I left Toronto on the 5th of May, very early in the morning with only a few hours sleep because we had a pretty chilled out leaving party until well into the night.
The reception in to Halifax was nothing short of that East Coast hospitality that everyone talks of. I was greeted by the friendliest guy who told me all about the city and where to go before putting me on a bus and directing the driver to drop me at the door of the hostel I planned to stay at. I met up with an Aussie friend in Halifax and didn’t stay there too long, we packed up the next day and headed North in a badass Pontiac Pursuit rental car. The weather was a bit average but it didn’t stop our camping and hiking escapades for the next three nights. Canadian tents don’t tend to include the tarpaulin base that Australian tents do, it’s a good idea to make the tent easy to roll away, because it stores just like a scrunch sleeping bag. Unfortunately the weather was crappy and it meant we were going to get soaked in our -30 degree sleeping bags. This is where our luck started…the first place we set up camp at had one other camper there with an extra tarp. He was a young recently graduated engineer from Ontario and we were lucky enough to use his camp stove and his tarp.
We camped at Cheticamp, an Acadian settlement on the West side of Cape Breton Island on the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is probably a Canadian equivalent to the Great Ocean Road back home. I thought I noticed something funny about the accent of the storekeepers when I was buying dinner, I later realised it’s because the Acadian’s who settled the Western side of the island were of course French. It was fun, and gave me an opportunity to practice my French a little more. Plenty of hiking in the evening up a mountain to get a view of the town.
The next morning was an early start to do a decent hike called the skyline trail out to a coastal lookout. When we got there it was so foggy that we decided not to do it because the view may not have been quite what we expected. That day we did do a hike out to Beulach Ban Falls and another coastal trek further around the island closer to Ingonish. That night we set up camp in Ingonish and met another group of campers from Ontario also. The next day we parted with our first traveller and continued on with the second group to Glace Bay to see a mining museum which took you down into a mine which went under the ocean floor, those sort of touristy museum things aren’t usually my thing so I can’t say it was a highlight. We decided to drive closer back to Halifax because we needed to return the car early on the third morning, so we set up camp and squatted at Martinique Beach. I was really looking forward to an Eastern sunrise, but typical Eastern weather meant that at 5am it was raining and then when i got up again at 7 it was bright and sunny.
For close to the next week I stayed in Halifax and got a grip on the town. I managed to wrangle some bicycles and do a fairly substantial ride out towards the Atlantic Ocean one day, and we hired another car for a night with 2 English kids and did a day trip out to the Bay of Fundy. Unfortunately the sea kayaking rental places weren’t open yet, but we did do a fairly decent 16km trek out to one of the bays headlands. The Bay of Fundy is known for the biggest tides in the world, and you could actually see the water rise as we sat there and watched the ocean. On a big day the tides are about 4 metres I think.
Halifax is a small city, but anywhere that has a place called ‘the liquor dome’ is bound to have a pumping nightlife. I made a few good friends while I was there, mainly from random nights on the town. Also ran into another USyd exchange student from the University of Ottawa who knew a lot of people I knew back home, small world. The most interesting person I met was the CEO of an engineering company responsible for two enormous bridges spanning the harbour in Halifax, he assured me a job would be waiting for me if I ever moved over that way, nice chap.
The farmers market in town was the most fun though, everyone who managed stalls were so friendly and vibrant and so happy to talk to people from out of town (they don’t compare to the Newfoundlanders though, but I’ll write about that later when I’ve rounded my Newfoundland experience out). The farmers market sold pretty much anything from seafood to shea butter and carved wooden anything. The best meal I had in Nova Scotia was fresh local Haddock one night.
After Nova Scotia I’ve now headed to Newfoundland, I saw three icebergs from the plane on the way in alone. I’ve been here a week now working on a farm for food and board. Will probably do it for another week or so because it’s cheap, the woman who has taken me on is really really nice, and it’s good outdoor work and is keeping me fit and eating well. In a week or so I plan to hitchhike across the island to Gros Morne National Park (look up the pictures, it’s amazing). And after that down to the southern shore to hopefully get a lift with a local fisherman out to some of the remote fishing outports down there. Nothings really set though, I was meant to leave Newfoundland on the 30th, but have cancelled that plan because there’s so much here I want to see, so i guess anything could happen!