I was hoping to have a lot to write for you all right now but I think we’ll see how far I get. The last few weeks have been very relaxed, plenty of camping, more hitchhiking and lots of beautiful places. The photos I’ll put up really don’t do any of it justice but the people I’ve met and the places and things I’ve seen have been spectacular.
So I left you after Newfoundland, the furthest East I could have gone. In the last three weeks I’ve made it to Calgary (getting close to the farthest West I could go).
I spent a few quiet nights in Halifax, Nova Scotia, again just to catch up on some sleep at a friend’s house there. I should have only spent a night there but got sucked into my mate’s way with words and the usual nightlife that seems to exist in the cities over East.
After a few days the hitching continued, I made it over to Prince Edward Island with no real complications. The ferry to enter the Island is free which was awesome and meant there was absolutely no cost to get there for me. I almost got stranded at the ferry terminal with my thumb out, I’d done my usual friendly with everyone act on the boat so that someone would pick me up when all the cars disembarked, but I was lucky when the second last car stopped for me. They were a couple touring from Calgary and had no real place to go so they drove me all the way to Charlottetown to the door of the hostel in town. Such friendly people, I told them that I would be in Calgary in a few weeks time for the stampede and they gave me the number for their daughter who worked with the stampede and would get me free tickets (I love saving money).
Charlottetown was a cool little place, very quiet with a slow pace which didn’t at all feel like a capital city. I was planning to skip over PEI altogether but changed my mind when I met an interesting traveller heading that direction. The hostel was one of the coolest I’ve stayed in but the owner was a douchebag. He had a cool setup with an outdoor ‘garage’ common room which had a pool table and dart boards, as well as all types of guitars to play and a vinyl setup with the most insane collection of records to chill out to. The guy who ran it though sold the hostel to travellers as just the sort of thing they were looking for because he was a ‘seasoned traveller’. Turns out he was really just an uptight dude who’d done the party scene on the East coast of Australia and really not much other than that, he’d been stuck on the island for the last 3 years and I think he was just bitter from all the adventures that come through his door each day. He also had 9 staff members to run a 27 bed hostel, and I felt like the group of staff somewhat alienated the guests (although not me, it made me feel bad for others in the hostel).
Prince Edward Island reminded me of Australia, which I think is why I was happy to skip over it initially. It had warmer weather and sandy beaches yada yada, I’m glad I only spent three days there because I couldn’t have taken much more. Not that it was a bad place, it just didn’t anything stark or dramatic to see or do. It’s in a gulf so no waves, it’s flat so no mountains.
The best thing that happened while I was there was a party invite by a girl I met on the bus. It turned out she was a singer-songwriter (and quite well known on the East coast too) who was playing a gig somewhere in the middle of the province that night. She sorted me out with a ride to the middle of nowhere to this ranch place built for these parties. It had stages built everywhere and bonfires and it was essentially a hippy cess pool, IT WAS FANTASTIC. The sort of place where stoned 60 year olds will talk to you for hours about absolutely nothing and then forget what they were talking about. A really interesting night anyway, I’m sorry to say I don’t really know where it was though.
The major connection I did make was with a French-Canadian girl called Clemence in the hostel who was heading to the Quebec owned ‘Iles de la Madeleine’, which was my next destination. We attracted a following over the next few days and two others decided to hitch out to the ferry terminal with us. When we got to the ferry I was happy to see a girl from Montreal who I’d met briefly in Newfoundland, so there were three of us now going out to the islands. Clemence was living with two other friends in a caravan on the islands and invited myself and the other French-Canadian to camp nearby to her caravan. She was living like a gypsy and working in an art gallery all summer. So I spent a week on these incredibly remote sandbar islands with almost no English anywhere and an insane Quebecois accent which my French speaking friends struggled to understand. I was able to see most of the islands during the week (they’re not very big). It was a charming place anyway and the week was spent walking on the beaches and practicing my French (with a few slip ups here and there I’m actually getting semi-competent). The islands had spectacular seafood and cheese and I was there for St Jean-Baptiste on the 24th of June. Quebec doesn’t really celebrate Canada Day and Jean Baptiste was celebrated with a bonfire on the beach and thousands of people speaking quirky French with music playing everywhere.
The girl I was travelling with was one of the most interesting people I’ve met on this trip, and it was very sad to leave the Islands behind in search of the next big adventure. So boat for five hours back to PEI and then hitchhiking for two days to get to Montreal. I had made a sign for the boat to try and hitch a ride to Montreal; it said “Je suis Australien et je vais a Montreal. Pouvez-vous m’embarquer?”. Almost perfect French except the last part is apparently closer to “can you ride me”, instead of “can you give me a ride”, I couldn’t figure out why everyone was laughing at me…sadly no rides were offered. Towards the end of the second day hitching I got a lift from three guys in a campervan who took me overnight to Montreal…along with 4 other hitchhikers, it was very funny. I camped near the van over night near Quebec City and they drove me to Montreal the next day.
Montreal was really just a stopover point to get to Ottawa for Canada day on July 1st, it just so happened that Stevie Wonder was playing a free show while I was there which was awesome. I saw Stevie play and jumped the midnight bus to Ottawa and slept in the coach terminal. I didn’t really see much of Ottawa as I was only there for a night, it was a beautiful city and I’ll definitely go back. The streets were packed with people in the evening and the fireworks were spectacular. I spent the evening out partying like everyone else and crashed for the night at a friend’s house before leaving for Toronto the next morning. Toronto was again just a stopover to see friends for a few days before pushing off further West, I spent a couple of nights there telling stories and catching up with people which was great.
After some more rest I jumped my first bus in Canada, 55 hours all the way to Calgary, Alberta. I couldn’t be bothered hitching across the prairies because it would have taken a week, so the bus was a nice and cheap way to do it. The prairies are dead flat, in every direction. It was nice to see though I couldn’t have spent a week crossing them. I think I may at the end of the year though just to say I hitched from one side to the other.
So now I’m in Calgary, stepping stone to Rocky Mountains where I’ll hitch and hike and read for a week or 2 before continuing West. I made it to Calgary in time for stampede which is great fun. The Western town is more lively and everyone wears cowboy hats/boots/shirts, you name it. The stampede itself is a lot like the Sydney Easter Show except with a rodeo attached which is pretty cool. Tomorrow I’ll hit the road again to somewhere more scenic. I’m beginning to realise just how similar every city is, and I much prefer the comfort of my tent on a fresh morning somewhere with a nice view to wake up to.
My head seems to work better when I’m out of cities, which has made this post hard because of where I’ve been the last two weeks or so. Anyway I KNOW that the next write-up, hopefully sooner than it took me to write this one, will be much more detailed and with far better photos; look forward to it!