CYCLING THE MARITIMES: PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND AND NOVA SCOTIA

Cycling the Maritimes

Michael’s write up about cycling the Maritimes (Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia), during our cross Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up about cycling Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia

CYCLING THE MARITIMES: WELCOME TO ATLANTIC CANADA!!

We left New Brunswick to pop into Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island, and it was definitely a spectacular entrance! The confederation bridge is Canada’s longest bridge at nearly 13km long. Unfortunately it is illegal to cross the bridge by bicycle as the wind gets pretty intense and there isn’t really much space to ride. So we had no choice but to jam our bikes into the back of the shuttle bus and be passengers over the bridge. I was keen to try and pop a wheely across the bridge, but Kelly was having none of it.

Anne of Green Gables – yes, we did!

The cold and dodgy weather continued cycling the Maritimes and into PEI and we were faced with freezing headwinds and rain, but the sun did come out when we reached the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ house, which is actually a national heritage site…for some bizarre reason. I knew little to nothing about the Anne of Green Gables books, but seeing as we had a national parks pass, the entrance was free. So we decided to pop in and check it out along with the hoards of Japanese tourists who apparently come here as some sort of weird pilgrimage!

The staff was cool and let us bring our loaded up bikes inside and lock them in the lobby area while we poked around some odd props and ‘Anne’s house’. She was a fictional character and this house was actually built from descriptions in the book. The author Lucy Montgomery grew up in the area so I guess it wasn’t all made up. I got to try on a luxurious red pigtailed wig, pose outside the house like Anne and stuff my face with ice cream, so all in all it was a good outing!

green gables
Michael of Green Gables

 Confederation Trail

The cycle trails around PEI were stunning routes along the coast and through farmland and forest. We found a good spot to camp at a picnic area on the coast after deciding against setting up our tent in one of the many campsites that were closed for the season. We decided this due to the tales of other tourists getting moved on in the middle of the night by security for illegally camping. Also we rode around one of the closed campsites and it had a bit of a horror movie vibe about it so we didn’t want Michael Myers slashing our tent in the night and making us soil our sleeping bags.

Unfortunately we arrived just outside the tourist season and it seemed like half the island had shut down. Campsites, restaurants and shops were kind of hard to come across until we hit the capital, Charlottetown.

We contacted a Warmshowers host called Lindsay in Charlottetown and spent a couple of nights camping in her backyard and strolling around the pretty port town, visiting the local breweries (Upstreet and Gahan) to sample some of the fine local drops including a spiced pumpkin ale that made me excited for getting to spend Halloween in Canada! We also tried out the ‘world famous’ Cows ice cream that started on PEI and has been consistently voted into the top ten best ice cream places in the world. I felt it would be wrong of me not try it and it was definitely packed full of creamy goodness. Cows’ gets the official Cowgill stamp of approval.

It was a short stay on PEI, but the cold was starting to make it difficult to sleep and we were both pretty burnt out after nearly 4 months on the road and were looking forward to getting to Halifax to explore our new home for winter!

Hello Nova Scotia and crazy, windy storms!

We got the ferry to Nova Scotia and straight into some gale force winds. Unfortunately winds from the hurricane that devastated Haiti were hitting Atlantic Canada and when we camped on a cycle route outside Pictou, they paid a visit to us shaking the tent violently and pounding it with a crazy amount of rain and flooding our delicate little home.

We had previously had some issues with moisture getting into the tent through the floor and ground sheet even in light rain, but now with this downpour everything was soaked.

To add to the tent issues, my Therm-a-rest mattress had developed a gigantic bubble in the centre forcing me to try and sleep with a basketball-sized lump between my shoulders. Not a good night, my spine has never been the same since.

In the morning we shivered in soggy sleeping bags hoping the rain would ease up long enough for us to pack up and bugger off to somewhere drier, but the downpour just refused to let up.

We ended up making a break for it and finding a Tim Horton’s coffee shop to shelter in and try and warm ourselves up and come up with a plan of attack. After filling ourselves with as much hot coffee and muffins as we could, we decided it was not worth the risk of riding in the storm. It was apparently set to get a whole lot worse with 100km an hour winds throughout the day and heavy rain and flooding. Not ideal weather for pushbikes and a leaky tent.

nova scotia sign, Cycling Nova Scotia: Halifax
We made it to Nova Scotia! Still cycling the Maritimes!

Change of plans!

We found a reasonably priced hotel in Pictou called the Auberge Walker Inn with lovely Scottish/Canadian owners who let us dry out all our gear in the basement and warm up with pots of tea. It was thanksgiving and half the town was without power, but we managed to get into the pub before it went out and enjoyed an awesome veggie roast and beer to forget our soggy intro to Nova Scotia.

The freezing wet weather and gear issues with the tent and my mat were starting to get us down a bit and we were now tossing up if we wanted to stick to our plan of riding the Cabot trail in Cape Breton or just call it quits and head straight to Halifax earlier than planned. It was a tough decision as we were so close that it felt a shame to skip what is supposed to be one of the greatest cycle destinations in all of Canada, but we were worn out and just not feeling it at that stage so decided to avoid the cold and skip Cape Breton.

The end – for now!

We eventually drove the Cabot trail a few weeks later with a friend and it was spectacular, but at the time we were just tired and not up for riding and camping in the rain and cold anymore. It was a tough choice but we felt there was no point doing it if we weren’t going to enjoy it.

So all of a sudden our trip was nearly over! We had less than 200km until we reached our final destination! It was a very surreal feeling, but I still think we made the right choice as it gave us more time to sort out our accommodation and get jobs in Halifax before Christmas to help us save up for the next leg of the trip next year! We had finished cycling the Maritimes, but it wasn’t an end to our time in the Atlantic provinces just yet.

