Audrey writes:

As we waited in line to cross the border from Maine into Canada on June 23,  2008, Ekke and I got a little nostalgic. We were leaving behind a year of adventure, of seeing something new every day, eating different foods, in exotic and beautiful locales. Going back into Canada, we knew that things would suddenly be familiar, that we were on our way home. So, with mixed feelings, we got our passports stamped and were ushered into a special building to deal with the carnets. These carnets had been stamped in many African countries, and we needed them to prove we hadn't sold the bikes. The Canadian officials, looking really official in their bullet-proof vests, took a while to figure out what to do, saying it had been a couple of years since someone had crossed their border with a carnet de passage. A carnet is not needed in South America, so travellers with a carnet would have had to come from overseas with a vehicle. After some assistance from Ekke to understand the workings of the document, they finally stamped it, and we were on our way. We could now send the carnet to Ottawa and receive a cheque for $11 000, which was essentially just getting our money back. We took a deep breath, rode past the gate, and out onto Canadian soil. We were home. Suddenly something strange happened. Everything fairly glowed. Maybe it was the red and white Canadian flags everywhere, up for Canada Day, or the familiar stores and road signs. I was a bit choked up when I saw the Bank of Montreal, and proudly displayed a Canadian $20 bill, the first that I'd held in a year.

Getting the Carnet des Passages stamped into Canada

Wow, Canadian money!  Now, what was the exchange rate for that?

St. Stephen was a cute little town, famous for producing an NHL hockey player (Don Sweeney) and the Ganong chocolate and candy company. I was in awe at how clean the place was, and how everything was in such good condition and state of repair. No peeling paint, no garbage lying in piles, no abandoned and wrecked buildings. Though parts of Africa had looked first-world with shopping malls and fast food places in some cities, we had spent most of our time in rural areas, most of which were noticeably third-world. Seeing the roads, parks and shops taken care of was a real treat, and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was great to be home. The tourist information centre gave us as many brochures and maps as we could carry, and we soon found a campground. We couldn't leave town without visiting the chocolate museum, though, so the next day we enjoyed the all-you-can-eat chocolate while perusing the displays of elegant and historic chocolate boxes and old candy-making machines. I was lovin' this country!

Ekke's favourite town in the whole world

Must be Canada if it has hockey stars

A Chocolate Museum?!?  Sign me up!

Good thing they had "all you can eat" chocolate

The ride to St. John was quite impressive for a couple of prairie people such as us. I breathed a sigh of relief as we rode through the exotic and beautiful countryside. We hadn't left that behind in Africa after all. The historic pier and buildings of St. Andrews were quite maritime-ish, the smell of the sea everywhere. Small, curvy roads took us through rural areas, a joy to ride, and we occasionally caught a glimpse of the Bay of Fundy through the trees. Riding into St. John in the mid-afternoon was easy, our first city in Canada. Compared to Istanbul or Cairo or Nairobi, this was easy. People drove in their own lanes, and someone politely let us in, in front of them. I vowed then and there to never complain about traffic in Canada again. The tourist information centre helped us find the Reversing Falls, which were due to be at high tide about 4:00 pm. After a bowl of real Canadian pea soup at Tim Horton's, we rode over to the Reversing Falls viewpoint. There, we perched ourselves on a deck overlooking the phenomenon, which was the Bay of Fundy pushing the St. John river so that it flowed backwards. It was quite interesting, and all because the Bay of Fundy, due to the narrow channel, had these incredibly powerful tides. It also had something to do with the bay's orientation to the strong ocean currents. It looked like some rapids flowing backwards, called 'falls' because of a deep chasm below the water. (For a full and detailed explanation, please talk to the Pardoe boys, whom you'll meet in the Nova Scotia chapter). Later, Ekke found a Future Shop on the GPS where he was finally able to purchase his birthday present, a waterproof and shockproof Olympus camera, perfect to carry in a motorcycle jacket pocket. Just as we were leaving, a local named Charles came to talk to us after having seen our bikes. He was interested in our travel stories, as well as the logistics of doing such a trip. After a very interesting hour or so of chatting, I think Ekke finally had him convinced to set a date for his own motorcycle adventure.

St. Andrews harbour at low tide

St. Andrews

Nice riding

A chilly fog envelopes us

Meeting Charles in St. John (stop dreaming and start planning!)

A new camera

A campground was located in a central city park and it was easy to catch a cab to the Reversing Falls the next day. We left the bikes safely within the campground fencing, which left us without heavy motorcycle gear to deal with, a real bonus on this hot summer day. The bay was at low tide, and the rapids were even more impressive as the river flowed freely. Tourists rode speedboats up and down the swirling waters, and you could see the boats struggling to defeat the currents, splashing the tourists in the process. Our cab driver told us that there were 3000 tourists in town, all from an American cruise ship docked in the harbour, so downtown St. John was extremely crowded. Great. City Market made for a terrific lunch spot, and there were booths chock-a-block with Canadian touristy items like maple syrup, stuffed RCMP moose, and baby seal fridge magnets. We were delighted.

The Bay of Fundy water level is higher than the St. John river mouth

Sea level lower than the river mouth

Giant beavers only exist as statues now but would have been dangerous

Audrey is really happy to see moose again

Entering the St. John City Market

Inside the market, where is that Maple Syrup?

A handsome model.  The ship, not Ekke!

