Prince Edward Island
Back home in the UK people have issues with Prince Edward; they say he's camp, limp-wristed and good for nothing. I've actually had the benefit of meeting him and I, largely, disagree. I like to think of him as a little bit odd but otherwise reasonably normal - I guess he just struggles a little living in the shadows of his big brothers a little. It is fitting then that my opinion of the island bearing the same name was pretty much the same. I guess when you have Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia ‘proper' across the water you're never gonna come out on top.
I made full use of the ferry crossing (it's free to cross to PEI - you pay coming off the island) by heading up to the passenger deck, plugging my laptop into the wall and typing some emails to friends (no wi-fi on the boat, sadly, though there had been whilst waiting on the dockside which was a nice thought.) I was amazed how quickly the 75 minute crossing went and I was pleased to note the lack of bus loads of screaming school kids and smelly East European lorry drivers which we all associate with ferries in Europe.
I stopped at the traveller information office as I drove off the ferry but, as I should have expected, it was closed. Whilst the whole ‘sorry - closed for the season - see you next year' situation had been a frustration in Nova Scotia it was not something that had presented a massive problem. On PEI however it would; the whole island - every last red muddy part of it - was closed. I kid you not.
I greeted a couple of fellow visitors who were disappointed to learn that the traveller information office was closed and I suggested that they try the adjacent liquor store which was actually open. One of them looked at me impassively and pronounced, "son, you need liquor to cope round here at the best of times" and, much to the displeasure of his wife, headed off in the direction of the store. I guess I should have known at that point that I wasn't gonna fall in love with the place.
I started making my way around the coastal route towards Prince Edward Island National Park but, after an hour or so of muddy red scenery (seriously, why is everything red?) I got bored and decided to cut out the faff and head straight to the park. Looking back there is one thing that they do very well on PEI and that is build roads. Away from the scenic routes they just ploughed roads in dead straight lines across the island - the Romans would have been very proud - and I soon arrived at the Greenwich area of the park. I was greeted by a huge visitor centre (or interpretative centre as they call them in Canada) - which was locked down - and very little else. There was a car outside with Parks Canada painted on its side so I made my way round the perimeter of the building until I found an unlocked door and, sticking my head round the door, I called out to try and attract some attention. As there was no reply I made my way down the corridor towards a distant voice, calling out as I went, until I reached an office with a guy inside who was talking on the phone. Seemingly deaf, he'd not heard me calling out and, judging by the look on his face when he saw me, I might as well have been a hungry bear making my way in to tear him apart. Thankfully he never pulled a gun from his drawer and, once he'd gotten over his shock, he happily handed me the park brochure that I‘d come in search of.
I made my way down onto the beach area - climbing over railings and signs pronouncing its closure - but wondered why the hell I'd bothered when I made it out there. It was bitterly cold and the driving wind was whipping up the surf and driving the rain right into my face. I was wondering quite why I'd come this far when I could have gone to any beach in the UK and got just as cold and just as wet. Disheartened I made my way back to the car and headed for another trailhead. All the signs had been removed for the winter - why they do this I do not know; maybe they are expecting an invasion by the Germans and they're hoping to slow them down? - so it was a case of pot luck. I semi lucked out as, after three or four kilometres, I made my way across a huge pontoon crossing a lake and arrived at the biggest sand dunes you will ever have seen. Very impressive. Though making my way through the dunes and on to the beach was a mistake again - I really should learn - and I hurriedly made my way back to the car where I pumped the heating up onto maximum and headed for the main area of the park.
Guess what? Despite the sign at the park entrance telling me otherwise, all the campgrounds were closed. I went to the ranger station to register a complaint in the most forceful way possible. After remonstrating with the poor guy on duty for some time - actually that's a lie, but I was by now most frustrated so I was planning on doing so... until I spotted his gun - I headed off in search of accommodation for the night. I had presumed that I would need to head to a reasonably major town - and for that I'd need to cross the Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick - but I lucked out when I stumbled across the Pines Motel near Rustico beach. I was their very first guest of the year and was made to feel most welcome and given a nice dry and warm room for a very favourable price. I guess everything happens for a reason and, having settled in for the night, I soon realised why I wasn't supposed to be camping tonight. It had started snowing.
Next morning I had two things that I wanted to do: 1) check out Cavendish, which I'd been told I really had to see, and 2) get the hell off the island. It proved to be a struggle to get out of bed - the previous day having been such a trial - but, when I finally dragged myself out, I headed first for Cavendish. En route I was intrigued enough by a sign pronouncing ‘Ann of Green Gables House' to turn in - big mistake; it was extremely tedious - but my spirits were raised when I turned in to the parking lot at Cavendish and discovered some old friends. Back at Fundy National Park I had met an elderly couple from Germany who had shipped their motor home across and had spent the past year travelling around North America and I was pleased to bump into them again. It turned out that this was their second such trip; ten years ago they'd spent three years travelling through North America, Australia, New Zealand and some other places and had enjoyed themselves so much that they wanted to do a repeat trip before they passed on. I thought that was lovely and the fact that they'd shipped their own motorhome (and their dog) across was fantastic. I'd love to think that will be me one day! We chatted for a while and exchanged tips - I was very pleased to suggest that they should stop off at the campground at Meat Cove - and then went our separate ways. I hope they make it back to Halifax safely and enjoy many more years of motorhome travel in the future.
Having endured a long and bone-chilling (literally) hike through the dunes and along the beach, I headed back to the car and fired up the satnav. I wasn't sure where to head next - I thought about hitting the ‘home' button briefly but decided to head across Confederation Bridge (it cost $41.50 to cross but, to me, it was a price worth paying to get back to the mainland) and I turned right up the coast to Kouchibouguac National Park. I won't even begin to describe what a waste of time this was to me and I spent less than an hour there before deciding to call it a day. I'd realised by now that I was getting frustrated of being in the car and was in need of an early finish. I headed to the town of Miramichi for no other reason than I liked the name and checked in to the first motel that I came across. It wasn't particularly salubrious - okay, it was downright crappy - but it had TSN so I could watch the Nascar and it had a Laundromat along the street so I could do my laundry. It couldn't have been any better if it had been the Hilton; I was just delighted to get away from the trip and be me - head down to the Laundromat to do the chores and to just sit, chill out and do sod all for a bit. Perfect.
Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity
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Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:32 AM.
Wow, I love all the photos. I'd never really thought about driving around Nova Scotia, but now I really want to go!
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