Monday, September 13, 2010

East to West the second time around

I caught a lift from Truro with Franck to Halifax and stayed in a hostel that still had no power from the storm (and a lot of snorers - thank god for my ipod!).  My only plan of action was to work out where to go next. Should I hang around and see if I can catch a ride to Cape Breton? And hope to get the chance to get the ferry over to Newfoundland, drink some Screech and kiss a cod??  Or... as this was meant to be a 'working holiday' should I hotfoot it over to Vancouver, find a job and start enjoying having a home again???  And honestly, all those options appealed to me!

Two large coffees, several hours spent in Starbucks (the only place that had power and wifi up and running again) and a hell of a lot of dithering later, I would be heading to Montreal.  Basically, flights had got pretty expensive to Vancouver direct from Halifax, there were no rides going to Cape Breton in the next few days and someone was offering a ride to Montreal leaving the next day. And well, I figured I was making my way to Vancouver... just a little more slowly and with a very much appreciated opportunity to stop in places I'd been and see friends.

The morning after Hurricane Earl had passed, the sun was shining again, all was calm and it looked like everyone in the city had decided to prune all the trees.  I repacked my backpack and headed over to Bhima's place who was my rideshare to Montreal (and who actually thought I was another Luna he knew!).  We were due to leave at 10am on Sunday morning for the 15 hour drive... right after Bhima had finished a couple of errands around the house.  We left at 8pm.  It's funny how when easy it is to just go with the flow when you know you already don't have any control and didn't actually need to be anywhere.  I helped Bhima fix his garden gate and do a bit of roofing - and he made us some tofurky lunch (he sees himself as a respectatarian so tho' he does eat meat, only if it's organic/free-range/was treated well etc).

Halifax to Somewhere-Just-Passed-Fredericton
Finally on the road, we got the tunes on - Bhima's got a full ipod with some fantastic tooooons, chatted about anything and everything and I got to stare out of the windows to look at the stars.  It was like the hurricane was just a blip because it was another ridiculously starry night.  There were parts of the journey where the lamp posts were few and far-between and and other than the stars and the odd set of car lights all was black.  Driving uphill, it was like we were driving all the way up to the stars :o)

Nearly 6 hours in, and somewhere just passed Fredericton in New Brunswick, we started looking for a good spot to camp off the highway (because we couldn't get in touch with a hostel and was free!).  Knackered, we found a small road just off the highway that had a decent layby to stop.  It should be a completely strange thing to find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a relative stranger and be planning to 'camp' off the highway together.  And it really wasn't.  Having spent the day before actually getting on the road with Bhima, it was the easiest thing to trust each other (I could be just as crazy as he could be!).  Rideshares are a common way for people to journey from A to B in Canada and I'd already done a couple... it's like couchsurfing.  It should feel strange and a bit wrong but really doesn't.  And, well, if it didn't feel right, you change your plans. Travelling in this way isn't for everyone but having done so, it's only served to reaffirm how much people are mostly good, sometimes amazing in fact - and occasionally, just odd. I could probably ramble on about this some more but I've still got to ramble through the rest of the journey West.

Peter Doig's Milkyway... for all those starry nights.

Somewhere-Just-Passed-Fredericton to Montreal (via Grand Falls in a Tow Truck)
Bright and early the next morning, the sun was shining and after a big stretch, we got back on the road.  We found an aborigine-owned petrol station with some good sandwiches and cheap petrol and filled up.  Bhima was keen to have a full tank of petrol before we left New Brunswick as the price for fuel would go up as soon as you hit Quebec (Nova Scotia was also more expensive for petrol so we were nearly empty by the time we hit NB).  The tunes were back on and we figured we were making good time and then of course, one of the tyre's blew out!  Surely, everyone makes sure they have a spare wheel... especially if you're about to embark on a 15 hour road trip.  No?  Oh...  And again, I can say it felt easy to just be at ease with it all - what else could I do?  What I could do was pretend to be Bhima's ex-girlfriend because he still happened to have her breakdown service card.  Unfortunately, she was only paid up for a basic service so he still had to pay a fair bit for the service.  Still, it worked and several phone calls and chit-chatting with the tow truck guy later, we managed to find a garage opened on Labour Day (of course, we'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere looking for a tyre on a bank holiday!)... also unfortunately costing a fair bit.  Anyway, after a mini diversion around Grand Falls, we were on our way again - and drama free all the way to Montreal - whoop!  All in all, a pretty awesome and mildly amusing roadtrip - I even got to ride a tow truck ;o)

