Canada By Bus: Leg 9 – Vancouver Island And The End Of The Road

So to make it all the way to the western-most point of Canada just so I could say that I have been all the way overland from east to west, my across Canada trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Vancouver Island.

I took the local bus to the ferry and caught the ferry over to Victoria, the major city on Vancouver Island. It was a beautiful day so I went for a walk around the legislative building and sat upon the lawn listening to a free concert that they had playing for a festival. I also went to visit the Antarctic Exhibition at the museum. One of the biggest things that struck me about Victoria was the sheer number of homeless people that the government had literally shipped over to Vancouver Island during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It was so sad to see how many of these people were scattered about the streets with nowhere to go and it was in a way very heartbreaking.

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The stunning harbour in Victoria

I got my rideshare up to Nanaimo with Marika who was really lovely. Nanaimo was a dead town so it was on the bus to Tofino. It was beautiful in Tofino but quite cloudy. I went for a wander around the town and checked into the hostel. I didn’t book before arriving and this was again going to bite me in the butt when they tell me they have only two of the three nights I wanted and as such for the middle night I was going to have to find somewhere else to stay… an interesting feat given that the town appeared to be booked out with accommodation.

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Mushroom Island… my home for the evening

So I set off with my one man camouflage tent in search of somewhere to pitch a tent for the evening. I took the bus to Mackenzie Beach, decided that $40 a night to pitch a tent was ridiculous and then trotted over to the aptly named Mushroom Island to find somewhere to illegally pitch my tent and hope that the cops didn’t find me. I found a pretty good place, or so I thought, shaded by fallen trees and other bushes. I set up my camp, went back to the campground to use their facilities and stock up on water supplies and headed back to my campground to find that it had been discovered by some hippies from the commune Pools Lane down the road. They had started to build a fire no more than ten meters from where I had pitched my tent and were sitting around playing their ukulele and smoking. So I hung out with them for the rest of the night around the fire with the soothing sounds of others playing music next to their bonfires along the beach. Eventually they said goodbye and went back to Pools Lane and I went to bed.

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My not so well hidden tent

I awoke to a dog sniffing around my tent. I poked my head out to discover that I had been yet again found out by a dog and a couple of kids wandering through the paths of the island. I decided it was time to get up, pack up my stuff and make tracks back to Tofino. I spent the afternoon sitting on the pier reading and it again turned foggy and the weather unbearable for outside activities. I bunkered inside for the evening, my last on the island.

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The hazy mountain view from Tofino

In the morning I took the bus back to Nanaimo and caught the ferry back to Vancouver. It was over. A massive trip from east to west completed and now it was time to settle down and get to some work for a while. My Canadian adventures had ceased for a while…. but only for a short while! 🙂

Canada By Car: Leg 8 – Go West!

My trip East lasted a good three months, but my venture west lasted no longer than 9 days of speedy travelling. I got a relocate a car through a website http://www.hittheroad.ca and had to relocate it from Montreal to Vancouver.

I first picked up the car, drove it back to Toronto to collect my piles of junk that I needed to transport across the country. From Toronto I advertised for a ride share and picked up a guy, Andrew to drive up north to Sault Ste. Marie. It was a long drive, but we got there eventually and Andrew was kind enough to offer me a bed at his house given that I was planning on camping outside and it was raining. We went out for dinner and he showed me around ‘the Soo’ before getting a good nights rest and hitting the road again.

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The Wawa Goose

The second day on the road was sheer craziness. I stopped through Pancake Bay, hiked through the Lake Superior Provincial Park and viewed the petroglyphs left by the natives. Of course heading through up into the far reaches of Ontario, it wouldn’t be complete without a stop to visit the Wawa Goose and the hometown of Winnie the Pooh in White River.

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Winnie the Pooh in his hometown of White River

I managed to push on and get to Thunder Bay for the evening staying in a small hostel. Along the way I stopped off and paid my respects to Terry Fox at his highway marker where he ended his massive run across Canada to help raise money for cancer, the same disease that eventually took his life after it took his leg. I also went to the giant Terry Fox statue that overlooks the highway overpass and was quite moved by how inspirational he was as a person.