Halifax: Our home for the Winter

We still had 2 weeks before we could move into our apartment that Kelly had organized through Airbnb negotiating a month by month rate with our new landlord and friend, Fred. So we still had to find somewhere to stay for a couple of weeks. Luckily for us there are some pretty amazing people out there and a Couchsurfer called, Jeff came to our rescue! Letting someone stay in your place for a night or two is pretty cool, having someone stay for 2 weeks is friggin amazing! Jeff totally saved us and we spent the next couple of weeks hanging out, drinking around the fire pit and playing card games in his cool rural property in Windsor Junction just outside Halifax. Jeff had also adopted a couple of young German Couchsurfers for an indefinite amount of time so his place kind of felt like a vagabonds sanctuary!

couchsurfing cape breton, Cycling the Maritimes
Our awesome couchsurfer!

In that time we both applied for as many jobs as we could find and rode the 30km into Halifax for interviews for jobs, which we both scored! I would be working at a discount home and clothing store called ‘Winners’ in a warehouse role and Kelly would be working at a chocolate shop in the same shopping centre.

So after 7000kms we had done it, coast to coast by bike!! We ended with a bit of a fizzle rather than a bang, but hey we still had an amazing time and now get to save some pennies, investigate the local brews and prepare ourselves for our next epic adventure, from Canada to South America! Come April time we will roll out of Nova Scotia and into the good ‘ol USA for the second leg of journey and I can barely contain my excitement thinking about it, bring on April!!!

Thank you to all of the amazing people we met across this stunning country. As with our previous trip it’s the people that always make the most lasting memories for us and Canadians definitely are a special breed of humans! We loved cycling Canada and we loved cycling the Maritimes – so thank you!

Halifax City Guide for Cycle Tourists

halifax city guide for cycle tourists

So here is our halifax city guide for cycle tourists! Some cyclists end here, some cyclists start here, some might just pass through. Either way, Halifax is the biggest city in the Maritimes, and definitely has a lot to offer. I’ve spent the past 6 months in Halifax, exploring the city and discovering a few things worthy of sharing with other visiting cycle tourists.

Who will find this Halifax City Guide for Cycle Tourists beneficial?

  • Anyone on a cycle tour that plans on passing through Halifax at some point.
  • Someone visiting Halifax on a budget

Some useful things to know about Halifax

  • Generally, I didn’t find the city to easy to cycle around. There are a few cycle paths, but these few and far between and usually end suddenly. I definitely recommend taking care when riding around the city.
  • Halifax is full of awesome craft breweries! Definitely worth checking a few out is you like beer – or check out this Self Guided Halifax brewery Tour.
  • This may only be something I found odd, but pedestrians tend to walk out in front of traffic without looking a lot. It is almost assumed that everywhere you cross the road is actually a pedestrian crossing. I didn’t notice this anywhere else in Canada, but I definitely noticed it in Halifax.
  • Despite the small size of the city, there is a lot of traffic during the peak hours. Try and avoid cycling during this time if possible.
good robot halifax
Checking out the craft brewery scene in Halifax

Halifax City Guide for Cycle Tourists

Accommodation

Warmshowers and Couchsurfing does exist in Halifax, though the communities are a bit smaller than some of the other Canadian cities.

Airbnb definitely offers some of the cheapest accommodation options. Otherwise, I like to use BookingsHostelz is also a pretty good site to use, particularly if  you are looking for dorm room accommodation.

The North End of Halifax is considered to be a bit sketchy, but nothing compared to East Hastings in Vancouver, or the likes in similar cities. The dodgiest street is probably Gottingen Street.

If you’re looking to save a bit on accommodation then look to Dartmouth. It’s a quick ferry ride away from downtown Halifax, and (if the bridge construction is finished by the time you arrive) there is a bike lane over the Macdonald Bridge, which connects Halifax and Dartmouth.

The Public Gardens in Halifax during Autumn
The Public Gardens in Halifax during Autumn

Bike & Outdoor Stores 

We had good experiences at these bike stores:

CyclesmithSuper friendly bunch! A little pricey compared to a few other places in Halifax, but definitely guanetted to do a good job.

Long Alley BicyclesThis is a little place on Quinpool. Super helpful staff, and definitely one of the cheapest bike stores in Halifax.

Halifax CyclesThis store seemed to have a lot of touring gear. The owners are also cycle tourists, so they’re pretty good at catering to the needs of cycle tourists – and they sell some pretty awesome bicycle jewellery too. This bike store also helped a couple of my cyclist friends box up their bike for their flight.

Mountain Equipment Co (MEC): It is $5 for a lifetime membership and it is definitely worth it. You will love this store. They are dotted all over Canada (in the major cities, though more so in the West), have an AWESOME return policy and sell everything from bike stuff to camping gear to outdoors clothes. There is a small store located in downtown Halifax.

There is also a Patagonia Store, which is located in the stunning old brewery building of Alexander Keith. Definitely worth checking out as it is a really cool building.

If you head over to the Halifax Shopping Centre, make sure you take some out-of-town ID with you. This mall gives out a free $5 voucher to all out-of-town visitors. They have a pretty big Sport Chek store there – and you can check out where I worked over Winter; the Newfoundland Chocolate Company!

Tourist things to do

Maritime Museum

Every Tuesday 5pm – 8pm the museum offers free entry and free talks.

You’ll probably not be surprised to discover that Halifax has a huge maritime history. The museum has a really good exhibit on the Halifax Explosion and also the Titanic.

Citadel Hill

Free entry 30 minutes before closing

You can’t miss this place! Even if you don’t want to visit the Citadel, it’s still worth walking up to the viewpoint. If you happen to be walking passed the citadel at midday, then be warned. Every day at midday the canyon is fired.

Fairview Cemetery (titanic graves)

This is found on the outskirts of Halifax, towards Bedford. They are still easy to cycle or bus to. Or, if you are entering Halifax via highway 2, you can easily detour via the graves. We actually did this by accident when we arrived into Halifax. I found the graves really interesting – read the information board if you do visit!

Fisherman’s cove

You will either have to bus or cycle to this little fishing village. It’s very cute! This is also where you can catch the ferry (approx. $20) to McNab’s Island. There are lots of hiking trails on McNabs that are worth checking out.

