Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Scotland...a bit like the old one

Time has passed. It does that, so I’m told, but on this occasion more time has passed than I intended between blog entries. When last we met, I was still up on Gaspé Peninusla, hoping for a good night’s sleep, which I got. It took two more days of driving to get to Halifax, one along the last part of the peninsula, the second done almost entirely in the rain, causing us to bypass the Bay of Fundy (largest tides in the world) and head straight to Halifax and Smitch’s family cottage. I figured I could pop back up and do Fundy during one of the days we would be in Nova Scotia, or failing that, on my way back West from Newfoundland.

Smitch’s ‘cottage’ then…not so much a cottage as a mansion, with 5 bedrooms, several bathrooms, huge decks and lakeside views. It is actually her dad’s retirement home…or rather the second home he will move to when he retires and wants to get away from the rat race of Waterloo. Very nice it is too, and afforded us a few days off driving and just relaxing. There was other members of Smitch’s family to visit (a brother and aunt) nearby, where free meals and beer were on offer, as well as good company, and I took a day to try and get back to Fundy. It was looking to be about a 3-hour-each-way kind of trip though, so I stopped at a tourist info shop after an hour or so and asked if the impressive rock formations for which Fundy is most famous could be found elsewhere – or something similar, at least. I was directed to a small town called Kingsport, much closer and therefore more appealing, and away I went.

Alas, when I got there, the promised rock formations, about which I had been most specific in my request, were sadly missing, and only a red clay tidal bed was visible. Very disappointing, so I left and stopped in a small town called Wolfsville for lunch. A nice quiet lunch, I thought but, within moments of sitting down to eat, I was unexpectedly joined by a lady with fairly severe learning disabilities – meet Terry. She just sat herself down at my table with a big smile, a vacant stare and line of drool, and her carer politely apologised for the intrusion and tried to encourage her to go inside instead. She was having none of it, however, so after about 5 minutes of slightly awkward small talk between me and the carer (Caitlin), I did the chivalrous thing and invited her to join us, and we had lunch together. It went without a hitch, although I had to make sure I was looking anywhere other than at Terry, who had a massive appetite but not a lot of coordination when it came to targeting, or indeed much retention when it came to keeping the food in the required location for swallowing. She put away a double helping nonetheless, and there was far less collateral wastage than I had expected to see. Some how, her system turned out to be pretty efficient.

I got back to the cottage after another 8 hour day in the car, which was the last thing I’d wanted, and I hadn’t even got to see the Fundy rocks for my trouble, so that went to the return-leg list. The rest of the time at the cottage was far more restful, and by the time we set off for Cape Breton, I was feeling a bit more motivated once again.

Aaah, motivation and the lack thereof…The problem I was facing, it transpired, was that everyone who had suggested that so much driving in such a relatively short space of time would be bloody hard had been right, and I (who maintained it would be a breeze, I’d done South America after all, which was much bigger) had been wrong. My blasé attitude to the distances I would have to cover and the time in the car it would take to do so was wearing thin, and I was starting to hate being in the car. I was, however, too close to my goal of getting out to both coasts to be able to stop now, or even share the driving. How could I say I had driven from Tofino to St John’s if someone else had helped out? The outcome of this reality hitting home was that when I was faced with the choice of the long scenic way or the shorter more direct way, I was opting for the shorter way. It didn’t help that I’d used up the last of my free kilometres while in Halifax, so was now paying an additional 12c per kilometre, with about 5000km to go. It also meant that I was pretty exhausted at the end of each day and less willing, therefore, to go out and about and do things. When Smitch threw up the next idea of where we could go and explore, she was getting more and more sullen responses from me, until I eventually explained that I was rapidly “getting over it”. Luckily, Smitch had enthusiasm enough for two, and was usually able to get me out of the hostel and to a bar with a bit of gentle coaxing. I think her energy levels were enhanced by the naps she was able to take in the car, which I always missed out on, but I realised she had put a lot of work into picking places to go, and it would have been churlish of me to just say no and stay grumpily in whatever hostel we ended up in.

Cape Breton was great. We stopped in a tiny French town called Cheticamp and found a super-cheap lobster dinner deal that I tucked into, accompanied by a local fiddle/guitar duo and a dancing waitress getting in on the Irish vibe that is prevalent in these here parts. The restaurant had looked decidedly cheap and dodgy when we’d gone in, on the recommendation of our B&B hostess, but the food was great and it turned into a great evening.

Forgoing the full Cape Trail, we cut back to North Sydney (people – mostly Americans- have actually been to Sydney in Nova Scotia thinking it was the one in Oz. True story.) in time to take the 6 hour ferry to Newfoundland. Which I will talk about in the next entry, as other wise this one will become too long!

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