© 2011 jemma

The Nova Scotia Experience – Part 1.

Before you read this EXTREMELY DELAYED BLOG Jess and I would like to apologise for the delay. You see, you have caught us at the tail end of the year. I know excuses, excuses…perhaps it is just laziness instead?

Well we have made it! To the Eastern province, the Maritimes, the complete opposite end of the great country of Canada. We are here!

Leaving the island we crossed over the border into Nova Scotia to the town of Amherst. This was the town that Jess’ Granddad Amos lived in before he died – at 90! It is a smallish town and – according to all the brochures – it is the graphical centre of the Maritimes. Who knew?

We met up with Doris the next day to head out to River Herbert, Minudie and Joggings to visit Jess’ Dads grave site, family sites and old friends. I’ll let Jess tell you all about that……….

Why so many ‘….’s Jemma? Huh? Pressure much. River Herbert was always going to be an interesting stop along the way as it has massive amounts of family history. It was perfect that Doris could come along as we got a nice Belliveau insight and stories as we went. Turned it from being another stop along the way to something more personal. Its a real nice spot which co-incidently is populated with real nice people – funny that. We dropped in on one of Dad’s old mates Gary. Gary has a real nice place with a great view, was good to catch up but a pity we missed his wife!

Once again glad to have Doris with us to guide us to the Belliveau plot in Minudie – some of Dad’s ashes are buried here along with his Dad (Amos) and Mum (Gladys). Slightly odd taking photos of a head stone but required as we aren’t out here often enough. Nice spot – pity about the mosquitoes though. Big ol bastards. Surprising to see how many Belliveaux are buried in Minudie, turns out there are a few of us. Dad’s grandad and grandma are a few metres down so the whole set!

I’d seen a few of the local sights before but was more than happy to visit them again. We had lunch at a small restaurant (a slight stretch of the word as its tiny) in Joggings that Amos used to frequent. Jemma and I shared fish and chips ($7) which was massive – What? We are cheap travellers. We also skirted round the back streets of River Herbert to see the schools that the Belliveau gang attended, amazingly most of it still intact – so it survived the Belliveau gang somehow.

All in all – a great trip. I got to drive a Lexus all day and chat with Doris. Jemma got to see (more) family history. The sun was shining and the food was good. Over to you Cap’n ‘Blogger’ Robinson………..

(see – the ‘…..’s put pressure on don’t they!)

The next day we were out of Amherst and onto Antigonish. Antigonish is pretty much a town built around a university, Saint Francis Xavier to be precise. The university is part of the town, as there is no sort of entrance; you can just drive though it to get to places. Jess’ Dad and Brother Doug both went there, so we drove around it and watched a bit of football practise. It is such another world! Almost like a grown-ups high school. Lucky most people mistake Jess and I for Uni students so we fit right in!

The main street of the town is pretty small but nice with little craft shops, sewing shops and of course a Tim Hortons! You can’t move pretty far in Canada with bumping into one of those. For those Aussies who don’t know, Timmy’s is a cheap coffee shop, where you can get a “hot chocolate” dripped out of a machine for less than $2! Bargain!

From Antigonish, we headed along the shore towards Cape Breton Island, which apparently once upon a time was a separate province to Nova Scotia. We headed through little town after little town towards the Canso causeway – a“bridge” to the island. On the way we almost hit a coyote who just at the last minute decided that running in front of our car wasn’t such a good idea (Jess: its a volvo!). Smart move my very big coyote friend!

It was such a beautiful afternoon of driving along the western shore of the island. The leaves were just starting to change at this point so there were some beautiful colours staring to appear. We ended up in the little town of Inverness. I had booked a beach cottage for the night and as the locks on the first cabin didn’t work, we were ungraded to a beach front one for free!! YAY!

