So, the time has come to leave our little bolt-hole in Nova Scotia, Canada. We’re flying out to New Zealand, postponing our US trip slightly for personal reasons. We’ve really enjoyed our time here in the Bay of Fundy – home of the world’s highest tides, and… um… ah…
No, sorry, that’s it.
But man, is it ever beautiful!
When we arrived, the whole place was still buried under a thick blanket of snow – much to Roo’s delight. She set about building a snowman, then hollowing out a snow cave… you know, the kind of stuff that non-Australians generally get out of their system by age 10.
Meanwhile, I settled in to write about Asia. It was a little odd, filling my head with scenes of steaming jungles and sprawling concrete metropolises – only to look out of the window at the pristine snow every time a car drove past our cabin. Which happened roughly three times per day…
Most days, we took a stroll down to the beach – a rugged and dramatic location, the sand black beneath the white snow, and strewn with boulders and great chunks of ice. An awesome place for photographs; sunbathing, not so much.
Overlooking the beach was (and still is) my favourite house in the area – a delightful little cottage with a bay window and panoramic views over the bay. Snow ramped up, covering the front door, and we could tell that no-one had visited the cottage in months. It was obviously a holiday home, and one I was rather jealous of.
In a tantalising twist, we happened to be walking past it again a few days ago – just in time to spot a real estate agent, taking photos of the place. The owner had taken ill, and put it on the market; “Needs a bit of redecorating,” he admitted, “but it’s in great shape!”
The price? $98,000. That’s Canadian dollars, by the way – putting the UK market value at a tad under £50,000. (It’s HERE if you’re interested!)
“It’s the view,” the lady who runs the local shop told me. “Any house with a view like that shoots right up in price.”
She was right – a quick check of the estate agent’s website revealed a house on 7.5 acres for sale nearby – for $30,000 (£15k). That’s the price of a decent car in Australia…
And speaking of the shop, there is just the one; a tiny place that sells bread, milk, eggs… and not much else. Not much of those either, to be honest – in the last two months we’ve bought three cartons of eggs from them, all from the same batch. They expired shortly before we bought the first lot, and by the time I bought the last pack I had to point out to the owner that I was now paying full price for eggs that were two entire months out of date. She apologised, and nipped out the back – returning with a pack that was only one month out of date. Score!
The shop also has one of those Kuerig coffee machines that posh people have in their kitchens. This has become a bit of an addiction, and I make an excuse to go there every couple of days to buy one. But, other than that, we haven’t been to a single shop – groceries or otherwise – in eighteen days.
I think that’s a personal record.
So, yesterday we borrowed our landlord’s car, for the third time since we got here. It’s a knackered old wreck, squeaking and shuddering the 20km to the nearest town – but it’s still a lot better than walking.
Roo and I flipped a coin for the driving privileges, and I lost, which meant it was my turn. My first, actually, and as Roo pointed out, I was badly in need of the practice. Roo and I will be sharing the driving on our US trip – so far that’s in the order of 10,253 miles, split evenly between the two of us! But so far, I’ve never actually driven in this part of the world. Or in an automatic.
It took me a while, getting used to that auto transmission – bunny-hopping down the road with one foot on each pedal, while Roo gently reminded me that I was still on the wrong side of the road. I suffer left-right confusion issues, which to be honest doesn’t stand me in the best stead to be a driver. Or a navigator. In fact, it begs the question, “What the hell good I am going to be on a three-month road-trip around America?!” I frequently find myself driving on the wrong side in England, and I’ve never had any continental experience to confuse me… just my crazy old brain, up to its usual tricks.
So we made the first turn (there are only two turns on this 20 minute journey), and Roo convinced me to move over to the opposite side of the carriageway. I started to speed up, and amidst the myriad clangs and squeals of tortured suspension, I was sure I could hear the regular thud thud thud of a flat tyre.
Roo was also listening to it. “Might just be a stone in the tyre,” she said.
So we carried on.
Then we came around a bend in the road and saw, in front of us, a police blockade. One cop car, lights flashing, on either side of the road, and a handful of vehicles queuing through the gap in between them.
Roo and I exchanged a look of horror.
