Life On Mars: Prince Edward Island and the Maritimes

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.

To get to PEI, we took a 16 hour train ride. And back.

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.

Living the good life on Planet Mars 1

 

Living the good life on Planet Mars 2

Even the jellyfish in the sea are red. Whether they consume the Fe3+ minerals as part of their diet remains to be investigated.

Mr jellyfish. Picture copyright owned by @Irving

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.

Provincial House, where the Confederation was signed.

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.

Apart from real cows, PEI is also known for another type of Cow--Cow's ice cream. Sedap gile.

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.

Charming tour boat operator. Seen is Irving's 'sesat' face.

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).

Wait, what?

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.

Ahah.

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 🙂 )

House of Anne of Green Gables, National Historic Site of Canada.

The character herself: Akage no An.

Favourite Anne's raspberry cordial. Tastes really good, not too sweet.

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*

TG 825. Black Mazda SR 2007 in bittersweet memory.Picture copyright owned by @Irving

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.”

 

Without the Mazda, there will be no this..

...or this.

...or this.

..or this.

or this.

 

or this. (Picture copyright owned by the guy in the photo)

or this. (Picture copyright owned by @Irving)

or this. (Picture copyright owned by @Irving)

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.

Potato people for a day. Picture copyright owned by @Irving.

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.

Time to get a little educational

HUGE PIECE OF ENGINEERING MARVEL

HUGE PIECE OF ENGINEERING MARVEL. Do you understand the feeling of driving on a road and looking left and right, wind turbines dotted the road? It was an exhilarating feeling.

* 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.

Enroute on Black Marsh trail. Each turbine has it's own mini breaker, transformer and voltage regulator all fenced out.

Compromises, compromises.

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 ! 🙂

Courtney Starkman, an awesome Torontonian who sort of invited herself to come along with us

Kami Ultraman bersedia melawan penjahat dan raksaksa.

 

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.

Moncton, New Brunswick

Very well designed for tourists.

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.

University of Prince Edward Island.

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6 comments

  1. youchiyagami · July 25, 2010

    Is there any special reason behind the aversion towards commercially available guided tours?

    • farahhanani · July 25, 2010

      yep.

      they are usually expensive and inflexible. especially in the cities, they take you on a bus, all the places they take you are all can be done easily if having strong legs and sense of direction. often, you do not have the freedom to embark on excursions at your own pace and time. its not i never used them, whenever one is pressed for time, or bringing the whole family, guided tours are your best option. specifically, i try avoiding bus tours, not so much walking tours. i had been on free/ tip based walking tours before, and i absolutely LOVED them.
      in fact, walking tours are the only tours that i do actually seek for.

      i also recommend tours that uses small vans–a small , not too commercialized tour. these are more flexible, and has more personal attention.

      anyway, in western countries, i dont really see the need of a tour because almost everything and everywhere is accessible easily and efficiently via public transport. i may change my mind when i take on not so developed countries in the near future.

      in the end, it depends on your budget, i don’t judge people who opt for them, its just in so many cases, i dont seem to find the value that i pay for the service that i get, thats all.

      p/s: youchi, we missed you haha.

      cheers.

  2. Pingback: All Silver and Shadow and Vision of Things Not Seen; A Week On Prince Edward Island – Part 3 « Oh!Gravity
  3. Irving Tan · August 1, 2010

    WAH it did take me a while to finally comment here lol.

    Farah, traveling with you was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had of traveling in Canada. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, what with me repeating this over and over again on your Facebook, my Facebook, my blog, and now yours.It seriously made me wish that we had done Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics together, or had been adventurous and tried for something in summer 2009. As it were, we only started this year, but better late than never I guess =)

    I have a few things I would like to say in retrospect; most of them sort of tie-in directly with your five pointers to me:

    i.) Firstly, saya kedekut berbelanja jugak, dan sangat suka duduk hostel (it seriously adds a whole new dimension to the trip) so your accommodation requirements were no problem at all – as they were largely mine as well 😉

    ii.) While driving back from our trip to Green Gables Shore, I realized that I had consumed a ham and cheese sandwich in front of you during lunch that day. I had picked it up at the Green Gables farm out of a lack of choice of items and in my hunger had not given the sandwich-buying process much thought (LOL?), and it was only on the drive back that it dawned on me how (inadvertently) insensitive I had been. I’m sure you didn’t mind in the least bit, but I still feel a bit guilty about it and would like to alleviate my wounded conscience (if nothing else). Thus, please forgive my mistake.

    iii.) I actually like being mistaken for a Muslim sometimes. It makes me feel like I’ve been particularly proficient at hiding/immersing myself amongst Muslim Malaysians when I get a “Assalamualaikum” in my direction, and I admit with a grin that each time it happens I afford myself a little inward wink 😉

    I like it best when fellow Malaysians think I’m Melayu. Especially when I open my mouth to berbahasa with them hahahah XD

    iv.) Your fascination with the wind turbine thing did not go unnoticed. It was actually quite heart-warming watching you strolling about the North Shore, wide-eyed and 120% interested in the interpretive centre.

    v.) I wish I had been a bit more lax with my schedule restrictions. I regret not being able to give us the chance to visit Joggins, or a third day with the car on PEI (kali ni bumper belakang lak gugok skali XD), or give the Bay of Fundy a real go.

    To this end, I have a proposal to make of you (jom kawin HAHAHAHA wtf XD). The proposal comes in several points:

    i.) Korang takder autumn break kan? We at uOttawa have a week off in October, and I’m planning to do some traversing with it. If I recall correctly you said McGill doesn’t have it. That said, you’re more than welcome to join in on the fun if such a window indeed exists =)

    I am hoping to do a Prairie province (tiba2 menggatal nak buat Manitoba), or New Brunswick + Nova Scotia.

    ii.) I am not going to Botswana Worlds. 500% confirmed lol. Tgh berangan nak buat benda gila untuk winter break. Churchill jom.

    Iqaluit ke. Kalo takmo yang tu Whitehorse pun cam boleh gak.

    I seriously miss being on the road. Home is nice, but after Akage no An and all, it seems a bit…dull =)

    Finally, your Agong picnic encounter with me was not your most recent prior to PEI. Your August 2008 visit to Ottawa was. I brought you around Parliament Hill then remember? =p

    Hidup Trent Balfour.

  4. farah_hanani · August 6, 2010

    We’ll discuss this when you get back from the mountains, okay?
    P/S: Taknak kahwin. Tak rela dimadukan.

    ;D

  5. Irving Tan · August 30, 2010

    I am back from the mountains Farah. We have to talk. Hahaha gila ganas Ajis nih. Mentang2 dapat poskad XD

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