Emera Oval (or the commons)

Free skating in winter and free roller blading in summer. A nice place to chill with a picnic and a good book on a sunny day. Another nice place to relax is the Public Gardens.

Seaport Markets

I love these markets! The best day to go is Saturday – this is the busiest day, but it’s also when they have the most stalls open. If you like wine, there are also plenty of wine stalls at the markets that offer tastings, along with local rum and vodka stalls. It’s also the oldest continuously running, commercial market in America.

Bluff Wilderness Trail

Probably the best hike I’ve done near Halifax. It’s beautiful, though if you’ve just come from the Rockies, then it probably won’t compare. It is easily accessibly by bike and bus. There is a really good bike trail that leads straight past the trailhead. The trailhead is about 15km from Halifax. Pleasant Point Park, near downtown Halifax and also Dingle Park, next to Purcell’s Cove are also really pretty parks with some shorter hiking trails.

The cycle trail to the Bluff Wilderness Trail (also the cycle trail towards Yarmouth and Digby)
The cycle trail to the Bluff Wilderness Trail (also the cycle trail towards Yarmouth and Digby)

Cheap Massage

While in Halifax I discovered the College of Massage & hydrotherapy student intern clinic. This clinic was offer hour massages for less than $30. I have to admit I was a little reluctant at first, but I was pleasantly surprised. My masseuse, Breanne was brilliant! She even sorted out some wrist issues that I had been having, and taught me how to correct the issue myself in future.

The free magazine you want to check out is The Coast. It’s released every Thursday, and lists all the different events in and around Halifax. It’s also available online, but I personally find the paper version easier to navigate.

Getting In & Out

Most people will ride into Halifax one of two ways down highway 2 via Bedford (and if you like the Titanic Graves), or via highway 7 and through Dartmouth. Both routes are busy and not really a whole lot of fun. If you do choose to go via Dartmouth then you will either have to take the ferry, or if the MacDonald Bridge is opened, you can cycle over that. The McKay Bridge does not allow cyclists and they are quite strict on that.

If you are headed to Yarmouth or Digby (via Kejimkujik) then there is a bike path that starts near the Rotary/ Armdale area of Halifax. The bike route is paved and well maintained until the Hubbards, from there you might want to get on one of the roads.

To/from the airport

I’ve used Driver Daves shuttle service to and from the airport. They are cheaper than the taxi and pick you up from your accommodation (unlike the other airport shuttles and public airport bus). So if you have a bike box it’s a bit more convenient. They charge $10 per bike box. Also, Uber doesn’t exist in Halifax… yet!

Dingle Park in Halifax in winter
Dingle Park in Halifax in winter

We enjoyed our time in Halifax! There are lots of good restaurants, breweries, markets and random events going on in this student city.

I hope you found this Halifax City Guide for Cycle Tourists useful. Do you know of any cycle friendly places in Halifax that I missed? Let us know in the comment section below.

If you plan on cycling through Vancouver at any point during your cycle trip, then check out our Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists to help you make the most of your visit.

Safe trails!

DISCOVERING NEW BRUNSWICK BY BICYCLE

That sums up discovering new brunswick by bicycle!

Michael’s write up of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle during out coast to coast Canada cycle trip in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up about cycling in New Brunswick.

NEW BRUNSWICK.…WAY BETTER THAN THE OLD ONE.

Waking up at the border sign between Quebec and New Brunswick we knew our seventh province was going to be a frosty one!

The temperature had taken a sudden dip and frozen our tent solid overnight. We were now faced with the coldest cycling of the trip so far, but we were still happy because the amazing cycle path rolled on!

On our first day discovering New Brunswick by bicycle we managed to smash out 105 km in less than 5 hours, which I’m pretty sure is a record for us. We had decided to stay indoors and treat ourselves to an airbnb in Perth (not our home town in western Australia, a different colder one) and thought we’d make it in plenty of time to meet the owner and pick up the key to the place. That’s before the wind decided to be a huge chilly prick and change directions and the cycle path abruptly ended with a ‘closed for construction’ sign forcing us to detour several kilometers up a bullshit steep hill and onto the highway.

Screw you New-Brunswick-bike-path-dudes. A diversion sign BEFORE the construction would have been handy!

We did eventually make it the last 20km to the AirBnB where we spent the next day defrosting our weary bones and ingesting some local hoppy malt health beverages called ‘beer’ and cleaning all our clothes ready to layer up for the next day of icey biking.

New Brunswick in Fall, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Discovering new brunswick by bicycle – New Brunswick in Fall

Trans-Canadian Bike Trail

The bike path did pick up again and although it wasn’t quite as well maintained as the Quebec side with some sections too rocky to ride fully loaded, it was still nicer than riding the highway!

We had a pretty great day of discovering New Brunswick by bicycle. Riding on the cycle paths, winding through the forest and alongside rivers and lakes where we eventually found an ideal spot to pitch the tent next to a pedestrian suspension bridge over a stream complete with picnic table and amazing sunset views. This one was definitely up there with the best wild camping spots of the trip.

The only bonus of camping when the temperature drops is the mosquitoes pussy out and disappear! Finally some peace!

Bike Troubles

We ploughed on keen to reach Fundy national Park and see one of Canada’s main attractions, the Bay of Fundy. We rode the cycle path where possible, and took quieter roads when the rocks got too chunky. Near Fredericton, we stayed with great Warmshowers hosts, Tracey and Paula on their veggie farm. And, cycled passed the worlds’ biggest axe in Nackawic (and a brewery named after it that was closed causing me to weep uncontrollably). Then, my chain decided to start slipping whenever faced with a hill nearly causing me to fall off and break my luscious face several times.

Fundy national park is an extremely hilly place, so luckily for me the chain problems occurred before the town of Sussex so I could get the problem fixed at the local bike shop before starting the serious hill climbs into Fundy. The legends at Outdoor Elements bike shop helped me get back on the road again and even called up one of their friends outside Sussex who owned an awesome motel and let us stay for $20! Unfortunately on the way to the motel I discovered the new chain hadn’t fixed the issue and I was forced to ride back to Sussex the next morning where the amazing staff changed my cassette and solved the issue just in time to tackle the beastly hills of Fundy!