The lady who owned the park told us that the water was quite warm along the 3 mile stretch of beach, and suggested we go for a swim. We eagerly put our swimmers on and ran down to the water’s edge only to find that when our feet went in the water they almost froze off…so much for the swim. Instead we walked the entire beach and watched the sunset while eating pasta for dinner. I think that was a great trade off!

They predicted rain alllllllll weekend which really upset us as we had 1 weekend in Cape Breton National Park and this was it! We woke early to an amazing sunrise and clearing skies. We had about 1 hours drive to get to the hike we wanted to do that day. The skyline train offered us opportunities to see moose – apparently the largest concentration of them – bear, whales and maybe coyotes. I wasn’t much interested in those!

We headed at 9:30am. Although it was the weekend, Jess had some work to do at 2pm so we needed to be finished well before then. We spoke to a couple who were returning who said they had seen 3 moose! We were very hopeful, and when we kept seeing tracks, eaten trees and scat – or poo as Jess wants it to be called – it spurred that excitement on.

But we saw none. Chipmunks…yes, whales…yes and wonderful views…yes! But no moose, I would have even settled for a bear if it was far away. The hike itself was amazing though and the view was breathtaking out on the point where you could see the currents, schools of fish and whales.

As soon as we got to the car almost 4 hrs later and shut our doors, the heavens opened and it poured and poured and got very foggy in some places. This does spoil the magic a little bit but what are you to expect in the highlands. We still had some time to kill before Jess had to start work, so we headed down to the bog trail to see the bog plants and the ponds. Poor Jess got so wet, but I guess that’s what happens when you lose your umbrella! The rain even forced us to eat our lunch in the car. So romantic!

From the Bog we headed to Pleasant Bay. It was decided that it would have Bell coverage there so that Jess could work…it didn’t. We were cutting it fine, but we wanted to see the whale museum there. We learnt all about the different whales in the area and how humans almost wiped them out – and let’s be honest are still wiping them out. We watched a pretty sad movie which showed the history of whaling in the area and it was seriously appalling!

From Pleasant Bay we had to drive 40min back to where we started to a place called Cheticamp to find the Internet. It likes to hide from us sometimes. With the Timmy’s full of people hiding out from the rain we got two Timmy’s drive thru Hottie Totties and settled in the Harbour car park, in the rain for some fun filled reading and working hours. Yup people, there is a downside to working and travelling.

From Cheticamp we then had to drive back through Pleasant Bay to Cape North for the night. Although some of the fog had disappeared from the West side of the island, it had unfortunately moved to the East side – where we were going. Along the way we stopped in at an almost ancient Maple forest and had a little wet hike through the trees. There is an old Scottish hut here in recognition of the exiled Scottish settlers that came to this area. It is a really beautiful stop.

We got to foggy Cape North in the early evening. You couldn’t see 100m in front of you, it was all a little depressing really. We went out to dinner as a treat and ended up having the WORST MEAL EVER at a local restaurant – there are only two to choose from! So that really helped to lighten the mood.

The fog had lifted by the morning and so we were able to start enjoying our time in the National park again. We had decided to do another 3hr hike or so to some old “gold mines”. Jess was very excited as he had never seen any before so off we went. The first part of the hike goes through the golf course. Only 2 signs would have helped us to not get lost in this section, and Jess was a metre away from being hit by a ball and almost trod on a toad. With the help of some friendly golfers we were on the right track again!

We past another amphibian – a tiny frog this time – as we hiked to the old gold mine. When we got there it wasn’t a mine as such but the ruins of an old “miners camp!” Complete with concrete walls, rusty tins and creepy doors and windows. It was in a really pretty part of the forest too, so well worth it.

From the hike we continued down the coast towards Sydney! The reason for our visit here was simply because it was called Sydney. We knew nothing about it except its name. It was an old steel community that is still trying to find its feet after the Steel works closure. To us though, it was simply a bed after a long days hiking and driving. Exploring city could wait till the next day, as we entered our second week in the Province of Nova Scotia.