Saturday, August 23, 2014

There and back again ...

After our Whale watching trip, Sandy and I drove about 3 km to the tip of Brier Island, where we parked near the lighthouse and went for a walk to Seal Cove.

It was a lovely, easy hike.  I never tire of looking at the pillars of Basalt, the waving hills of grass, and the amazing vista of the Bay of Fundy.

When we came over a low hill, a faint, odd sound, like a cross between a hoot and a howl, reached our straining ears.  

In the photo below you can see Sandy scanning the sea with binoculars, looking for the source of the sound.

Then we found it.  There.  On that rock off shore.  Noisy sun-bathing Seals.

Lots of noisy, sun-bathing Seals. 

See the baby Seal on the bottom left of the photo ?
We lost count at 60 Seals !

The scenery was just stunning !

After leaving Brier Island (reluctantly) we travelled back up Digby Neck with the goal of seeing the famous "Balancing Rock": a pillar of Basalt precariously perched next to the Bay.

Leading to the Rock is a lovely hiking trail, peppered with informative signs about the plants we are passing by.

Notice the wet footprints ?  That stinky dog went in the bog.  

And there were stairs.  Lots of stairs.  I'm OK going DOWN the stairs.  Coming back up ... well I'll think about that later ...

Balancing Rock (9 m or 29 ft high)

The sign when you leave the trail.

It wasn't long before we found ourselves stopping once more, this time to check out an old, abandoned homestead.

Older wringer washer and child's stuffed toy.

There is such a poignancy to items like this. 
Looking in the front door!
The living room floor has fallen into the basement.  Such a shame.
After we got back on the road (again), we had to stop to check out Sandy Cove.

Sandy and Sandy Cove.  Together at last !
Sadly the tide was in.  Apparently there is a massive sand bar and the beach is MUCH wider at low tide.
And of course we had to check out the toppled building that we spied over the hill.

And then we drove home.

The very, very End.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Here there be Whales !

Brier Island is a wonderful destination in itself.  A quiet little island with few people and lots of birds and Seals and wild places to wander near the sea.  But most folk visit Brier Island for one reason.


Situated at the bottom of "Digby Neck" (see previous post for map or consult Ms. Google), Brier Island is as close as you can get to "Whale central" in the Maritimes.

After driving off the ferry from Long Island, we arrived in Westport (Population 210), the only village on Brier Island. 

This was my first experience staying in a hostel, and at $20 a night, my expectations were not high.  I certainly did not expect to find a living room with a picture window looking out over the harbour, a marvellously outfitted kitchen and comfy beds.  In truth, I was also a bit surprised that Sandy and I were sharing a room with a charming young Professor from Barcelona, Spain !

The  hostel living room.
Random signs dotted the waterfront in Westport.

Each morning I got up early, and Wendy and I explored the town.

 And of course we also went for evening walks too.

That grey building on the left is the hostel.

Oh right.  Whale watching.  Yup.  We went.  We saw Whales.

It was over three hours of standing on a boat that rocked lustily on the waves, scanning the horizon as it moved UP and DOWN, and UP and DOWN.  

Because it was choppy, it was sometimes hard to tell a distant Whale fin from a wave.  But when that "wave" shot a spout of foamy, water into the air, a cry of "WHALE" would go up, fingers would point, and someone would shout the time.  Not the time on the clock, but rather to indicate to the captain where the Whale was in relation to us.  "Six o'clock" would mean the Whale was behind the boat, "Nine o'clock" meant it was on our left, and so on.  And so the captain would swing the boat in a wide circle, throttle back the engine and we'd stare and shout in amazement as Whales cruised past, toward,  AND under us.

Of course we weren't the only boat loaded with folk keen to see Whales.  I was impressed that after we'd been watching a couple of Whales close up, our captain told us we had to move along as other boats were approaching, and there is an unwritten rule that no more than two boats can be near a Whale at a time.

If you ever head to Brier Island to see the Whales, make sure you go with Brier Island Whale Watch as they are the only Whale-watching company on the Island that keeps meticulous records of sightings which they share with researchers.  Also, one of the guides on our boat was a co-op  research student from a Nova Scotia University who was adding to her knowledge of Whales and happily shared what she knew with us.  

This short video I made gives you a bit of a feeling of what it was like.

Me and Sandy
Oh wait, I forgot to show you the Seals and the "Balancing Rock", and the tilted building at Sandy's Cove and the abandoned house.  I guess this adventure is, "to be continued" ...

Friday, August 15, 2014

Brier Island or Bust !

My friend Sandy flew home to Ontario yesterday, after her annual visit to Nova Scotia and oh, did we cram a lot of adventures into one week !

On her first full day here, we kayaked from Fisherman's Cove to the Auto Port to see the massive ship loading and unloading cars. Being on the East Coast the cars that arrive here are from Europe (Volvos, Smart Cars, Fiats, Mercedes etc.) and we in turn re-load the ship with North American made vehicles. I'd always wanted to get close to those massive floating "shoe boxes" that cross the Atlantic Ocean, and wasn't disappointed.

Me.  Feelin' kinda tiny.   See the car being unloaded ?
I was fascinated by the emergency life raft system perching perilously five stories (my guess) above the water.  That must be one heck of a drop.

It was quite beautiful under the big concrete dock, as the changing tides had painted the piers in different colours.

Common Terns nested on a nearby disused pier.

Paddling in the harbour was a wonderful way to kick off Sandy's visit.

Our big adventure was a road trip to Brier Island, which lies off the end of "Digby Neck" which is a long spit of land protruding into the Bay of Fundy, to go Whale watching.

Travelling the length of Digby Neck includes two brief ferry rides.

Oh wait.  I'm getting ahead of myself because on the way to "The Neck" we stopped at Annapolis Royal home to Fort Anne, one of the oldest forts in Canada.

The Powder Magazine 

This is how they mow those endless hills and berms around the Fort.

This little building set into a bank reminded me of a Hobbit home.

Annapolis Royal is a very pretty town with an air of history and old world charm,

and is home to a wonderful historic garden.

An Acadian "cottage" overlooks the Dyke and tidal river below.

A variety of walking sticks, each engraved with an interesting quotation, were there for us to use while exploring the gardens.  What a lovely idea !

Sandy selects a stick.
Wasn't sure about this expression.

After viewing the gardens we headed down Digby Neck to Brier Island.  But I think I'll let you rest here and will save those adventures for another post.