I heart fromage - Montreal
I heart fromage, Montreal
Back in Montreal for a night and day, had a lovely lunch with friends Jane and Mariam, a lovely walk along some of the beautiful streets and thought to myself, I already want to come back here.

Montreal to Ottawa
Drama free on this leg of the journey (well, other than the rideshare I'd sorted getting cancelled and deciding to get the greyhound instead), it felt good to be back in the capital.  Not that I had a special affinity with it or anything.  Being back in Montreal made me realise how much I do want to go back there, spend some quality time exploring and getting under the skin of it.  Ottawa was all about feeling comfortable and all homey staying with friends Nadia, Shiraz and their cat Zeusy.  They'd also moved into their new (and much bigger) home and I was their very first house guest :o)  We had a BBQ on their porch - tho' ate in because of the rain, caught up on travel/moving house stories and even got to taste my first Kraft dinner.  I also managed to visit my favourite place for a scone sandwich...
The Scone Witch, Ottawa

Ottawa to Toronto
And then it was back to my first home in Canada - Toronto :o)  I think I might love finding that I'm back somewhere familiar (and fond of) as much as I do discovering shiny new places.  I caught up with friends, soaked up the colour and randomness of Kensington Market as well as the Cabbage St Festival and enjoyed the beautiful calm of Toronto Island.  Toronto doesn't get better than that.

Chowing down on some Murtabak (SO yummy!) at the Cabbage Street Festival
Cabbagetown Festival, Toronto (4)   Cabbagetown Festival, Toronto (3)

Drums, dancing and witness to a Sri Lankan custom (I don't actually know what it was about but it was cool to watch)
Cabbagetown Festival, Toronto (8)  Cabbagetown Festival, Toronto (13)

Hanging out with Amy on the Island
Toronto Island (94)  Toronto Island (114)
Toronto Island (116)  Toronto Island (96)

Back at Augusta Avenue and its fabulous residents
  Toronto - back at Augusta Avenue

Toronto to Buffalo to Chicago to Seattle to Vancouver
Last leg before making Vancouver my home. I travelled all day and took two flights and two buses. But I made it :o)

Friday, September 10, 2010

A big walk, a heavy load and then there was the ocean

Leaving Halifax, I got a minibus to Chebogue Point near Yarmouth to meet the two people I'd be camping and hiking with for the next week...

Introducing Steph and Franck
Cape Chignecto (78)   Cape Chignecto (65)
L: Steph, organiser and wilderness extraordinaire!  Before we'd all even met, Steph had done loads of work researching where to go, how to do it and what we'd need (I'd have been completely hopeless without her list of necessary things to bring - clothes, equipment, camping stuff, cooking stuff, water pills and most importantly... food!)
R: Franck waiting for dinner to cook by our giant pot. Originally from France, Franck left the rat race, moved to Canada where he bought some land by the ocean and built his own home (like, really built his home! Check it out below...) and does his best to live a sustainable life.  I love his life - he spends most of the year enjoying the wilderness of Canada or travelling.  Okay, so he does enter the rat race for an intense few months to fund the rest of the year... but that doesn't seem like too bad an exchange!

Going off the grid - Franck's place
Nova Scotia - Franck's place (5)
Frack's home... the smaller building to the right is his shed / dry toilet.  You can see the ocean in the background and his nearest neighbour is a couple of kilometres away.

Nova Scotia - Franck's place (6)     Nova Scotia - Franck's place (7)
L: Solar powered shower (seeing as it's outdoors, it's perhaps a good thing his closest neighbour is a fair bit away)

Nova Scotia - Franck's place
Watching the sunrise before setting off

Heavy Load
When I left Toronto on the train, the ViaRail staff put this Heavy label on my backpack.  I decided to keep it and thought it appropriate to bring it back for this trip.