Ekke indulged me in my love of historic walking tours, and our brochure took us to some very interesting architecture such as old loyalist buildings, Victorian homes of former sea merchants, a really old cemetery, and a museum made from a converted brick warehouse by the harbour. Our part of Canada didn't look like this. Most of our history in Alberta has to do with dinosaurs, or the native people, all very interesting of course but none of which left historic buildings like those in eastern Canada. It really reminded me of Europe. But something that was truly Canadian, which we hadn't seen in a year, appeared before us: Shopper's Drug Mart! I was in drugstore heaven, finally getting the brands of items I'd only dreamed of for so long.

A nice car, er, I mean architecture

A grand entry

A commemoration to a royal visit at the City Hall

Fun statues

Trinity Church, establish in 1783

A cemetary in the heart of the city

A ride down the coast of the Bay of Fundy took us past St. Martin, where several caves were exposed at low tide. Ekke and I enjoyed some award-winning chowder at award-winning prices at the Sea Side restaurant nearby. $34 for lunch was just unheard of. That would have paid for a week's worth of injera and tibs in Ethiopia. Looks like we'd have to hunt down more Tim Hortons for cheap chowder. We rode in the direction of the Bay of Fundy National Park. Norma Jean at the Parks Canada booth was extremely friendly and helpful and was really excited about our trip. She suggested we buy a National Historic Sites pass after purchasing the Parks Canada pass, which we did. This pass paid for itself on just a couple of visits, and got us into historic sites in eastern Canada that we might otherwise have given a miss. She also suggested we get some fresh lobster at a little place in Alma, but somehow we ended up with a can of chilli from a convenience store instead. I'm sure it was real Canadian chilli. Our hearts skipped a beat when we saw a BMW 1150 Adventure and a KTM Adventure in town, other motorcycle travellers out enjoying the Maritimes. If we had seen either of these bikes anywhere in Africa, we would have, first of all, been stunned to see other motorcycle travellers, and then we would have stopped, compared travel stories and tips and exchanged email addresses.

Great view of the caves carved by the sea from the restaurant

Huge caverns hollowed out by the sea

We've been cautioned about everything from camels to penguins, now it's time for moose

Norma-Jean has some great tips for exploring Fundy National Park

Glorious view of the Bay of Fundy

A fishing boat leaves the Alma harbour

Fundy National Park was beautiful and we decided to stay an extra day, starting with a ride up the coast to Wolfe Point to look at beautiful scenery. We weren't too far away from the Flower Pot rocks, so we rode in that direction a bit later. On the way we saw a sign which led to something called Cape Enrage, which sounded too interesting to pass up. The twisty road took us to a beautiful lighthouse, renovated and maintained by school children from Moncton. It even had a bona fide lighthouse horn, going off without warning when it was foggy and we were happy to have our motorcycle earplugs handy. Authentic Canadian cuisine in their restaurant included fresh scones with wild blueberry jam. The cliffside scenery was quite spectacular and we could see Nova Scotia across the bay. Further up the coast we came upon the Flower Pot rocks. They were thusly named because of the foliage that grew out of the tops of them. At low tide it's possible to walk the whole length of the beach beside these interesting rock formations, where cliffs have been eroded due to the strong currents of the Bay of Fundy. We slipped and slid in the mud for awhile, climbing boulders and walking around and under the nifty rock formations. There was a 'tunnel of love', the 'bear', a 'dinosaur' and I'm pretty sure I saw a 'Bart Simpson', but with better hair. Later, we watched as the tide came in, which could occasionally be as high as 10 metres. The water completely covered the beach we had walked on, allowing kayakers to paddle around the Flower Pot rocks.

The covered bridge at the end of the road

Oh oh.

Always bring ear plugs...

Spectacular coast line

Mud flats are exposed as the tide goes out

Now you can use "neap" in a sentence...

Synchronise your watches

Low tide

That's why they're called Flower Pots

Good thing we synchronised our watches

View from the top at low tide...

and at high tide

Our final New Brunswick visit was to Moncton, the location of a big motorcycle rally while we were there. There was more black leather, chrome and fringes than you could shake a stick at, and our Gore-Tex suits and colourful motorbikes just didn't fit in. There was one thing we wanted to try in Moncton, however, and that was Magnetic Hill. Apparently, for $5, one could drive to the bottom of the hill, put the car in neutral, and sit back and watch as it rolled backward up the hill. What a strange country this was. Since our motorcycles couldn't roll up the hill backwards, we got in for free. We rode to the bottom of the hill, put the bikes in neutral, and sure enough, they rolled uphill. Amazing. You'll have to go there and try it for yourself for a full appreciation of the event. (Or just ask the Pardoe boys for a full explanation). A nearby Beavertail booth was just what we needed after the hill experiment. We had planned on trying one in Ottawa, home of the original Beavertails, but this was close enough. (Some of you might have to Google 'Beavertails' at this point). In the parking lot we met a couple two-up on a Goldwing from Claresholm, Alberta. Small world.

Getting pulled into the Magnetic Hill

Eating BeaverTails can make you do crazy things

All in all, it was really great to be back in Canada. A little predictability in grocery stores never hurt, and we knew without hesitation what the currency was worth. I didn't miss haggling on the price of goods, but things were rather expensive. We were shocked at the price of gas, food, and clothing. Maybe it was just the high provincial sales tax, but it would be something to get used to as we turned back south, towards Nova Scotia.

Our tracks in Atlantic Canada

Back to the top