Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cape Breton charity II. Hitchhikers II.Chesterfield I. Sandbanks and gas tanks. Chesterfields II.

I disembarked the ferry in Sydney and began making my way back to my refuge on Cape Breton.  I was looking forward to sleeping somewhere other then my car, which by this point was a mess of randomly strewn objects.  I was hoping to clean things out, and reorganize in Newfoundland, but the rainy weather thwarted my desire and ability to do so.  I pulled into a gas station and reorganized my car, my head and my life.  Now on to Port Hood.

I was met with smiles and handshakes, and was treated to a delicious home cooked linguini with shrimp, the first real meal I had in days.  Bob and Lynn were once again, unbelievably accommodating and offered me there home for whatever I needed.  Not having showered for 3 days, my first order of business was to wash off the smoke and sweat crusted on the outer layer of my epidermis.  God it felt good to be clean.  I took care of some communications and fell asleep to the rythmic sounds of ocean surf once again.  This was to be my last night on the atlantic coast, the thought of which struck a chord of sadness and melancholy within.

Knowing the depletion of the budget I had hoped to find a passenger to travel westwards, but after some close calls, I had no takers, so my route was to be the most direct route possible.  My sights were set on hitting MTL around midnight.  I left at 9am said my goodbyes once more to the Martins and was on my way with a couple of ham n'cheese sandwiches and some snacks for the road packed and ready for me.  I will miss those Martins I tell you, I will miss them alot.

So I just drove. Through Nova Scotia. Past the Confederation bridge turn off to PEI, then into New Brunswick.  Just after I passed through Fredricton I saw a guy and a girl hitchiking, I pulled over to the side of the road, and when I saw they were heavily pierced and tattooed, my judgemental side kicked in and I almost drove away.  I fought back my judging ways and offered my services freely.  Brian was a 25 year old, with tattooed knuckles, dreadlocks and bandannas wrapped around both wirsts.  He was dressed in black from head to toe.  His girlfriend, Sophie, had nose rings, tattoos, and had a punkish goth look to her.  I was a little aprehensive, but realized I was being fearful of nothing but my own perceptions.  In tow, there was a dalmation, probably only a few months old, growing quickly into his adult body.  They all clamoured in and we were off to Montreal, where  they both conviently lived.

After a few minutes I realized my fears truly were unwarranted.  These two were good souls, on the road experiencing the bounty of travel.  Brian who was sitting shotgun did the bulk of conversing with me and he told me about the places he had been, the rails he had ridden, and about life in the city earning a buck with a squigee.  Hours flew by and before I knew it, 15 hours had elapsed.  I really enjoyed the company and was so glad I had assuaged my early fears and judgements.

I had tried with no success to stay with a few friends I knew in MTL the day prior, but with no luck.  Brian and Sophie offered me a chesterfield to surf, as a thank you for the ride.  As we pulled into Montreal the familiar feeling of that magically charged city washed over me.  There is something about Montreal that just makes it one the most unique places on the planet.  Its combination of art and culture, and clash of languages and food and hip people make it one of my favourite cities in the world.  I would loved to have stayed, but I had a friend to meet in Brockville, Ontario the next day.  Our final destination to be Sandbanks Provincial Park, outside of cozy little Picton.

When we arrived at Brian and Sophie's place around midinght, we were greeted by a shirtless dude with a serious mohawk that exposed the tattoos on the side of his head.  He was warm and friendly and we fist bumped and he proceeded to show us a rusty bladed knife he had acquired early that day.  I was completely exhausted and went to lay on the faux leather, forest green chesterfield.  I tried to maintain an element of sociability but my eyelids felt like molten lead, and the soft sounds of late night city traffic wafted into my ears like a lullaby.

I woke up shortly after 6 am, the city's pulse a dull murmur.  I grabbed my pack, slung it over my shoulder and said goodbye to the two dogs on the floor in the kitchen and made a quiet ninja-esque escape.

There is something intrinsically beautiful about a city before her rumble of morning traffic.  Her empty streets gleaming with unpolished anticipation.  The storm of cars and people only a faded dream of the future.  I made for the freeway, and once on, could see the side streets swelling with activity.  I watched the city in my rearview and uttered a silent farewell.  I know I will be back.

It took only a couple of hours to get to Brockville from Montreal, and I got off the first exit, settled in at a Starbucks and waited for my young friend Artur to show up from Ottawa.  I went to work on this blog until he arrived.  He showed up, bringing in an "outside" coffee, with no cares in the world.  His beaming face brought a large grin to my face, it was good to see a familiar face.

We ate a bagged "Polish lunch" Artur had brought with him on the Starbucks patio.  It consisted of bread, cheese, sausage, pickles and clementines (not so Polish I think).  I greedily ate, and so did he.  We grabbed some supplies, which he paid for, and hit the highway.

Artur followed me down the 401 until we reached Picton and we ditched his car and packed everything into mine.  We hit the park shortly after 3pm and found out there was not a site to be had, anywhere in the park.  Bummer.  Artur insisted we hit the beach and not worry too much where we would be sleeping, I was inclined to agree.

The beach at Sandbanks has to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Canada.  It is a wide stretch of golden sand arced around a northern bay of lake Ontario.  There are 3 kilometers of beach, and you can walk out for a few hundred meters before the water is over your head.  There are sand dunes blocking the view of the beach from inside the park, and when Artur and I crested the last dune before the water and saw the waves and sun and surf, we high-fived one another and made our way onto the sands.  We jumped in the warm waters and swam like we were 8 year olds.  The rest of the afternoon we hung out, had laughs, traded stories and insights and ate chips and fig newton cookies.  With a few hours of sunlight left we decided to walk the beach and come up with a plan of action.

I suggested we stay on someone else's site and pay them for the privelage, but Artur I think had a differnt idea.  The beach was clearing, fast.  I looked over my shoulder and saw three teenagers waving at us.  I thought maybe these kids would let us stay on there site.  As I walked over they yelled out they were only warding off seagulls, and had no interest whatsoever in Artur or I.  I started a dialogue, hoping they had a site and would let us set up camp.  They were just townies, locals, hanging out on the beach, two guys early twenties and a girl roughly the same age, maybe a bit younger.  They didn't have a site, but they did elude to a rock beach a half hour drive away that would be totally vacant, and totally available.  It's where the locals camp, just far enough out of town to avoid the heat, but close enough to be near home.  The young man giving us the information said he didn't know the exact location of this lawless paradise, but said an old codger at the Milford Bistro would be happy to point us in the right direction if we could pull him away from his duties at the restaraunt.  We offered our thanks and walked away, Artur loving the idea, and me still dead set on getting a $40 camp site. 

We drove around the park to see if there were empties, sites with no people or people who may have cleared out earlier then there expect departure date.  We found two such sites, 29 and 112, I even went so far as to ask the guy on 113 what happened to the 112ers.  In heavy french he replied "the went 'ome hearly".  Good enough for me to present my case at the gate.  So we got to the gate house and spoke with Emma, a cute twenty something who informed us our reconnaissance was pointless, people check in as late as 3am and the park was booked to the max, swollen with campers.  We asked her if she knew about the rock beach, to Artur's elation, she did.  Not only did she know about it, she knew exactly where it was and had a map for us to get there.  I looked at Artur and his shit-eating grin, and decided to concede.  We would be camping for free and probably illegally.  All part of the adventure.

