Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sea to Sea Sept 22

September 20th
We lined up for the ferry at the assigned time - too early, as it turned out!  But before that we managed to race to a garage which treats rust - hooray!  They seem to know what they are doing and have a hoist that will lift the camper.  We'll go back there on our return trip and get that important job done.  In the meantime, the ferry.  Delayed four hours because of heavy winds so instead of leaving at 11:30, it left at 4:30 but with wi-fi in the terminal, we kept busy. Not many cars - mostly huge trucks carrying food or whatever is needed to  feed people who live on the rock!

Ferry nest to ours, of similar design

En route, trucks chained down to hold in place.  Last time we saw this was in New Zealand crossing from North Island over an equally rough sea.

Trucks on lower deck - very windy!!!

From the ferry dock at Port Aux Basques, we set off north and it was not long before we were winding along the coast with wilderness on all sides.

Here, the road winds down into Cornerbrook.  Took a quick look around town.

Headed for Gros Morne park and stopped at a beautiful campsite in Lomond.  The showers seemed to be outdoor ones - at least this was the case at the washrooms next to the beach where we parked.  Richard was more anxious than I for a shower so he braved the cool water and the chill winds - I had to take the photos!

Sunset at this lovely spot was an additional treat.  No other campers around, except for two tents in another area.  We had the place to ourselves.  En route, we had passed another private campsite that mostly resembled a parking lot for rvs.  A few miles down the road was the park site - what a choice!

We like to cook and eat outside but sometimes it is too cold or too windy or too dark!

Ready for dinner in the camper!

Gloriously sunny morning - perfect for a hike
We set off from Lomond for the Visitor Center and a guided 5km walk on the Tablelands.  
Extremely well organized - the Centre was excellent - so much helpful information.  We joined others a few kilometres down the road from the Centre and followed Angie Payne along the trail.  Without her, we would have seen nothing really.
The Tablelands, as the next photo shows are brown hills on the left side of a long
valley -  the hills are flat-topped & brown with very little vegetation. Th right side is treed.  Apparently, the Tablelands appeared when the upper plate of two shifting tectonic plates picked up magma from under the earth's crust and deposited it in this spot.  Later the plates moved separated to form the Atlantic ocean.  The magma was left behind and since it contains iron, nickel and other minerals which are toxic to plants, the hills are mostly bare.  What grows there has taken root in blown soil from other areas.

Angie carried little syringes for all of us to use to draw water from the petals of the pitcher plant and observe the larvae and dead insects that drowned there. The plant, growing in harsh conditions in soil with few nutrients, uses the decomposed bodies of insects for its food.  Marvellous.

From the Tableland trail, we went back to the Visitor Centre along this road with a view of Bonne Inlet.

We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon on a steep climb up to a lookout above the Centre.  

An alternate route for the descent from the lookout went down into the bogs that we saw everywhere in the north.  The trail here was gravelled, but in many cases, the trail is a board walk, elevated above the bog, partly to protect the plants from being trampled on but also partly to make it possible for people to cross what are very wet wetlands.  Richard stuck his foot into what looked pretty firm ground and nearly sank his whole shoe into the spongy black soil!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sea to Sea Sept 20

 Prince Edward Island

Thursday, September 15th

Unfortunately, Confederation Bridge was shrouded in fog for most of our crossing and we saw only hazy outlines of the buildings and cliffs on shore.  We learned later that the river is fairly shallow where the bridge crosses - a very different proposition for what building a bridge crossing from Tsawassen to Vancouver Island would entail across the Salish Sea. 

In the afternoon, we headed to the coast and spent three hours hiking trails around the dunes and reserves in a provincial park.
We went first to an information centre in the village of Victoria to find out what to see and do on the island and there met an enthusiastic islander who set us up for an evening ceiladh in Charlottetown.  In the meantime, we roamed the lanes and byways around meadows and farms to Charlottetown itself. 

