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August 1st, 2013 | Canada

Into Nova Scotia – The Long Way Round !!

It was colder in New Brunswick than it had been in Maine, and it began to dawn on me that I probably did not have enough cold weather gear with me. I had left the large silver duffel bag that contained my neck warmers and spare gloves back in New Jersey, believing that I wouldn’t be needing them. It was summer after all !!

I left Saint John and rode down to St. Martins on the Bay of Fundy, planning to ride along the coast to Hopewell to take in the scenic coastal route which had been recommended to me by so many bikers I had come into contact with over the past few weeks.

 One of many covered bridges I rode across in Canada. This one close to St. Martins.

One of many covered bridges I rode across in Canada. This one close to St. Martins.

The Bay of Fundy is known for having the highest range of tides in the world. It lies between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and in 1975 a difference in low and high tides of 14,5 metres was measured !! That is almost 50 feet !! It is difficult to wrap your head around these figures, and I imagine a lot of thought had been given to the places where harbours and jetties were built !!

 High and dry in St. Martins on the Bay of Fundy.

High and dry in St. Martins on the Bay of Fundy. The tide was still going out at this point and further along the coast I would see further evidence of just how low it could get !!

This little restaurant is world famous apparently... St. Martins is s short ride from Saint John, and a popular weekend outing for locals

This little restaurant is world-famous apparently… St. Martins is s short ride from Saint John, and a popular weekend outing for locals

When you consider that there are two high and two low tides every day, you can imagine just how quickly a boat goes from bobbing on the ocean to stranded in mud !

St Martins was a much smaller town that I had expected. I rode down to the little harbor and sat watching a few families gathering shellfish off the rocks left exposed by the outgoing tide, and digging in the mud for what I presumed to be scallops.

After a shot break doing this I took a look at the Gi-Gi’s screen and noticed that she was urging us to ride straight through the town and onto what seemed like a dirt road a few hundred yards away… I assumed that this road would lead back to a paved road that would take us back to the highway leading to the Alma National Park, which led down to the coast again. I knew there wasn’t a decent road that would take me all along the coast to Alma…

The dirt road led between house and in some parts was covered by a thin sheet of water from the previous night’s rain… I rode carefully through and around the puddles and got deeper and deeper into the woods…

“Woman, where are you taking us ??” I mumbled, noticing that the few houses that I had been seeing were rapidly thinning out and only a long narrow dirt road lay ahead…

I guess I should have stopped and took a closer look at the road I had downloaded, but the road had turned into one littered by loose shale and small rocks and I was too busy ensuring that we did not come a-cropper. Besides, I was actually enjoying being on dirt again and had settled into a comfortably position, standing up on the pegs, and using the power of the engine beneath me to surge through the trickier bits…

 This was not part of the plan !! Spent the next two hours on dirt roads, dodging logging trucks...

This was not part of the plan !! Spent the next two hours on dirt roads, dodging logging trucks…

 The road became smoother and I finally stopped to check where the hell I was and more importantly, where we were heading !! I had covered about 10 km by then, and was by now certain that a paved road lay off to the north of where I was, but how to get across to it was the burning question…

I was sitting the bike in the shade thrown by the conifers on either side of the road, Bryan Adams giving it all he was worth in my earphones, when a huge truck coming up from behind me, roared past and caused all sorts of unnecessary palpitations in my chest region… I got such a fright that I almost fell off the bike !!

 Like this one, whose driver stopped to ask if I was lost...

Trucks like this one, whose driver stopped to ask if I was lost…

The driver leaned out of the cab and waved at me, his arm quickly disappearing from view in the thick dust his behemoth was throwing up into the still air… I waved and shouted, “Bastard !!” as loud as I could, then began laughing hysterically to myself, as I imagined how funny it would have looked if I had fallen off the bike as he passed… A real You-Tube moment that would have been !!

Gi-Gi indicated that we would be making a left turn in another 10 km and I made the second incorrect assumption of the day, that this would take us back onto a paved road… One dirt road led to another, some of them barely wide enough to allow a single vehicle to drive along… I encountered many more logging trucks, mostly coming towards me, and a few small logging operations where heavy machinery was hauling trees out of the forest, and dragging huge chunks of soil and mud into the road, just to make what was turning into an interesting morning, even more difficult…!!

The scene of the bloodthirsty attack by Canada's voracious mosquitoes...

The scene of the bloodthirsty attack by Canada’s voracious mosquitoes…

At this point I had already resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be a much longer day than I had anticipated. Sundown was due at about 8.00 pm, and I knew that I would need all of the daylight hours available to get to Digby. I stopped to take a break next to a large patch of purple Lupins, and thought that taking a photo from amongst the flowers, with the Big Fella in the background would be a good idea.

