The Long Drive
Its a 936 mile drive to North Sydney, Nova Scotia from our canoe base in Sunderland, Vermont. It will take us two days, driving east across Vermont and New Hampshire and into Maine at the coast. From there we will head north to the Canadian border and head into New Brunswick before the final leg into Nova Scotia, past Cape Breton, and to the ferry port of North Sydney. Then it will be a five hour crossing to Port aux Basque in Newfoundland.
Carolyn and me are up at 6am at leave the base at 7am in a hired van with a double roof-rack loaded with five canoes. Inside we have all the gear necessary for our canoeing and hiking holiday in Newfoundland. When we get there we will rendezvous with our four guests, but that is in two days time.
The first part of the ride is a nostalgia trip for me as I rode through New England, over the Green and the White Mountains and into Maine on a bicycle many years ago. We are not following the same route of course as I would have been riding the minor roads. I like seeing the familiar names of places as we pass through.
At Freeport in Maine we pull off the Interstate to drop by Day’s Lobster and Crabmeat Takeout for lunch. It is Maine so we obviously select to have Lobster for lunch. We sit outside in the sun at a picnic table overlooking a muddy inlet. Then it’s back on the road past Bangor, as far north as I got on my bike trip, and into the wilder wastes of northern Maine. This is new territory for me.
We make one more stop when we pull over at a viewpoint to look at Mount Katahdin. This is the highest mountain in Maine and the end-point of the Appalachian Trail. Unfortunately the weather is overcast and we cannot see it. The interstate is now passing though pine country. Mile upon mile of pines. From time to time we see road signs that say ‘Moose Next 20 Miles’, or ‘Moose Next 25 Miles’. But we see no Moose.
In an hour or so we reach the border crossing. It is inevitable that we are pulled over and we have to go into the office and wait half an hour to be processed. It’s not too bad and we are soon on our way into Canada. Once again it is mile after mile of pine trees, except now its kilometres instead. The signs read ‘Moose Next 40 Km’ or ‘Moose Next 25 Km’ but we still see no Moose. What we do see in ingenious Moose fences which are designed to be one-way only. The Moose can get into the forest from the road-side but not out of the forest onto the road. It begs the question then of how a Moose could get on the road in the first place. More astonishingly we see tunnels under the highway which are large enough for Moose to pass through. These must be at least 2 or 3m in diameter. In the UK we might put tiny tunnels under the road for frogs to pass through. Its a big difference.
After about 500 miles we pull off the road at Monckton and find a hotel. The only room they have left is ‘Harry Potter’ themed. We take it. I get the bunk-bed and am amused to be sleeping with a Wand, a Quidditch stick, a Sorting Hat and an Owl in a cage. Luckily the owl is not real. I think I will sleep easy. For dinner we stumble across the parking-lot to find a restaurant which is themed in the style of a Ship Museum. I don't know how many miles we are from the sea but it must be quite a way. The fish and chips are quite good though, and the beer is welcome.
The next morning we have a brisk breakfast and are back on the road by 7am. After 50 km we cross into Nova Scotia. Once again it is an endless view of pines and signs that warn of Moose. We see no Moose. The last part of the journey is past Cape Breton. I am astonished to see road signs in English and Gaelic. Eventually we roll into North Sydney at abut 1.30pm.
Our boat is due to leave at 3.30pm but it doesn't depart until 4.30pm. We while away the time by having a greasy lunch. Once we are on board we change our watches to Newfoundland time, which is 5pm. It’s the only place in the world on a half-hour time-zone.
On board it's as dull as any other ferry crossing. Its grey and bleak outside so we just doze and sleep in the lounge. We miss the last dinner call and have to make do with a sandwich. We dock at 10pm just as the sun is going down and have a mere five minute drive to our B&B. The check-in goes without any fuss and we crash-out. Finally we are in Newfoundland.