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Amqui, Québec – We are squatters
In the middle of nowhere in Québec we are in front of a totally unknown house, belonging to totally unknown people, I am sitting at their dining table writing this blog. I am looking after the totally unknown cat that continuously wants to go in and out, as cats are. Travelling is pretty interesting but even more interesting is to meet people. Finally Mike and Mélie are drifting in, both kids, and the grandparents. We eventually get to know the people whose house we are occupying since two days. With relief we recognize that all of them, even the children, speak English what makes communication easier. That isn’t self-evident here. In rural areas only French is spoken. You could ask why the ambitions to learn English, to be able to communicate with the mainly English speaking rest of the country, doesn’t have the same level everywhere. Answer: It’s simply not necessary. Perhaps you imagine the size of the area: Québec is the largest of Canada’s provinces and nearly as big as Europe. Isn’t that reason enough?
Amqui, Québec – Bonjour Québec
A funny and very practical custom in Canada are so-called yard sales or garage sales. That’s a flea market on your own property. Toys, electrical devices, furniture, or clothes – there’s everything for a good price. A very charming alternative in times of Ebay and other internet auctions. On a bridge we cross Chaleur Bay and suddenly we are in Québec. The only officially French speaking province in Canada ignores to a great extend the bilingualism jointly decided in parliament. All signs and posts are just in French language. Well, remember your French learned at school and prepare your dictionary. In the afternoon we reach Amqui. Everything is as described. We find the house and the Unimog; we find the key and even the cat.
Benjamin River, New Brunswick – Fiddlehead ferns on unplanned paths
Actually we should be on the way to Québec City. And actually we wanted to skip Gaspé Peninsula due to time reasons. The word actually means that things changed one more time. Instead we are here on a very beautiful lonely beach in New Brunswick, are cooking fiddlehead ferns and moose steak, watching birds with a binocular and drinking beer at a campfire. That happened as follows: Yesterday late evening after dinner, when we already decided the plan for today, an e-mail arrived. Mike and Mélie from Gaspé Peninsula in Québec found our website. A couple of years ago they have done a world trip with motorbike and are now proud owners of a Mercedes Unimog to be remodelled as a camper. They invite us to their house. A phone call later on informs us that they will be at home just Sunday night. We want to visit them anyway to exchange experiences. They simply leave the key of the house for us. Because we aren’t in a hurry, we go back to the sea to this pretty beach. And eat fiddlehead ferns. This is a speciality of the Canadian Maritimes. The young fern fronds of a certain non-poisonous fern must be picked during a two-week window before the fern unfurls. They are named for their appearance, which resembles the scroll at the head or top of a fiddle. You can cook or steam them and can be served like vegetables or salad, like green asparagus. Their taste reminds of green beans. They look pretty and are a really flavourful enrichment.
Moncton, New Brunswick – Where cars wheel uphill
At Magnetic Hill in Moncton cars are said to roll uphill. You drive a small road downhill first. In the end you stop and put the gear on neutral. The car starts to wheel backwards and apparently uphill. A glance into the mirror suggests you the brook beside the road flows towards. A lot of things aren’t as they appear; Magnetic Hill does not have secret magnetic power. For trying it yourself you have to pay useless five dollars. So what, it’s a gag anyway. The Petitcodiac River in Moncton flows into the Bay of Fundy, the sea basin with the highest tidal range on earth, which we have already visited on Nova Scotia’s side. 100 trillion tons of water are squeezed twice daily into the bay. Moncton is situated around 50 km in the interior, but the tidal range of the river is still six metres. Every 12 hours the tidal bore rolls up the muddy brown riverbed and fills it in an hour. Unfortunately we arrive when the riverbed is already filled, but it’s probably not worth it to wait ten hours for the next tidal bore. At Hopewell Rocks or Flowerpot Rocks in Hopewell Cape we arrive in the right moment. At the estuary of Petitcodiac River into the Bay of Fundy the tides deeply ate into a bay and left dark red mushroom-like rocks. The cliffs are grown with trees and bushes on top and rise from the water like flower pots at high tide. At low tide you reach the bottom of the bay over stairs and you can walk between the huge flower pots. We take pictures with high and low tide. Today tidal range is 12 metres. A really spectacular event! Very interesting to me is sometimes the clothing of other tourists. A well-nourished young lady in skin-tight leggings attracts my attention. Her huge sunglasses cover her face to her upper lip. That’s all pretty o.k. I just watch her stamping around in the mud with glitter thongs. The park management points to the use of adequate shoes like hiking or sports shoes. But her giant handbag, carried at her arm, really makes me think. It is so huge that you could store half a pig in it or carry your German Shepherd for a walk. What the hell she does with that bulky bag while hiking? What a pity, I will have to put up with that: I will never get to know it. In the evening we cross the attractive Fundy National Park, one of 531 UNESCO biosphere reserves. Behind a convenience store with gas station we find a beautiful place under trees. Could we stay overnight? Of course, and we might use the picnic bench as well.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island – The perfect touristic island
The Bottle Houses are a curiosity at Cap Egmont. In the 80s Edouard Arsenault collected during four years before he passed away ten thousands of bottles and built small houses of them, big enough to walk in, embedding them into cement. There is a six-gabled house made from 12,000 bottles, a chapel from 10,000 and a tavern as well. His daughter laid out a well-groomed garden around the houses that is worth to be visited. The island differs completely from the landscapes we have visited so far. Big farmsteads are enthroned on shallow hills, surrounded by huge tidy red potato fields. Cattle with shiny coat graze on large meadows. Prince Edward Island names itself “the gentle island”. That’s probably what it is. The island is gentle; the hills are soft, the coasts shallow and the drop-offs restrained. But that’s it. The national park on the north coast comes up with red and yellow sandy beaches, sand dunes, meadows and, as far you can say that from the North Atlantic, somehow warm water. The infrastructure outside the park is completely aimed at bathing tourism in summer. Cottages at campground, fast-food at restaurant, mini golf- at golf court, an in-between plenty of very individual amusement parks with colourful tortuous water chutes, roller coasters, and a wooden space shuttle. For parents with kids welcome attractions, nature lover as we are relieved that main season didn’t start yet. Via the capital Charlottetown and the Confederation Bridge we are leaving PEI. The bridge toll (c$ 42.50 for two axles) has to be paid once on departure. New Brunswick isn’t spectacular for the moment. The east coast reminds me of P.E.I., the south coast of Nova Scotia. There are endless forests, swamps, and moor. Conspicuous are the nobleman’s villas with at least three, four cars in front. Is lobster fishing at the coast that profitable?