After taking us in a 20km circle which brought us back at the park gates once more, we were on our way.  We found the hidden paradise at the end of a gravel cul-de-sac and saw a road way blocked with large boulders.  The blocking was weak, I had about three inches of space when I drove around and into a nicely landscaped clearing overlooking the lake and a rocky beach.  Also there was a giant 30 foot long covered picnic area which would serve our purposes for the sphaghetti dinner I had planned.  It was sweet as hell, the stars looked like a pull-out in a National Geographic, and we went to the business of setting up our camp.

Artur lits some candles and watched many a bug succumb to their doom while I set up our stove and got dinner made.  We had a nice dinner, headed down to the beach and made a nice bonfire, and talked about life, the nature of man and beast and women.  Always with the women.

The next day we packed up and went for a swim at the rock beach.  The water was beautiful and I had a bar of soap and a lake bath.  I then went Cousteau and snorkelled the beach and the rocky bluffs that made up the small point on which we had camped the night previous.  People began showing up and we realized that our little spot wasn't the private paradise we though it was.  We packed up and got the hell out of there, but not after talking to a few of the locals who were all real swell folks.

Artur offered to take me to lunch, and of course I agreed. He asked some townie kid on a BMX where the best place to eat lunch on a patio was.  He pointed up the main drag and reffered us to "Chesterfield's".

We walked into the little bistro which had a unique and fun, artsy feel to it.  There were home made murals on the wall, and large red chesterfield's adorning the lobby.  It was one of those small town places that was a house converted to a business and was cozy and down-to-earth with a touch of funkadelic coolness.  There were vinyl records that were being played through a real record player.  I chatted with Graham, the owner, a dark, blue-eyed dude with a great demeanor and open gravity about him.  We chatted, and I mentioned my quest, which he thought was cool.  Graham was on a similar quest, he was getting one pic a day of himself drinking cider made from a local micro-brewery.  A noble deed in my opinion.  An even nobler deed was him buying me lunch.  If you are ever in Picton, please go see my man Graham at

And so ended a great leg of my adventure.  The budget is hurting, bleeding bad.  We are down to about $350, 3 tanks of gas to get out of the maritimes and into Ontario, will do that to ya.  But have money, will travel.  I will hope that I can find some work, and barring that, a bag of cash randomly forgotten in a random place will also suffice.  Now it's off to the t-dot to visit an old friend.....

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Rock, Talk and one smoking exhaust pipe.

I arrived on the "Rock" after a ferry through calm seas around 1am.  I was fairly bleary eyed when I finally disembarked, but had no real plan.  So I drove. I followed a snake of red tail lights onto the TCH 1 and kept driving watching the chain of cars slowly break apart.  I tried to stay part of a pack, but wasn't up to burning the gas, so I hummed along at 100 km/hr, until I could barely keep my eyes open, and began to search for a secluded chunk of asphalt where I could bed down for the night. 

I found such a place behind a closed Irving gas station, and saw that there were several transport trucks and Winnebagos  parked behind as well.  I was so tired I did not care.  This was my first night not sleeping indoors, so to speak. When I woke up I was disoriented and cold.  I went to the gas station and grabbed a coffee and kept on ploughing through Newfoundland. 

The scenery on the nine hundred kilometer stretch to St. John's was spectacular.  The view changed so many times I had a hard time keeping up.  Rugged expanses opened up to arctic buttes and windswept sub arctic mountains.  I fell in love with the land, would I with its people?

I arrived in St. John's in customary late evening fashion and met up with Crystal, an east coast transplant from the Toronto area.  I met "Sands", Crystal's roommate and fellow Ontarian who wasn't feeling so good, she had come down with plague.  Crystal decided to take me down to the bar she worked at, and we had a great time watching some people get "screeched in" as they say.  The ceremony involves some traditional Newfie song, followed by the kissing of a cod and the downing of a shot of "screech", a form of homegrown bathtub rum.  The bar was alive and I found it easy to make conversation with my fellow patrons, it was a really fun night.  The Newfoundlanders were indeed the friendliest of people.

The next day I decided would be my sight seeing day.  I decided to visit "Signal Hill", a rocky peak protectively overlooking St. John's harbour.  The point was aptly named due to its function in the 1700's as a communication's lookout.  Flags were used to communicate messages to the harbour down below.  It was then later adapted as a fortification to protect the harbourfront from attack, however Signal Hill's most significant utilization was due to famous inventor Guillermo Marconi who from this location recieved the first wireless message from overseas ushering in a new phase of world communications. 

The city of St. John's

I hiked around the hill and found a nice spot to try some meditation.  On a rocky outcropping facing the harbor I took up temporary residence and began to go inward.  When I came to St. John I noticed a perceptible increase in what I can just label simply, energy, and was looking to tap into some of it by having a nice meditation session.  It turned out to be a great, twenty, inward-focused minutes, and when I opened my eyes I felt rejuvenated and energized. 

Being the cheap bastard that I have been on this trip I decided to take advantage of some free museum time and went to "The Rooms" a modern structure which in effect was a giant multi-layered terrace connecting several large exhibit rooms.  I had a good time, it was a museum, what more can I say.  It was free and interesting.

I was picked up from the museum by a car full of females, Crystal had picked up her two cousins Lyndsey and Sam along with their dog.  Our next point of interest was cape Spear, the most eastern point in all of Canada and North and South America as well.  Atop the rocky cliffs was perched a lighthouse, and as we all joked around and explored the bluffs, we heard a blast of air and water.  We turned our heads in the direction of the noise and saw the dorsal fin of a large whale, about 30 feet in length.  We watched 2 of these great beasts for about 10 minutes and found we fast becoming good friends.  Sam and Lyndsey enjoyed my humour and I theirs, there was much German-ness being thrown around.

Cape Spear, any further east and you'd be in Iceland

We headed downtown once more to Christinans and because Crystal had to work the next day she left me with her 2 cousins.  I watched them get drunk-ish and we had a barrel of laughs.  In the midst of the conversations, I had somehow agreed to make cabbage rolls for the next day, and visit a giant perogie some where in Canada.  I just googled it, said perogie is outside of Edmonton, in Glendon Alberta.

So the next day was spent largely in a kitchen, plucking cabbage leaves from boiling water and constructing a batch of fifty, mini cabbage rolls.  It's funny, but I never imagined I'd be making cabbage rolls on the One Grand Adventure.  That evening I went to visit the girls at their new apartment/house, and we had a floor feast of cabbage rolls, perogies and fresh dinner rolls.  Crystal showed up and even though not a big fan of cabbage rolls, enjoyed the mini versions I had created earlier that day.