As well as fixing up my sexy steed, the guys at the bike shop also informed me we were only one day behind a group of German cycle tourists who had been in the shop the day before. Our friends Jacque and Luisa again with some of Luisa’s’ friends who had flown out to ride with them for a week or two. We were hunting ze Germans!

Bay of Fundy

As we had heard, the hills into Fundy were a total bitch! It was all worth it though with the views at the top ranking as some of those most spectacular of the whole trip. The ride down the other side of the hills was an intense experience and made me glad our bikes had disc brakes! We absolutely hammered down the hills and into the picture perfect campgrounds just outside the town of Alma. Unfortunately it wasn’t until we picked up on Wi-Fi at the camp grounds that we realized our German buddies were staying at the other campsite. The one that was several kilometers back up the steep as shit hill we had just hurtled down at 300km an hour. Sorry guys, you’re on you own!

We managed to meet up with our friends though for beers and cinnamon buns from the famous ‘Kelly’s Bakery’ in Alma. If you are in Alma and don’t fill your body with as many of these hot gooey delicious cinnamony chunks of pure joy then you my friend are a fool! The date slices and brownies were also pretty sextacular, but the cinnamon buns were like a baked orgasm.

We enjoyed a couple nights off the bikes relaxing at the Headquarters campground that was complete with Wi-Fi and cooking hut – pure luxury! We hiked a few trails around the bay, checked out some waterfalls and rehydrated with beer and fireball liqueur. I was on a bit of a cinnamon high around this period.

Fundy National Park and a Kelly, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Fundy National Park and a Kelly

Hopewell Rocks and more beer!

When it was time to leave Alma the wind kicked into overdrive and we were smashed in the face by the breeze the whole way to Hopewell rocks where we were living it up in another motel. We decided to be rebels and sneak into Hopewell rocks after the gates were closed for the day after several people told us it was generally accepted as fine as long as you weren’t an idiot climbing the rocks. We had an amazing sunset stroll along the beach checking out the crazy rock formations and stunning beach views. I can definitely see why this is such a hotbed for tourists in the summer.

We rolled through the freezing wind and drizzle into Moncton where we decided to spend the night in a hostel. It just so happens that Moncton has a kick ass brewery too…coincidence? No, no it wasn’t.

We checked out Pump house brewery and sampled some fine beverages including the local specialty a blueberry ale complete with floating blueberries in the glass. Saucy!

More friendly people

Our last night discovering New Brunswick by bicycle – Province number 7, was spent with an lovely older couple Bill and Marilyn in Shemogue, There we ate like royalty and I fit at least a kilo of kick ass spinach and mushroom lasagna inside me and exchanged cycle tales over beers and discussed our plans for spending winter in Halifax.

Bill had been a lobster fisherman for over forty years. Marilyn was an artist and showed us her beautiful art in her workshop out the back of the house. Eventually we hopped on our bikes and began the short pedal to the bridge between New Brunswick and, the smallest province in Canada – Prince Edward Island!

Goodbye New Brunswick you tasty minx. You chilled us to the bones, but your stunning parks and coastline made us keen to explore more of the Maritimes by bicycle!

That sums up discovering new brunswick by bicycle! Bring on Prince Edward Island! If you’re a stats nerd like Kelly, you can check out our states here.

Random Shoe Tree, discovering new brunswick by bicycle
Random Shoe Tree in New Brunswick somewhere

VIVE LE QUEBEC! QUEBEC BY BICYCLE!

QUEBEC BY BICYCLE

Michael’s write up of our time spent crossing Quebec by bicycle, during our 7000km cycle trip across Canada in Autumn 2016. Click here to read Kelly’s write up of cycling in Quebec.

VIVE LE QUEBEC! ROLLIN’ FREE LIKE A WHEEL OF CHEESE THROUGH A TASTY LITTLE SLICE OF EUROPE IN CANADA!

Our introduction to this delicious, cycle friendly, French Canadian beauty was an easy 120km day that flew by like a breeze! 72km of which was on the Prescott Russell Recreational trail. Winding through forests and along old railway lines where we finally cracked the magical 5000km mark!

Every single Canadian cycle tourist we had met so far across Canada had been from Quebec. So we were pretty sure it was going to be a good place to be on a bike and we definitely weren’t disappointed!

Global Citizen Festival

We had a few days off the bikes planned in Montreal where Kelly’s brother Michael was meeting us and had hooked us up with some free tickets to the Global Citizen festival that he was helping organize. So instead of being sweaty cycling bums living in a tent, we spent 4 nights camped out in an airB&B apartment drowning in beer and living like rock stars with VIP backstage tickets to a music festival and all the booze we could fit in our bodies!

It was definitely a different experience and quite surreal being backstage at a fancy pants festival and after party, but it was nice to change it up a bit and break the routine of cycling. Also beer is pretty good stuff and tastes even better when free.

After several days exploring Montreal and pretending we were back in Europe. Sipping espresso and munching fresh baked goods at patisseries. It was time to load our food bloated carcasses back onto the bikes!

I was nursing a large hangover from the after party that we attended until 3am. We had to hit the road again at 9am, but my boozy blues were made more bearable by the scenery and excellent roads.

cycling in Montreal quebec
Montreal, Quebec

Quebec by Bicycle

Camping was occasionally tough as all space along the river to Quebec City seemed to be crammed pretty tight with homes on the waterfront, but we got creative sleeping behind a massive garden hedge on one night and outside a B&B on another slightly awkward occasion. The owner had approached us when he saw us eyeing up a nice juicy patch of grass outside the closed tourist info centre in a small town. He asked us in broken English if we wanted to stay at his house. Of course we did! Score!

