Zoë Hofstetter explores one of Canada’s hidden gems, and meets a nice lady who missed the point…
Too much pavement and city-dwelling, ruins the imagination and natural spontaneity of the mind: hence I have boarded a twenty one hour train ride that will take me through Moose Land to the hidden wonders of the island of Nova Scotia!
I begin my scenic drive along the southeast coastline of the island. Startling sunsets with their colours fusing in mid-air and protruding through the clouds are reflected in the water all around. Acres and acres of pine trees perfume the still countryside air, cleansing the nostrils from the contaminated air of the cities. But ho! Me the conquistador, I am attaining land and land and land, but there are no farms to be had, no people to be seen! And although I have seen about ten liquor stores, not a single supermarket has crossed my sight! What mysteries belie this hidden island, amidst the calmness of the water and the silence of the trees?
As evening decorates the scenery I arrive at my lodgings: cosy wooden cabins with fires burning inside and couples reading Keats and….no, they are reading manuals on fishing. Here I settle next to a window overlooking the darkness of the night—I can’t see whether I sit above water, land or trees. But the break of day reveals the stillness of the water perfect for a kayaking expedition! On I go, barefoot and wild in my little boat to see what treasures I might find in this bay; an abandoned bicycle tied to a dock, the flowers withering in its basket, traces of moose footsteps at the side of the water, a floating bottle with….no message inside. Yet the complete loss of the self in the melancholic harmony of the landscape makes me realise how unconnected humans are from nature…but wondering daemons! I have kayaked out of sight of my cabin! As I kayak back to known territories, I encounter a towering lighthouse whose white and blue paint is flaking off its flanks and whose solitary location and look onto waters where no boats will dock, communicates its nostalgia for the past.
Struck by the desolateness of the landscape as if by the needle of a lover, I take sail to the other side of the southern shore of the island. Now I am strolling between European-looking churches, ice-cream parlours (who give you ten scoops when you order two!), sail boats lulling in the ports, out-of-place cupolas, couples dangling their hands as they walk on docks, and twisty little streets with eccentric shops which sell miniature lighthouses, shells and fishing rods. My philosophical loneliness having subsided, I sit amongst a colony of bees attempting to eat my lobster roll and local people lounging in the sun. To one of these I direct my existential question: “Excuse my ignorance, but could you tell me why I could not find a supermarket or a single farm on the south eastern shore of Nova Scotia?” The lady bursts into laughter, peals of laughter. Then, she calls her husband and her daughter and repeats my question, they all smile, but she—she thinks it’s hilarious; best joke of the year. I stand there opened-mouthed, apparently having missed the jocularity of my words and awaiting an enlightening reply. “Why would you ever go there? There is nothing but wilderness, the place is wholly uninhabited and underdeveloped! Ha! Ha! Ha!” I dare say I am accustomed to more sophisticated urban jokes. But, I see the limitations of this lady’s words. She still believes that development is the only thing worth seeing and living for. No, a land wholly deserted in which one can kayak and find abandoned treasures, water passages in which to get lost, and the peace of pines and sea-breeze, are the very best treasures of travel. Rarely do we unintentionally run into areas which give us such harmony and respite from our rat-racing society, and the feeling of relief is inexpressible: this is the gift of unplanned travel; of wandering, wild souls whose travel books are one’s own unreadable notes on getting lost on the deserted island of Nova Scotia.