Folding and stretching myself out of the overnight train from Québec to Halifax with the grand name “The Ocean” – Vancouver to Toronto it’s called “The Canadian” – I suddenly had reached the other side of Canada and was looking at the Atlantic Ocean.
The train ride was unspectacular concerning the landscape but interesting with meeting and talking to Oriol on the train and having time for myself to figure out the next steps after Nova Scotia, after Canada.
Canada’s ocean playground – that’s what the official car plate says about Nova Scotia and I love it. I remember Hawaii’s very own slogan with “The Aloha State” on the plates which made me also smile every time I saw it. And reaching the ocean again after being weeks inland made me very happy. There’s just nothing like it.
“Don’t say no to invitations” – that brought me in Halifax first to a pub night and then dancing in a club with free cocktails and interesting people. Gary I had met in Montréal had again managed to get a good group of people together and waited with them for me to arrive. Isn’t that kind?
Back in the hostel after pub food and my first Halifax beer I was asked by two German girls if I want them to join for a club night. Well, I couldn’t say no and I like to dance. But this whole showing off and trying to find a mate for the night thing – that made me miss the nice bars and company in Berlin or Queenstown.
Good that Sven had joined us and I had not only someone to walk back with in the middle of the night but also to explore Halifax the whole next day – citadel, gym, cafe, waterfront – and when the sun came out on the way to the hostel we had literally no alternative than to sit down at Garrison Brewing and enjoy the first warm spring day with a fine selection and a conversation about traveling, parents and how wonderfully annoyed the guard on the citadel’s event poster looked about the girls taking a selfie.
Road trip around Nova Scotia
You know this moment when you feel „This is it”. That was the moment I drove the car out of Halifax, groceries inside, towards Peggy’s cove and felt so incredibly happy. This is it. Freedom for 3 days.
When I had picked up the rental car and instead of the economic compact car I had paid they gave me a free upgrade to a minivan I felt very lucky and grateful. „Or you can have a Chrysler 300“ the woman at Hertz had told me but driving through the rough landscape in such a fancy limousine, well, the minivan would definitely be of more use. Not just for sleeping in it with comfortable space but during the following rainy days I also had a dry place with me to sit and eat in.
My route brought me mostly around the west and east coast trails with beautiful and misty views of cliffs and waves – and trails in Canada can also be roads I learnt. Here is the route I took starting Monday, noon, in Halifax (J) til Thursday, noon, with about 1.680 km and sleeping at three spots in the car. (Not all letters on the map mean something. I had to set a couple of pins because otherwise Google thought this is a crazy route no one’s gonna take and suggested shorter versions.)
The drive to Peggy’s Cove was beautiful with fresh air and mist all around, waves rolling in and crushing against the coast with the beautiful power of the Atlantic. The Lighthouse Trail to Lunenburg I followed afterwards further south was a scenic route and I looked forward to the hours of driving in the next days with music and a stop whenever I felt like stopping.
Only opening the big pack of sour gums I bought as a treat might have been a mistake as I was munching myself through the 400 grams in a very fast “just one more” pace. “I hope they’ll last the three days.” Spoiler: They didn’t.
As it was still cloudy and rainy in the Kejimkujik National Park I went just for a short round inside and caught the last rays of sunlight that suddenly made their way through the tough barrier of clouds. Even the white tail deer on the road seemed not bothered at all by my short appearance.
I drove on into the dusk, into the late evening, had a short supper stop – with no one in the passenger seat to feed me I had to stop – until I found a nice place to pull over for the night. I prepared the back of the van and had a late night snack while looking over the little lights scattered down below in the valley.
The morning was filled with mist again. I wanted to hike the Cape Split Trail so I left my spot around 8 am to drive the last kilometers to the trail head and started around 9 am with the 12-16 km hike – depending which signs I believed in.
Through trees and mud I reached the beautiful cliffs and the Bay of Fundy. The seagulls were chilling on the rocks and no one’s there to disturb the rushing sound of the waves.
I put my backpack down, opened a protein bar and looked at the ground to see little conic holes in the muddy earth. My head thought“oh, kiwis are active here…” while I munched on my snack before I reminded myself that my new New Zealand knowledge was not accurate for Canada.
I drive further north all along the west coast of Cape Breton. I pass little communities like Bible Hill with the Slogan “… a progressive community” – I guess they need that slogan with this village name – and coastal towns where nearly all of the Cafés, gift shops and restaurants are closed. “See you next May/June!” is written on little sign hung up inside the doors of most of them. Closed for the season.
I drive on, sour gums disappearing in my mouth. It’s misty and mystical out here and I wonder where I will find my place for the night.