When we got back to his ‘house’ we realized it was actually a bed and breakfast and he was in fact trying to get us to stay inside as paying guests. Some awkwardness ensued as we spoke with his wife inside, but in the end they turned out to be cool and let us camp in the garden for free instead of paying to stay inside.

Quebec City and Bicycle Trails

We had another little break in Quebec City, staying with a Warmshowers host Maude in her apartment with a huge garden in the courtyard. Maude was an ‘urban gardener’ and had created a huge veggie garden in her courtyard. She also had other projects around town building gardens in office blocks and government buildings. We were happy because we got to munch fresh veg for a few days instead of instant noodles and pasta!

Quebec was a super touristy town, but it was a nice place to chill out for a couple of days and soak up some of the European vibes, and to relax in coffee shops before hitting the awesome cycle trails again. From Quebec City we opted to catch the ferry to the other side of the Saint Lawrence River and rode along the scenic trails whenever possible. Exploring Quebec by bicycle was what I had pictured cycle touring to be before our first trip from France to China a few years ago. Relaxed car free cycle routes winding through forests with free rest areas to camp.

cycling in quebec
Cycling through the streets of Quebec City

La Route Verte

The Route Verte through Quebec was a definite highlight of our trip across Canada. It made the wet and cold weather a little more bearable, as we always knew we’d find a little picnic spot or even a designated cycle camping spot to pitch the tent at the end of the day. The temperature had suddenly dropped significantly as we were approaching the New Brunswick border and on our last night in Quebec we had by far the coldest night of the trip. We woke up to a tent covered in a thick sheet of ice and all our water bottles frozen solid.

camping and cycling in quebec
Awesome camp spot just off the bike trail in Quebec

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, we got to sleep next to an old world war II bomber in a park on the cycle route and had a fantastic sunrise to thaw out our gear and bone marrow!

It was now time to tackle our seventh Canadian province, New Brunswick and try not to freeze our bits off on the bikes!!

Vive Le Quebec, Vive le fromage and route verte cycle path!! I hope you enjoy Quebec by bicycle!

If you’re geeky like Kelly, you can also check out our cycle stats for Canada.

Ontario by bicycle: “I WAS BORN IN ONTARIO”

Ontario by bicycle.

Michael’s write up of crossing Ontario by bicycle during our 7000km cycle trip across Canada in Sept 2016.  Click here to read Kelly’s write up of cycling Ontario to Thunder Bay, cycling Lake Superior and cycling to Ottawa.

No I in fact was not born in Ontario, but as soon we entered this freaking huge province Neil Young’s ‘born in Ontario’ was playing on repeat in my head. This became our theme song for our epic 32 day stint crossing this huge beautiful beast! I spent the next month exploring Ontario by bicycle, annoying Kelly by constantly singing, humming and playing this song on my speakers. Sorry about that!

To get from Manitoba to Ontario we had to dip into the good ‘ol U.S.A (just the way the road was) for a quick 60km detour through Minnesota and directly into the path of a huge storm that apparently blew some trucks off the road into a ditch. As we were on bikes, and not quiet as heavy and stable as trucks, we took shelter in a bar to dry ourselves off. This is where I ordered the most disappointing snack of my life! Never order cheesy chips in the states. It will crush your soul. Not an actual potato in sight, merely some weird shitty circular corn chips with poisonous orange cheese whizz spunked on top. Saddest day of my life.

I recovered from my shit chip experience and we hopped the border back into Canada to begin penetrating the moist mass that is Ontario!

Emo, Ontario by bicycle

We passed through friendly little towns including the hilariously named (I thought so at the time) ‘Emo’ in which I took a picture of pretty every street sign and advertisement with ‘Emo’ written on it.

We managed to bump into our German friends Jacque and Luisa again! Had fun camping in Fort Francis at a weird massive public park that also doubled up as a campsite next to the train tracks and river. We had a few beers to relax and catch up with our friends in the third province we’d seen them in!

Fort Francis was the point we had to decide if we wanted to cycle the southern side of lake superior in the U.S.A or stick to Canada and take the northern route. After much debate we finally settled on sticking to the Canadian side seeing as the whole trip was supposed to be about cycling the whole way across Canada! It meant we wouldn’t get to visit my friend in Minneapolis, but that was going to be a pretty massive detour and eat up a fair amount of our time, so it was back to cycling as a group again! Jacque and Luisa were heading the same direction so we had some travel buddies for a few days.

On to Thunder Bay

Over the next few days we rode some beautiful but isolated stretches of road together. We slept by lakes, in parks, outside a friendly ice cream van, saw the amazing Kakabeka waterfalls and swam in the freezing water at the end of the day and continued our constant battle with the asshole mosquitoes.

One night we decided to try riding down a long dirt path to see if we could camp near the water on the Seine River First Nations reserve. The super kind people welcomed us is in and let us set up camp at the Pow Wow grounds. They even unlocked the community centre for us so we could have a shower! Cool experience and one of the most scenic spots we camped at in the province.

Finally rolled into Thunder Bay for a few days off the bikes and stayed with the amazing Frank from Warmshowers. Despite being busy organizing a group cycle trip and dealing with a leaky basement and renovations, this champion not only let the four of us stay in his place but also another German cyclist called Mike. 5 people at once in the one house is a pretty generous move!

Camping at the First Nations reserve
Camping at the First Nations reserve

Rest days when on tour

We had a great time together though and spent a few days preparing group feasts, sipping beers and rum, exploring the town and brutally savaging a Japanese buffet to within inches of it’s life!

I had a few bike maintenance things to take care of so we ended up spending an extra night with Frank. Our German buddies left to get a bus for a section of lake superior as they had to meet some friends.

Storms, road works and Lake Superior

We were recharged and ready to rock through the rest of this beast of a province! Just outside Thunder Bay I randomly spotted a brand new IPhone on the side of the road, which started ringing as soon as I put it on charge when we stopped in a park for lunch. I managed to score a $60 reward for returning the phone to the owner! Bonus! Felt nice earning some cash instead of watching it hemorrhage out of my account for a change.

