Islands. Getting there 10 minutes late but getting on the Ferry anyway.

The Madeleine ferry being almost completely full of bus parties of Madelinots returning to the islands from vacation, and them keeping the band going long after the official gig, and then several accomplished islander musicians jamming with the band members all the way into the harbor. Feirce mozzies and beautiful island scenery in the Madeleines. Instant thick fog at Shippagan in NB and in the Madeleines. The spectacular geology of the Madeleines – each one is a “hat” of Mississippian sandstone, gypsum and volcanics sitting on top of a salt dome.

White-water rafting (really “red water rafting”) on the Shubenacadie River. Here the tide comes in so fast after the bore passes that it sets up huge standing waves, and the Zodiac drivers drive through them over and over. I am sure that the effect is increased by the soupy consistency of the water, which is really a suspension of red Mississippian mud. After the standing waves we all went mud-sliding.

Halifax: All the Tall Ships in Port, but I didn’t stay for the parade.

Murphy Cove, East of Halifax: the campground offers free steamed mussels, as much as you can eat (as long as you let others have their fair share), harvested from their own rocks. We all sat around the campfire eating and watching fireworks. And in the morning, free coffee.

Antigonish: the Ceilidh in the pub, and the very odd local outside with his accent that sounded Irish and his greeting: “the fiddle now, that’s the Devil’s instrument; but I like it, I do”.

Halifax to Cape Breton: rode in company with a French Canadian couple for three days. The Cabot Trail was as spectacular as the advance publicity: two 1600-foot climbs with views out over the ocean all the way, and on top views across the high plateaux.

My apologies to everybody for the unpolished and episodic style of this missive – it’s the best that I can do at the moment. I’ll try to do better next time.

Good luck to you all.