“Thank God you’re driving!” she said. Because her license had expired a month ago. The new one was still en route from Australia, and hadn’t arrived yet. This hadn’t stopped her driving on our last trip to town, but thankfully this was the first time we’d seen a police car in Nova Scotia.
“We still have a bit of a problem,” I pointed out. “This isn’t our car. We’re not insured to drive it. I don’t know if it’s even registered. Hell, I don’t know if it’s even roadworthy…”
It was a long, dead-straight road down the hill to the cops. No way out. I fumbled on the back seat for my jacket, groped in the pocket for my wallet, and gave it to Roo while I slid my licence out of it. Then my hand twitched; the license fell from my nervous fingers, clattering down the narrow gap between the passenger seat and the centre console – the single hardest-to-reach place in the entire car.
“CRAP!” said Roo, “You’ve got to be f’ckn’ kidding me!”
I pulled up behind the driver who was currently talking to the cop.
The voice inside my head was going, “SHIT-SHIT-SHIT-SHIT-SHIT!”
When it was my turn, I inched towards the cop, leaving an almost suspiciously large gap between myself and the car in front.
Just don’t hit the wrong pedal, I told myself. Don’t kangaroo the damn car right past the guy. That almost always looks bad.
The policeman was inspecting the tyres of the car opposite me, which didn’t bode well.
“Morning sir,” I said, as cheerfully as I could manage. Roo dug my license out just in time and I held it out before he could ask for it. This was because I was terrified he would ask – like every traffic cop in every move I’ve ever seen – for my “license AND registration.”
I had no idea where the registration was, or what it looked like, or if there even was any – and if there was, it sure as hell wasn’t in my name.
The officer was frowning at my UK driving license. “You don’t have a Canadian license?” he asked.
“Ah, no, we’re just on holiday,” I explained, “staying back there in Port Greville.”
The officer winced in sympathy.
Then he walked around the back of the car, studying something. He bent down for a closer look, then reached for his radio…
I was braced for a shout of “Step out of the VE-hicle!”
But it didn’t come. He just handed back my license, wished us a pleasant day, and let us go.
I don’t think I’ve moved off as carefully as that since the day of my driving test.
But we made it.
My fears of being stranded beside the road, several hours’ walk from our landlord’s house, with no phone to call him – and him with no car other than the one we’d just had impounded…
I was suddenly reminded of this moment:
“I can’t understand how we got past that trooper,” I told Roo, “I thought we were dead!”
Roo got the reference straight away, because Roo is awesome like that.
“The Force is strong with us,” she explained. “I just hope they’re not still there on the way back…”
* * *
Right well, that’s enough waffle from me! Next time I promise we’ll have Roo back, and you can look at some of her stunning images instead of reading my rubbish. 🙂
My easy way to remember which side of the road–the passenger is always on the curb
That only applies if your not driving a foreign car in a different country as i love driving my left hand drive car in uk, better than i ever drove a right hand one.
Tony just remember your left hand now has yr wedding ring on it. Xx
Hey, that wedding ring trick is a great one! I’ll remember it like this: “LEFT her at the altar!” (well, of course not, but it helps!)
You’ve clearly never been in a car with me! Where the passenger is generally hiding in the footwell… 🙂
When I was visiting my daughter in NZ, the rental agent was trying to explain to me how to drive a NZ in NZ (which would also apply driving a US car in the US).. he told me “Keep the bitch in the ditch”.
I thought it was hilarious! My daughter, not so much..
I was fine on the straight roads.. turning back into traffic was something entirely different.
After a day, though.. I was a pro.. 😉
happy to hear your trip is still on for the US Roo you are right Port Greville is beautiful keep up the travels i love reading all about them Tony i hope your driving improves because the freeways are hell in the US and some of the back country roads are well scary just right for the two of you for adventure!
safe travels peg
Thanks Peg! Yeah, I’ve been practicing driving, as Roo’s license never arrived in Canada before we left – so now we’re waiting for it to arrive there, and then be posted on to us in New Zealand! By which time, knowing us, we’ll probably be gone somewhere else again… So it looks like I’ll be doing all the driving for a while. God help us! 🙂
Safe travels. Fortunately Wanaka should not be as cold or white as Novia Scotia.