Later on I went back to the girl's place and was introduced to their tall Haligonian friend Brian.  It was like Brian and I were brothers from different mothers, we just got along great and were joking like old friends in a matter of minutes.  We headed out to the bars on George Street once more and opted to go to a place where you could get three bottles of beer for 5 bucks.  the girls and I watched Brian put on a clinic of hilarity.  There was a I don't give a eff attitude to Brian that makes him an exceptional human being in my book.  I haven't laughed so hard in a long, long time.  I tip my hat to you good sir, thank you for the antics. 

The next morning I was to make my way back west, to get to the Port aux Basques ferry.  I wanted to explore the terrain and take a shot at fly fishing as well.  I had lunch with Brian, Lyndsey and Sam in downtown St' John's and said my goodbyes to my new friends and hit the road.

I drove and drove and drove, trying to find spots that were easy to access for fly fishing.  After several dirt roads and dead ends, the light was beginning to wane and I had to find a place to camp.  I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't find a spot to fish, but was determined on setting up a fire and roughing it in the bush.  After a couple hours of frantic searching I finally found a suitable spot off the trans Canada highway.  There was a lake and several home made campsites along a nice lake, I chose a spot next to an abandoned bus and started to hunt for firewood.  I found some pre cut wood, score, and my makeshift site already had a ring of stones for a firepit.  I grabbed some kindling and went to work, the light fading very fast.  After struggling to get the flames bright for about half an hour, a brisk wind helped the fire finally take form.  I decided setting up a tent in the dark was too much hassle and decided my tent would be of the Honda variety instead. 

This night was the first time on this trip that I felt fear.  Now I have camped many times before, but not alone.  Having people around is a definite psychological advantage when you are at the mercy of the dark and elements of a forest at night.  I just kept focussed on the making the fire big and bright to ward off any bears or coyotes. 

My sleep was uncomfortable, cramped, and down right shitty.  I woke up many times and at about 6 am deiced to just keep going west since it was fully bright at that point.  I felt like a hobo, smelly, disheveled and unkempt.  I found a gas station, grabbed a coffee and headed for Cornerbrook, my plan being to find a river and fish it for a few hours.  I grabbed some breakfast at McD's in Cronerbrook, and pulled out my laptop and using google maps honed in on a river I thought would be easy to access by road and large enough to contain good sized fish.  I located such a site just outside a small town called Hughes Brook, about 30 minutes from Cornerbrook.

I arrived at the river and it was ideal.  There was a trail along the river which I followed until I found a spot I could get my hip waders on, and set up my rod.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and I fished the river for a couple of hours, catching nothing, but enjoying the rhythmic practice of fly fishing nonetheless.

My plan was to head then into Gros Morne National Park and climb the Gros Morne Trail.  I drove for about 90 minutes and reached the Gros Morne park.  The scenery was stunning, and just when I though Newfoundland couldn't get any more beautiful, it captivated and surprised me once again.  After being in the sun the entire morning, and not sleeping well the night before I decided I'd need a power nap before challenging the trail up Gros Morn Mountain, whose peak summits at 860 meters.  I found a secluded parking lot and dozed off into a dreamless sleep.

I woke up around 6pm, and decided to head up the trail.  The info board at the bottom of the mountain said to get to the summit would take 4-6 hours and the decent would take another 2-4 hours.  So, no summit attempt for me was going to take place.  There was an observation platform about half way up that was an achievable target.  So I headed up the trail.  There were bridges over fast moving rivers, beautiful foiliage and lots of sweaty hikers descending the trail.  It is customary to exchange so0me small chat when you are on trails, so I did my best, realizing that I hadn't conversed with a human being for almost 2 days.  There was a russian woman who said that she and her 2 friends had been "followed" by a moose further up the trail, she said to be nice to this moose, because he was young.  I said, I would.

I never saw the moose as I made my way to the observation platform, but when I got there after 4 kilometers of grueling uphill hiking, the view made up for the lack of moose.  There was a mountaintop lake and rivers and it was so gorgeous.  I didn't feel I had climbed high enough, and decided to climb another kilometer up to the rockier more treacherous part of Gros Morne.  I got up to a nice high vantage point over looking the valley at the base of this small mountain, and sat atop a boulder to suck it all in.  I wanted to take a picture, but my camera was dead, so it was a mental snapshot.  I scoured the valley below and saw a large dark shape moving among the shortbrush below.  There was Bullwinkle, plodding along easily visible from my lofty perch.  I watched him for a few minutes until a swarm of mosquitoes tore apart my peaceful reverie with their incessant need to feed on me.  I began my decent.

It was getting late, and again I started to feel fear creep up inside of me as the darkness choked the mountain.  I didn't want to rush and bust an ankle by fleeing in panic, but I was in the grip of some intense fear.  I had to stop to talk myself down, which I was able to sucessfully do.  On my way down, as if attracted to my fear, birds started swooping around my head, and I swore I could hear bears crashing through the underbrush just out of my visual range.  The mind plays funny tricks when it is scared...  I did get a grip though, but when I saw the parking lot at the base of the trail a wave of relief overwhelmed me.

My plan was to get as close to the Port at the southwestern part of Newfoundland and so I drove on knowing that my ferry was leaving at 10am the next day.  I had about 350 kms of ground to cover, but was soon slammed by a heavy storm, accompanied with high winds, downpours of rain and viscious lightening that made the usually beautiful province seem dark and ominous.  I drove for a couple hundred kilometers in this harsh weather before pulling over at a post office and taking refuge for the night. 

The next day I drove the remaining 130 kms or so, in cloudy wet weather, thankfully free of storms.  I got too the ferry, said goodbye to the rock and its peoples, and was sad.  Now the western leg begins.

So we need to talk about the budget here.  I filled up the tank four times in Newfoundland and I am now below my target.  I left the province with about 500 dollars in my pocket.  There are at least 3 tanks of gas just to get the 1500kms back to Ontario.  So the situation isn't critical, but I will have to come up with something if I am going to keep this mission alive.

I should add, I loved the Maritimes, and all those I met.  The memories I have from this leg of my adventure will be etched in my mind till my dying days.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Cape Breton campers, religous answers and return of the Mack...erel.

I took the scenic route up the Nova Scotia coast, opting for imagery over brevity.  What I got was a sweet drive through villages with names like Spry Bay, Musquodoboit Harbour or my personal favourite, "Mushaboom" .

As I closed in on Port Hood, home of hockey legend Al McInnis, and my new hosts Bob and Lynn Martin, I was exasperated by the rugged cliffs nestled along the Island's western coast.  As seems to be the custom once again, I was greeted with warm hearts and handshakes by Bob and Lynn.  Their home a west facing multi-windowed and doored sea front bungalow was something out of a house and home magazine.  We chatted about the 23 million dollar boat parked in the bay a few hundred meters from their deck.  The giant boat owned by the the original builder of the World Trade Center, Larry Silverstein, was taking refuge from the rough seas beyond Port Hood island.  Bob mentioned the last boat of that size and stature was last seen over a decade previous and was none other then the one on the back of the Canadian dime, the Bluenose.