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The Terry Fox Memorial. Incredibly moving story.

Day three and we are on to Winnipeg. Getting out of Ontario literally takes forever and I never thought I would get there but eventually we see the sign ‘Welcome to Manitoba’. It rained for majority of the way and was still raining when I got to Winnipeg. I walked around the town center for a little while before calling it a night.

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The stunning views driving across the Canadian Praries

The next leg was from Winnipeg through to Regina where I was fortunate enough to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen in five years that I met while travelling New Zealand. I went out with them and a few of their friends for dinner in downtown Regina and it was a heap of fun.

On next to Calgary. But not before stopping along the way at the famous town of Moose Jaw to do a couple of the underground tours through the tunnels where Al Capone used to smuggle his alcohol during the prohibition. The tunnels are also where the Chinese used to live after the construction of the Canadian Railway lines from east to west as the locals did not treat the Chinese very fairly and most of them couldn’t afford their passage home after the head tax that the government imposed and the poor wages. It was a super interesting historical site and one of my favourite across Canada.

Eventually I arrived in Calgary which was to become my home at a later date so I spent some time getting to know her as a city for a day or so before heading on to the amazing town of Banff, nestled in the Banff National Park. After doing the Sulfur Mountain hike, I had dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then crashed out.

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Incredible views from the top of Sulfur Mountain

The drive through the stunning Rocky Mountains was incredible and hands down the most amazing drive I have ever done. As I continued on, I stopped at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake to check out these most stunning picturesque lakes that form the postcards that you see most of Banff.

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Lake Louise

I continued to drive through the Yoho and Glacier National Park and then on to the Okanagan region to Kelowna where I stopped off for the evening. The region was beautiful and I got to go for a walk and check out the stunning views over the city before getting my last good sleep in before heading to Vancouver.

On the drive the next day to Vancouver, I decided to make a call and try and book into my accommodation. Unfortunately for me I had come to the realization that with a Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z concert all on in one night that accommodation in Vancouver was fairly booked out. After a meltdown and lots of phonecalls, I finally got lucky with a cancellation and found a place to crash for the evening. I dropped off my bags, delivered the car to the woman who I drove it for and set off on my way back to the hostel. I have gone from the eastern most point of Canada to here so far. It was time to make it as far west as I could. It was time to go to Vancouver Island.

For Vancouver Island adventures, check out my next blog!

Canada by Car: Leg 7 – Nova Scotia to Home

Spent the morning walking around Lunenburg discovering the town and then headed over to go and see the famous Canadian boat the Bluenose before jumping back into the car and driving to Hunt’s Point for the evening to camp upon its serene beaches.

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Replica of the famous Bluenose

The next day it was on to the Kejimkujik Seaside National Park to walk along the white sand beaches. It had still been raining quite heavily and it was getting quite tiring. We drove on to Yarmouth and for the first time in nearly 3 months checked into a hotel.

It was then onto the town of Digby, famous for its scallops and we bought a stack of them from the local fishermen and fried them up in the fry pan with a variety of different seasonings. We explored through the Digby Neck area and went to Long Island and Brier Island before moving on to Whale Cove to spend the night, narrowly avoiding yet another massive wind storm.

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Long Island

Next stop was the town of Annapolis Royal where we went to the Fort-Royal Historical Site for the day and stopped in to see the only tidal power generator in North America as the Bay of Fundy has some of the largest tides in the world. Spent the night camping in another part of the Kejimkujik National Park and woke up in the middle of the night with the wolves howling at a creepily close distance to our tent.

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Fort-Royale at Annapolis Royal

This was the last of Nova Scotia, and so we bid it a due as we set off towards the Prince Edward Island ferry for some time in the red dirt. There are a couple of things that you just can’t miss on PEI. Of course there is the famous Cows Creamery with a million different flavours and funny t-shirts, there is the Green Gables farm where the famous book Anne of Green Gables was set and going to get your very own PEI ‘dirt shirt’, which they dye with the rich red soil. We also stopped in and went to the theatre to see “Anne of Green Gables – The Musical” before calling our trip to PEI to an end.