Oh, I dunno… we’re expecting the first major dump of snow in Wanaka tomorrow! It’s home to several big ski resorts, and we’ve arrived at the start of winter… our fourth in a row, as it happens! Roo is, understandably, very excited. And getting paler by the minute…
I am sad that when we go to Nova Scotia next summer we won’t actually be staying in the Bay of Fundy as was our original plan. I am sure the south coast will be lovely too though. And, I am also kind of blown away by how reasonable the prices for real estate are in Nova Scotia. Even the rental prices at the height of summer seem suspiciously reasonable to me. Of course, I am used to summer rental prices on the coast here in North Carolina which are decidedly NOT reasonable.
And I totally get the left/right confusion thing. I have it too. My husband had given up asking me to tell him directions anymore and he just has me point. If I ever make it to England or Australia, I won’t be driving. I would be terribly confused all the time.
Safe travels to New Zealand.
Well, it IS gorgeous there, but there isn’t a vast amount to do. Real estate prices are unbelievable though – if ever there was a place to get a holiday home on the cheap, it’s there. The only problem then is getting to the damn thing when you want to use it… 🙂
I have been reading Kamikaze Kangaroos and have thoroughly enjoyed your travel adventures (or mis-adventures). A friend and I just recently completed a 3 week journey across the southern portion of the U.S. We tend to travel the roads less traveled cause we want to see parts the country that most people will bypass. Everyone is in a hurry to get from point A to point B and they miss so much. We started in Southern California and worked our way through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessse then back through Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California. Along the way we discovered a memorial to the surrender of Geronimo, important Civil War battlefields, the birthplace of Helen Keller, the birthplace of Elvis, Graceland, followed a portion of the Natchez Trace, ate pig’s ears sandwiches at a real rundown place in a section of Jackson, Mississippi once known as Little Harlem, ate fried green tomatoes in Juliette, Georgia, tried to follow Route 66 (most times successfully) and discovering Fort Reno outside of Oklahoma City, missed severe tornado weather in Texas and Oklahoma, visited aliens in Roswell, New Mexico, paid homage to Buddy Holly in Lubbock, Texas and Clovis, New Mexico, lost my hat looking over the edge of the Grand Canyon, spent the night in an iconic old motel along Route 66 in Arizona, and so, so ,so much more! Now that we have been back, we are planning our next excursion to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and who knows where else.
I wish you luck in planning your U.S. trip and I look forward to hearing about it. This country is truly amazing and so diverse! More people need to experience what is in our own backyard. Just watch out for the crazies on the roads here!
Wow Barbara, that sounds like an amazing trip! Very much like what I’m hoping to achieve, although Roo and I will be on a much tighter schedule – they’ll only let us into the country for 3 months at a time!
So sorry for the delay in my reply, I’ve had some issues going on in my personal life which have kept me pretty busy the last couple of months. Blog about all that to follow soon!
The house in Port Greville is my family home that by your visit was owned by my sister Donna Merriam after my parents passed. Unfortunately Donna passed two years after your visit of 2015. Port Greville has many retired folks living in the area now and comes to life in the summer months given the local beauty and seasonal activities. It was nice that you enjoyed your visit although I am curious what brought you there from New Zealand. Best regards Tom Merriam
Hi Tom! Wow, your family home is a gorgeous place, something of a dream for me! My wife and I travel a lot, and we came to Port Greville to find a bit of peace and quiet while I finished a travel book I was writing. It was such a beautiful location, and my wife is a huge fan of snow (she grew up in Australia and didn’t see snow until she was 20!). We loved the stormy beach with huge chunks of ice on it, and felt like it was the kind of place we could really relax and get away from the business of our lives. It also helped that, in winter, Port Greville had cheap long-term accommodation options for us, as living on the income from my books means we’re always looking for a bargain!
We were hoping to head down into the US from there, to do a road trip where we stayed with different readers in each state, but in the end we had to put that on hold until the following year due to a family emergency.
I’d love to go back to Nova Scotia some day, and I’ll be writing about our experiences in my next travel book, which I’ve just started working on 😉
Thanks for getting in touch, Tom!