Lynn and Bob treated me in exemplary fashion, I felt like Prince William and Kate, yes, like both of them simultaneously.  They showed me to my quaters, a 30 plus foot camper, with all the amenities of modern living;  cable, internet, 2 TVs, fully functioning kitchen, shower and did I mention that it was 20 feet from the sea, whose waves would drift me off into slumber later that night?  To top it off, the camper was brand new, and I was to be the first passenger on her stationary, maiden voyage.  So far these were the nicest accommodations yet on the One Grand Adventure.  The final "coup d'etat" came when Bob offered me $100 bill to "help me along". I was blown out of my sandals.  If I could describe gratitude in words it would be a paltry attempt at describing the intense emotions I felt that night. 

It was a chilly night and an even chillier morning with the blustery winds blowing.  I decided to head off to Louisberg, a French built fortress on the Eastern side of Cape Breton that was the site of many battles with the invading British hordes.

I arrived at the fortress and was bussed to its front gates.  I was welcomed in by one of the many staff, fully dressed in the garb of the times and I headed towards the fortress town's square, where I could hear military style drumming.  Apparently one of the townspeople had been caught stealing wine from the church, and was being sentenced to time in the stockade.  The young man pleaded for his freedom as did his sister, well positioned within the crowd of onlookers.  After a convincing display, the man's punishment was downgraded to latrine cleaning duties instead, and released from his shackles.  It was pretty awesome, I was into it.

I wandered around for a few hours taking in many more "acts" as I tried to immerse myself in late 18th century life.  Muskets were fired, sheep herded, and gardens tended, all in the modality of the times.  I did a walking tour of the fortress with one of the guides (in plain clothes) and learned about the forts early history as a fishing outpost, due in large part to the Acadian expulsion in Nova Scotia.  I also learned that soldiers of the time rarely bathed, if ever, and feared water and cleanliness because they thought it was bad luck to be clean.  Louisberg comes highly recommended and is worth the $18 admission.  Again I have Lynn and Bob to thank.

The next day was a write off because of the uncharacteristic cold and wet weather happening in the maritimes.  I don't think the mercury cracked 12 degrees Celsius that day, so it was a "hang out in the camper" day, which I was more then happy to do.  I had a nice nap watched some TV and read and wrote.  I made the best of the crummy weather.

The next day was glorious, warm, sunny, with a cloudless sky.  It was boat time!!  The entire cove was alive with activity, the previous day's weather embargo now lifted.  Now I love boats, the fondest memories I have of my father are on a boat, the smell of open air and water lifts my spirits and puts a grin on my face.  Bob gave a great tour around Port Hood Island and Henry Island, and the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.  We stopped and decided to drop some jigs in the water to catch some mackerel.  A mackerel rod is not much more then a stick with a few dozen meters of line and several inter-spaced lures.  A far cry technologically from my lightweight carbon fiber, fancy shmancy fly rod.  A mackerel though is not a salmon or trout, and is a bait fish that swim in schools.  I am pretty sure they would bite a cheet-o if used as bait.  However, the Mackeral were elusive. After what seemed an eternity, Bob caught a nice sized one, as a seal that was out on the hunt looked on.  I couldn't catch a cold.  Bob promised we would return to the open sea after dinner to try our luck once more.

Lynn cooked up a nice dinner, once again, and Bob was on appetizer duty.  The mackerel was delicious, fresh from the ocean to our plates.  As I indulged I couldn't help feeling excitement about going back out, wanting to catch my first mackerel.  We were told by the neighbour's visiting son-in-law, a fishermen anchored just off  shore, that the mackerels don't bite when there is sun.  I looked to the heavens and saw the clouds coming in.  Tonight would be my night!

We went out into the breach once more and found a spot to anchor in forty feet of water.  It didn't take long for the fish to start biting, at least on Bob's line.  He pulled up and had three or four fish hooked to his jigs, we unhooked the fish and kept our lines in the water.  I eagerly waited for my time to come, when would I get some bites? After watching Bob haul in another load of mackerel my time had come.  I felt the fish tugging at my line, and as instructed I waited a few seconds before jerking upwards to set the hooks.  I pulled up on the line, it wasn't too much of a fight and brought some fair sized mackerels aboard.  There were three of them all roughly a pound or so struggling to get free.  One of them came loose, and found his way to freedom, but the other two ended up in a bucket with eight more of their brethren.  It felt good to finally catch a fish on the this adventure.  Now to catch one on my flyrod... hopefully Newfoundland will be the place.

They call me captain Highliner, Yarr!

We headed home, and got the boat out of the water with a minor mishap.  The family dog ended up being on the bow of the boat when we were pulling it out of the water, and when Bob hit the brakes, he went flying like a canine version of superman.  He hit the ground with a yelp but after a couple of dazed moments recovered and was running a muck.

While on our way back home, Bob noticed their long time family friend, Roddy, and company sitting on the porch of one of the houses we had pasted.  We turned around, boat in tow, and pulled over and greeted Roddy an 82 year old man, full of life, good cheer and humour.  The mackerel we had caught became an offering to the man, who in early 2010 had slipped on the ice while at a minor hockey league game, and broken his neck.  You would never know that a tragedy had befallen Roddy, as he was so full of energy and gusto, I got tired watching him.  His energy was contagious and everyone on that porch was laughing and smiling.  I wish him continued success in his amazing recovery.

 The next day was hard, as I had to say goodbye once more to some excellent people, people who had treated me so well that all I can do is learn from there generous example and incorporate it into my own personality.  Lynn presented me with a bag of food for my Journey to Newfoundland and again the warmth of the gesture overwhelmed me.  I said farewell and began my drive northwards to Gampo Abbey, a Buhddist monastery on the northwestern tip of Cape Breton.

I drove the Cabot Trail highway and was witness to yet another drive filled with post card quality mental snapshots.  As I travel Canada I am truly inspired by the limitless beauty that is this country.  I am grateful that I have this opportunity in my life, to take in so much of its staggering incandescence.

After a couple hours I arrived on a dirt road en route to the Abbey.  Being highly attracted to buhddism and many of its doctrines, this was a place I had planned to visit before my rubber had hit the road, one of few such destinations that was preplanned.

I found the Abbey and parked my car.  Quietly, I walked the grounds in contemplation, taking in the beautiful scenery that was part of such a harsh and rugged environment.  There was a sense of peace, prevalent and non-intrusive that accompanied my exploration of the Gampo's grounds, putting me at complete ease.  A tour of the Abbey had begun and I asked to tag along, of course it was no problem, this was a buhddist monastery after all.

Though there were many statues of the Buhdda and other great teachers of the doctrine strewn about, I learned these were not for worship, they were merely instruments to inspire meditation.  The religion doesn't worship the Buhdda, only his practice of attaining enlightenment.   At this particular facility, you may become part of the monastic life by studying buhddism and its tenents for a prolonged period of time, up to a year.  Students practice silence and meditation, work and study and live their lives according to buhddist principles for the duration of their stay.  Part of me wanted to join this peaceful environment and stay for the one year, however I am propelled by a deeper commitment to complete this journey.

When we entered the prayer room, I felt a sharp perceptible increase in positive energy.  I felt a hum of happiness and increase of peace.  The golden Buhdda looked on, urging me to keep sending out loving vibes, which I am trying to do as much as possible on a daily basis.  I will keep being inspired by the buhddist faith and living more from my heart.  I heart Buhddism, I really do.