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Green Gables

On the giant list of places to go that I had been crossing off diligently as we travelled around was the Fundy Geological Museum which had dinosaur fossils and other fossils that I was interested in going to visit. This is also coupled with a trip to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs which have millions of fossils scattered along the beach in majority of the stones. Some people make massive finds and they allow them to put their fossils in the museum with their names on it but unfortunately there is no way of taking fossils with you as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Petrified wood at the Joggins Fossil Cliffs

The last thing on the list of things to see was the Hopewell Rocks. We went that night when the tide over the Bay of Fundy was high, and then again in the morning and walked along the beach beside them. They were beautiful, but again as we were walking the thunderstorms were again rolling in. After all of the storms and being continuously wet, we decided to call it quits on the road trip and go home. After a full day of driving through the United States until 1am and then sleeping in the car in a carpark and then getting up and going again, we finally made it back to Canada. First stop Montreal, and then it was back to Toronto and back to reality. What an amazing trip! I can’t recommend seeing eastern Canada enough, it really is a spectacular place!

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Hopewell Rocks at low tide

If you enjoyed reading about Canada by Car heading east, check out in upcoming installments what happens when I decided to go west!

Canada By Car: Leg 6 – The Rest of Newfie and Beyond

After hours upon hours of driving we finally arrived at the L’anse Aux Meadows. When people say that Colombus was the first European to arrive, they are dead wrong. The vikings have history here from 1000AD and this is where you find it! I was super excited to kick of my learning session here with an evening storytelling session where people dress as viking characters and tell all of the tales about how the vikings lived and traveled here. All the while I sat sipping on appleberry cider which is just superb.

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The site of Nordic storytelling at L’anse Aux Meadows

 

After the storytelling we left the traditional viking hut and walked outside to the sunset to be confronted with my first ever male moose with his giant horns poking up into the sky. Wandering around behind him was mumma moose and baby moose. I saw five moose that day so I was pretty excited!

The following day we returned to the L’anse Aux Meadows site for a more historical look at the area. It left me with a very fine respect for the Norse people in actually managing to cross the Atlantic Ocean with such basic boats. It also made me want to go to Iceland… but anyway, after this we went to the Norstead site as well and got to see Snorri the famous viking boat.

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Being a viking! Rape, steal, pillage…..

And so we were off again in shocking weather this time bound for the Gros Morne National Park. Upon arrival, we set out on the Green Gardens Trail for an overnight campsite. I must say that it at the time was one of the hardest hikes I had ever done, falling over three times into prickle bushes on unsteady ground. Upon arriving at the campsite, it was so windy that it was a challenge to get the tent to stay where it was let alone erect it in ridiculously high winds. Eventually we succeeded… barely, and ended up having to put heavy rocks inside the tent in each corner to try and stop it from blowing away while we were in it and even this didn’t work the best.

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The tent blowing away at Green Gardens.

The following morning we packed out and made it across a couple of river crossings, minus a sock that I lost in the river and on to the Gros Morne Mountain trial to hike the big one. We started that and set up camp in the evening at the campsite ready to summit the mountain in the morning.

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Gros Morne summit, 806m!

And so morning came, bringing with it more horrific rain. We got up, hurriedly summitted the 806m mountain and then proceeded to rapidly pack up camp and hike our way back to the carpark. People looked upon us strangely as we proceeded to take every single item of clothing off and get into the car in bra and undies with the heating jacked up to try and feel our bodies again.

That night after sitting at a laundromat for a couple of hours trying to dry everything, we caught the Newfoundland Ferry back to Cape Breton Island. Spent the day at the Louisbourg Fortification National Historical Site which was pretty interesting before getting our way to Halifax.

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Louisbourg Naional Historical Site

Halifax was an interesting time for me. While my significant other at the time was working, I had nothing much to do out in the sticks with the campground but I managed to make an agreement with the lady who ran the caravan park to do some gardening around the campground for our stay as her normal gardener had just had a hip replacement. One of the days after gardening I walked an hour each way to the Walmart and bought a set of knitting needles and a couple of balls of wool, thus beginning what would become my knitting obsession. Scarves, hats, I even attempted to make a blanket which eventually started falling apart because I am a horrendous sewer. I worked a promotions job for a couple of days also to make a little bit more money and on some of the days I got to go and visit different attractions around Halifax. And I also bought and cooked my first lobster over the campfire despite their protests!

