Bay of Fundy…..Magic on the Rocks

 

A continuous stare, five minutes, at the snapshot of three main Rock formations, and my initial reaction is one of jaw-dropping incredulity. I swear, no profanities, the ‘nose’ twitched, similar to ‘live’ shot by iPhone 7s. The reaction was in response to Mi’kmaq (First Nation) esoteric explanation of the Hopewell or Flower Pot Rocks. To them the Rocks were slaves turned into stone by angry whales, one time residents of Bay of Fundy. The slaves were fleeing their captors but before they could reach the beach the whales transformed them into rock formations. In our Hindu mythology, The Ramayana, there is an instance when Ram touches a ‘stone’ that turns into ‘Ahalya’, a woman cursed into ‘stone’ by her husband for infidelity. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahalya). I was no ‘Ram’ and could only admire the  giant rocks. The present tags , ‘Mother-In –Law’ (stern countenance), ET (probably for alien appearance), the mundane Dinosaur Rock, the lumpy ‘Elephant rock’ (that had split into half in March 2016) add to the mystique of the rocks.

The Bay of Fundy, one of the seven Natural Wonders of North America, was the last stop of our eight-day Eastern Canada drive-a-thon through Acadian nature presentations of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The dark sedimentary brooding marvels, Hopewell or Flower Pot Rocks, the result of nearly 300 million years of battle between water and land, are located within 2kms./1.25 miles part of Shepody Bay, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick. 

The Mi’kmaq legend weaves magic and romance around the phenomenon of fluctuating tides. The legend goes that ‘Glooscap* on seeing no water in Bay of Fundy summoned an old beaver to get some water. The beaver dug a trench and the water from the ocean filled it. Just as Glooscap sat down in the water a whale stuck his head at entrance of the Bay and when Glooscap got up to leave the whale swam away. This produced high tides that rush in and out of the Bay daily.

Another interesting story about the Rocks goes back to the period before the arrival of the Europeans. The powerful and wise men of the Mí’kmaq tribe would gather annually during the fall natural harvest. These men, called Ginaps, would travel to the place of their ‘cooking pots’ guided by six-foot high carved poles or waa geige.  The Ginaps would prepare the feast in their large ‘cooking pots for Míkmaq men, women and children who travelled long distances to come together for feasting, dancing, singing and spiritual ceremonies. This annual gathering carried on for centuries till arrival of European missionaries. The missionaries convinced the people to take down the carved guiding poles with the plea that if the poles remained standing their enemies from the west would find them. With the pulling out of the sign poles and with declining Ginaps, the gatherings at the cooking pots ceased and the big pots turned to stone.  We can still see them today as the Hopewell or Flowerpot Rocks.  To the Míkmaq the site remained a special place to meditate and to pray, especially if there was shortage of food among the people. https://www.albertcountymuseum.com/the-mkmaq/

We had driven from Prince Edward Island via Amherst (Nova Scotia) to Albert County, New Brunswick, timing our entry to coincide with the low tide. (The time changes every day so it is best to check the tide table). A quick check in at Hopewell Rocks Motel & Country Inn, Hopewell Cape (accommodation close to the Bay) and were at the Interpretive Center to book a shuttle, but instead decided to walk the winding rocky path towards the observation place.

From here steps scroll down to the beach towards the ‘Flower Pots’ for a walking tour of the ocean floor. There were no giant whales blocking the water but tourists poking around the weeds, hunting for fossils, semi precious stones, sea glass, pebbles, selfie-ing alongside eroded cliffs, trying to extract maximum advantage before the waters rushed in at the speed of 10 meters per minute.

An hour spent discovering the nooks and crannies, admiring the ‘water-art’ and playing peek-a-boo between the rocks with my sixteen-month old grand-daughter and we were back at the Interpretative Center for lunch. Visitors are advised to leave the floor three hours before expected tides.

Rock Art

During waiting period (maximum six hours), between low and high tides, one can stroll the surrounding wood trails; spend time at the Interpretive Center to learn the history and geography of the region; enjoy coffee on the decks of the cafes or check out the gift shop for interesting trinkets. We had a quick-lunch at the restaurant, nothing to commend, and decided to wait out the high tide. The tide variations, nearly 48 feet every day, are due to the shape (funnel) and size of the Bay. Low tides reveal boulders carved into dramatic shapes by centuries of continuous flow of water while high tides present a humongous ‘Sand Fondue’ sprinkled with chocolate rock decorations. The Bay of Fundy’s vertical tides are rivaled by Ungava Bay in Northern Quebec, King Sound in Western Australia, Gulf of Khambhat in India and Severn Estuary in United Kingdom.

Sand Fondue

At stipulated time the waters start encroaching and within minutes the rock bases disappear transforming into a sea-land. This is the time for the kayaks to glide out, activity for the adventurous, but unfortunately it was drizzling and we missed out on the photo-op.  A five-year old girl, standing alongside me, insisted on ‘magic’ while her mother tried  explaining the technicalities of the phenomenon.

We returned to the motel, the full day excitement was taking its toll, and trooped into the Log Cabin Restaurant for an early dinner. The Gift shop, next door, is a treasure trove with rubber sea creatures, books, Bone China pieces, hand crafted quilts, sweaters, mittens, boats, ornaments, teas, jams, maple syrup etc. I picked up a replica of Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse and answered the inevitable question of the shop lady ‘where are you from?’…’India but presently Canada’. She was envious of Calgary climate and was looking forward to joining her son in Edmonton (Alberta) ‘away from the cold of New Brunswick’. The grass is greener across the fence and we ‘envied the aqua serenity of the region… its gastronomic delights, salt water fishing, miles of un-spoilt beaches, whale watching, sea caves and marshes, camping sites, Acadian architecture and art and culture presentations.

View from our room

Next morning we were tempted to take one last look at the ‘flower-pots’ but had to turn the car towards Halifax to catch return flight to Toronto.

Facts

* Fundy National Park: Located on Bay of Fundy near Alma, New Brunswick covering 207 km along Goose Bay. Rugged coastline, highest tides, hiking trails, golf courses, camping areas, winter sports are some of the activities

* The time span between low and high tide is 6 hours and 13 minutes. This allows one to walk the ocean floor 3 hours before low tide and 3 hours after.

*The entrance fee for Hopewell Rocks is valid for two consecutive days. This means one can return at any time during that period to see both high and low tides.

*Hopewell Rocks Interpretative Center offers Educational multi-media exhibits, High Tide Café and outside deck, Tidal Treasures Gift Shop and Tourist information services.

*Glooscap First Nation is a Canadian Mi’kmaq aboriginal community

Attractions and activities: walk, bike, hike, or drive on the 12 mile Fundy Trail along the coast. The 6,300-acre park offers over 20 lookouts, waterfalls, a suspension bridge and 600-million-year-old rock formations. The Fundy Trail is 35 miles from the City of Saint John and close to the village of St. Martins.

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