Final sprint…

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

….to Halifax
A long time ago, the province of New Brunswick was the retreat of the noble society of the North American east coast. Those days are long gone and the well-heeled classes have already found new areas for themselves. What remains are marvellous places that are now real gems and attract many visitors. We were also impressed by the once marvellous small towns along the coast, where the upper classes used to be at each other’s doorsteps.

Saint Andrews was one such place – a real tourist mecca, where even in the pre-season many visitors meandered along the pavements of Water Street. It was almost too clean and tidy by North American standards. However, there were prohibition signs everywhere, which is also quite atypical for this large country, and where you could or were allowed to do something, there were also the corresponding prices; for upscale conditions!

We continued along the coastal road from the bay around Saint Andrews towards Fundy Bay. At times we had to retreat far into the hinterland, as the coastal roads upstream ended in villages or led onto the motorway, which we didn’t want to take. But shortly before Saint John it was no longer possible to take these side roads and so we found ourselves – in no time at all – in the traffic chaos of this large city.

Somewhat rashly and without studying the map of Nova Scotia in detail beforehand, we booked a ferry crossing across the Bay of Fundy to Digby/Nova Scotia at the harbour. But a booking is a booking and too late to cancel it the next day. Travelling by road to the north-eastern corner and up to Cape Breton would have been a much more logical route than taking the ferry to the south-western tip of Nova Scotia first.

Instead, we immersed ourselves in the hustle and bustle of Saint John, visited the Reversing Falls, where the extreme tide from Fundy Bay makes it possible to navigate the rapids by inland waterway and is used accordingly. We couldn’t miss the city centre and to our surprise; it was being built as if there was no tomorrow and half the city centre was a building site with confusing diversions.

After the translation to Nova Scotia, we continued our journey along Fundy Bay. The extreme water levels between high and low tide are very impressive in this area; sometimes you can barely see the water and can easily be tempted to park the car too far into the tidal area. The normal tidal range here is said to be 13 metres, which is also the highest in the world. This tidal range is also responsible for the unique landscape that has been formed over several millennia and has also given the backwaters a special appearance.

In Truro, we left the extreme highs and lows of the sea and crossed over to New Glasgow on the Northumberland Strait, which in turn is part of the Gulf of St Lawrence. Numerous fishing villages line the coast. Apart from lobster fishing, these coastal waters must be very productive and, thanks to the Canadian territory, there are no foreign fishing fleets roaming the waters.

Cape Breton would actually be an island and is separated from the mainland by a water channel. A causeway and a lift bridge make it easy to cross over to Port Hastings, where we immediately turned left and drove up the north-west coast to the northernmost tip. Some of the many small villages are in marvellous locations and tempt you to daydream. But this is probably only half the truth and the other side of the coin could be rather uncomfortable. Rain and wind or the wintry conditions when the ice floes pile up in the sea and an icy wind whips across the wide open spaces; no, we wouldn’t want to be here.

North of Cape Breton Highland N.P., we found a wonderful place to spend the night on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Gulf of St Lawrence. Sitting by the fire, we enjoyed the marvellous sunset and were really happy about the magnificent natural spectacle that was unfolding before our feet. The next day, to compensate for the experience, it was wet and very fresh. I don’t want to say cold, but breakfast was more of a chore than a pleasure and we soon left this cold rocky outcrop where the fishing boats ploughed through the water a hundred metres below us.

Time was running out and the journey home was imminent. So we travelled via Sydney to the south-east coast of Cape Breton and along the coast to the mainland of Nova Scotia. But what do we mean by coastal road here; the many deep bays forced us to take long detours inland again and again. To our astonishment, the many bodies of water are quite heavily built up with houses and scattered settlements. The winters here are said to be somewhat milder than elsewhere and many people enjoy their third phase of life here.

It wasn’t far to Halifax and by chance we discovered our last free overnight spot with the sound of the sea on a deserted island that could be reached via a causeway. The name of the island, Indian Island, was a fitting farewell. The evening fire sent us back to dreaming of the days gone by and we lay down under the roof tent with a little melancholy. Such a free life would hardly be possible in Europe and the cosy campfires a “no go”.

The next morning, we were woken up early by the first hobby fishermen launching their boats into the water next to us. This was favourable for our plans and gave us a time advantage. It was Friday and we had to collect the shipping documents for our jeep from the haulage company after 9am. There was also other time-consuming work that had to be done before the campervan conversion. I’d never washed a car so thoroughly before, but it still wasn’t really clean. Dirt and sand that had accumulated in the countless nooks and crannies over the last two years kept coming out from somewhere.

There was still some maintenance work to be done at the campsite and then our car was completely cleared out. We were amazed at everything that had been transported in the car. For the return journey, we had to prepare the camper – I’m specifically talking about camper and not car – in accordance with the shipping company’s regulations. The camper had to be “sightless” and give the impression of an empty vehicle, which was not easy to achieve with our car. Thanks to our experience and imagination, we were able to prepare everything accordingly and stow the material in such a way that we would fulfil the conditions for handing over the vehicle in the harbour. A bad weather day with lots of rain made our work more difficult and caused us to panic slightly. In the end, everything was ready at the right time and we travelled via the airport to the port of Halifax, where we had to say goodbye to our “RuGa-li” – our camper – for the next few weeks.

Due to rebooking problems, we had to wait a few more days in Halifax, so we enjoyed a few more excursions as “standard tourists” in the hire car. In addition to the local area, a trip to Peggys Cove, a touristy fishing village, was on our wish list. We also wanted to visit the memorial site of the Swissair crash in 1998, where 229 people fell into the sea in the middle of the night just a few kilometres off the coast. We left the place a little thoughtful; in a few days we will also be flying across this point and the Atlantic to Europe.

The last few days were wonderful and very warm for Halifax. The last explorations and errands were soon done and we enjoyed our last lobster at the harbour pier before heading to the airport. While our Jeep was allowed to stay in Halifax for a few more days, we jetted home across the sea in several hours.

Our new plans for the next few weeks or months and where we will be travelling soon? First our Jeep has to arrive in Europe, then it has to go to the workshop, as not all maintenance work on our Jeep is carried out in North America. There are too many European parts on the vehicle and for legal reasons the American mechanics don’t dare to do such things.

Anyway, we will soon be travelling to Scotland (wedding of our eldest son) and to Morocco for the next winter. We are really looking forward to the next adventures and independent living. 

Looking back, we spent a lot of time on the American continents, a vehicle problem with the first jeep and the Covid pandemic forced us back to Europe each time. It was also a time when we felt a change on the North American continent and mainly in the USA. Although these are only subjective feelings on our part, we believe that US society has become more divided than it was 5 years ago; the “good or bad” society can be felt somehow and everywhere. The current presidential election campaign has made it even clearer than before and the president who is currently in charge of the country’s destiny has not been able to iron out this divide.

I (Tom) am glad that our federal councillors are elected by parliament and that there are no popular upheavals or delusions here in little Switzerland. Even in liberal Canada, respect for the president had sunk to a low level; a very thought-provoking development!

Chantal and Tom/end of June 2024

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