Having extracted all possible information about events, places to visit, and about the weekend weather from the very helpful woman at the Founders’ Hall information centre, we walked into town, arms full of more brochures, maps and lists. We felt very at home – an easy rural atmosphere without what seemed the compulsive neatness of the Gaspe.  Charlottetown had memorials and plaques on every corner and in every little park and we stopped to read them and got quite well acquainted with the story of confederation and the venerable personages, male of course, who presided over this uneasy alliance of colonies.  We also spent an hour going through an exhibition about confederation at Founders’ Hall.  This was a bit like walking through an audio diorama with voices coming out of a screen in the historically authentic furnished setting.  It would be nice if we could remember it all! 

The Legion:
In the evening we found the Legion and the ceiladh.  In Vancouver, a ceiladh involves dancing and Scottish music.  Here it meant a local band playing lively folk songs to the mainly balding and greying listeners gathered around tables.  The lead piano player/singer was terrific and it was fun to hear locally composed songs reflecting the politics and mores of the island as well as some familiar like a couple of Johnny Cash songs.

That night, on the advice of the Founders’ Hall agent, we parked in town at Walmart and then spent all the next morning in a coffee shop with wifi getting caught up (that was the last blog).  Had breakfast and a soup lunch there to justify taking up the table space for 3 hours!

Green Gables

Anne, of course!

One cannot go to Prince Edward Island without paying homage to LM Montgomery at the Anne of Green Gables site.  One of the three possible locations was sufficient for us but we enjoyed the video, the exhibits of photos and artifacts, Green Gables itself, refurbished as described in the book, and the trails nearby.  A very pretty and interesting place – well presented.
Anne's Lovers Lane

Ferry to Nova Scotia

Feeling we had seen and done enough to get the flavour of the island, we took the ferry for Nova Scotia and stayed in a campsite, Hyclass Camping, near the causeway leading to Cape Breton. 
Last view of PEI from ferry

"Hy Class" campsite

Cheiticamp Arcadian museum

We’ve been a bit concerned about our supply of propane.  Getting up in the morning is much pleasanter if the heater is on for a few minutes but we have been searching in vain for a propane supplier that is open – Sunday was hopeless – so brrrr in the mornings!
We drove up the east coast of Cape Breton to Cheticamp, just inside the National Park, and there found a delightful little Acadian museum.   The two women in attendance had lived in this tiny village all their lives and were accomplished at hooking rugs.  The main display was of these rugs, mostly done by another local woman in the 1930’s and onward who had won many awards for her art.
Also, however, were the usual artefacts of house and farm and forge, as well as examples of dress.  Seeing these, we were glad we had not detoured to another such museum on PEI since one exposure to the various implements satisfies our curiosity!
Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The Cabot Trail

A spectacular and heart-stopping drive today along the east coast, inland over the mountains across to the west coast and
north to the most northerly point in Nova Scotia at Meat Cove.  The road curved and swooped and plunged, with the sea on one side and wilderness on the other.  Apparently Lonely Planet recommends this drive as one of the world’s most beautiful and we certainly thought so.  There were frequent stopping points with lookouts and we couldn’t resist stopping at most of these since each afforded a new vista.
Beach at Corney Brook (NS) campsite

Corney Brook campsite

For the night, we drove a little further on to a park campsite at Corneybrook – no amenities but a lovely location by the beach & Richard went for a swim. J

Cape Breton Highlands National Park


Across the plateau of steep ravines to the west coast, we were lucky enough to see two moose at the side of the road. 

Wendy breakfast at John Cabot park (NS)

 We had a slap-up breakfast cooked outside on our Coleman – what a great purchase that was! at Cabot provincial park – another beautiful site by the beach.    