The Gampo Abbey (this is not my photo!!)

During the tour I met 2 couples, one from Halifax and the other, two were friends traveling Nova Scotia together.  I walked with the two friends, he a school teacher from New Jersey and She a shrink from Calgary, (Sorry their names elude me!) to the Abbey's Stupa, a sort of miniature temple, surrounded with slogans of from the Monastery's founders.

I said goodbye to the others and headed for the North Syndney ferry, which was to take me to my final stop in the Maritimes: the "Rock".  Everyone has told me that the Newfies are the friendliest maritimers of all, I will soon let you know if the rumours are true....

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Halifax, a place to chillax and relax.

Halifax is a cool place. 

I arrived, as I always do it seems on this journey of mine, sometime shortly after sunset.  It was a short drive from PEI to Nova Scotia's capital, a little over 3 hours.  The drive in was speckled with popcorn freshwater lakes, dotted with rocky shorelines.  It was tres, tres nice.

I arrived at the little apartment building off of Quinn Street and met up with my fifth couch surfing host Colleen.  As was the maritime tradition I was greeted warmly, offered food and drink, and treated with the most amiable of dispositions.  Colleen and I had a great discussion about life, travel, and society and then her roomate Ian showed up and we chatted for a bit.  Ian was coming in from one of the many Jazz shows that were taking place in Hali during the week.  Ian himself a Jazz musician would be playing in the show later in the week.  

The next day was rainy, damp but mild, a typical lazy kind of day.  Colleen made me a delicious omelette and then I gave her a lift into work.  My friend April (AKA Bon Jovi) came to pick me up for lunch and a trip to the maritime museum.  We went out and had a bowl of Pho and I was feeling pretty sleepy so I decided a nap was in order.  All the hard work in PEI had taken its toll on me and my body had put in a R and R requisition which I was more then glad to comply with.

I went back to the apartment and dozed into a dreamy haze unique to rainy days where you feel no motivation to do anything but rest and relax.  I felt a short pang of guilt for not going to the museum, but I have gotten accustomed to listening to my body.  If it wants a nap, it is tired.  I give it nap.  It says thanks you.

I got up, still half-dazed, but forced myself to get mobile.  I drove down to Quinpool Ave and found a little coffee shop with wi-fi called ``Ireland 32``.  The owner was Latvian, just kidding, he was as Irish as a shamrock, and I ordered a green chai latte.  Yes, I am a metrosexual man.  I hammered out my PEI adventures, and goofed around on the internet.  Danny McBride is the funniest man alive right now, seriously.  Having a complete loss for dates and times at this point in my adventure, I was politely informed by the owner it was 7pm and that meant closing time.  We had a quick chat, I told him about the 1GA and handed him a business card. 

Later that night, still feeling sapped of energy, I picked up Colleen from work and we watched a movie and had some delicious nachos.  Halifax is chillax.

The next day was a little more active, I felt I needed a dose of local culture so I headed out with Colleen and her friend Rich to the Maritime museum.  There were lots of boats, stuff from boats, sextons and compasses, more boats, a few articles from the Titanic, and models of boats, and models of models of boats... The most interesting and disturbing exhibit was about the Halifax explosion.  In December 1917 two ships collided in the city harbour, one of them loaded with bombs.  It was utter devastation.  Blackened wreckage, fire, mayhem and hell on Earth.  I really had no idea.

Outside was a decommissioned research vessel the SS Acadia which I solemnly boarded and contemplated what I had seen inside the museum.  The price to be a part of history is usually high, and lessons learned are paid for with the lives of those of the time.  The view from the boat was nice and I took off looking for some dinner.  I was off to the Spring Garden Library where I was told I could get a nice veggie meal from the Food Not Bombs people. 

I drove over to the Library and got a cup of veggie food with the people putting on the event.  I had a polite chat with a couple of girls who had cooked up the vegan meal that was free to anyone who wanted some.  Anytime there is food for free on this mission of mine, I am more then glad to do my part in saving it from a landfill or compost heap.  The FFBs folks were young, tatooed, dread-locked but very friendly and I tip my hat to their efforts in feeding the homeless (my self temporarily included).

After some navigational problems April and I, after multiple texts back and forth located each other and headed to a local pub to meet up with a dude named Mark, a couch-surfer from L.A. 

To briefly interject here, what is a couch-surfer really?  The image I conjured up when I first heard about it was that of an unkempt, disheveled wandering hobo, looking for a freebie.  That could not be further then the truth.  It's just people, all walks of life, all races, and nationalities, with a single unified understanding; traveling is awesome, paying for hotels or accomodations not so much.  Meeting new people is awesome, especially those who are local, you learn more, see more and spend less.  Some people love to host, some to surf, some to meet new people like my friend Mark from L.A. and some love to do it all. To sum up, couch surfing is awesome. 

New friends, well met in Halifax (Mark, Colleen and April)

 So Mark is a thirty something guy who travels a lot on business.  He is in a hotel because his company foots the bill, he is just out meeting new people in Halifax.  We are in a basement pub somewhere off Barrington Street a main drag that runs parallel to the harbour area.  We are sitting at a small table, and more couch surfers keep showing up.  Eventually there is a group of 6 and we are having a grand old time.  We talk about Canadian accents, the failing American dream and everything in between.  I had so much fun meeting all these fellow couch surfers, I can't wait to meet more of them.

So my exit from Hali was untriumphant, I said goodbye to my gracious host Colleen and her room mate Ian and headed out.  I did stop for some Dim Sum on my way out of town, as I was ahead of budget. 

Budget after Halifax (after dim sum and a tank top up): $840.  Not bad for 2 weeks of travel. 

I decided to take the scenic route out of town along the coast, and was glad for my decision, it was a picturesque drive up Nova Scotia's route 7, next stop, the western coast of Cape Breton Island...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

intermezzo # 1

I have been on the road for 2 weeks now.  It feels like a lifetime in the blink of an eye.  What am I doing, why am I doing what I am doing? Am I running or seeking, or both?  I know one thing, I am learning and I am growing.

Travel has a way of redefining our own boundaries, of redrawing the edges of what we think we might know.  It is in essence freedom, otherwise why would we look so forward to our time off?  Our time away from the hive.  Because really, that is what some of us seek, the spiritual restlessness that can only be quenched by immersion into the unknown and foreign.

I have seen much beauty, and thought much about many things.  Maybe I won't come back to Ottawa.  Where is my home, is it someplace inside of me?  What in the hell are we doing to our home planet?  Why am I eating this KFC right now, damn it tastes so good.

I don't really have any answers to any of these questions.  But I am very glad that I can just ask them with out reprisal.  I am glad that I have the obligation, the privilege, and gift of life.  Really it was a cosmic miracle that I am here, and is a secondary cosmic miracle that I am aware that I am here and that I am a cosmic miracle.  I am conscious and I am creating, even if it is only the words you are reading before you.  Soak it in, that is the mission for now.  Be grateful, as much as possible, that people are here to care, and to help, and to be a part of my journey through this one life that is like no other, that has been or ever will be.