Wellington, PEI – Regards to our readers in the world
I’d like to use a rainy day when nothing special happens – except necessary household work like laundry and shopping, chatting and eating – to greet all our readers in the world, wherever they are. I also apologize for some delays in updating the blog, but there is not always an internet connection available. Stay with us and give us some news from time to time.
L’Ardoise, Cape Breton Island – Three provinces in one day
24.5.2010 by admin.
After breakfast – of course with blueberry cake – we are heading to Prince Edward Island. Today is Victoria Day. It is always celebrated on the third Monday in May. At the same time Victoria Day introduces the summer. The weather seems to know that and is behaving accordingly. The sun is shining brightly from a 28°C warm pastel blue sky; the former British queen would have been pleased. Just in a couple of days the world changed completely for us: from snowy Labrador via stormy Newfoundland to summerly Nova Scotia where we now arrived. Nature steps on the gas, the season is short. All trees sprouted, fruit copse and lilac are blooming, on private plots perfect golf lawn is resplendent. At the gas station diesel is below one dollar for the first time. Until now we paid between 1.02 and 1.28 c$. A short trip guides us to Jost Winery in Malagash at Tatamagouche Bay. Jost immigrated from German Rhineland to Canada. Today he is the largest and most awarded winegrower in Nova Scotia. After a tasting we regret to be able to just take a few bottles – there is no more space for the vanilla-tasting white and the berry-like red. We are leaving Nova Scotia und are going via New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island (PEI). The Confederation Bridge connects PEI since 1997 with the mainland. With 13 km it is one of the longest bridges of the world. Instead PEI is with 224 km length and six to 64 km width the smallest Canadian province. The population mainly lives from agriculture, especially stockbreeding and potato cultivation, as well as tourism in summer. The island is famous for its lobsters, oysters, and clams. In Wellington we visit Natalie who acts as project manager for the local Katimavik group. She worked with us in Egypt as diving instructor a couple of years ago. Her groups are just changing now, so we have two days together where we can learn endlessly about Katimavik, Prince Edward Island and Canada.
Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island – Cold wind at the fort
Unfortunately Fortress Louisbourg completely opens just in the beginning of June. So we miss the actual attraction of the national historic site. In the fort, built up in 1961, the life of the 18th century is perfectly imitated. Originally costumed officers and soldiers, bakers and smiths, housewives and pub-crawlers pursue their original occupations and don’t recoil from dragging the visitors into quarrels or alleged fights. We can only visit a part of the restored buildings, but even they are worth an excursion. In 1719 the French had begun to build up the fortified city of Louisbourg on Cape Breton. Walls and buildings were made of massive stone, but the location between the surrounding hills was not chosen very well. In the years 1745 and 1758 the fort was besieged two times by the English and captured without a problem. But it took them five months to demolish the walls. Cape Breton Island has rich coal deposits, reaching down to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The decline of the steel industry built on the coal was foreseeable. So the Canadian government built up one third of the completely destroyed city with enormous efforts to substitute lost jobs – in the beginning for the reconstruction, later in tourism. The plan seems to be quite successful. Fortress Louisbourg is considered to be one of the best “living museums” in Canada. Hundred thousands of visitors get every year to the historic site. The lady at the fort’s parking lot who gives us first instructions has covered herself very non-Canadian: fleece vest, winter jacket, cap and gloves. Up here a strong ice-cold breeze blows. The thermometer puts on an act for our benefit and shows 25°C in the shadow. Just a couple of kilometres further in the protected city the Fire Department organized a public car washing for fund raising. For 5 c$ you can get your car washed by hand. The young self-confident Head of Fire Department and her colleagues are already ringing in the summer with sun tops, shorts and sandals. In the evening we reach Pat and John, friends of Vivian and Wally from Nova Scotia, whom we absolutely should visit. Pat is an artist as well and John is a wonderful cook. Nobody can resist his blueberry cake.
