Nova Scotia Do-Over

July, 1995

In July, 1995, we repeated part of our previous trip to Nova Scotia, but this time with my father's Dodge van, who had by then acquired the name "Consuela".

July 17, 1995
West Apple River, NS

We are camped at the end of a grassy arm of sand that reminds me of Cruit, Ireland. Our van is at the end of the point, with the doors open to a wide bay. At high tide, we have oceanfront property; at low tide, the beach is 2 km away across a red mud flat. We had to wait for low tide to drive onto this peninsula, and we only tried it because we saw several tents here. On the whole bay, there are only three houses, although apparently there were many more 50-100 years ago when this was a busy fishing and shipbuilding port. Half a dozen lobster and scallop boatsbfish from here now. The wharf was taken out by the "Groundhog Storm" of 1972. All that remains are some old timbers. The sand filled in a huge area behind the wharf. The fishermen leave their boats there in the mud, using a wooden brace under the hull to keep the boat from falling over at low tide. The tides here run 50-60 feet, which means there is a two- to three-hour "window" every six hours when boats can get in and out of the channel. We met the owner of one of the boats last night, when Jaro built a big driftwood fire on the beach. In the Maritimes, building a bonfire is the equivalent of an open house. Ours attracted several visitors and we had a glorious evening under the stars. The captain — we never learned his name — was a wonderfully talkative fellow, telling us all about Apple River and fishing on the Bay of Fundy. He had built two boats and also had a pilot's license and a plane that he kept on a grassy field near town, The name of his boat was "AV8R". He brought a piece of wet rope from his boat to show us how phosphorescent sparks flew wheb he coiled it. We ran down to the water for a regular light show when we danced in the puddles left by the receding tide."

With the van, we were able to get to many of the destinations we had missed on on our previous trip. We returned to our favorite camping spot at Scot's Bay and repeated our hike to Cape d'Or. We tried to make our way into the proposed Chignecto Wilderness Area, following an old road west from Apple River. When the road ran out, we parked the van and continued on foot, following an old trail to a wide red sandstone beach which became slabs of green stone covered with snails and Irish moss as the tide tumbled away.

My biking trips in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Ireland left me longing to own a hostel somewhere in the Maritimes. On a side trip to West Advocate, I spotted the perfect house near the park entrance — and it was for sale!

We stopped for coffee at the Harbour Lite and there was "the house" in a photo on the wall. It was owned by Lillian, who worked at the cafe, and the asking price was $55,000. I almost fell off my chair. Could real estate really be so inexpensive in Nova Scotia?

On our way east towards Parrsboro, we stopped to say hello to if Margaret Greibl, the young aubergiste from Spencer's Island. She welcomed us with open arms, and in no time we were up the street to visit Gwen and Stan for the lastest information on the Chignecto Wilderness. It seemed we totally missed the new roads that would provide access to the park, and Margaret would be happy to hike it with us the following morning. We emded up making dinner together and camping in her yard. We made breakfast the next day, and got an early start for Chignecto. We were lucky to arrive at low tide, so we were able to follow the beach around sharp red cliffs to visit sea caves on the other side. One cave cut all the way through the cliff and we hiked through on a pebble-floored passage.

The morning fog turned to light rain, then heavy rain, and we returned to Cape d'Or for lunch. Margaret had decided I must see "the house" and we went back over the hill with Lillian. It was, in fact, the perfect house, with a huge kitchen, pantry, one large bedroom and two sitting rooms downstairs. Upstairs there was one small and four large bedrooms, all with views of the harbor. I drew diagrams of both floors in my journal. For the rest of the trip, I thought of little else.

We left the next day afternoon, bound for Halifax, our backup plan in case of rain. We camped at a nice spot near Peggy's Cove, but how different were the east and west coasts of Nova Scotia. The eastern shore is cut by many coves, and the main road was heavy traffic and non-stop antique shops and fast food restaurants. We stopped briefly at Peggy's Cove, where the parking lot was overflowing with RVs and buses, and the fog was so thick we could barely see the lighthouse.

We continued on to Halifax, but were never able to find parking, and manoevering the van through the narrow streets made me crabby. I barreled out of town and hurtled back toward the west coast, and treated ourselves to a long, late afternoon hike to Cape Split, returning to the van at 8:00 pm in fading light.

The next entry in my journal is a complex calculation of the potential revenue from a five-bedroom hostel based on occupancy rates varying from 50 to 80 per cent, and factoring in a tourist season ran from May to September, at best. Any way I sliced it, we would come up short. We would need at least one full-time salary plus some additional part-time income to support the hostel. We might have been able to make it work if both of us shared the same dream. But Jaromir had absolutely no interest in moving to Nova Scotia. Maybe this trip was the beginning of the end for us, although a few more years would pass before our relationship completely unravelled.

We returned to Montréal via the coast of New Brunswick, stopping to explore a barrier island off Bouctouche and a beautiful sandy beach at Maisonette. On the last night of the trip, we camped at a provincial park near Campbellton. and at 5:00 am the next morning we were on the road. It was a hot, humid day, and we were hoping we could squeeze in "one more day at the beach" by stopping in Parc La Mauricie for a few hours. But the van's air conditioning was making a lot of noise, and near Bic at the entrance to route 20, I saw a part fall off and roll down the highway. We ended up at a garage in Îsle Verte. We had lost the flywheel that was integral to both the air conditioning and the alternator. It wasn't a major repair, but we had to order the part from Montréal.

Jaromir caught a bus home, and I stayed behind with the van. I was hoping to spend the afternoon on the island, but after waiting two hours at the quai, I learned there were no boats until 10:00 that night. So I checked into B & B on the shore. And there I would stay, with no vehicle and nothing to do, for three long days.