BIG mistake !! Just as I got into position, by clambering through shoulder high shrubbery to get behind the Lupins, a great cloud of ravenous mosquitoes descended upon me and two hands and arms were not nearly enough to swat the buggers away… Without even lifting the camera to take the shot, I bulldozed myself straight through the flowers and back onto the road, arms flailing and words coming from my mouth that I will not repeat here…

My hasty exit from the shrubbery had alerted every other mosquito for miles around and within minutes I was surrounded by clouds of the little buggers… I hastily put my helmet back on (the bumps on my head made by the mosquito bites making it more difficult than usual !!) and rode the hell away from the ambush site…

An hour later I found myself on the road to Alma, having traversed a huge swathe of natural forest filled with logging camps and kamikaze truck drivers… More dirt awaited me !! The road was being torn up and resurfaced, and sections of up to 10 km a time, had been converted in one lane tracks, and cars were being escorted along them by construction vehicles with flashing lights and “Follow Me” signs attached to their tailgates…

 Low tide, Chignecto Bay. Diving off the bridge at low tide is not encouraged...

Low tide, Chignecto Bay. Diving off the bridge at low tide is not encouraged…

A large group of bikers on Harleys, out for a weekend ride, turned back to find a smoother surface to ride on, leaving me behind with a wave and comments like “Stuff this, our bikes are going to get filthy in this stuff !!”… The Big Fella grunted in disgust as we watched them ride back along the paved road behind us…

After a few long delays, we finally reached Alma and Chignecto Bay, amazed at how much lower the tide had dropped since we had seen it in St. Martins a few hours ago. I pushed hard from that point on, enjoying the winding road that took us towards Hopewell Rocks, a famous landmark where the outgoing tide reveals huge boulders standing tall in the mud, and hours later are half covered by the next incoming tide.

Another example of the huge variation in tides on the Bay of Fundy...

Another example of the huge variation in tides on the Bay of Fundy…

Entrance to Hopewell Rocks. Expect a hefty fee and a long walk to see the rocks which can be viewed on almost every brochure advertising New Brunswick...

Entrance to Hopewell Rocks. Expect a hefty fee and a long walk to see the rocks which can be viewed on almost every brochure advertising New Brunswick…

I was tired by the time I arrived there, and discovered that to see the rocks, I would have had to pay a $12 entrance fee, and endure a 20 minute walk in full riding kit to see the rocks. I decided against it and instead went in search of the famous seafood chowder which I had been advised to try. Hopewell is just a small collection of buildings on the shore of the Bay. A well positioned motel with a restaurant and gift shop attached, advertised the famous chowder…

It was well after lunchtime and I was as ravenous as those mosquitoes I had encountered earlier !! I ordered a bowl of the chowder and at $14.95 a bowl, I was expecting a typical American-sized plate of food. I was sorely disappointed when the waitress arrived carrying a bowl that could easily fit in the palm of my hand !! I looked up at her and asked,

“Is this it ??”

“Yes, ” she replied rather proudly, “Our world famous chowder !!”

“Is it world famous because you charge so much for so little of it ??” I asked innocently…

She gave me a long, hard look, then flounced away to tell her fellow waitrons what I had asked. One of them went back into the kitchen and returned with a second bowl, winked at me and said,

“This one’s on the house. Enjoy !!”

I beamed happily at her and thanked her for the second bowl, passing the first to her as I did so, as I had already worked my way through it while she was out fetching me the second… See… Sometimes the odd wise-crack will bear positive results !!

From Hopewell I rode north along the Petitcodiac River, which empties into the bay, passing through Hillsborough and Stoney Creek, until I reached the large town of Moncton, where I hooked up with Highway 2 East and headed for the Nova Scotia border.

I crossed into this province close to the northern tip of the Cumberland Basin, at the very northern tip of the Bay of Fundy, and stopped at the visitor centre to grab the information brochure which would later help me to locate places to overnight while I traveled through Nova Scotia. I then got back on the highway, noticing that I still had 375 km before I got to Digby. It was 4.00 pm, and I had four hours of daylight left.

After a longer than planned detour, I finally arrived at the border to Nova Scotia. Digby was almost 400 km away, and another late night arrival was on the cards...

After a longer than planned detour, I finally arrived at the border to Nova Scotia. Digby was almost 400 km away, and another late night arrival was on the cards…

Another Canadian World Famous... The scallops lived up to their billing...

Another Canadian World Famous… The scallops lived up to their billing…

I stretched me back and shoulders, hopped back on the bike, pushed the starter button and hit the highway at three-quarter throttle. We zoomed south east for over an hour, then turned south at Truro and reached Brookfield shortly after that. I could have followed the highway further south and then turned west at Milford Station, but chose instead to cut across northern Nova Scotia via the backroads, hoping to encounter less traffic and roads that were a lot more interesting than the highway.

I chose correctly, as the road that led west to Kennetcook and Maple Grove was a beauty !! It wound through rolling countryside, up hill and down dale, across babbling streams and a few larger rivers, keeping me “honest” on a few tight bends that required complete focus on the heavily loaded bike…

I reached West Hants and rejoined the highway, crossed the Avon River and picked up speed on the wider road that led to Wolfville and North Alton. I stopped to refuel between the two towns, drank a bottle of Gatorade to keep hydrated and then rode the last 140 km in double quick time.

