NOVA SCOTIA, CAPE BRETON ISLAND (CBI), NEWFOUNDLAND.
Our first night in CBI, Whycocomagh campground was their last for the Season.
Next morning breakfast was “famous” seafood chowder at a well known diner called Charlene’s, and run by Charlene for many years, and apparently featured on a Canadian TV cooking show. Fantastic soup! We were heading north through Cape Breton Island as we decided that getting to Saint Johns, (mile zero)Newfoundland was the goal. Exploring the the Maritimes once we reached our further most east point.
We took the ferry from Sydney, Cape Breton Island and landed in Newfoundland at Port aux Basque in rain, wind and heavy fog. All three stayed with us until we reached St. John’s 2 days later. Campgrounds were still closing or had closed for the Season so, halfway to St Johns we stayed in another Walmart carpark at Gander (quite a large town) roughly half way to our destination. We were fast becoming Walmartians!
The fishing industry In Newfoundland has a fascinating history, its success in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was as spectacular as its’ failure due to over fishing . Nova Scotian, American, Icelandic and European fishing fleets took to the seas for weeks at a time to plunder the fish rich Grand Banks. Ultimately decimating the once abundant cod stocks. So bountiful were the fishing fleets catches of table fish, factories on Newfoundland were turning their haul into cattle feed by the mega ton. The very people who had become totally dependant on these fishing waters destroyed their own livelihood through over fishing.
1992 saw an International moratorium banning fishing to ultimately protect and rebuild the North Atlantic Cod fish stocks. For hundreds of years Nth American, and Europeans fishing fleets lived well and fished the Grand Banks. Three decades of modern fishing. virtually wiped out a whole species!!
Coastal communities were devastated and lost their traditional livelihoods. Houses were towed across vast iced seas to the relative safety of St Johns as the population had to be relocated due to extreme hardship. Countries that benefitted from fishing licence revenues were required to recompense the trawler owners for future losses.
Cape Speare, just South of St. John’s is the most easterly point of North America exactly half way between Washington DC and London.
At that point we were closer to Ireland than any major North American city.
St Johns main industry today is providing support for the oil rigs and platforms in the Atlantic . The city is a beautifully weather protected small port. Lots of oil rig tenders moored and quite an industrial port. The harbour has a chocolate box backdrop of beautifully coloured (Jelly Bean) houses so typical of the Maritimes.
St Johns Newfoundland was a milestone for us. It was in Victoria on Vancouver Island at “Mile Zero”, the start of the Trans Canada Highway that we had set our sights on St Johns Newfoundland. Some 6 weeks later we completed that Highway in front of City Hall, St. John’s. Albeit Criss crossing the highway and the Canada, USA border as we went and more that doubled the “As the crow flies” distance of 7000klm’s.
We left St Johns and headed North East visiting the coastal towns of Trinity, English Harbour, Bonavista and Twillingate. The weather was perfect, with autumn colours appearing almost overnight.
Gros Morne National Park was a must go/must see. Western Pond Lake is the purest, deepest and largest freshwater lake in the world.. We hiked out to the lakes edge on boardwalks that protect sensitive swamp lands that the moose love to eat in the summer. Moose are not a native species to Newfoundland. Introduced from New Brunswick in the early 1900’s for hunting purposes, they have adapted so well they are now a very worrying pest with no natural predator, the wolf is not native to Newfoundland either. The National Parks of Newfoundland in an attempt to bring the Moose population into manageable numbers introduced a lottery for licences to hunt moose. Very few maples with red autumn leaves exist on the Gros Morne NP any more, as the moose love maples, and have eaten and killed all the juvenile trees.
Back to Chanel Port aux Basque where we were stuck for 2 nights on the dock as the weather was so bad they cancelled the ferry back to Cape Breton Island. Had a lovely time in a local bar catching up with correspondence etc, and didn’t mind a bit! Once on the ferry we were surrounded by returning hunters all dressed in camouflage and many sporting moose antlers tied to their camping trailer roofs. The hunting ethos is something (as Australians) we just don’t understand on the scale it happens all over the States and Canada. We haven’t been exposed to hunting on this scale before. Most will take their kill and butcher it, freeze, and eat it. That’s good, but trophy hunting is something we just think is terrible.