Calgary, Alberta – Mule deer and peacock in the wild
Today saying goodbye is especially difficult. Lynn and Claude became wonderful friends. We have to do some shopping and are looking for a quiet overnight spot, where mule deer hind and calf go round and a completely misplaced peacock shriek whiningly. Geschrieben in Canada | Keine Kommentare » Ferry Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia – Exploding pizza in the microwave oven
We travel back to North Sidney on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island on the MV Atlantic. The ferry on the journey there unambiguously has had its days. The Atlantic Vision on the other side is a motor vessel of the latest model. Its colourful interior simply puts you in a good mood. The interior designer must have spent many efforts on finding different fabrics and different colours for each chair. For lunch you can choose to eat a lot at the buffet for a lot of money. The other option is a self-service chiller cabinet where you can buy sandwiches and other convenient food and heat in a microwave oven on demand. I decide for a piece of pizza that does not turn hot even after using the recommended heating program twice. Impatiently I program a higher power level, and probably I exaggerate a bit. In the cooking chamber the vegetable cake enthusiastically resolves into its components. The friendly cashier immediately offers to clean the microwave. I trot away to spoon my exploded pizza. On Cape Breton Island we land in another world. It has got 20°C, the tulips bloom and very normal cars instead of high clearance four-wheel driven pick-ups move on asphalt roads. Suddenly there are regular rubbish bins instead of bear proof massive wooden constructions. We are looking for a small gravel track that Lissy doesn’t know. We hope to find a place to sleep there. We stop for a moment to ask for the direction as we stand on the summerhouse property of Leslie and John. Together we go in for a walk on the beach and eventually touch down at a neighbour’s house with chips and beer. Leslie is novelist, this summer one of her books shall be filmed. The two of them backed out from Montreal to Homeville to write in peaceful seclusion. Check her website http://www.lesleycrewe.com and blog: http://lesleycrewe.wordpress.com
Corner Brook, Newfoundland – The city of the nearly-superlatives
Today is laundry day. Once more we returned to Mathews laundry in Corner Brook. The second largest city of Newfoundland is situated at one of the world’s biggest salmon rivers. I feel that the clothes turn smaller after each tumble dryer treatment. This has the undeniable advantage that the clothes quasi automatically adapt to the minor body measures that appear during such a trip even with sufficient food supply. At least I don’t have to buy new clothing. We say goodbye to Carmelita and John, Newfoundland’s best and friendliest coin-laundry, while in the bay if Corner Brook the huge chimney of one of the world’s biggest paper mills smokes. On the way to Channel-Port-aux-Basques ferry harbour a sign warns us for new of accidents with moose. Last year it should have been 660. A hundred years ago moose were moved from Canadian mainland to the island to obtain food for the starving Newfies. At least this measure was effective. Today Newfoundland appears gracious. The mostly foggy and stormy coast is aglow with sunlight in front of a blue sky. For supper we fry a packet of moose steaks – we sincerely thank Chateau Pond. First, the steaks appear a bit bony and the tendons resist to be cut by a steak knife. But the big meat chunks in-between are unexpectedly really soft. The dark typical game tastes somehow between deer and bear with a hint of lamb. Anyway, delicious.
St. Barbe, Newfoundland – A moose knuckles down
In one and a half hours we cross the smooth sea to St. Barbe, Newfoundland. The water in Labrador was blue and unbelievably clear; in Newfoundland it is deep green and opaque. As we land at the ferry dock at lunchtime the first raindrops are falling. Soon after they accumulate to the familiar strong rain. At the left side of the road moose number 19 and 20 appear. Fortunately Joerg is already braking as one of them decides instead of escaping into the woods to run across the street in front of our car. Moose neither behave reasonable nor planned. I am very sceptical about animals having a very small head compared to the size of the entire body. This applies to many birds but to moose as well. Of course we learned that not the brain masse decides but the amount of convolutions – anyway. Moose 20 tries to run in front of our truck. Herby it overestimated itself insignificantly. The slippery wet road went a step further. The hind legs of the hoofed animal slide away and it knuckles down, sliding elegantly along the road on its backside. It would be a very funny image, if Joerg were not struggling to stop the car. We already have enough moose in our fridge. And I do not have the camera ready. Meanwhile number 20 pulls itself up and follows its buddy into the forest. Right after number 21 to 25 show species-appropriate flight behaviour. A short rain interruption brings us strong offshore wind. It irons the sea against the waves vapidly and black. Blasts lash along the road and see-saw the vehicles. The hopefully insulated landline cables dance and touch with a smack. It has 17°C outside, but the wind is chilly. Our wind metre shows nine Beaufort. Downslope winds from the mountains suck water fountains from the lakes. The soundscape is terrifying. Seagulls cancelled any air traffic and hide in slipstream. Joerg is pressing the throttle and Arminius is just sipping the diesel. When we repeatedly enter Gros Morne National Park we recognize that the sign giving information about the moose accidents only in the park was changed. In just ten days the number raised from nine to 12.
Blanc Sablon, Québec – Iceberg alley in front of the window
In the afternoon we are heading to Blanc Sablon to the Newfoundland ferry. Our freezer compartment is fully packed with moose steaks and fish. The guys go home for a long weekend. They switch off the generator and want to empty their freezer. They let us have some CDs as well since there is in parts no radio reception and our i-pod only wants to play audio books via cabin radio, and no more music. At farewell we all fight a small tear. The sun is shining, but has got a halo. This usually announces a weather change. We ask for the exact local meaning and learn that the bad weather front is closer when the halo is small and the other way round. The front should not arrive before the night or the next day. On the edge of the ferry harbour we stay overnight at the beach with view from our cabin window to icebergs that are illuminated by the sunset.
Chateau Pond, Labrador – Maintenance day
The two mechanics of the winter road clearance, Edgar and Darnell, already expected us. We may pull in their workshop to carry out some repairing and maintenance. The guys know to weld and perfectly reconstruct our broken roof rack foot. They love the German word “Zugnieten” for rivets and train keenly for our common amusement. They have a pressure washer as well and Arminius slowly becomes clean again. During the day quite a few cars pass by to get small repairs done. This service is for many kilometres the only opportunity to solve technical problems. One driver can’t stop his engine despite detached ignition key. In the next car the ABS brake doesn’t switch off. This problem is eliminated quickly by disconnecting the whole ABS system. Who needs all that flimflam! For supper I bake fresh bread a cook hot Texan bean stew for all of us.
Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Labrador: A black bear on the run
We say goodbye to Mélina and her group and proceed eastwards. Right after we find a dark furry spot on the road. An adult black bear sat down on the road on its big bottom. It escapes faster than due to its corpulence expected, but we can take a couple of photos. In the beginning of the 50-km-construction zone we meet the grader driver we’ve already talked to on the way there. “You must love this road more than I do”, he laughs. The track was just released in December. During winter snow covered the road bumps, and the highway was well passable. The problems started in spring with the beginning rainfalls. Several teams make progress with the road construction from both ends. Since nearly 24 hours it didn’t rain. Despite the numberless swamps and moors, lakes and rivers everything starts to dry out immediately. The gravel highway makes a lot of dust while crossing it; the potholes are difficult to determine when not filled with water. Again and again we find witnesses of former dry spells: Conifers that have fallen victim to a forest fire. Many of them sprout new green shoots behind the blackened needles, but a lot of them are beyond help. We don’t take much pleasure in the drought. After 500 km field path, and from it 50 km across country, we arrive at Chateau Pond in the cold draughty plateau.
Sheshatshiu, Labrador – The Innu, a nation between two worlds
After deciding to rest one day we got a lot of visitors. Curious young people that ended up here in different ways and who tell us different stories. Despite we only spend two days here the social tensions seem to be tangible. The Innu live in Sheshatshiu on one side of the river, and White and Innuit in North West River on the other side. The cultural differences seem striking. We realize that only marginally, but topics seem to be punctuality and sense of time (here’s Innu clock, they say jokingly), destruction and waste disposal, alcohol and drug abuse. In the evening we are invited for Caribou dinner with Simon and Marron. Caribou is very low-fat dark meat, but without harsh game taste. Simon from Germany fights his way through the world as professional clown. He got an 18 months training for that in his home country. History student Marron collects information about the Innu culture. The Innu are a nomadic nation that lives from fishing and Caribou hunting in Canada’s woods. Unlike the more settled Innuit that early arranged with the white settlers the Innu appeared only about 50 years ago. Before contacts to Whites were limited to some trade relations they kept. When the Canadian government flooded Smallwood dam it offered the Innu by the way of compensation for lost land one house per family in Sheshatshiu as well as a considerable amount of money. Social institutions were built but didn’t fall flat too much. Drug abuse and gas sniffing were widely spread activities especially among teenagers. Donated money doesn’t solve every problem, especially not loss of life content. The Canadian government realized that and installed flights once a week or every other week to different destinations in the midlands to offer the opportunity to the Innu to practise their original activities. The offer is accepted, most of them have a log cabin in the forests from where they go fishing and hunting like now in spring. The well-appointed school of Sheshatshiu lies empty in the meantime. But the Innu already got the taste of civilisation. The summer for instance when mosquitoes would eat them up in the woods they prefer to spend in town. There they help themselves to pass the time with alcohol; their numerous children fill the streets and are bored to death. The Innu can’t acquire a taste for the White culture, and the Whites meet them full of prejudices. A problem that will be difficult to solve in the near future.
Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Labrador – Mounties as tour guides
The landscape looks like Christmas. A thick snow coat covers everything; there is still heavy snow flurry. But better snow in May than mosquitoes in June. Take care of the big trucks! They tear along the gravel highway with sometimes 150 km/h and don’t care for potholes or other obstacles. Fortunately there are not so many moose like in Newfoundland. Truckers stay in the middle of the road. However, dodging could be a problem with that speed. The only option is to slow down and keep right as much as you can. Did I write the road to Happy Valley - Goose Bay was finished? That was an error. The track WILL be finished. Imagine, you drive on a bad gravel road full of potholes, and you suddenly read a funny sign: „Rough road for 50 km“. We are not amused for very long time. There is only the substructure of the track, nothing else. Big rocks, sometimes sticky loam with huge holes full of water. We go through construction zones, through brooks and over temporary bridges. 41 km in two and a half hours, partially at walking pace. This section is not suitable to regular cars and motorhomes with insufficient clearance at the moment. I officially apologize to the lady of the last gas station. If you take the road to Happy Valley - Goose Bay by car voluntarily you should get your brain checked or you are really an alien. I confess: We come from another planet. Its name is Europe and we have asphalt roads. At least we’ve got the right rig for that kind of venture and stay cool. Labrador’s interior is a land for adventurers nothing for softies. Since days we have incessant precipitation, the country is deeply snow-covered. The snow is partially – without industrial air-pollution – so clean that it’s shimmering blue. After six and a half hours and 275 km we hit the road from Happy Valley - Goose Bay to Labrador City. It is, oh wonder, asphalted for a couple of kilometres. The double-city has more than 7.500 inhabitants and is a real big city here. Some kilometres further, in Sheshatshiu, we want to visit Mélina and her group. She’s the manager of the local Katimavik project that offers young people to work for a while in a voluntary social service. They work in different fields like climate research, children’s day-care, garbage collection and as teachers’ assistants. Since we do not know exactly where to find Melina’s house we stop at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s building and ask there. The very friendly Mounties are keen on helping us, after all something interesting happens on this dreary day. They jump hurriedly in their car and guide us personally the 500 m to the right building. There some turmoil arises due to the police force. As they run into the rubbish bin while driving backwards the show is perfect.
