World Travel Tales

Hitchhiking - Day 12 and 13

Canada, 2015-06-13

Quebec City, Quebec to Halifax, Nova Scotia (1043 km)

I hit the road reasonably early since I knew there would be a bit of walking to start my day. I walked a few blocks from Lisa's flat, where I had stayed for the past few nights, to The Plains of Abraham. I followed the paved paths through the park heading north-east along the river towards Old Quebec City and the ferry terminal where I would catch a ride across to Lévis, Quebec.

The ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River was nice and had a great view of the Chateau Frontenac. A little trimaran with full sails tried to race the ferry, which reminded me of an old saying amongst sailors - if there are two boats with sails up, it's a race - so this skipper must have taken that one step further to be any two boats in the water is a race, regardless of one boat having a huge motor and the other only small sails. I liked his competitive spirit but he lost badly. Sorry, buddy.

After disembarking from the ferry I walked the switchbacked road up the steep riverbank and then headed south-east for a few kilometers before coming to the Trans-Canada highway. The sun was out and I had an enjoyable walk, but now I was back to the business of standing on the side of a road waiting for a ride.

This next section of travel was a little uncertain for me. I was in an area of the country that is largly French speaking and I was sure to find myself in a situation where a kind driver who stopped to pick me up could speak just as much English as I could French, which is none at all. I was quite lucky with the first few short rides of the day having drivers who could speak varying degrees of passable English, but when an old rusty red and literally rusty Sunfire stopped for me and I opened the door to release a cloud of smoke, my luck in the language department had run out. The driver quickly said something in French and I replied that I didn't speak French, he just shook his head and waved for me to hop in. The car was a bit on the grungy side, it reeked of cigarette smoke and the seats were covered with dirty seat covers, but my driver was smiling and tapping his hands to the beat of the music on the French radio. We tried to communicate but it was clear that we simply didn't understand what the other was trying to say. I guess the only thing he knew was that I was heading towards Nova Scotia.

After driving for a bit, he indicated that he was going to stop for a bathroom break, but I could stay in the car since he was continuing on from there. He jumped out of the car at the rest station and headed for the toilets. He was wearing shorts and socks but didn't have shoes on. When he was walking back towards the car after his bathroom break I could read his t-shirt, which said "Fuck the Police", so I guess he understood at least three words of English. When we resumed our drive I hoped we wouldn't be pulled over by the police since they were unlikely to love this guys shirt.

Somewhere before the New Brunswick border he pulled over to the side of the road and pointed that he was taking the exit off the highway. He held out his hand and gave me a firm hand shake and then offered up a high-five. I slapped his high-five and in a strong french accent he said "good luck" which proved that he spoke my language better than I could speak his. It's sad - I should really learn some French.

I decided to use my yellow foamy hitchhiking sign again. I had peeled the "PEI" off of it and stuck the biggest "NS" possible in bright blue painters tape. It was already late afternoon/early evening when a big semi truck pulled over for me. When I jumped in he told me that he normally doesn't stop in this area for hitchhikers because he doesn't speak French, but when he saw my NS sign and my bright red backpack he figured I was a traveller and thought he'd give me a lift. He was heading for Moncton, NB, but couldn't make it quite the full distance because there was a truck inspection station outside of the city and he would be over his daily driving time limit, so he had to stop in Salisbury. Stopping just about anywhere was fine with me so I settled in and we had a nice chat, probably mostly to keep my driver awake on his long day. Our entire drive was through thick forest and we saw two big bull moose grazing in some marshland near the road. As the sun was setting I was confident I'd easily find a place to sling my hammock for the night. But as my luck would have it, just as we were coming up to the truck stop at Salisbury the trees disappeared and there were giant barren fields on both sides of the road.

I always like to set up in daylight if possible, but that wasn't happening today. From the truck stop I could see a big forest about 500 meters away. There was a well worn ATV trail along the edge of the field just off of the highway, and I walked along towards the forest in the darkness. Clouds had filled the sky and I could tell that I didn't have much time to set up my camp before the rain started to fall. Once in the forest I quickly found two perfectly placed trees and suspended my hammock and little silnylon tarp. After a hand full of peanut M&M's for supper, I crawled into bed and fell into a comfortable sleep.

I'm not sure how long I slept, but I woke up in darkness to heavy rain pounding down on the tarp above my head. I love the feeling of sleeping outdoors and being warm and dry despite the elements doing their best to make you uncomfortable. I felt like Lieutenant Dan in the storm scene of Forrest Gump, laughing maniacally and yelling "You call this a storm?"

The next time I woke up was in daylight to the sound of ATV motors revving as they ripped down the trail only a few meters from my little camp. Of course surrounded by darkness last night I didn't want to venture too far into the forest to set up, so my camp was certainly visible from the trail. I guess they wouldn't really care and they possibly didn't even notice me since they were concentrating on the trail in front of them not gazing off into the forest. Anyhow, it woke me up, so I decided to get a move on. I crawled out of bed and when I started to pack up my stuff I noticed a big ol' tick resting on my backpack so I flicked him off. I had been warned of this being a heavy year for ticks and I fully expected close encounters with them, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I quickly did a thourough tick check of my body (there were none), finished packing, and got the hell out of there. Nasty little creatures.

My first ride of the day is one of the fastest rides I got on this trip. I walked across the road to the lanes with traffic going east, stuck out my thumb, and a truck pulled over for me. Literally seconds after hitting the highway, I was in a pick-up truck heading towards Moncton. I wanted to see some of New Brunswick, but I planned to meet my friend, Sarah, in Halifax tonight, so I had to get moving and visiting New Brunswick would have to wait. A few rides got me through Truro and to Lower Sackville, where a friend who grew up there wanted me to stop and take a selfie at the town sign. He said I didn't really need to visit the town, "Lower SackVegas" as he called it, just seeing the entrance sign was enough. My ride happened to be turning off right at that junction, so I walked a few meters from where I was dropped, snapped a quick picture at the Lower Sackville sign, and then continued thumbing towards Halifax.

Another two rides from there (one with a stoner truck driver) got me right to downtown Halifax. I'd never been to Nova Scotia and there was a lot I wanted to do here. My ultimate goal for this trip was Cape Spear, Newfoundland, as far east in Canada as I could go, but Halifax was always a secondary goal.

I guess it doesn't only apply to boats - you could say that any two people going from point A to point B can be called a race, because even though Sarah was cheating by flying, we were in a race to arrive in Halifax first. I wasn't racing only because it would be great to see her and have a nice visit over dinner, but also because she invited me to crash in the spare bed in her hotel room for the night.

When I started this trip I didn't have a definite plan about where I would stay or who I would visit along the way, but I have to say that I was extremely lucky, both up until now and in the weeks to come, to have things work out the way they did.

Photo 1: Little trimaran that tried to race our ferry across the St. Lawrence River. That a big Canadian Coast Guard cutter and La Citadelle de Québec in the background.

Photo 2: I happened to be between rides when I walked across this overpass right as a train was approaching. Not sure exactly where I am here, but I think eastern Quebec somewhere.

Photo 3: Selfie at the Lower Sackville sign as requested by my friend, Jeff, who grew up there.

Hitchhiking - Day 12 and 13

Hitchhiking - Day 12 and 13

Hitchhiking - Day 12 and 13

...view other photos from Canada.