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Protesting lobsters…. oh well, good times for me!

One of the biggest drawcards for me was the Titanic history. I went to visit the Titanic Museum and learned about Halifax’s role in the rescue and recovery. I also went to the graveyard where they buried many of the victims bodies that they recovered. It was incredibly sad, but great to visit too. As a part of this they also had information on the Halifax Explosion which I didn’t know much about at the time, but found very interesting.

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The site of buried Titanic passengers

Time in Halifax came to a close and we drove on to Peggy’s Cove and watched the waves there crashing upon the rocks. We stopped in the quaint town of Lunenburg to camp. The last leg of the Eastern Canada trip was about to begin.

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The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove

For the last leg of the eastern Canada trip, stay tuned…

Canada By Car: Leg 5 Newfoundland East Coast

Our first pit stop out of Eastport was through to Cape St. Mary’s where we went to the bird sanctuary and marveled at the myriads of gannets hanging about on the cliff face. Then it was on to the major town of St. John’s. Went to go and visit Mistaken point along the way but didn’t realize that we were too late for the fossil tours though I did find a fossil on the ground that I cheekily took home with me.

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Gannets on the cliff face at Cape St. Mary’s

We spent the night down on the main street of St. John’s, George St. We danced through the Newfoundland pubs to traditional Newfie and Irish music before having a feast of street meat on the way home. During this evening we became aware of this thing that locals enforce upon tourists called getting ‘screeched in’. It involves singing some random Newfie song that nobody understands, kissing a cod and doing a shot of screech. We beared witness to quite a few people getting screeched in, however I was not up for the screech that day so I passed.

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George St, St. John’s

The next day was spent wandering around Signal Hill and playing pool in the Duke of Duckworth’s pub, recommended to us by a local for some special reason that we didn’t manage to figure out. And post this it was time to hit the road again.

Up to Conception Bay and then around to Trinity Bay, we stopped along at the most famous town of Newfoundland, the aptly named Dildo. I couldn’t stop giggling as I took photos of all things Dildo. I even wen and had my photo with the famous Captain Dildo with my hand inappropriately near his bits for shits and giggles. Went and drove through Cape Spear and then on to Charleton for the evening to camp.

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Hanging with Captain Dildo

Woke up the following morning surrounded by a moat as it had rained so heavily overnight that we were swimming in the tent. So after quickly packing up, we drove up to Cape Bonavista where John Cabot famously (and apparently) landed in  1497. There were stunning Inukshuk built across the entire landscape, a native Inuit symbol to point the way, and they were just beautiful. But given the weather being so horrid, we drove our way back to the farm for the evening.

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Inukshuk all over the hill at Cape Bonavista

I spent the next couple of days in the kitchen cutting zucchinis, cooking breakfasts and all meals for people. There were now 8 people staying on the farm and manning the kitchen had become somewhat of a full time job, but one that I really enjoyed. In the midst of this we took a well deserved day off to go and see the Terra Nova National Park and hiked along the Coastal Trail and the Blue Hill before it again started to rain.

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Views through the Terra Nova National Park

One of the days decreed a no work day we headed up out onto the point and between us collected about 6 pounds of chanterelle mushrooms that were worth quite a bit in the shops if you are to buy them but are in massive abundance in this area and nobody seems to pay too much attention. The mushrooms were spread out on the table as we brushed all of the dirt off them and cleaned them and then after we cooked them all in a pan with butter and ate the lot of them between us! Utterly delicious!

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Our 6 pound chanterelle mushroom haul

This was my last night I spent at the farm before heading off. We played ‘fetch the stone in the ocean’ with the confused dogs and collected some blueberries for the road before heading off onto the road and beyond in again, a giant thundercloud of heavy rain.

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Zeus trying to come with us

Check out the last of the Newfoundland adventures in the next installment!