Cartwright, Labrador – The furthest place on earth off Disneyland
At 1°C the landscape is powdered with snow this morning. Newfoundland was an experience but Labrador is pure fascination, untouched landscape, endless expanse, extreme remoteness. The opposite of mass tourism. The blanket of snow becomes thicker, snowflakes crumble off the sky, and fog comes up. The track is covered with potholes and gets worse. At Alexis Hotel in Port Hope Simpson we shall rent a satellite phone. Those are provided by the government for locals and visitors as well when going into the midland. Since there is no mobile phone or radio reception or SOS-telephone it allows communication in case of emergency. Unfortunately there are no more phones for today. Apparently, it happened for the first time. We could have made a short detour of 60 km via Charlottetown. Since we want to go to Cartwright anyway, we shall pick up the satellite phone there. You can return the device at the last station before leaving the province. The lady at the gas station in Hope Simpson takes us for an alien life form from an unknown planet. To my question in which distance and direction we could find the next gas station with diesel she just shook her head. What we think to visit in Cartwright. And it was more than 400 km to Happy Valley Goose Bay! After asking several times she answered at least with yes or no to my questions. I quickly leave before she can call the Ghost Busters. We pass endless forests, moors, and swamps. It snows or rains continuously. You can drive there for hours without meeting another living being. The ownerless snowmobiles with or without trailer or trailer solo that were left just beside the road after the last snowfall seem funny. Will the owners find them again in next winter? In Cartwright Hotel we receive our satellite phone. The gas station is closed for today (it closes at 5 p.m.), but supermarket and Liquor Express are still open, we are told. We get a warning that the road to town has got a nice pattern. That’s true: I’ve never seen a track with so many potholes. The 30 km/h maximum speed is completely exaggerated. Actually we came here to see Porcupine Strand. On the 56 km long golden sand beach plenty of artefacts were found that suggest settlement more that 7500 years ago. Black bears shall fish for trout in the rivers flowing into the sea. You can reach the beach only by boat. The weather pushed the icebergs into the bay, so that a fishermen’s boat nearly couldn’t get out the day before. The permanent snowfall doesn’t give us hope for an amusing day on the beach, so we skip that. I reconcile with the lady from the gas station in P.H. Simpson. There’s nothing to see in Cartwright. It is untidy, seems to be somehow dirty and less inviting. We buy a couple of beers at the governmental Liquor Express and return without fuelling. Arminius is entirely spattered with mud, we can’t touch anything. If on asphalt road again we have to hope for a cloudburst or a car wash. Between Cartwright and Port Hope Simpson we turn on the new gravel highway to Labrador City. Lissy leaves us here. Despite latest update the navigation system doesn’t know yet this road. The track was finished short time ago to connect central Labrador to the coastal region. Still today there are many villages you can only reach by plane or boat. Labrador has 30.000 inhabitants on 300.000 sq km; this means one Labradorean on 10 sq km.
Ferry to Labrador – Slalom around the icebergs
Sunshine, snow, and rain change wildly today. The ferry from St. Barbe, Newfoundland to Labrador (harbour is Blanc Sablon, Québec) takes just one and half hours, but in the end of the trip it has to drive slalom around the icebergs. Normally there is no ferry between January and March due to the ice, but this Winter Strait of Belle Isle wasn’t blocked by ice for the first time. Now I guess I can see through the clothing system: With temperatures above zero t-shirt or bermuda shorts and / or thongs without socks are adequate garments, adapted to the mild atmospheric conditions. I personally do not take off my newly bought wooden cap, embroidered with a golden moose, and made in China. In Labrador we first realize the extremely tidy houses, everything seems proper and organized. The landscape is different on the mainland. The mountains are higher, the views wider, and the trees lower. But there are moss and lichen, grass and shrub. A magnificent, primeval, untouched, and snow spotted landscape. We cross Pinware River. The wide river shoots around some curves with a considerable gradient and an enormous speed. The water appears black, thousands of frothy whirlpools shimmer brownish. Rafting would be great fun here – for advanced. After exactly 78 km the asphalt road ends in this part of the continent. The following gravel highway is well passable. If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive just check the road condition before you start, weather might change the situation. In 300 m elevation we discover a completely frozen lake. Black and red stones create a pretty contrast to different green shades, blue rivers and lakes and again and again snow. It is an enormous effort to build this gravel road just in the middle of a huge swamp. Unfortunately we can’t leave the track, it is too high and there are no rest areas. We ask at Haut Chapeau highway maintenance department if we can park here overnight. No problem at all. We visit the workshop with huge snowploughs and snow blowers. A couple of minutes ago we passed a 5 m high snow drift, in winter it shall be up to 18 m high. -35°C aren’t rare, and including the wind-chill factor -65°C. We drink a beer together with the two mechanics that are on duty. In return we receive a bag full of snow crabs; we want to cook them tomorrow. Outside snow trickles continuously.
St. Anthony, Newfoundland – Iceberg drift
I presume food quality, especially in restaurants, to be much higher than in the USA. But food from supermarket contains a similar chemical concentration like ordinary toilet cleaner. Usually three ingredients should be enough to produce cottage cheese; here there are 15. Yoghurt has 0% fat, but tons of sugar – not to forget the slimy thickener. However, the fresh fish and lobster compensate – simply delicious. We are in the very north of the island. Look! Our first iceberg. And another and another. They become bigger and bigger. Majestically they drift to the south along the coast. But the weather is ugly. It is humid, chilly and windy. 2°S and sleet. Newfies complain about insufficient tourism. The reason can’t be the infrastructure: There are hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, campgrounds everywhere (even if the last mentioned and nearly all museums are not open yet). The roads are good, excellently signposted, and nearly every village has an own tourist information. Should the weather be the reason? To be fair, now might not be the completely right time for the island, but even in summer temperature raises rarely above 15°C. And when the weather is nice, the mosquitoes come. The extensive swamps offer a lot of opportunities to the offspring. More and more icebergs approach the coast, the storm pushes them into the bays, and pack ice congregates. Joerg picks a piece of an iceberg washed ashore. I store it in our freezer. Wind speed increases, now we already have more than 100 kmh. Sleet drifts horizontally along the road. Snow lies in shallow hollows. Just for intellectual strengthening: Newfoundland has geographically the same latitude than Hungary. But climatically they have nothing in common. The island is situated in the Northern Atlantic refrigerator and climatically not really benefited. I have a funny feeling Newfoundland will not be my new domicile. Tim Hortons rescues our afternoon, since it doesn’t stop to rain. A coffee and some doughnuts from the fast food café lift our mood. Water falls off the mountains, new waterfalls, and new torrents form. The two million Canadian lakes must be filled somehow. Icebergs get closer and closer to the coast. Waves lick the frozen fresh water that might be hundreds, maybe thousands of years old. One of these beautiful, clear, turquoise coloured giants is breaking apart. What a long journey it must have done to die here, in Green Island Brooke bay, melting. Current sightings: 18 moose, five caribous and six icebergs. In the end of the day Joerg pours us an Ardbeg on a piece of the iceberg in a glass. There is not much better than a good whiskey on glacial ice.
Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland – Where salmons lie crossways in the mouth
Right at the entrance to Gros Morne National Park warning signs tell you how many accidents with moose happened that year: nine. Moose seem to be really dangerous since they constantly walk on the roads and take unpredictable directions. In Rocky Harbour there is a well-known fish plant where we buy lobster, salmon and salt herring for a good price. Leaving the National Park we find two caribous on a plateau that reminds us of Finland. Sea on one side, mountains on the other, tundra grown over with grass, cringed forests, and lakes. A landscape without disturbing civilisation appearances like houses, pylons, and wind power stations. Unfortunately we see litter again and again. A plastic bottle, a couple of beer bottles here, and a shopping bag there. What a pity. When shopping in a supermarket I get so many plastic bags to change my garbage bag three times a day. Many Newfies, how the inhabitants of the island call themselves, want to talk to us. That’s nice, but unfortunately communication is difficult. Canadians told me they do not understand one word of what Newfies talk. What shall a foreigner say? Newfie language always sounds as they still had a salmon from lunch in their mouth – crossways. After asking a third time most of them probably think “stupid bird, doesn’t speak English”. I apologize, but neither Oxford nor American English help here. Even the French has a certain sound here. Generally the Newfies are the nation’s dorks, a target of ridicule, and there are so many jokes about them. Rightly or just prejudice?
Corner Brook, Newfoundland – Nice chat at the coin-laundry
The naturally grown forest is so dense that you can’t even trudge through it. Every few centimetres there is a tree, and in-between undergrowth. How the voluminous moose can move here is a puzzle to me. Probably they force their way with brute violence. Firs, spruces and birch duck in a bay before the wind so that they merge into an inclined plane. There are few big trees – short summers and rough climate might not favour plant growth. Trees and undergrowth are cut a couple of metres on both sides of the highway to keep the deer off the road respectively to give the driver a chance to see them. As we ask ourselves with which kind of device you could manage that we see them: errant work machines with a jib and an angle grinder in the end to simply shave the wood. A moose! The inhabitants to moose ratio is said to be 5:1, but the moose population, abandoned in the beginning of the last century, is grows quickly. Most of the houses have room-high windows opening the seaside view. On the other side sometimes a door opens completely unexpected in the middle of the wall in three metres height. It seems that something was forgotten: A stairs maybe, or a terrace. Or is that a kind of mother-in-law door to get rid of unloved guests? I decide to be careful; I don’t know the manners in this country. We are looking for a laundromat. What we find is a very nice couple that donates us t-shirts and caps, coffee, beer and soft ice. We might use Carmelita’s und John’s internet connection and their parking lot for the night and can chat with them for hours. North American coin washing machines in aren’t the same as in Europe. They are only half automatic and have simple radial drum. You have to add detergent, bleach and fabric softener in the right moment. At least the water runs in and out automatically, and there’s a spin as well. The temperatures switch cold-warm-hot means only the temperature of the tap water running in. There is no heating in the machine. After half an hour the rumpus is over. Who is not satisfied with the result has to repeat the whole procedure. The dryers on the other hand seam to be very effective what you can read from the layer of fluffs in the adequate clothes’ colour that is attached to the filter after the drying process. The clothes likely become thinner in the same way.
Ferry Newfoundland – Wales and rock on „the Rock“
On time at 11:30 a.m. the ferry to Newfoundland casts off. The MV Caribou needs exactly six hours for the 160 km from North Sidney to Port aux Basques. But then it is already 6 p.m. in Newfoundland; it is situated in another time zone, compared to Nova Scotia half an hour ahead. On the way we see a lot of Wales, probably Humpback and Minke Wales. Most of the time we just see the spout, sometimes fins and back. Newfoundland welcomes us with typical weather: fog and wind. The 5°C mislead abouth the wind-chill factor which feels more like zero. The friendly young lady at the tourist information supplies us not only with important information, e.g. where we can get the freshest lobsters, she raves about her home country. Her daughter loves to travel, but she never leaves “the Rock” how Newfies call their country. She didn’t know anything else, so this was the most beautiful place on earth. She doesn’t appeal backwoods at all. She is pretty, has an up-to-date hair cut and – in contrast to most women I met here – she wears a light make-up. We tend to believe her. Canada is the rock music country. On the radio they play ACDC for breakfast (and lunch and dinner). A radio station is called „The Rock of the Rock“. We go north along the west coast – a moose. A couple of minutes later an Arctic hare hops away. In the wilderness we find a place to sleep with a wonderful view. Everywhere I see grey-white coat tufts, moose’s scraped off coat. But that night none of them visits us.