John Cabot landing commemoration

On road to Meat Cove

I really liked our breakfast spot and rather wanted to stay and walk the beach and sit around a bit but Richard persuaded me that we should go the whole way north and see Meat Cove, which promised to be spectacular as well.
It was.  The paved road wound up and down into little coves and fishing villages before turning into a less than regularly maintained dirt track/road.  We were reminded of Africa as we rattled our way over the washboard, shunted precipitously (in my opinion) close to the edge that dropped away who knows how far down to the rocks and roiling sea.  Going downward was quite frightening to yours truly – so steep and still juddering even at the lowest gear with brakes hard at work as well.  In Bolivia, Richard rode what was billed as ‘the world’s most dangerous road’ but we doubt it was worse than this one and on that too I was in the vehicle, the support vehicle it was called J.  There was no way to turn back, even if we had seriously contemplated doing so – the isolated houses and tiny hamlets along the way bore testament to the possibility of getting all the way to the end, so we kept going.
Of course, in the end, it was worth it. 
Meat Cove

Wendy swimming at Meat Cove

A few campers were set up at the end of the road overlooking the cove and the water lapping onto the beach looked so enticing and gentle, the wind a soft breeze, that I decided to have a swim.  The water was not as cold as we sometimes have it at Gabriola but quite chilly, nonetheless.   I had more than just a dip and it was lovely.  Richard came in as well but since he had already braved the St. Lawrence twice before, figured he did not have to stay in for long.

We met a traveller, hunter, canoeist from Tennessee who was gearing up to go into hills for a couple of nights.  A local guy advised him against such an adventure since moose hunting season has just started and the hunters will be out and there could be danger.  He pooh-poohed the idea, accustomed to the hillbillies who he said had never hurt him.

We, however, were not tempted to follow suit and drove off down and down and down to the more domesticated areas of coast
Wildlife! a barely visible frog? toad?

View from summit - gentle Cape Breton hike
 From Meat Cove south, we stopped to see a waterfall and later to climb up a few hundred metres to a lookout on a mountain before searching for our night’s resting place.
The trail

Cape Breton ski hill

Campsite - easy to get to and safe!
Having just remarked on how lucky we have been in finding good free spots, we turned up a promising road which curved round into a narrow track.  It was clearly not much used, a sign near the entrance warned that the bridge had been washed out, and foliage alongside was growing unrestrained into the road.  About a hundred yards in, however, we began to wonder if there were any clear, flat spaces into which we could move or even turn around.  Richard got out to inspect and shook his head.  We went on. Slowly.  As we began to descend toward the river, not visible ahead, but on our right through the birch trees, a figure emerged carrying a rifle, saw us and shrank into the bushes. 
We stopped.  He approached.  We asked about turning around.  He thought it unlikely.  We would have to back up.  There followed a somewhat harrowing but also hilarious candid camera encounter of us and the road and the shrubbery.  There was Wendy hanging out the window on one side screaming “too far my side” as the camper veered toward the edge of the steep gully and Richard battling on his side with branches and leaves poking at him through his window as he tried to see where he was going in the now half dark of this shaded track.  
Of course, we eventually got back to the beginning and carried on down the road, finding a simple private spot, just out of sight of the road, less than a kilometre away.  So, we stopped and made dinner of chowder we bought at Meat Cove and salad washed down with red wine.  After which, we watched another episode of The Kennedys.
Luxury J

Ferry to Newfoundland

September 20th

Our first priority was propane and we found that right away at Canadian Tire in North Sydney, the town from which the NFLD ferry leaves.  At Cdn Tire, Richard found out about a garage that deals with rust. Good news – they have a hoist and can deal with the rust in what sounds like a promising method.  We will go there on our return from Newfoundland.
Right now, we are waiting in the parking lot to embark.  The ferry was delayed four hours because of the weather.  But the delay and the wifi has given us time to catch up!

Next report: the pleasures of NFLD!

PEI Sand dunes - couldn't move the photo to right place so...

Richard swimming at Corney Brook (Cape Breton) - the evidence!


PEI beach & sea

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sea to Sea Sept 14

Paddled in the St. Lawrence - just above my ankles - that was enough exposure for  me to the very chilly water. The campsite by the sea was great - if amazingly windy - shaking the camper all night. No wonder they have so many windmills set up - they are putting the wind to good use.
Gaspe campsite

We went to bed early since it got dark so early - 7:30 and pitch dark - forgot that again we are in a new time zone so lost an hour. 