So I am getting  philosophical.  So what!   I will look back on this Journey for years to come and will be glad.  I will be glad for the sunsets, the smell of the sea, the rainbows, the whales,  and the ospreys.  I will be glad for the friendships, the talks, the laughs, the toilet paper that is given so freely.  I will be glad for life, and the treasure it is, if we look at, and live it in a way that best suits it, freely and open-hearted.

I am learning that truly we are all one,  when will the masses get this?  We are all bound by the confines of the same solitary reality, that being, we are all residents of one home, one that does not recognize borders, our mother, the Earth.  Don't believe me?  Zoom out one million times, all you see is blue and green.  All you see is a family, struggling to stay alive and together.  We just haven't met each other yet, and we are still trying to understand one another.  We need to keep reaching out, let go of what we think we are and embrace the unknown.  Discomfort is mandatory, but this too shall pass.  Time to grow up.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

PEI: Blaine, the Rain, Lumberjacked, with Woods-a-stacked.

Coming across the Confederation bridge was as anticlimactic as finishing flossing.  The one and a half meter concrete guard rails robbing me of much of an ocean view.  Still, the drive around the province/island was refreshing.  I just drove around and around, soaking in the sights, and the fresh Atlantic air.

I met my fourth couch-surfing host at the far end of North Rustico's tiny peninsula.  Blaine was working on building a house with views facing the sea to the East and the harbour to the West.  His friendly demeanor and  maritime accent put me at ease instantly.  We went to grab a bite to eat up the road, and I had to splurge on some of the finest fish n' chips I have had to date.

As we got to know each other, I quickly realized that Blaine was a born entrepreneur.  He is the king of firewood in the North Island, and has his lot of land filled with various vehicles,  a couple of pick up trucks, a car, a dumptruck and a loader.  Also blocking his view from Route 13 a mountain of logs weighing in the tonnes, several dozen I am sure.

In PEI the demand for firewood is high, the island is for the most part one giant rural community and is thus not pipe-lined to a source of natural gas, as it would be too costly for any company to build pipes to accommodate the island's winter population of 140 000.  So wood stoves tend to be the cheapest alternative when compared to the alternatives of oil, or electric.  Four cords of wood will last most people a winter, and at $160 a cord, the savings are immense.

Blaine showed me the beaches on my second day, pointing out the strands of seaweed known as Irish Moss strewn about the rainy beaches.  Irish moss washes ashore in giant clusters after a storm and can be collected and sold for the carrageenan, a thickening agent used in many foods.

I was invited to have a dinner of seafood chowder with Blaine's parents.  The homemade biscuits and chowder was the best thing I ate while in PEI, by a long shot.  We also enjoyed a slice of apple pie with a daub of ice cream for desert while I listened intently to the stories Blaine's father recounted about living a life on the coast.  Once again I was witness to the unmatched hospitality of the maritime people.

Blaine took me to one of his cutting lots in a small patch of forest he had payed to chop, and we filled the back of his pick up with fire logs.  Blaine's chainsaw skills would make that dude from Texas look like a wee little lass.  It astounded me how quickly several felled trees were turned into money.

On Sunday, we went out to the "AQUANUT", Blaine's forty foot boat.   We arrived about an hour before some expected company was to join us at sea, only to find out once starting the boat's engine, that the alternator was burning up.  I was impressed when Blaine went into a compartment in the boat's floorboards and produced a brand new alternator.  I was in awe as I watched him uninstall and reinstall alternators in less then a half hour, once again astounded by his abilities.  The company arrived and we cruised out from shore a little ways, anchored, and everyone took turns jumping into the chilly Atlantic.  There were two little girls, Ceilia, 2, and Aspen, 6, who were the centres of attention.  Their parents Mellisa and Darren were super nice folks vacationing in PEI from Calgary.  Blaine emerged on deck, in a wet suit and full dive gear and jumped in the sea disappearing beneath the surface, only locatable by the clusters of bubble that breached the salty surface. 

After the peaceful, laughter filled voyage we headed to land and had a nice dinner.  I extend my thanks to Darren and Melissa for picking up the tab on that one, due to the kindness of strangers my journey is allowed continuance.

Blaine and I went back to his place where we began tackling the trees in front of his place.  We hauled and cut logs into firewood for over 2 hours until we had the back of his dumptruck filled to the brim with firewood.  I slept good that night.

On Monday, I went to work with Blaine on a dilapidated property and dug some three foot holes for fence posts.  Blaine paid me 65 bucks for my work that day and the evening before, and after thanking Blaine for everything, once again I was on the road, but not before a quick trip to the beautiful beaches!

Before I hit the bridge, I did something I have never done in my life; picked up hitchhikers!  Matt and Nicole were young bohemians who were at event on the island (I wish I had known about) called "Woods Talk", a small gathering of eclectic personality and music somewhere in the PEI forests.  We had a great conversation and they gave me some ideas of places to visit in Nova Scotia.  I dropped them off at the side of the road and we parted ways, I hope to run into these two again at some point, our time together was too short.  Did I mention they were couch-surfers as well!

                                            Blaine: the man with the plan.

I am excited to explore Halifax, and so the one grand adventure continues...

Budget check after leaving PEI and 11 days on the road...$950.   Thank you MT for paying my toll across the Confederation Bridge!

Video 2. Quebec to New Brunswick.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Cow wranglin', hay bale madness, Acadian hospitality and elbows deep in cow.

I coasted into Memracook, New Brunswick on less then a tenth of a tank of gas near dusk.  The sun was setting in the idyllic hills of this quiet Acadian village, quietly beckoning me into its gentle embrace.  After asking for some directions at the local "bit-o-everything" town store, I was guided to a farm house looking down into the quiet Acadian valley.

I rolled into the driveway, anxiously awaiting my reception.  I saw a young, scruffy and wiry young man using a pitch fork to launch clumps of decomposing compost from a trailer onto the lawn below.  I gave a casual wave and knew immediately that the young fellow was Jer, the couchsurfer extraordinaire. 

We exchanged a few pleasantries, and immediately I was struck by his welcoming geniality.  He offered me a bite to eat, which I happily agreed to, my stomach welcoming an alternative to the trail mix bombardment it had suffered on the eight hour drive from Gaspe.

I was quickly introduced to Jer's folks, Leon and Phyliss Gaudet, hardworking Acadian farmers who had been working the land around me for decades.  There was none of the usual awkwardness that is accustomed to meeting strangers, like their son they were warm and congenial  and made this adventurer feel at home immediately.

Retiring, they left Jer and I to converse.  As I talked while Jer cooked and conversed, I realised the kindred spirit we both shared.  Both of us are left wing hippies who really want to find alternatives for making the future cleaner, healthier and happier for our fellow humans.  We talked into the late hours of evening and on into early morning.  I think we both learned a lot from each other.

I was excited about sleeping for the first time in a while.  This was the first real bed I had seen since home and it was in fact better then my rundown twin mattress.  I crawled into bed and slept a solid ten hours without reprieve.