Meat Cove, CBI – Scots on steep terrain
In the morning we meet Melvin and his buddies in his workshop when welding a boat’s exhaust. Some Canadians claim that Nova Scotia is compared to Europe ten, maybe 30 years back. That may be but even in the smallest village there are computers and internet connection and people know all about that. Melvin and his friends had already checked our website, our blog and our guest book last night. We may take a photo of them but “Don’t put it on Facebook!”. No worries. After a short excursion to Meat Cove, the northern end of Cape Breton Island, with impressing cliffs and rough blue sea we head south crossing the softer east side of the national park. A few curves make short work of differences in altitude of 500 m and more down to sea level in just a couple of minutes. Longer gradients of 15% and more aren’t rare. Winter must be challenging for car drivers. Besides English and Acadians the Scots are the coining folkloristic and cultural element on Cape Breton Island. Many placename signs and river names are in two languages. Sometimes English-French, but often English-Gaelic. We read funny signs like Abbain a Chubbair. In the harbour of North Sidney we buy a ticket for the ferry to Newfoundland for the next morning. A few kilometres back there is a campground. It is still closed but since we don’t need anything we might stay overnight for ten bucks.
Chéticamp, Cape Breton Island – A moose in the snow
Storm! The cabin sways from the left to the right; we have to pay attention not to become seasick. Via Canso Causeway dam we go to Cape Breton Island. Speed limits in Canada are sometimes pretty optimistic. In most cases the respective maximum speed tells you how fast you really can go. We curve on a hilly narrow road that is eaten by frost and halfway washed away by rain. The 80 km/h seems to be quite a bit exaggerated. Another special feature is the repeated question for the mileage, how many miles the car can go with one gallon diesel (or gas). You should be prepared to answer. The elder generation grew up with the English measuring system; the younger one already learned the metric units. To our confusion all measures are mixed up. In one package carrots are two US pounds, but the content is declared – correctly – with 908 g. You buy diesel in litres, but a bottle beer contains 341 ml. The west coast of Cape Breton Island looks Irish. Smooth hills, rough coast. With the storm waves break against the rocks; spray squirts up to the road that is 50 m higher. In Cape Breton Highlands National Park we get an annual ticket for all National Parks and Historic Sites, that’s cheaper than paying entrance fee every time. Equipped with information material and rules of conduct for bear, coyote and moose encounters we go to the highlands. At 500 m height we are in the middle of the clouds and thick snowflakes fall with 3°C. At the side of the road there is still snow. Thanks to the introduction at the info centre we are prepared: Our first moose! It trots across the road – moose love roads for any reason as we were told – and jogs into the undergrowth. There it waits; the big vehicle seems a bit creepy. As our compressed-air break bleeds, it startles, rears, and gallops away. At least we got some photos. Just a couple of days ago a woman was attacked and killed by a horde of coyotes on one of the local hiking trails. She was jogging with ear plugs, so probably she didn’t notice the animals and provoked them with her “flight behaviour”. Nevertheless we go without hiking; the weather isn’t that nice anyway. We leave the national park und go to the north cape of the island. In Clapstick we knock on Melvin’s door and ask him if we might stay for the night on his meadow. We can. Melvin has been welding pipelines in Alaska and seems to have a more relaxed life now. He gives us a sign that he had made but did not find its way to Watson Lake in Alaska. Most travellers nail their number plates or placename signs to there. We promise to fix it when we will pass by there.
Antigonish, Nova Scotia – Canadian quicksand or captured in a mudslide
Right after breakfast we move on to a wine tasting since the staff arrived. Unfortunately we have to pour away most of it since we still have to drive. But one or the other bottle finds its way to our limited storage room. We pass Wolfville, a prosperous town with elegant (wood) villas and well-groomed gardens. I can nearly feel how one neighbour watches what the other does and if everything runs its usual and well-ordered course. We cross the country from the west to the east coast of Nova Scotia. We buy at J. Willy Krauch & Sons in Tangier delicious smoked salmon and mackerel. Krauch emigrated from Denmark, but his forefathers are Germans, the kind saleswoman tells us. Even the British Queen Elisabeth II had already ordered Smoked Salmon from Krauch. This morning we had 26°C and bought wine wearing a t-shirt, now it’s raining cats and dogs with 11°C. Along the Trans-Canada-Highway we go via Antigonish to the north shore. The landscape here reminds me of the Allgäu, the German Alpine region. In the background a mountain chain shows up, in front a road leads over smooth hills with forests and meadows where cows graze for a change. The apparent lack of cows may explain the high dairy product prizes. Two litres milk cost 4 to 5 c$, for one litre we have to pay 3 to 4 c$. Not to mention yoghurt and cheese. On the other hand, beef isn’t too expensive. We find a lonely beach to spend the night, a dreamlike place. At sunset we go for a walk. A sign at one of the trees at the edge of the beach attracts my attention. Often you find rules of conduct on them, and so I approach to read it. At a first glance the ground here doesn’t look different to the rest, so I approach unsuspectingly. In the next moment I get stuck in the mud to above my ankles. I can’t even pull out one foot; on the contrary, I sink deeper and deeper. To crown it all I went up a small ascent, and now I overturn backwards in slow motion. Just before my bottom touches the mud, Joerg comes running to support me. He thinks all that is funny and wants to take pictures first. I do not really acquire a taste for this idea, and we agree on first rescuing me and taking photos after. With a lot of effort and Joerg’s help I can pull out both feet, one after the other, including the boots fixed on them. Fortunately I had tied them up tightly before. However, the shoes, my socks and pants are completely coated with red loam, and the mud gushed into my boots. I ask myself how a sign can be posted at such an intelligent site, but probably the preceded strong rain has flushed the mudslide right out of the forest.
