Road Trip of Atlantic Canada

In past nine days I drove five thousand kilometers in a rented Mini Cooper, passing through five states/provinces, visiting Bar Harbor, Halifax, Cape Breton, Prince Edwards Island and Gaspé. Everything was picture-perfect as in greeting cards, but there were certain moments in the drive that made me automatically blurt out “Oh Fuck!”. Those were the most memorable parts of the trip. There were three of them.

First

The big lake in Cape Breton is called “Bras d’Or”. My route is winding along the shores of this lake. At some time in mid afternoon I’m crossing a bridge on this lake (The lake is not a round-ish shape, it has uneven arms - hence the name - and at some places the opposite shores are near enough to make a bridge feasible). There’s no other vehicle in site. Up ahead I see big green mountain slopes with gorgeous little cottages scattered on its face. To my left and right I see the lake. The body of the lake is deep cold blue. It’s the shade of blue that conveys not just color, but density and temperature as well. Beyond the lake water there are ranges of mountains, also plush green. The sky is clear blue with some tiny white clouds. The sun is shining diligently. After the bridge the road winds up the hill. Then I make one turn, the long stretch of road lies ahead of me, but what I see is a mirage on the hot tar surface of the road. And in the middle of that mirage is standing a Fox! He is standing right in the middle of the road showing me his picture perfect side profile. He looks at the approaching vehicle for a moment and then walks back into the bush on the side of the road.

Second

I am driving for nearly 8-9 hours after I left Prince Edwards Island, trying to reach Gaspé by sunset. I’m still some 90 kilometers short. I’m obeying Google Maps. It has given me shortest route to the destination. In order to do that it has cut corners - literally! The coast of Gaspé is anything but straight line. So wherever possible, Google maps directs me to a straight road that’s inland instead of the winding road that goes along the shore. Because I’m tired and want to reach the motel soon, I feel like taking the shorter inland path. It has already been a week that I’ve been driving along the costal lines. I can hardly imagine that anything I will see on that coastal road will trump what I’ve seen already. I take a stop and think for a minute which way to take. I finally take the shorter inland route. It’s a fast highway going through woods and mountains. I go 3-4 kilometers on it. But I can’t make peace with my decision. I make the U-turn. I drive back to the fork and take the coastal route. After five minutes, the road climbs and turns a bit and up ahead I see a view that drops my jaw. It’s the Percé rock

Needless to say, then onwards I followed all the corners that Google map was trying to cut.

Third

It is near 9 when I reach Gaspé and am going further north where I had booked a motel online the night earlier. I chose it because it was cheaper. As I said before, I am taking all the coastal routes now. To take it in more thoroughly I open all the windows and the sunroof too. The sun has set and it is getting a bit chilly. There’s twilight, so it’s not so dark yet. According to the map I am some 10 kilometers from the motel. I am passing through a typical residential area near the end of which I think will be a touristic street with motels and restaurants, mine being one of them. But the residential area ends and I enter a National park. The route goes through the woods, up and down the hills (which reminds me of rally racing in Dirt 3). The map is showing that the motel is on the other side of this peninsula and I have to cross it through the woods. After few kilometers the road opens up. Then what I see is divine beyond words. Fortunately I captured it on camera.

That night I stayed in a motel that’s near that lighthouse you see in the picture. 10 meters from my room’s door was the end of the cliff on which big waves were crashing!


There are many other things that I saw, tasted and felt in this trip.

Among what I remember is a strip of land that connects the Bar Harbor to Bar Island, which is under water for most of the day except for 2-3 hours of low tide. I happened to be there at the right time and enjoyed an evening walk.

Before I woke up in Saint John, New Brunswick one morning, I had no idea there were more than four timezones in Canada!

I can’t forget the clam chowder soup I had in Prince Edward’s Island. It was the best clam chowder soup on this side of the galaxy. I enjoyed sipping it while watching five seagulls basking in the sun on a small hillock surrounded by the water and then watching the hillock disappear under high tide before the soup finished.

The four hours spent in Maritime Museum in Halifax were very infotaining. I also spent couple of hours in the Halifax Citadel later, which exhibits lot of items of warfare from 17th upto 20th century. But I didn’t find it as impressive.

I spent only one hour in Charlottetown, PEI. But I was there just at the right moment to capture this little wonder singing at a local festival.

Then I remember the elderly couple from Kentucky I met at a seafood restaurant in Cape Breton, who were professional Bridge players participating in a tournament in Halifax and had taken couple of days off to do site-seeing.

I also got to experience the camaraderie between people who drive Mini Cooper. When you are driving a Mini, every time another Mini passes in the opposite lane, its driver will acknowledge you by slightly raising their hand. I had experienced this etiquette among bikers when I used to ride a motorbike in US.

Over the period I developed a healthy relationship with the girl who speaks for Google Maps. I think we understand each other better now!

More photos from the trip

Posted on Jun 30, 2016


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