On the beach


Watching "Duchess of Duke Street" in bed!

However, we entertained ourselves lying in our comfy bed, sipping our wine and watching the first episode of The Duchess of Duke Street - an old series that we have never seen but got on dvd.  Great fun!

On the 12th, we set off on the coast road for Farillon National Park.

Miles & miles of coast road
 We decided to do the climb up to a lookout at the top of the ridge - pretty steep and great exercise especially after so much sitting.  Spectacular views in all directions.

View from the top

Me in my new radio-canada CBC T-shirt that I bought in Ottawa.  Richard's has a quote from Gabrielle Roy - so we fit culturally in this bilingual province.
After the hike up, we went down the 100 or so stairs to the beach - and Richard took a dip - braving the icy water twice!  The beach was pebbles - small and smooth tiny pebbles that were very hard on the feet.  I might have gone in the water had I thought to bring my sand shoes and bathing suit but, alas, I was not equipped so....:-)

Swimming off Gaspe


We love the camper - it is a great way to travel.  We can park anywhere and really don't need a campsite - the cost of those adds up - anywhere from $25-$35 a night so far.  The main benefits are the showers and sometimes picnic tables.  I say 'sometimes' since one site we stayed on had tables but they were so badly designed that when I joined Richard to sit on one side of the table, the whole thing and all the stuff on it fell on top of us. Fortunately, no lighted stove or pot of boiling water!
Shaving in camp

Richard is good at guessing where his chin is!  As you can see, we are on tarmac and this was probably in one of the rest stops by the highway.  The Gaspe has a staggering number of Haltes Municipales - areas with picnic tables, trees, rest rooms and water, often spacious and in pretty spots by the water - as well as campsites, mostly occupied by immense house size rvs that apparently people leave there for the winter and use during the summer like a cottage - except that there is almost no privacy and in some places they are simply in a grassed parking lot.


On the 13th, we wandered into the town of Gaspe and from there south into New Brunswick and Bathurst.  There we drove to a small waterfall on a native reserve and a restaurant selling "lobster rolls", pieces of lobster smothered in mayonnaise and packed into a hot dog roll.  Fortunately, we only bought one to try. 

Special 9/11 Fireman's Harley Davidson in Bathhurst - the owner was so eager to show us that he left us at the place where we were getting a long overdue oil change, went home to change and bring back his bike for us to admire.

Miamichi Campsite

That night we found a a campsite at Miramichi owned by a couple who told us we could buy 200 acres for about $40,000 if we wanted to move to NB.  Well, 200 acres sounds nice but...  He was building tree houses on the campsite - apparently a big winner.  Not sure why, but most appealing to kids to sleep up in the trees, perhaps, and adult Peter Pans.  Very cute and huge effort to build.  We climbed up the stairs to see the sleeping loft on one he had finished but I can't say it would appeal to me to bother.  Next morning, the 14th, we were able to do a load of laundry there and I borrowed an iron to steam Alex's sweater and block it. 

From Miramichi, we went in search of a fish market and processing plant where we were told we would find fresh lobster.  Actually, fresh, as in alive, was a bit intimidating - we have only a small pot in which to plunge any protesting leggy creature and likely could not get all of it in at once.  Fortunately, the market had mostly cooked lobster for sale and we bought 3 large ones which was recommended as a good amount for a feast for two and so it turned out to be.  Scrumptious. 


Then toward Moncton where we made calls in the hope of joining a Scottish dancing group for their Wednesday night class.  Unfortunately, they had not yet started their season so we backtracked and took the road toward Confederation Bridge and PEI.  Since it was dusk and we preferred to make the crossing in daylight, we looked for a campsite.  We found one on the beach but from the entrance, it looked just like a parking lot for rvs - not our scene - so we continued along the dirt road by the beach to a dead end where we found a turnaround and a nice flat and grassy spot. Private, level, and within hearing of the water. Just like home :-)  Perfect! Enjoyed our lobster and then watched another episode of Duchess before going to sleep.