Had some rough days dealing with construction work and torrential rain around Nippigon and didn’t feel particularly safe riding some sections with the lack of hard shoulder, but the scenery definitely made up for it.

Our first glimpses of lake superior left us awestruck and glad we had chosen the mighty northern route. It was hard to believe that was a lake and not a friggin ocean! We spent night after night in spectacular camping spots on the beaches and in the woods around the lake and fell in love with the area. It is a very nice feeling knowing at the end of the day you’re going to have crystal clear fresh water to swim in and clean yourself up after a sweaty day climbing hills on the bikes.  

More friendly people

We met plenty of awesome people who helped us out. A couple from Germany with a holiday home let us set up camp in the front yard near Jackfish lake. Lloyd, a couchsurfer in Marathon who took us in and gave us a spare room for the night. The tourist information in Winnie the Pooh’s hometown of White river let us sleep outside the centre. And, probably the best of all was a legendary Hungarian Canadian guy called Zoltan and his beautiful family who we met outside a supermarket in Wawa and offered to let us camp on his front lawn.

When we followed him home he then decided to set up his camper trailer for us to sleep in! So we had a nice comfy bed, shelter from the mosquitoes and even got to wash our clothes and have a shower! Meeting kind and generous people like this make the trip so much more memorable and make me thankful we have the chance to travel like this and meet so many cool characters!

ontario by bicycle
Zoltan from Wawa

One night on Batchawana bay we were even invited in to the Wild Rose RV park and given a place to camp for free by the owner. He had noticed us eyeing up the beach for potential spots to pitch the tent as he knew the police would definitely move us on like the smelly bums we are, so he just let us come in and stay for free! Generosity runs deep in Canadians!

 Sault Ste Marie and more awesome people

We were finally pulling away from Lake superior and rolled into Sault Ste Marie where we spent two nights with awesome warmshowers hosts Jeff and Juanita. We ate excellent home cooked meals, tried many kick ass local craft beers and got to try out Jeff’s Recumbent bike. Definitely not for me but I could see the appeal of sitting back like that and cruising along with a beer in each paw.

We decided to spend a night outside the local bike shop Velorution as they have set up a free campsite specifically for cycle tourists! Cool experience and a wicked idea, they had fire pits, furniture that guests had made from old pallets and a box of free gear other cyclists had donated. We even raided the massive stack of old bike parts outside the shop to use a rim and spokes as a grill for our zucchinis! Not a sentence I ever thought I’d be writing!

Hitting the road again

From Sault St Marie we passed through Many Amish communities where we’d stop and buy fresh veg and homemade cookies. We camped outside information centres and in the old fairground at Spanish where the harbor master let us pitch a tent and take a shower in the marina office. In the morning we woke up to see a porcupine climbing a tree next to our tent! Still no moose sighting, but I was pretty happy seeing this spiky fellow doing his thing!

The roads in Ontario were generally in pretty decent condition, but hard shoulders seemed to disappear for stretches. Instead of Ontario by bicycle, it could have been Ontario by pot hole. Road works were constant with crazy fast drivers flying past us and leaving us a little rattled at times. We had a particularly rough day with the roads on one occasion when an amazing lady called Patti saw us looking fed up and broken on the side of the road. She pulled over and offered to let us stay at her place. The only catch was we were shattered and ready to find the nearest park to sleep in. Her place in Sudbury was still 30km away and would have been dark by the time we arrived.

Patti was also a cyclist and had a bike rack on her car, but it could only fit one bike. She wasn’t going to let that stop her though! This amazing person gave up the next couple of hours of her life taking Kelly and her bike back to her home. Unloading her gear then returning to pick me up and take me back to spend the night in her house!! That’s a pretty crazy generous thing to do, make a round trip of 60km just help a couple of tired aussie bike bums out!

Trying the local brews

Even though we’d left Lake Superior, other lakes were still around making the cycling still pretty scenic and enjoyable. The rain not so much. After a very wet muddy day it was nice to meet Warmshowers hosts Mike and Danielle and spend the evening getting tips about cycling in Ottawa and Quebec, having an amazing veggie curry dinner and drinking far too many of Mike’s local beers leaving me with a bit of sore head for the ride next day! I regret nothing. Beer is life.

We were finally approaching the capital of this incredible country, Ottawa! Most times approaching a capital city it can be a bit stressful dealing with the traffic and navigating through the chaos. Not in Ottawa! Mike and Danielle had given us a hot tip about a cycle route that led right into the heart of this beautiful gem of a city so we spent most of the day winding along old rail trails and through the cities’ parks and river front cycle paths before meeting our next Warmshowers host. The crazy bike man of Ottawa, Richard!

Ottawa
Ottawa!

The Crazy, bike man!

Richard had an incredible and utterly ridiculous collection of bicycles. Most of which were homemade crazy contraptions such as tall bikes and a convertible tandem recumbent that he had custom built with segments that can be added so his wife and kids can all ride together! He’d even built a custom rack to carry his full sized wooden canoe over his head for short tours!

We spent several days hanging out with Richard and met a group of local bike nuts from the ‘HPVOO’ (human powered vehicles of Ottawa) group for dinner and picnicked with another group from a local bike organization that provides a free space and tools for people to come and work on their bikes. Also did all the touristy things around town, checked out a street party festival and followed Richard around town on his ridiculous gigantic tall bike. Checked out the markets and used our mouths to investigate many local hop filled beverages.

Awesome Bike Stores and more Awesome People

After my piece of shit EVO low rider rack died way back in Manitoba it had been held together with hose clamps and zip ties, but had suffered a final fatal break several days before Ottawa so I was in desperate need of a decent front rack before we could continue. I rode around town in search of a half decent low-rider rack in vain, only finding either the same rack or something very similar and equally as crappily made.

