You could say it was some sort of a gamble.
I was all very ready to prepare for the Maritimes onslaught all on my own but I remembered about a certain gentleman who commented on this domain about the fact that he would like to do the Maritimes too.
So I put a proposal on the table and it was one of the best travel proposals I had ever come up with.
Now, choosing people to travel with is tricky business. Often times, you don’t get to choose, you got chosen instead.
Especially with me, I can categorize two factors that can make life difficult for people accompanying.
a) I don’t go on vacation, I do travel excursions. Unless budget allows, I picked up an annoying habit to avoid hotels, tours and non-public transportations. I carpool, ride the bus, take extremely long walks, loves free museum entries, inquire for student discounts and sleep on hostels and peoples couches. I don’t use the bus tours but borrow their maps to navigate point of interests in the cities. In time, I polished a refined ability in sending messages to random people I don’t know on facebook, in favour of lodging. I also have a certain trust and respect with fellow independent travellers, which many had helped me get through distances.
Now, one might see an easy fix for this, there are many of my likes running around. However, I have another little quality that can make strangers who don’t come from my background feel a little queasy:
b) I am a proud female Muslim and I wear the headscarf. This means I can’t eat as whimsically as everybody else, I need some time and space to pray. I can’t hang out at the bar for ‘a couple of after party drinks’ like all other youth travellers and there are some activities and places I avoid. Most important of all, a sole travelling hijabi lady invites stares. See, I got used to this since coming to the western world, but imagine the poor fella(s) travelling with me?
So, these are mainly reasons why I mostly travel by myself, either there was no serious commitments from suitors (travelling really requires serious time and money commitment) nor the fact that I don’t really like to impose my baggage of inconveniences on the people I travel with.
For the last 9 days, I had an eventful adventure on Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick with an awesome traveling buddy, Irving Tan Zhi Mian. It is almost a funny story how the trip came about by just a comment on a blog. The fact that I don’t have a clue how this guy actually is personality wise, since we were not exactly close friends, and the last time I saw Irving was back when I was doing my visit to Ottawa for the Agong’s picnic back in 2008.
That’s bloody two years had passed. And to think we sort of had no choice but to cross our fingers that we don’t start bickering for the next 9 days, which was quite an amusing little fact haha.
Anyway, truth be told, I was quite worried in the beginning duly to the above two reasons aforementioned.
Prince Edward Island fun facts
PEI is like living on planet Mars. It has this amazing geography of maroon-ish red hues that stretches the coast as vast as the eyes can see. The beaches are red, the sands are red, the rocks are red, the soil are red,–inevitably your sneakers too–all due to the rich ferum dioxide content on it’s earth, a component commonly found in rusts.
Even the jellyfish in the sea are red. Whether they consume the Fe3+ minerals as part of their diet remains to be investigated.
PEI also prides itself as a place where the Confederation of Canada was signed. Yes, the birth of of one of the biggest countries in the modern world happened here in this charming little capital called Charlottetown. There is a very high tech museum (because they provide high quality Seinheser audiovisual aid wooooah )–the Founder’s Hall–that chronologies the whole process, and it’s a neat, very well maintained place to know the origins of this country.
PEI mostly thrives on farming. They grow potatoes and has a small, albeit undetermined population of cows. A small but very shy school of seals also habits the vicinity of the Island, although one would have to look really hard for them, like paying 28 bucks for a boat ride to their habitat for example. Great rolling hills dominated the vista, it reminds me a lot of the town of Salisbury, UK.
The average distance between one house to another in the countryside is approximately 1 km minimum. Convenience shops are even further away, I am absolutely certain they stock their shampoo, toilet paper and toothpaste supplies by the month.
The people of PEI and New Brunswick have to be the most helpful and friendliest people on Canada. They finally trumped the people of Vancouver and Calgary, bar none.
Surprisingly, for it’s prime location as an island near the sea, there aren’t many sushi shops around. Despite the alarmingly high Japanese population, perhaps the Chinese haven’t found this place habitable yet :p
For some reason, this place is famous for the setting of a certain fictional children storybook series called Anne of Green Gables by PEI native and author,Lucy Maud Montgomery. Now, not being Canadian, I haven’t a clue what the books are all about but mostly I was intrigued on this particular entry Wikitravel entry that states
Tourism in PEI often focuses on beach, seafood, music and the Anne of Green Gables House which seems especially to appeal to visitors from Japan, for whom this is the third or fourth most popular destination in North America (after the Grand Canyon and Banff, Alberta and often ahead even of Niagara Falls).
I know there was an old anime version of the series called ‘Akage no An’ in Japan but that can’t be just it. It turns out that Anne of Green Gables is the book used for English literature studies for Japanese students since 1952.
It made immediate sense why there was a full tour package in Japanese at the tourist information centre, why the signs in the hostels are all bilingual; English and Japanese. Japanese people walking around town are aplenty too. (You can easily spot Koreans and Japanese aside, they really take extra care on the style of clothes that they wear, one of the things I like about them 🙂 )
It takes two. Or more.
A little lesson was learnt in this trip edition–there are some things that just can’t be done on your own.
