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Round the World Journey

Newfoundland and Nova Scotia

CANADA | Sunday, 6 August 2017 | Views [546]

The flight to St John's Newfoundland was a nice short one - about 5 hours. The weather forecast had promised 21 degrees but it was cloudy and cooler when we arrived. The countryside reminded me of Scotland and Ireland and ironically, I quickly discovered that the Irish have made quite an impression on this area.  Tom O'Brien who spoke Canadian with an Irish accent (!) which I discovered was not unusual took me the following day to Bulls Bay for a whale watching cruise along a section of the 'Irish Loop'.  Not quite a strong a mark as the English, however, who had repeatedly battled the French to land control of the narrow straights which still service a harbour servicing the richest fishing waters in the world.  Cabot's Tower and a fort overlook the straights offering handsome views of the Atlantic. The Queen of course is still honoured not withstanding this being the 150th anniversary of Canadian Independence which is being marked amongst other things by free entry to national parks - great timing for me.  

St John's is a pleasant enough port with brightly painted wooden houses lining the streets. It is the oldest settlement in the Amercias with India settlements dating back 2500-3000 years, the remains of Viking settlements in the 1500's and the earliest English settlement from 1497. Given all this history, it's surprisingit was called Newfoundland really! The cod fishing industry was almost wiped out in the 1990s and prices are yet to recover so nowadays tourism is more important - particularly eco tourism aroud the stiunning Witless Bay marine park which is home to thousands of visiting whales as well as half a million puffins, kittiwakes and other sea birds. The whale watching cruise was simply stunning with literally dozens and dozens of viewings of 3 of the 5 different varieties of whales that visit to feed. I had feared that they would already be departing but even the boat captain said that he had never seen so many whales - and that in just an hour of so of cruising aorund.  Whaes are hard to photograph - generally you can catch a glimpse of thier bodies and fins and then just a quick glimpse of the tail as they dive down to feed. I hope and pray that the emerging oil industry that will bring huge wealth will not lead to ecological damage in such an important feeding ground.  At the edge of the port is one of 4 oil rigs that may be the precursor to many more.

The whale watching was so good that i decided to fork out another $80 on Sunday. That is after a lively church service at Bethsaida where the workship band played a lot of my favourite somgs, and a visit to the police station to pick up my camera. I had lost it in my jet lagged stupor on Friday and had put in personal visits to the places I ahd visited, and repeat calls to the taxi and bus firm that had ferried me about. I prayed for a miracle taht it would be returned on Saturday - not least because it holds 4000 of my travel photos and was delighted to get a text from the B and B owners that the police had been round to pass on the good news that it had been handed in. I had left it by the side of the road where I had waited for a bus and one, Mohammed Abdelelpahey , had handed it in.  Thank you Mohammed! 

I didn't think that the whale watching trip could match the one on Saturday, not least since this time we left from St John's itself and were not going all the way to the Witless Bay marine park.  However - we got lucky.  A group of whales were diving up, mouths open to feed, and we had a stunning close up. I am sure that whales don't eat humans but given that some of them weigh 40-50 tons, i couldn't help worrying when some of them came within a few yards of the boat.  These were humpback whales marked by their white tail but we also saw a fin whale which is the second largest on the planet.  The whole experience was just stunning! 

Monday was a day spent in a coach travelling some 6 or 7 hundred miles down to Port Basque and an overnight ferry to Nova Scotia. I chose the right day for this since it rained for much of the day - but I still saw enough of the lakes, forests and hills to see that Newfoundland is every bit as good as people say. It is amazing actually that during the 14 hour coach journey, I could have flown to the UK and back again.... One discovery i made during the journey was that as 9:11 hit, the small airport of Gander took in 9000 stranded passengers who had nowhere to land.  That is more than the population of the town. A musical has been written telling the story that may well make it from Broadway to the West End. It tells a lot about the warmth adn hospitality of people in Newfoundland that they took so many people into their homes.

The ferry was another 8 hours or so but seemed to go quickly even if I didn't sleep much.  Fortunately, I had booked a car in Nova Scotia and quickly apprecited its value given the lack of public transport.  Down to Louisbourg where the British had twice defeated and destroued the primary French fortress, and then onto the stunning Cabot trail with mountain vistas, lakes, rivers, bays and most striking of all densley packed pine and fir forests.  The views were stunning. 

I was looking forward to a propoer night's sleep after 2 days of travel but was sorely disappointed when my $60 hostel room turned out to be in a barn. I could have handled that - but not the loss of a single room i had booked - that is on top of one shower for 20, the place having no doors on rooms, holes in the ceiling, no wireless etc.  Fortunately, the car hire firm had upgraded me from a Hyundai Accent (small car) to a full blow 4x4 so I should be able to sleep ok in that, ahd have forked out for a campsite place so I can have access to a much needed shower!  The rain, however, put paid to the hopes of a night's camping so I slept fitfully instead in the car. Fortunately, the rental company had upgraded me from a Hyundai accent to a large 4x4 so it wash't too bad.

The next day, the sun was out and it was a gorgeous day to continue my drive of the Cabot Trail, stopping every so often for another breathtaking view or coffee stop. I made it all the way round to Wyomochang whch I have no idea how to promouce, where i found a beautiful provincial camp ground overlooking a lake. The generous plot was far better than the other campgrounds i had stayed at and included my own picnic table and bench. Perhaps it was the lurking thought that a bear might appear during the night that left my sleep somewhat disturbed.

I had to drive the car all the way back to Sydney to drop it off. The assistant kindly insisted I should pay for 2 day's ratther than the booked 3, on the basis that I was only 2 hours into dahy 3 - whoch saved me a hundred bucks.  Public transport is scarce in Nova Scotia so I shared a shuttle taxi some 600km or so back alongside the Cabot Trail and much further on down to Halifax. I enjoyed non stop banter from Irene, the driver who made the trip twice eawch day and who must have been exhausted after just a 10 minute lunch break,  an ex Marine who was visting to say goodbye to his cancer ridden brother, and a young girl with an unfortunate dog locked up in a small bag...

Halifax is a large port with some insustry and a beautiful waterforont. The Queen Mary 2 was in town briefly and I enjoyhed a nice strill alongs the harbour front. My accomodation was in one of town's 3 university campus' and was good value compared to the hotels even if there was no air con. The breakfast was excellent. I just had time to wander into town to see the city's celebrated vitorian gardens which was pleasant indeed. The bandstand often hosts live musiic and plays. From there to the Citadel which was built by the British to defend the town from the French.  The viwes were stunning and as with other similar sites there were guards in uniforms to provide a sense of history.  The viwes down over the town from the ramparts were stunning. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit one of the cemetries where victims of the Titanic had been buried or to make a short trip to scenic Pegg's Bay. But I enjoyed my taste of Halifax and would like to return some day. It is certainly best in Summer - Winter is long and cold.







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