Doing the Cape
After packing, unpacking and repacking our bags, we left Chebogue Point the next morning with bellies full of pancakes and homemade blueberry jam for the 8 hour drive to Cape Chignecto Provincial Park.

5 nights of camping, 4 days of hiking, 3 strangers (not so by the end), 2 blisters (obtained on day 1) and 1 giant bear poo (but 0 actual bears seen). We hiked through magical woodland, with the sound of falling pine needles (all tinkly and stuff), admired spectacular views, sweated... a lot, stopped at creeks to top up our water bottles, picked and ate wild blackberries and then there was the ocean.  After the sometimes really challenging hike, it was always the most amazing thing to finish up at a deserted beach (I think we only saw 5 people on the whole of our hike) - to make the most of the heatwave and soak up the sunshine and swim in the ocean (which was actually bloody cold but a very welcome way to refresh ourselves after an exhausting and sweaty walk). We would explore the area and find more deserted beaches, do a bit of seal spotting, soak up more sunshine, go for another swim and then have dinner, usually with a spectacular sunset to watch.  It was the Canada I was waiting to see - all wild and exactly as it should be.  And I saw a couple of hummingbirds which I loved - they hold the same kind of mysticism as unicorns to me (erm, except of course, they're real!).

Red Rocks to Eatonville
We spent the first night at Red Rocks.  As we arrived with a few hours of daylight, we managed a bit of wander in the woods, set up camp and had make shift showers using the water barrels they had by the loos (well... pit privies).
Cape Chignecto (3)  Cape Chignecto (2)
Setting up camp

Chignecto 08
Dinner - yay.  Day 1 was a chick pea and veg stew

Cape Chignecto (5)
Everyday, once we'd sorted out dinner, we'd hike our food bags up a tree using a makeshift pulley so as to not attract any bears nearby.

Cape Chignecto (13)
Red Rocks

Cape Chignecto (27)

Into the wild... (photo c/o Steph)

Cape Chignecto (42)  Cape Chignecto (43)
Along our walk, we stumbled upon this beautiful stream so we laid our bags down and went for a refreshing dip.  And a very welcome break from my hiking boots.

Cape Chignecto (53)
Arrival at Eatonville Brook.  The two box like things in the distance are the pit privies

Eatonville to Seal Cove

Cape Chignecto (57)  Cape Chignecto (68)

Cape Chignecto (73)
Okay so it's hard to tell, but there's a bear paw print in there, really there is!

Cape Chignecto (75)  Cape Chignecto (77)  Cape Chignecto (72)

Cape Chignecto (80)
Fallen pine needles

Cape Chignecto (85)
The Three Sisters in the distance - we had hoped to hike up to them but were thwarted by the tide.

Cape Chignecto (93)   Cape Chignecto (51)

Cape Chignecto (100)   Cape Chignecto (108)
A perfect day

Cape Chignecto (114)   Cape Chignecto (120)

Cape Chignecto (97)

Cape Chignecto (122)
Steph preparing dinner

Cape Chignecto (127)   Cape Chignecto (131)
This super hammock is where Steph slept for the night - so cool!

Cape Chignecto (111)

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Cape Chignecto (147)
Chicken curry with a view

Cape Chignecto (148)  Cape Chignecto (146)

Cape Chignecto (150)  Cape Chignecto (155)

Cape Chignecto (156)
We found a ready made camping area on the beach so lit a fire, looked for star constellations, admired the milkyway and listened to the waves.  It was so bloody beautiful (and warm by the fire), me and Steph decided to forgo our respective tent and hammock and sleep out on the beach.  Only slight hitch of course, is that we had to keep waking up to add more wood to the fire... as well as make sure we didn't burn!  Oh, and the bloody mozzies weren't all that helpful either.  Still, I wouldn't have done it any other way.

Seal Cove to Key Hole Brook

Cape Chignecto (161)  Cape Chignecto (164)

Cape Chignecto (166)
Big bear poo - this is what your poo would look like if you ate berries all day too!