Problematic thing is, to do PEI the justice it deserves, one would need a car to navigate to reach those majestic but hard to reach areas. Being one hardcore ‘kampung’ of Canada, if you haven’t got a ride, you hitchhike. There is public transport service provided by Trius Transit, but only one, serving the needs of commuters in Charlottetown. It is relatively new too (formed in 2009) where the most frequent bus on each stop is every half an hour.
Let’s say, hypothetically, this independent traveller hasn’t got a driving license but owns a credit card. Another independent traveller owns a driving license but doesn’t have a credit card to his/her name. Touching a little on game theory, if the two didn’t get together, both will be miserable in PEI and find other ways to explore the island ie; inviting themselves on other’s people car, take the God-forsaken tours, just hang out in Charlottetown etc etc
Now, wouldn’t that be unfortunate tsk tsk tsk.
*Eventually, we did not fall into the miserable category*
PEI, The Gentle Island
I am still figuring out which part does the ‘gentle’ adjective refers to but one thing that is true is it’s majestic beauty. PEI offers one of the outstanding, postcard quality sights I have ever set eyes on. To get to each one however, requires hours of driving and at least another hour of trekking on trails, or wading into the jellyfish invested water (absolutely nothing gentle about that )
Then, there you see it.
It’s one of those sights that stop you in the tracks, and your mind starts juggling thoughts between the surreal: “Are you freaking kidding me? This sort of place exists? “ to the more humbling notion of : “ Dear Lord, why is your Earth is so beautiful. The 185 dollar bumper of the rented car that I screwed over? Never mind that. This was worth it.”
It wasn’t all rosy the whole time, sometimes we ventured for hours to reach a town, an ended up disappointed by it’s offerings. One time, we drove into a town called Cape Egmont for the ‘Bottle Houses’ and as we arrived there, the so called unique attraction doesn’t strike us as anything special, i think the sign ‘FREE KITTENS’ was far more interesting than the place itself. Another time, we drove into a town called O’ Leary, in search of the famous PEI’s potatoes. It was a Sunday, and nothing was opened and the only fascinating thing was a huge statue of a potato covered in flies. I’d like to think all of this is part and parcel of excursions, one would have to treat both gems and disappointment the same, and not let it hinder the motivation to find more gems.
Pioneering clean energy generation
For the geek in me, I think one of the highlights of my trip is the visit to the North Cape Wind Interpretive Centre and it’s gorgeous and romantic vicinity (the other being the play The Last Resort). I have always been fascinated by wind turbines, because they are rare to find and one of the most novel ways to generate power.
* By then, all my photos turn out blurry, i think something happened to the lense*
When we saw one in close range, it was HUMONGOUS. Each one reaches a good height of a 10 storey building. The mechanics of generating power is pretty much similar as other generators where kinetic energy is transformed into electric energy—I am not going to bore you with the details—the only difference is the type of medium that turns the turbines. Gas powered plants uses steam and high pressure while dams uses potential energy in water that forces the turbine to spin. Wind turbines use winds, and it’s a marvel of a sight how something that you can’t even see generates power supply enough for the 5 percent of the population. Reading all the information at the centre, I am most enamoured by the fact that all this huge machines and complexities relies onto the basic laws of high school physics, Bernoulli principle, Faraday’s law, Lenz Law, I think Irving would have understand it.
Mr Irving Tan Zhi Mian,
a) You could have not just turned vegetarian/seafood lover for the last 9 days but you magically did. I don’t know wether the air of PEI makes you swears off meat, even though I insisted you don’t, it was a nice little gesture.
b) You could have just picked a travel partner that you can just share a motel room and save a couple of bucks with but you follow along my strict accommodation rules anyway, which was very sweet.
c) You could have just sleep in the car while I drive but you tried your best to keep awake so that I don’t crash the car while you were sleeping LOL.
d) You could have just made me pay the 369 bucks costs incurred for the screwed bumper, but you insisted on splitting the costs. I understand it was a terrible pain. It was definitely a bummer but I think by now we could laugh at ourselves about it.
e) You could have just escaped being bombarded with salaams and being mistaken for a Muslim, bless you. It was great that you never felt awkward at all, and even if you did, you did a very commendable job of hiding it. I apologize to have forgotten to warn you about that little detail of me having ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ all over the world J.
These are what you and me call compromises, and I want you to know that I duly acknowledge all this. I think the most clear mental image I will always remember is you running. Running to get food, running to see if the intersection exists, running to check whether the road is correct. It captures the very essence of what it means by travelling alongside friends, where one does difficult things to ease the other.
I am glad I came out East too YOSH ! 🙂
P/S: Other places we visited is Moncton, New Brunswick where the highlight of the trip is Magnetic Hill, a hill where apparently cars move uphill as if moving downhill. Imagine a bus moving uphill on neutral, and water moving upstream– it’s the stuff that screws with your head. There is a nice scientific explanation why , and we walked ‘up’ the hill to have a feeling of how the road feels like. You do actually feel like moving downhill, and when we stand on the other end of the road, the road does actually ascend downwards. It was all an optical illusion.
P/s: I am leaving A LOT of detail out from this. For a more thorough, day to day account and awesome pictures, click on Irving’s blog domain. Seriously, you should do it, even the New Brunswick’s tourism people commented on his posts.