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)

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