So, if you kill it, you eat it, we understand.
We had booked 4 concerts with the Celtic Colours Festival, an Internationally renowned Music Festival and missed the first two because of our 2 day ferry delay, but got back to in time to catch the most fabulous concert at Our Lady of Fatima Church which featured local and imported fiddle players, violinists (from Belgium), bagpipes (from Scotland), and singers in a rollicking 3 hours of Celtic song, and awesome fiddle playing.
The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island runs right around and through part of the island and is a very beautiful scenic coastal drive with many walking trails. Autumn colours blazing in the sunny 2 days of our Cabot Trail journey. Heading South towards Nova Scotia we couldn’t resist another bowl of Charlene’s famous Chowder.
Back to Nova Scotia and an truly exceptional trip down the Eastern Coast with its little hamlets, shallow fishing coves and inlets on the way to Halifax. Most of the Europeans we have met travelling ship their vehicles in and out of Halifax. It has a naturally (and Fort) protected deep water inner harbour where the worlds navies have sought refuge for centuries. Open campgrounds by this stage were almost non existent. Our first night in and around Halifax was at a closed (he let us stay) place 45 mins out of Halifax, 2nd night good old Walmart and the 3rd was a cheeky night right on the harbour front.
Leaving Halifax, south is Peggys’ Cove, a picture post card village sitting atop glacial warn granite outcrops. Wild, windy and bitterly cold.
It was here that a Swiss plane crashed into the sea in 1972 with all aboard lost. A beautiful sculpture memorial marks the spot.
It seems that every part of this whole eastern coast line of North America has its own story to tell, be it First Nation, Naval and Strategic importance, disasters and many wars and conflicts, commercial importance.
Lunenburg Nova Scotia is a listed World Heritage town significant because of its being an intact British city. We had another naughty harbour side overnight stay here amongst, again a backdrop of multi coloured tiered buildings.
In Yarmouth, on the Acadian Coast we splashed out and paid $4 each to have showers at the Local YMCA. A little guilty conscience here meant we kept a fairly low profile after earlier in the day reversing into a fence and removing a couple of panels!!!
Our last day in the Maritimes was at Digby on the Acadian Coast waiting to board the ferry that would take us across The Bay Of Fundy (home of the worlds largest tidal drop at 25ft.) and once again into the USA. Cheaper fuel costs but we are now paying a premium of 40% to the Exchange rate AUD$ to US$
So, goodbye to Canada with your excellent ferry operations, the Maritimes and Tim Horton coffee houses with your free WIFI. We learned to tolerate the coffee because of your WIFI!!! Goodbye to the wonderfully broad accents of the Newfoundland folk, still heavily influenced with the Scot, Irish, and Cornish inflections.
7 months into our Grand “World Tour”, we have crossed off of our list the first of 85 Countries we plan to visit.
BOOKS YOU READ AND PEOPLE YOU MEET
We are enjoying picking up the odd novel that travelling folk read and leave for others to enjoy in laundries and campsite offices, bit of prose, bit of essay. The odd “Reality Magazine” (Ye Gods). Terry Pratchett, John Grisham, Michael Connely, PD James and Charles Dickens, and many “Flyers” espousing the benefits of this or that church.
To the People’s of Canada, thank you so much for your friendship and hospitality. And to the many “foreigners” we met doing what we are doing but have now returned to your Northern Winters. Bonzer Mate!!
Nothing very bad report this leg of our journey, we are paying as we go for our phone and mobile data. Except where we can free WIFI which seems to be a very popular pastime for many folks.
42000 km’s into our trip. Our roof rack is showing signs of wear with hose clips hastily fitted and holding it together. We are contemplating whether we can bring stuff off from the roof and store inside our lockers and dump the rack!
WIGGYS rear end, as I mentioned took out a couple of fencing panels and left us with scuff/scratch marks. Pen wants to own up to this.
Remember you can follow us daily on Facebook “Travels in the Earwig”.