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!
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.
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!
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!