Further north close to the Cape Breton Highlands Park I settled for the second night – with beer and movies in the back – and just when I was about to call it a night I got reminded by the motel’s landlord with his flashlight and knocks on my window that I had to move. I drove around for about 20 min to find what I thought of a good second try. I settled even more “ninja” and unsuspicious as before and shifted of to sleep down by the boardwalk of Chéticamp.
The mist lingers over the water when I wake up and move my car. I drive better early than later into the park to have breakfast and some warm washrooms in a proper parking lot. I can’t believe it’s already so warm back home and here I am, spending the night with nearly freezing temperatures.
The sky doesn’t want to clear and the fog gets thicker as I drive along the coastal road “The Cabot Trail” and around Cap Rouge. The language has changed again to French.
The white veil over the road, the mountains and the sea give my morning drive a mystical feeling. The world is calm outside. I pass long rows of parking spots which tell me how busy it must be during high season. So far I’m the only one. The garbage cans have changed from normal to bear proofed again. So I guess I’ll take my bear spray with me maybe for a last time onto the Skyline Trail where your attention is drawn more to coyotes and mooses than bears. Just in case.
I don’t have much of the skyline views as the fog still hangs deep as I walk quiet along the path, through mud and woods. At one point I pass through a fenced area where they try to reforest the park as the moose nearly finished off all the little trees. How funny it would be to run into a moose here, I hear myself thinking as I trot along the paths.
And then there it was. I hear a sound from the left, turn my head and see a big figure just 20 to 30 meters away. My moose. Turning its head towards me to see what I was up to on this early morning. I stand still for a second before I keep on moving to not be a nuisance that’s worth a look. I’m beaming with happiness as I walk on. Like New Zealand with the last minute kiwi on Stewart Island, Canada has given me the moose on the last proper chance during my coast to coast trip.
Just before the end of the loop I even get a second moose. Way further away between the trees. So what has been really clear for my eyes to see is now more of a search picture for you.
On the other side of the Highlands Park the sun came out and I used the next chance to get out of the car and on a small hike, the Middle Head. It promised views of the open ocean and I couldn’t say no. Next to bear and moose warnings it seemed to be the coyotes which did the most mischief here.
Walking with a walking stick therefore through the forest on this little peninsula I found a Geocache by chance and if you don’t know what geocaching is it’s like a worldwide scavenger hunt for small hidden containers. Once you found one you’ll put your name down and put it back on the same spot without being seen. Look it up if you’re interested. It’s definitely fun. Although I mostly seem to run into them by accident which makes it even funnier for me.
On the Skyline Trail I had started to pick up garbage – cans and plastic bottles which people had just left somewhere in the marshes and trees – I kept continuing with it on the Middle Head Trail. My mum always does it and I remember that my brother and me had been a bit embarrassed back then when she did it even in our hometown. “But who else shall do it? I want this place to be nice and it’s not such a big deal.” I remembered when I had passed the first beer can lying next to the small trail in the bushes. So I returned, took it and tried to get at least as many as would fit in my bag whenever I saw one. As there are always trash cans at the parking lot it was definitely not that big of a deal. Green thumbs up.
Just when I reached the last part on the way back it started to rain. The smell of rain in the forest is unbelievably addictive or? Accompanied by the soft sound of drops on the leaves and the wind which picks up in the treetops just before it starts to rain and you look up and know that the weather is changing.
Now I can go happily back into the car and drive again.
I’m standing at the ocean again. The rough Atlantic Ocean. I look across the sea and realize I’m looking nearly straight at the point where about 8 months ago my journey started with my first trip through Spain. It’s weird to stare over to Finesterre, to Muxia, where I stood in August when I had reached the ocean and did the same. Staring across to North America. I have to smile broadly. Unconsciously the circle has closed itself, what a great story arc.
Is it time to go home? For a while or more, yes, I guess. How many things I have learned during these months. Well, it’s a bit early to wrap up the travels as there are still about 3 weeks left here in Canada.
But one important thing stands definitely out. “No regrets, it’s never too late.”
On the search for a good night and some warm food I ended up in The Townhouse Pub, Antigonish. Google first took me to two breweries which didn’t exist (anymore). So I decided to drive a bit more south to the Townhouse although I was pretty tired today and yet had to get as furthest down as I could. The next day I had to return the car at noon and I didn’t want to get up crazy early.
When I searched for a parking spot in town I found a parking lot in the back of shops and public library and made a note that I might actually be sleeping right here.
I listened to talks about video games and “It’s finally shorts time!” while having a hot chili. It’s trivia night so the pub is packed. One of the women who sat with me at the bar counter worked in the pub down the street but came her always for her break and three beers before returning to her shift which I found pretty funny.
