Leg; 496 miles / 798 km
Total; 12,042 miles / 19,380 km
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We were greeted back into Canada with intense cold and sleet! Luckily we were also greeted by a brand spanking new section of the glorious Trans Canada Highway. The TCH is Canada’s answer to the M1, an American Interstate or a German Autobahn. Just about twice as wide! It’s so wide that you can normally always guarantee a massive shoulder and therefore stress-free cycling. The section from Saint Stephen to Saint John, in New Brunswick, is locally condemned as a bit of a folly. However, if you’re on a bike tour you won’t find a better road. You’re surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery, cycling on perfectly smooth Tarmac, and essentially have your own bike lane.
We took the ferry from Saint John to Digby and spent our first day in Nova Scotia riding along the quaint Annapolis Valley. We finished the day setting up camp just off the highway when a guy pulled up beside us in a matte black Dodge Ram pickup. The driver asked what we were doing and, when we replied ‘camping here’, he said ‘errr, no you’re not!’….’because I know a much better spot!!’. Within minutes, Cal (the driver) had loaded all our stuff into his ‘Ram and was driving us to an impossible to find camping spot by a lake. We had a freezing cold, but tranquil night listening to loons and watching beavers swim right by us.
The next day we headed south to the LaHave River where we spent two nights staying with a wonderful Irish couple Mary and Bernie. We had our first rest day in almost two weeks, and had a great excursion to a secluded beach called Green Bay. The next day we planned to follow the Lighthouse Route along the Aspotogan peninsula but the weather was against us and we headed straight to Hubbards where we hoped to camp. We found out – as we’d find out everywhere in Nova Scotia – that we were well ahead of the very short tourist season and the campground wasn’t open. However, the owner showered us with Nova Scotia hospitality and let us stay in a three-bedroom log cabin. For free! It was incredible, and felt well deserved after our rainy day.
We’d also had a few mechanicals that day. In particular, Chris’ belt drive came off three times – more than the rest of the trip put together. So the next day we headed straight to a specialist bike shop in Halifax. They told us the belt was worn and stretched, and we needed a new ring and sprocket; not the sort of thing most shops have in stock! They agreed to order the parts and send them onto us so another shop could fit them. We also finally decide we should upgrade our sleeping bags. The night at ‘Cal’s lake’ had broken us and we bought some -9C down bags, which are comically rated 3-season in Canada!!!
Our next four days were spent cycling the remote Nova Scotia Eastern Shore. When we told people in Nova Scotia about our planned route, they gave us a knowing look about the Eastern Shore. It’s not exactly on the tourist trail and it seems the only people who go there are lobstermen and the few hundred residents whose houses dot the coastline. But EVERYONE should go there. It’s beautiful. It’s completely undeveloped. And you can camp easily. We spent the first night by a coastal brook overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The second night in a picnic area perched on a cliff, and the final night sheltered under the overhang of a local Interpretative Center. The weather was pretty bad the whole way, but the final day was horrific. We left the Interpretative Center in Goldboro at 07:30 and by 09:30 we were done. We had 25mph headwinds, rain and a windchill factor of -3C.
Everywhere we’d been in Nova Scotia people had asked if we were going off the ‘mainland’. We were confused because Nova Scotia feels like an island and we thought people meant New Brunswick. Turns out people differentiate between the majority of Nova Svotia and Cape Breton; the two are connected by a causeway.
At Larry’s River we left the Eastern Shore and headed to Guysborough where we stayed with a serving Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer. Yup, a Mountie! Lenny is an awesome guy and was an incredible host. He plied us with incredible food and told us great stories about his motorcycle travels around South America and Africa. And his recent foray in bicycle touring in the Dominican Republic. We left Lenny’s into more headwinds and averaged little over 7mph all the way to the causeway to Cape Breton. Hopefully the recent weather isn’t a sign of things to come ‘off Mainland’…