I got talking to a guy called Rodd working at the Cyclery bike shop. This utter rock star of a human being offered to give me his old Blackburn low-rider rack for free! The shop didn’t have anything suitable, but he had exactly what I was after at his house so gave me his address and I swung by and picked it up rom him! What a cool thing to do! Helped me out so much and this rack will be coming with for the rest of the trip as a new member of the cycle trekkers team!!

ontario by bicycle
Pretty obvious… exploring Ontario by bicycle!

Chau Ontatio!

Our time exploring Ontario by bicycle was finally drawing to an end after over a month of pedal powered fun times through this monster province, but we were excited for what was to come. Quebec! Every single Canadian cycle tourist we had met was from Quebec. That has to be a sign that it’s gonna be a sweet place to ride! Thank you Ontario for being so cool and being filled with such helpful generous kind hearted people willing to help two crazy biking fools out! I hope you enjoyed Ontario by bicycle! Now bring on the cheese, wine and maple syrup in Quebec!

Ecotourism Jamaica: Durga’s Den

ecotourism jamaica

Yes, I went to Jamaica! No, I didn’t cycle there, and no, Michael did not go with me. So why did I go to Jamaica? Well firstly, my Canadian work permit expired and with 70cm of snow on the ground, there was no way we were ready to hop back on the bikes and start cycling through the USA. Instead, I decided the best option was to leave the country and reenter Canada on a tourist visa. We’d then wait out the rest of the winter before heading off on the bikes on 2nd April 2017.

If you thought the cheapest flights from Canada to out-of-the-country would be to the USA – you’d be wrong. As it turns out, Jamaica was my cheapest option and I wasn’t complaining. I was missing the sun and the heat – so take me to Jamaica and let’s discover ecotourism Jamaica!

Now you are probably wondering why Michael didn’t go with me. Well, originally he arrived into Canada 6 weeks after I did, which means Michael has another 6 weeks of work before his visa is up – don’t feel sorry for him, he’s off on a lads holiday to Vegas for his “visa run” in 6 weeks time.

So enough about that and more about ecotourism Jamaica!

Durgas Den: Ecotourism Jamaica

I decided this trip was a great opportunity to help out on an organic farm and learn a few things about agro-forestry, sustainable living and ecotourism in Jamaica – something we plan on implementing in our future guesthouse.

I ended up staying 2 weeks at Durgas Den in Colgate, near Ocho Rios (I actually extended my stay by a week, because I loved it so much). Durgas Den is a sustainable, organic farm situated on the top of Breadnut Hill (awesome name). The farm is hidden right in amongst the forest. Though the farm isn’t completely self-sufficient this is something they are working towards.

Besides being a farm, the Den also offers simple accommodation in cabins. Some which have amazing views. The cabins are advertised via their website and on Airbnb – get $50 of free Airbnb travel credit here.

The farm and accommodation is very rustic and simple. One thing cycle touring has taught me is to appreciate the simple things and live with the bear minimum, so the accommodation was definitely not an issue for me – luxurious even.

The farm has compostable toilets, rainwater tanks for the showers and solar panels for hot water. All the fruit and vegetables are completely organic. This means no nasty chemicals, pesticides or herbicides used at all. The only pesticides occasional used are natural ones, such as pepper.

The farm also has a bunch of healthy free ranged chickens, some rabbits (to make compost), a cute goat, a couple of dogs, and a cat (who is really the boss of the farm).

Ecotourism Jamaica Durgas Farm
Helping out on Durgas Farm

The Work

The deal was, I work on the farm for about 4 hours each morning, Monday to Friday. In return I get free accommodation, cheap meals and an awesome experience. I got to learn a lot about the work that went into running an organic farm. On top of this I worked along side locals. This gave me a glimpse into real, local life on the island – not just the tourist world.

Though volunteers have the weekends off, I did decide to head down to Kingston and helped out at the organic markets. The stall for Durga’s Den was swarmed by customers! It was great to see such a great turn out and high demand for organic veggies. I was also surprised to see such a diverse crowd of people. I had an absolute blast before heading off to check out Bob Marley’s house and explore Kingston.

Organic markets in Kingston
Organic markets in Kingston

Reflections

Being self-sufficient and growing our own organic veggies is definitely something we would aim to do in the future. Actually, if we could mimic what Durgas’s Den has achieved then we would be extremely delighted. We are definitely looking forward to checking out some more organic farms once we start cycling again. Thanks Durgas Den for adding to our ecodiscoveries and sharing your ecotourism Jamaica with us.

 

Little Dunn Falls near Ocho Rios
Little Dunn Falls near Ocho Rios

Resources:

I found these two books really interesting. Though I didn’t read the entire book, I did spend a couple of hours relaxing in the hammock and reading through a couple of the chapters.

The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook for Green Building by Johan van Lengen

The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins

Durga’s Den website

Country Tracker

country tracker for our world cycle tour

Country Tracker for our world Cycle Tour

To be honest, I didn’t know whether I should keep a Country Tracker for our trip on the website, but I like maps and my favourite colour is blue. So, here it is – the country tracker for our world cycle tour!

Check out our proposed route if you want to see where we are heading next!

After creating this map, we were curious to work out just how many countries we have each been to, so we’ve also included our individual Country Tracker maps below as well.

Cycle Trekkers’s Travel Map

On the bikes we have been to the following countries as of January 2017.

France to China trip: France, Italy, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, IranKazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China.

Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Kelly’s Travel Map

Kelly’s Country Tracker

Oceania:

New Zealand & Australia (Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria).

North America:

USA: Florida, Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Minnesota, New York (13 states DC)

Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (10 provinces).

Mexico: Baja California (north & south), Yucatan, Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and DF.

Europe:

Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, United Kingdom (England, Scotland & Wales), Gibraltar, Greece,  Italy, Montenegro, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the Vatican.

Latin America & the Caribbean: 

Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador (& the Galapagos Islands), Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.

Asia:

Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, China, Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Taiwan and Uzbekistan.

Africa:

South Africa, Egypt and Morocco.

Middle East: 

United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Jordan and Palestine.

 

Michael’s Travel Map

Michael’s Country Tracker

Oceania: 

Australia (Western Australia and Victoria).