At 10 pm I collapsed into my sleeping bag for the last short night while a couple next to my car had an intense talk. It seemed they didn’t want to depart each other so they kept talking and their murmurs were a perfect background noise to sleep in.
So I found a place to sleep right in town, got up at 5:30 am the next morning and followed my last road day along the east coast back to Halifax. In the last three days I drove through Sydney, New Glasgow and Ohio, saw New Germany and street signs turning from English to French to Gaelic. Nova Scotia is definitely worth the time in the car and I would love to do it again.
One mystery remained when I parked the car at the rental return and dropped of the keys: why they gave me literally all of the cars keys – original, spare and extra spare plus two remotes – on a fixed and non exchangeable wire.
Back to Halifax
Back in Halifax after three days living in the car and outdoors I couldn’t really adjust to be inside all the time. Lucky I got greeted warmly by a bunch of people including Christian from the first days and we ended up talking a lot and going out in a group of 8 – Chris, Jeff, Sara, Chelsea, Jessie, Ashley and Mathias – to the 2 Crow Brewing that I had picked when everyone was in the “where shall we go?” state.
Chris and Jeff, both from Nova Scotia, worked as volunteers at the hostel. Sara stays and travels for 6 months through Canada before she has to go back to Germany and got stuck a bit in Halifax. And Ashley and Mathias from Belgium who traveled the world and worked remote right now.
It was a great and fun unplanned night that I had thought to end at 10 pm in bed and instead saying yes brought me to going out with lots of laughters til 1 am.
I ended up being caught in the “I have to say yes to invitations” sling again on the next day when Sara, Chris, Jeff and I returned from our long day out.
It all started in the early afternoon when Jeff asked me what I was up to and I said I was about to go out for a good coffee and maybe a beer afterwards at the Propeller Brewing. Jeff asked to join and suddenly the whole chain reaction worked it’s way as Chris who wanted to come but had an appointment with Sara so both joined and Ashley and Mathias as well who had just entered the hostel’s kitchen at the right moment.
Well, unplanned not alone but in a bigger group again with happy faces and never without stories to share we worked our way through The Weird Harbor Coffee, The Propeller Brewing and a splinter group of Sara, Chris and me to the tiny “10 people max” and hidden Tidehouse Brewing. Achievement: Talking with four Canadians to my right about traveling through Canada and how I liked Saskatoon and made them put it on a weekend travel list. I should be a Saskatoon Ambassador.
When we returned tired but satisfied to the hostel at 9 I thought this is the end of the day. Little did I know.
I was already on my way to bed as I was nearly sleeping in over playing the guitar when four girls from Ontario who were in Halifax for the weekend told me to go out with them. I could literally not say ‘no’ as I was brushing teeth and swore silently over my self-imposed travel rule. To not suffer alone I asked Chris to join – he had the rule himself and I was so unfair to drag him in – and so we ended up in the bar next door with life music and dancing til 1:30 am and a pouring rain search for keys through Halifax til 3 am when I finally fell in my bed and called it a night.
I definitely have a love and hate relationship with this rule.
Good Robot. Good people. Good conversations. A summary for the last day.
It was the last brewery that I wanted to go. The way there would have been a 40 minutes walk so I looked up a bus only to have Sara and Christian to tell me that they would of course walk on this beautiful. And walking always helps to form good conversations about more difficult topics. We talked about Goethe, the world, about waking up and realizing what is important for yourself, what you don’t need anymore from your past life and how the world could become a better place. It was nice to have these conversation on the way so we could just arrive at The Good Robot and enjoy the sun, the beer, a new conversation at our packed table and cuddles from a tiny young pup. And if you look at the picture and think “what do you mean with ‘packed’?” at the time we left everyone was gone as well.
From all the breweries we went to I can’t say that I disliked one. The Good Robot and The Tidehouse yet had the for me best atmosphere. Thumbs up.
I got a Propeller Brewing cap as a present from Christian which touched me a lot. I can’t handle the friendliness and kindness I met in Halifax. The best end I could have wished for the coast to coast trip and my last big adventure on this long journey around the world.
I can’t believe I’ve been to 5 breweries just in Halifax and as I look into the sun I remember the fun answer I gave someone yesterday when our group in the hostel was asked if we all travel together.
„No, we are all solo travelers. We all sing every night ‘All by myself’ in front of the hostel bathroom mirror into our toothbrushes.“
I’m happy that this is not the truth.
See ya, lovely ocean playground.
Fun fact for my fellow Germans: Döner is also a thing here. But they write it ‘Donair’ so that the pronunciation stays the same for English speakers.