Cape Split, Nova Scotia – High cliffs above gargling tide
It rains until lunch. As it eventually clears off, we drive the few kilometres to Scotts Bay and hike from the parking lot there out to Cape Split. The hiking trail is 16 km long (return) and leads mainly through a moderately thrilling sunny forest over roots, fallen trees and small creeks. It’s warm, we start to sweat, but not for long. Arriving at the cape where there are no protecting trees the icy wind blows. We have a terrific view from the 231 m high cliffs over the enormous body of water that stream in and out twice a day from the open sea into the Bay of Fundy. The cape extends well into the Mineas Channel, the east arm of the Bay of Fundy. The tidal range is up to 16 m here and the waves brake at the rocks, it bubbles and gargles because the in- and outgoing tide meet. What an imposing natural spectacle. Purchasing a navigation system with maps for North America was worth it since Lissy, as we call the device, knows really every dirt road in Canada. Lissy is just still a bit week in English, her electronic voice only mutters something. Sometimes we can identify a word just when we see it written; she just pronounces the English words in a German way. Pretty amusing, we probably have to train her a bit more. In the evening we finally find the Blomidon Estate Winery, but unfortunately it is closed for today. We decide to stay here overnight.
Digby, Nova Scotia – Lobster for lunch and turnovers for coffee
In the harbour of Cape St. Marys two fishermen offer us fresh lobsters from their catch of the day for 4.50 Canadian Dollars (c$) per pound. Probably they would have been open to an offer of 4 c$ because a kind local told us the market price. Also those young men complained about the economical crisis. A couple of years ago they got 9 or 10 c$ per pound, and they had 1000 pound in their baskets. Today there were just 150. In Digby we tuck in lobster roll and scallop burger for lunch. Nature is much advanced than a few kilometres more east. Broom and tulips, magnolia and apple trees already bloom. The Digby Neck Scenic Drive across Digby peninsula offers one or the other view to a lake or an ocean bay, but mainly unspectacular forest landscape. For whale watching we would have to book a boat trip – but in the beginning of May everything is still closed. In Annapolis Royal we discover a German bakery. Heiderose and Dieter Claussing from Zwickau are since eight years in Canada and self-employed since a couple of years. We buy sour dough rye bread; the blueberry and cherry turnovers are tasty handmade pieces and no industrial wares full of cheap shortening what we usually get in Germany nowadays. Besides Annapolis River bridge North America’s only seawater tidal power station gains electricity from the enormous tidal range of Bay of Fundy. The charming Annapolis Valley became Nova Scotia’s vegetable and fruit garden due to its mild climate. We stay overnight at the car park in front of Blomidon Provincial Park since park and associated campground are still closed.
Shelburne, Nova Scotia – War myths and jelly beans
Dealing with waste requires us Central Europeans getting used to. Several houses at the fjords are said not to be connected to the sewage system and to pipe their waste water directly into the sea. At many parking areas in the forests rubbish is dumped illicitly particularly as there are often no dustbins. But perhaps dealing with nature is different if there is a lot of it. The first attraction to visit today is West Berlin, a village with three houses. Somehow I remember the German capital to be bigger. At the parking place in front of Sobies supermarket in Liverpool an elder gentleman wants to tell us a story. During World War II a German submarine sank a Canadian ship off the coast of Nova Scotia. The survivors took refuge in their lifeboats as the submarine ascended beside them. A German officer opened the hatch. The first question he asked – he spoke English – was, if they wanted to smoke a cigarette. No, they didn’t! Then the officer insisted to escort them to the shore. His order was to sink the ships but not to kill the men. That had impressed the old Canadian much. We are not responsible for the truthfulness of this story. It is cool and rainy; the deciduous trees didn’t even make a plan to sprout. Suddenly the wind turns to south and it gets 23°C. The weather changes every few minutes. The black flies season started. They do not sting; they bite a small piece of skin. This does not only hurt and bleed; it itches for a couple of days. At least they are said not to pass illnesses. Single advantage: They only fly in daytime and with wind they get grounding. At sunset they are substituted by mosquitoes. I can’t decide what’s more agreeable. Shelburne, completely consisting of traditional wood houses, was founded 1783 and belonged during its heyday with 16,000 inhabitants to the biggest cities of northern America. Hollywood was a credit to the pretty town: Here the movie „The Scarlet Letter“ that actually played in New England was shot. An hour later it has only 11°C. In The Hawk at Nova Scotia’s south end the wind lashes foggy clouds over the coast overgrown with grass. A relatively dishevelled looking yellow daffodil bush braves the ice-cold wind. Here daffodils bloom in May. We pass some Acadian settlements that all carry „Pubnico“ in their names. Acadians are descendants of the first French settlers who suffered expulsion through the British. Many of them returned in the course of time. On their plots the Acadian flag waves – the French Tricolour with a golden star. On some of the houses we just find a star. A young woman at a petrol station there gives us as a present a bucket full of jelly beans – the favourite sweet of many American kids, probably intended as gift for her own children. The supposedly perfect place to stay overnight with exposed view at Cape St. Mary Lightstation quickly turns out to be unsuitable. It sounds its foghorn every minute with penetrating noise. We go off to a quiet beach a few kilometres further where we can hear the horn just as a background sound.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia – Pancakes, sausages and German immigrants
As we eventually open our cabin door at 8 a.m. Wally already shouts that coffee and pancakes are ready. He serves sausages with them, orange juice and raisin bagels with butter. What a rich breakfast. In the meanwhile Vivian swamps us with self-made jewellery. We get a doggy bag with the left Donair not to let us starve. Just before high noon we can split up with this delightful pensioner couple. We visit the village Mahone that is towered by high pointed steeples of numerous churches. Lunenburg, a charming town founded 1753 by German and Swiss Protestants was formed by shipbuilding and cod fishing. A group of young people was looking for us since half an hour. A friend notified them of a crazy car cruising around. They finally catch us at a viewpoint. There Ursel und Gerd dig us up and invite us for a coffee. The German couple immigrated to Nova Scotia nine years ago and they are not ambitious to return to their home country. Eventually they took us to Rissers Beach parking place where we can spend a lonely night. The beach is suited to long walks, a wooden boardwalk invites to bird watching. The weather is changeable as always. One minute fog comes like potage, the other moment the spook is gone and the sun shines as it didn’t have done anything else.