North America:

USA: Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Minnesota, New York (12 states DC)

Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia (9 provinces).

Mexico: Baja California (north & south), Yucatan, Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and DF.

Europe: 

United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales), Albania,  Austria,Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland,  Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia,  Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Latvia, Monaco, Moldova, Montenegro, Macedonia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, San Marino, Ukraine, Vatican and Kosovo.

Latin America & the Caribbean: 

Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala and Panama.

Asia: 

Singapore, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Taiwan and Uzbekistan.

Africa: 

Egypt and Morocco.

Middle East: 

Turkey, Israel, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Georgia, Armenia and Palestine.

Discovering the Patagonia Store in Halifax

Refocusing on our purpose

Right, so when I initially set up this website I wanted to focus on the environmental aspects of the trip. The eco-friendly establishments, organisation and buildings that we encounter. Admittedly, I’ve gotten a bit distracted by the cycling, the challenges and the amazing Canadian scenery and of course the people, that I’ve pretty much failed at doing this so far! That was until I rediscovered my inspiration when I came across the Patagonia store in Halifax!

A bit about Patagonia

I have loved Patagonia since my uni days. Not just because I have a soft spot for the place, Patagonia in South America, but because of the company’s values and their ethics. Patagonia is probably the most well-known and most successful company that has embraced sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Patagonia is what most other eco-minded companies strive towards. Their values and achievements are something that other companies can learn from – no matter what the industry.

Their mission is: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

The Patagonia Store in Halifax

Unfortunately, Perth doesn’t have a Patagonia store, and until now I have NEVER stepped foot into a Patagonia store. So you can image my excitement when I, by chance came across the Patagonia store in Halifax (conveniently located next to Alexander Keith’s Brewery – like I said complete chance I found the store). Before I knew it I had arranged a meeting with someone at the store whom passionately told me everything I needed to know about the building, the company and their values.

patagonia store in halifax

The Building

The Patagonia store in Halifax has been around for 6 years. What I didn’t know about Patagonia is that the company will only open a store in a pre-existing building, which can be transformed into an energy efficient and eco-friendly building. This demonstrates their commitment to their mission of “causing no unnecessary harm” as building a completely new building will involve far more energy and resources, as well as the potential of habitat loss and pollution.

The building that houses the Patagonia store in Halifax is over 200 years old and was originally apart of the old Halifax docks. The wood used for the floor panels and some store shelving is from an old aircraft hanger in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. The only virgin wood used is from bamboo. This is used to make the clothes hangers and some of the other shelving. Bamboo is a more eco-friendly product. It grows quick (quick to produce and harvest), requires less land and minimises rainforest and habitat destruction.

The building also has 5 solar panels on the roof that power the store’s lighting. Any power drawn from the grid (such as the power to run the store computer) is offset through Bullfrog Power.

Patagonia Halifax

What else is Patagonia doing?

On top of ensuring each store has the most eco-friendly store possible, the company has remained completely privately owned! Why? Because that’s the only way the family can ensure Patagonia maintains its mission.

They also promote “Worn Wear” and everlasting clothing and products. The company founder, Yvon Chouinard, openly says, it’s better to buy old, second hand clothes than to buy new; and that’s it’s better to repair your worn clothes than constantly replacing them. This reduces the amount of clothes ending up in landfill.

Most people that know me would likely know that I’m not a big fan of shopping, materialism or consumerism. So you can image how impressed I was when the shop assistant in the Patagonia store in Hailfax told me that last year for Black Friday the company decided to give 100% of sales (not just profits) to grassroots environmental organisations. $10 million+ dollar donation was the results! It’s totally crazy, unheard of and just outright amazing!

All these things I’ve mentioned goes completely against the supply and demand economics of owning a clothing/ retail company. A company that in theory should rely on customers having to return, time and time again to replace their products and buy the latest version. However, Yvon and Patagonia has proved that despite this, it’s possible to have a success business. 

Patagonia Store in halifax

Lessons Learnt

Patagonia products reflect the actual cost of the product, which means consumers pay a premium compared to the “fast fashion products. My concern would be whether there are enough people in the world that demand clothes that are completely traceable, humanely sourced and environmental friendly. Whether people want to pay that extra money to ensure their clothes have a minimal negative impact on the world. And, whether providing ‘ever-lasting’ clothes and products will limit your repeat customers and business. In other words: is it sustainable from a business prospective?

Patagonia is a billion dollar company and is expanding. This shows that there is a demand and the demand is growing. I also learnt that a younger demographic of customers were moving in, and Patagonia were now seeing customers in their teens shopping at the store. It’s proof to me that the world is moving in a positive way – even though at times it doesn’t seem like it. The establishment and success of Patagonia definitely fills me with happy, hope and inspiration!

I haven’t talked too much about Patagonia as a company. If you want to find out more check out some of these resources.

The Truth to Materials

Interesting facts about reclaimed cotton and other materials. After witnessing first hand the forced labour on cotton farms in Uzbekistan, and knowing about the insane amount of clothes that end up in landfill, I’m definitely interested in find out more about the reclaimed cotton industry (and other similar industries).

Let my people go surfing

A book written by Yvon Chouinard about the creation of one of the most respected environmentally friendly businesses in the world. Now on my booklist for when I start cycling again.

Other cools resources:

Wornwear

It’s all about repairing clothes instead of throwing them away. Worn wear focuses on the stories your clothes tell and the connections we make with our clothes. I love their instagram. Lots of different people with ripped clothes that have been patched up! I recently added my hat to the list – 13 years and still going strong!

Footprint chronicles

Pick a Patagonia product. Take the item code from the tag and input it into the website. Information about the supply chain of that product, including information on the factories involved, the location etc will pop up.

You can also check out some of our other ecodiscoveries – The Greenhouse, Perth and Durgas Den, Jamaica!

  • Patagonia and/or the Patagonia Store in Halifax has not sponsored us or provided any gear for our trip. All opinions are purely of our own, as nature lovers, environmentalists and as future business owners.