 I passed the town of Kingston, which is the same name as the farm on which Lion Sands is located back in the Sabi Sand Reserve back in eastern South Africa, and for a moment recalled all the wonderful times I had spent there… With a pang I realized how much I missed the African Bush and all the wonders it held.

 Bob, the owner of the Siesta Motel went out of his way to make my stay comfortable, and arranged for the local newspaper to come and interview me.

Bob, the owner of the Siesta Motel went out of his way to make my stay comfortable, and arranged for the local newspaper to come and interview me.

I think this was the moment when I began to accept that my journey would soon come to and end, and I would be returning to Africa in the near future. Hardly a day would pass over the next few weeks that I did not think of home…

I rode parallel to the Annapolis River, skirted Bridgetown, and then crossed the Bear River which emptied into the Annapolis Basin, and reached Digby just as the sun was setting. The first two motels I tried were fully booked, and I was directed down to the main road on the seashore, where I found the Siesta Motel.

The owner Bob checked me in and spent a good deal of time chatting to me about my trip and giving me advice on where to eat, where I could get my laptop repaired, and also arranged for the editor of the local newspaper to interview me the following morning…

The Wharf Rat Rally would have the town of Digby in it's iron grip a week later...

The Wharf Rat Rally would have the town of Digby in it’s iron grip a week later…

He explained that Digby was famous for it’s scallops and the fleet of boats that collected them off the seabed of the Bay of Fundy.

Just like his counterpart in Saint John, he was amazed that I had ridden all the way around instead of taking the Princess Arcadia ferry that ran daily between the two towns across the bay…

“You must have a iron but and enjoy riding !!” he exclaimed… I was too tired to give him a detailed answer and tiredly shook my head… I had been on the road for almost 11 hours and would need to ride every day for the next three to get to Tiernan’s wedding in time… It was something I was used to, and had built up the stamina for long distance riding a long time ago…

“Pity you can’t stay for the Wharf Rat Rally next weekend,” Bob said, “It is the largest motorcycle rally on the Atlantic coast of Canada !! There were 25 000 bikes here last year. It’s a sight to see !!”

I am sure it was a sight to see !! Imagine being in a town whose population was about 2 000 people, and having 50 000 bikers descend on you for a week of mayhem !!

Rather than take the ferry to Digby, I chose to ride around the peninsula. It took 11 hours to ride 720 km...

Rather than take the ferry to Digby, I chose to ride around the peninsula. It took 11 hours to ride 720 km…

The photo of the Big Fella and I that appeared in the local newspapers...

The photo of the Big Fella and I that appeared in the local newspapers…

We met down on the open boardwalk close to the centre of town, and while I sat on a wooden bench in the small square, John DeMings, editor of the Digby Courier, asked enough questions to flesh out an article he would write about me for publication the following week.

Afterwards, he hauled out what looked to be a very dated camera and too a few photos of me on the boardwalk, and then a few more out on the main street where the Big Fella was parked…

The article was titled, “Gypsy Biker World Tour”, and opened with a sub-heading, “South African man traveling around the world, stops in Digby”…

I later had an opportunity to read the article, the tenth, (I think !) in which I have been featured, and realized that this might well be the last one for me whilst I am on the road.

The story of my journey was almost at an end, and this article ended with the words, “…and for Ronnie, it’s time to get back to the real world !”

 Wooden ship murals in the main square on the local boardwalk.

Wooden ship murals in the main square on the local boardwalk.

Digby has a proud fishing history dated back over a 100 years...

Digby has a proud fishing history dated back over a 100 years…

I thought about that statement for a long time afterward, wondering what the “real world” really was…

Surely it was the world at large that I had been riding through for the past three years, and not the same-same, day to day existence that most inhabitants of our planet are forced to live in !!

While I was being interviewed, my laptop was being de-bugged across the road, a process which took almost four hours, and had me getting more and more antsy as the morning wore on…

I decided to have an early lunch, and make the long ride to Halifax during the course of the afternoon, riding around the tip of the Nova Scotia peninsula, via Yarmouth.

I left Digby at 1.00 pm and began the 420 km ride to Halifax…

Digby's fishing harbour.

Digby’s fishing harbour.

©GBWT 2013

1 comment to Into Nova Scotia – The Long Way Round !!

  • Wilbur

    Ok….now go see Hall’sHarbour…..near Annapolis Royal and Wolfville…has 18 meter tides…! Can watch the action from the restaurant at the fishing port , has lobster pound too…

    Then take the Lighthouse Trail back up to Halifax……but stop in Shelburne , then Lunenburg , Mahone Bay and Chester…..my old stomping grounds…cruise down to the yacht club in Chester and say hello to the boys from Willi….
    In Halifax can stay at the Prince George hotel by the train station…..or other ones cheaper just nearby….

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