Cape Chignecto (168)
I have no idea what this used to be.

Cape Chignecto (170)  Cape Chignecto (173)

Cape Chignecto (174)  Cape Chignecto (185)

Cape Chignecto (187)

Cape Chignecto (191)

Cape Chignecto (192)  Cape Chignecto (195)

Chignecto 75
(photo c/o Franck)

Cape Chignecto (204)  Cape Chignecto (207)

Key Hole Brook to Big Bald Rock

Cape Chignecto (206)
ahhh, endless ocean (and such a nice change from the ocean views in Vancouver that feature freight ships heavily)

Chignecto 79
Doing a spot of washing (photo c/o Franck)

Cape Chignecto (212)

Cape Chignecto (213)

Cape Chignecto (221)  Cape Chignecto (223)  Cape Chignecto (224)
Awaiting another starry night

Cape Chignecto (217)

Big Bald Rock to Refugee Cove

Cape Chignecto (236)

Cape Chignecto (237)
Quick snack of trailmix

Cape Chignecto (246)  Cape Chignecto (252)

Cape Chignecto (253)
Sitting on Cape Chignecto

Cape Chignecto (254)

Cape Chignecto (255)
Lunch of peanut butter, dried cranberries and banana chips in a tortilla (we alternated between tuna and cucumber wrapped in a tortilla for lunches)

Cape Chignecto (256)
Snacking on blackberries

Cape Chignecto (242)      Cape Chignecto (262)

Cape Chignecto (267)  Cape Chignecto (269)
When we arrived at Refugee Cove, we headed to the beach at low tide.  When we headed back later, this was filled with water.

Cape Chignecto (272)
The sea at Refugee Cove was looking pretty rough and I could see there was room for exploration.  So I went off, turned a corner and was ridiculously happy to find another deserted beach with beautifully calm waters so I ran in for a float in the sunshine ;o) Sadly the tide was coming in fast so rather than get stuck there for the night, I made it back to the main beach.

Cape Chignecto (275)
This is the corner I turned to find the other beach.

Cape Chignecto (280)

Cape Chignecto (266)

Cape Chignecto (286)
A result of attempting to pack lightly meant I just had the one dish for eating and drinking hot drinks (like this hot chocolate)

Cape Chignecto (294)
Up early to watch the sunrise.  Did also see the cutest seal in the sea but he disappeared before I could get my camera out.

Cape Chignecto (297)  Cape Chignecto (298)

Refugee Cove to Red Rocks

Cape Chignecto (299)  Cape Chignecto (302)
4th day of hiking and I still couldn't get enough of the beautiful trees

Cape Chignecto (313)
Or the beautiful ocean :o)  Every day I thought, how's the next day going to top this and then it would.

Cape Chignecto (318)
We decided to clamber up this waterfall.  A couple of other hikers also found the spot but didn't stick around.    I'm sure it had nothing to do with finding Franck nude (despite grabbing a nearby flannel to hide his modesty). We laughed so hard - it was a great Franck moment.

Cape Chignecto (321)
Bandaged up blisters.  I used several blister plasters, a knee thing, medical tape and duct tape and it seemed to do the trick.

Cape Chignecto (325)
Nearly there!

Good timing
Feeling relieved to have completed the hike but sad to be done, we went to check where our last camp spot would be at the trail centre before planning to jump in the ocean.  Except, of course, the park stuff told us a hurricane was coming that night and that they were closing all the national parks in Nova Scotia.  Having been in a heatwave with beautiful sunny clear skies and starry nights, it was a bit of a shock!  After some quick thinking, we managed to get in touch with a friend of Steph's mum who lived in Truro and very kindly let us stay the night.

A quick photo before hot footing it out of the park - Truro was a 4 hour drive away.

Chignecto 99   Cape Chignecto
But we did manage a quick stop off on the highway for a bit of camping cooking.  Spag bol - yay!

Hurricane Earl in Truro
Our Hurricane Earl hideout in Truro.  Our hosts were amazing.  They gave us warm beds, fed us gouda cheese and we drank red wine and swapped travel and plant stories (we were on flower and plant farm).