I awoke to an empty house, but could see the hustle and bustle in the fields sloping down away from the house.  I breathed in the clean country air and just sat outside on the deck which circumnavigated the house.  Humming birds buzzed by me and peace washed over me.  Little did I realize I was about to be a willing victim to my first dose of true Acadian hospitality.

Phylis came in and asked if I was hungry, my mind screamed "YES! STARVING!" but I casually replied "I could eat".  She whizzed through the kitchen like the hummingbirds whipped through the warm summer air outside.  After a few minutes I was mowing down on home made meat pies, salad, fresh eggs from the farm and raw milk from the family dairy farm.  My mind and body satisfied, I toured the farm with Jer.

Jer showed me into the barn where about twenty cows awaited their daily milking.  I was introduced to Jer's older brother Justin who was eager to extend even more Gaudet family kindness.  He was more then happy to answer this city slicker's questions about how the farm operated and made revenue. 

Jer got me to hook up a milker to the a cow, and it was the first time I ever touched a cow's utter.  It felt alien and strange, but after a couple of tries I hooked the milker to the heifer, who thankfully allowed my unskilled hands to fondle her so clumsily.  I went with Justin into another barn where he fed the younger, and pregnant cows that weren't milkable.   Justin's insight into the agricultural industry really opened my eyes to the struggles that the farmers currently face, and will be facing down the road.  His intelligence was surprising and his future endeavors involve traveling around the world to learn about farming practices abroad.  His goal is to adapt the family farm so it can be profitable using a more efficient, petroleum free model.  I was fascinated and could have talked to him for hours.  I have so much more respect for what farmers do, the back breaking work they put in and the struggles they face.  I will never look at a glass of milk or a chunk of cheese in the same way ever again.

After the milking was finished I was informed of our next mission.  We were to separate a heifer in heat from the rest of the herd, problem was, this cow was used to the freedom of pasture life and had been accustomed to being outside for months.  I asked Justin what this meant, and he told me that these cows were less docile and more unruly.  "Great" I thought, my trip is going to end with me getting trampled by a group of unruly cattle.

We approached the herd of about two dozen or so cattle.  Jer walked right in like he was a confident gunslinger walking into the town saloon.  I don't know how, but somehow the reddish tinted heifer was charging out of the herd solo.  She ran towards me and I almost peed in my pants but managed to scare her in another direction.  A few seconds later however, the spooked cow had found a chink in our human chain and made her way back to the herd.  Jer went back in, again with surprising bravado and got her out again, this time with a herd mate in tow.  We managed to triangulate on the two cows and kept working her towards the barn.

Eventually we had red-tint and her friend cornered, and the two cows made a break for it, exposing a small weakness in our defenses.  Justin came to the rescue to plug the hole, slipped, and nearly got himself trampled by the black heifer who got away.  He managed to make enough of a racket to scare red-tint back before she would have trampled him down.  Quick to his feet, Justin and Jer worked the cow back to the barn.  After a bit of a cat and mouse in the barn, Justin bridled "red-tint" and tied her into one of the milking stalls.

A heifer in heat is a heifer in need, at least on a farm.  Justin suited up with with his shoulder length latex gauntlets, and after thawing some sperm which he produced from a vat of liquid nitrogen, stuck his arm in the cow's ass, and the insemination tube in the cow's "you-know-what".  After the brief procedure the Heifer was returned to pasture, a much easier task then the one before, and the job was done.

We returned home had a late dinner and it was back out to the barn to stack bales of hay.  Leon, Justin, Jer, and Jeremie, a tough sixteen year old farmhand, were all present to start lobbing 40lb bales of hay.  We stacked and stacked and stacked some more.  When the job was done, we were all covered in a film of perspiration.  My hands were raw and my fore arms scratched up to shit.  Thinking the job was done I naively asked, "what now?"

To my dismay I was informed there were about 300 more bales of hay to stack!

A couple of hours later the job was done, we headed home and hit the "hay".  I think now I know where the expression originates.

The next day, Phyllis treated me to a full tank of gas, and my new friend for life, Jer, told me he too, had a gift for me.  He reached into his pocket and produced three twenties and a ten.  Seventy bucks!!  It almost brought tears to my eyes, after all there kindness and generosity, this!  My faith in humanity is restored a little more each day.  If there were more families like the "Gaudets" on this planet we would be living in paradise.  There aren't words in English, French or any other language that can express the deep gratitude and pleasure that I feel after knowing these people.  If I can be half has kind and generous as these people, I'd have accomplished a great deal in my life.  Thank you so much, all of you.

So I am now arrived in PEI where I will be staying in a camper on the beach.  I have yet again no expectations, other then to stay open and let life and the universe guide me where it may.

After one week of travel, my thousand bucks has only dwindled to $930!! Thanks in part to the magnanimous souls I have met along this road.  Thank you Mitch, April, and the Gaudets.  Merci!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Porcupines at the End of the World

Driving into Gaspe was like being sucker-punched with a double dose of beauty.  The highway hugged the coastline for hundreds of kilometers and wound delicately through coastal villages blessed with breathtaking vistas.  It ranks easily in my top 5 best drives of all time.  It would rank in the top 3 had I not been once again punched, but this time with an Atlantic uppercut of a storm.  There was a good forty minutes where I thought I was going to drive into a moose and then ricochet off said moose into the steep valleys lining the highway's most easterly end.

Obviously I made it.

I arrived around 10pm on the fourth of July and was greeted warmly by Audrey and Yannick, young francophone couchsurfers who agreed to take my low budget anglophone butt in from the raging storm.  They were cordial and polite and covered in some wild tattoos.

The next day after helping Yanncik with some backyard clean up duties, we went off to the beach where we met up with a couple of their friends, Guyaumme and Jean-Michel (or Mitch as he liked to be called).  We had some pleasant conversation on the beach, but I felt held back because of the language barrier.  Their english was far better then my french, and we made do.  I really truly wish I was fluent in French.

Yannick mentioned that there might be a job available cooking here in town with him but I politely declined stating that I am enjoying my new found occupation as a road scholar to be far more fulfilling.

We headed back to there house and they whipped up some Gaspe home cooking.  Yannick at 23 is a very accomplished and gifted cook.  I have had a fair bit of game meat in my life and never has it been prepared so perfectly.  We had bbq venison and moose roast accompanied with a delicious potato avec confi.  Superbe!

After eating some of the local wildlife I decided it my be a good idea to see some at Forillion National Parc, and headed out with my new-used boots and a day pack.  After a beautiful scenic postcard drive I payed my $7.80 to enter the park and proceeded to drive to where the Iroquois thought was "the end of the world". 
The hiking trail hugged the rugged slopes and meandered up and down with the ridges.  To the south the cold blue ocean teemed with a small pod of whales.  Their deep exhales punching through the silence and quickening my heartbeat.  I have never seen a whale in the ocean, needless to say, it is a beautiful thing. 

I made my way to the tip of the penisula where the view made me feel like I was Harrison Ford in an epic adventure film.  The 4k hike, mostly uphill was worth every bead of sweat.  I began my return descent with the sun's rays fading beyond the rolling hills and valleys of this awe-inspiring landscape.  I kept hearing the "wooosh" of whales coming up for a quick breaths and was hoping to catch a glance in the fading light, when, I heard a noise in front of me.

There was Mr. Prickles the porcupine, a step in front of me on the trail.  His (her?) quills were fully extended and had I not heeded the sound warning, your author would probably be in a waiting room giving you insight into the Quebec health care system.  Anyhow, prickles took off and so did I, two strangers crossing paths in the wilderness.

So tomorrow I make for Moncton NB to stay with Jer, my newest couch surfing friend.  After that it's PEI!!
The end of the world....

Monday, 4 July 2011

Saturday Night Circue-du Soleil, DD, surfing and moving couches and no Salmon for me

Saturday night in Quebec City.  Mind blowing.

April, Mitch and I went back to the Citadel and had a picnic on the embankment facing Quebec city's old port.  The view was spectacular as it was the evening before, but seeing the city during the day was awesome. 

After hanging out for a couple of hours we headed into the old city and made our way to an underpass that had been converted into an urban stage for the Cirque du Soleil.  The troupe is putting on a free show for the entire summer and we thought we would catch the performance.  After waiting with the teeming masses we were let in through an industrial, corrugated metal fence.  The stage was made up of empty shipping containers and scaffolds that hugged the supports of the freeway we were under.  It was creative use of industrial materials to make something beautiful.  The show began and I was left mesmerized.  I had yet to see a Cirque du Soleil show and was completely captivated by the dreamlike spell the performance had cast upon me. 

I remember at being in awe of the details, and the culmination of them into a fantastic show.   I thought how can human beings create something so beautiful and creatively inspiring such as this, and on the other hand be able to create weapons of equal ingenuity in the name of war (and peace).  I realise now how important the Arts are.  Art creates joy in people's life, it lifts us up, and inspires us. 

After the show we headed down to the old port and hung out on the pier and had yet another great conversation.  We made our way to the "bar street" and walked into, without paying a dime for cover, a bar with live music on its main floor and techno boom boom on the top level.  We chose to spend our time with the live band, who played everything from Greenday to Metallica.  It was totally gnarly.

After this we went back to the secret enclave bar we had discovered the previous night and listened to more live music, and talked about life.  The show became more interactive when April decided to get up and sing Bon Jovi's "Bed of Roses" with the band.  The whole event is video recorded and will be live broadcast to the teeming masses of the online community later this week.

We headed home and had a cheese and Kolbassa party, and retired for the evening around 4am.

I can honestly say that was the most entertained I have been on a weekend in a long time.  I bought a coke for $1.69 and that is all I spent the entire evening.  I spent 5 dollars on our dinner picnic. April donated $20 dollars for to me for gas since I was the DD the last few days.  So the adventure goes on!!

Sunday morning April left us and Mitch and I had a relaxed day, we made some breakfast fajitas and I went to explore the surrounding river system with my trusty fly rod.  I found a beautiful spot about 15 minutes away from base HQ and hunkered down to do some fly fishing. 

The spot I chose was near a beautiful set of rapids where salmon head up river.  There were a couple other fly fisherman about but none of us could catch anything.  Regardless I love being near running water on rivers and had a great time trying to fish.

Later that evening my host and I moved a pair of couches from his friend on the base to his place.  For my labor Mitch paid me $25.  Sweet!!

Today I am making for Gaspe, a town at the end of the Gaspe peninsula and will be meeting some new couch surfing hosts Yannick and Audrey.  I am looking forward to meeting them, and to driving for nine hours!

So a budget check leaves me with $961 and this is after filling my gas tank to the brim.  Ok need to pack and say thank you to Mitch, a dude who has been absolutely tremendous.   Thank you so much buddy, you are one of the good ones.

Now, on to Gaspe!!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Departures and Arrivals

A day and a half of vigorous packing, and I do mean vigorous.

Mental somersaults.  Major anxiety.  I have no plan beyond a vague wavering concept of travelling East to West and heading North at some point.  I know one thousand dollars is not even enough of my own money to fuel this odeyssey.  I don't know anything.  However, I need to start walking the talk, and practicing the concepts I have been preaching for years. 

I am a firm believer in the "Law of Attraction".  That being that we "attract" into reality the visions and pictures we see most often in our mind.  I can say that I have honestly been thinking about this adventure almost daily for the last 3 years.  I know it will not go according to my design, but it will "go" according to "a" design.  So far so good.  I just know the next few days ahead of me, and I am letting go and letting events unfold naturally.  I am attached to nothing and am acting only when I feel it necessary.

So I packed up yesterday, said goodbye to some people I love, and hit the road and headed to Quebec City.  I blitzkrieged through montreal, coming only to a stop to a navigation error.  I blame the GPS, however, I just got the thing and it is more then possible that I just misread the controls.  How many people have been in my situation I wondered?  I got back on the "20 Est" and resumed my course.

 I fully stopped once on the way, having an insatiable coffee craving.  My friend Tim Horton was more then happy to oblige.  I must say, it was the best large "double double" I have ever had in my life.  It's funny how a buck sixty-nine can bring so much joy to a weary traveller.  I will happily add that is all I spent on my first day of the 1GA: a buck sixty-nine.

Driving into Quebec City at sunset took the breath from me,  I wasn't ready for it and it caught me off guard.  I remember smiling from ear to ear and feeling a buoyancy in my heart.  I had arrived at my first point of interest.

After another GPS "Off Route" error mishap, I was on my way to meet Mitchell C., a dude I had only met via  I arrived at his place around 8:30 and was greeted warmly by Mitch and another Canada eastbound couchsurfer named April.  We sat and talked, trying to find the commonalities between us.  We meshed well and decided to head into the old city.

The drive into Old Quebec was amazing.  At 403 years old, it is the oldest city in Canada, and one of the oldest in North America.  In Canada it is one of the most historic. If you haven't been here, you need to get here.

Micthel a combat engineer with the Candian Forces appropriately directed us to park the car at the Citadel.  The Citadel is the oldest military fortification of its kind in Canada.  Mitch took us to his favourite spot along the ramparts, and we were witness to one of the most beautiful nighttime cityscapes I have ever seen.
Down below the city Of Quebec was alive, throngs of people wandering the city, I could feel her pulse.  Energy coalescing to form a living city. 

We wandered with the throngs below, exploring this captivating city.  Mitch discovered a hidden alley with a bar at its end.  We followed his lead and could hear the live music echoing along the stone walls of the alley.  We sat and talked into the early hours of the morning as the band played everything from CCR to Pink Floyd.   The conversation was awesome and the company was equally so.  My first day of the 1GA was amazing, April and Mitch were amazing human beings, thank you both so much.

We hit McD's ($1.69 double cheeseburger!!) and April was kind enough to treat me.  April for the record is a sleep walking english teacher who is on vacation from teaching in Abu Dhabi and is a kind and fun soul.
So that was day one.

Thanks to new friends, I am off to a great start.  Thank you universe.

                                       Quebec Gang sign.