The final stretch of the Maritime road trip and somehow the most magical segment. The poet Kahlil Gibran’s words resonate as I share the previously published blog ‘Bay of Fundy’. Gibran muses… ‘The appearance of things change according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves’.
It was a spectacular drive from Prince Edward Island via Amherst (Nova Scotia), crossing the commendable Confederation Bridge to Albert County, New Brunswick, the lobster land. We cross Moncton and Shediac, the ‘Lobster Capital of the World‘ the venue of an annual festival, every July, to promote lobster fishing. A giant 90 ton sculpture of the ‘Words Largest Lobster’ (downloaded from Google) greets visitors at western entrance to the town. Sheldac also boasts of the warmest salt water beach of Canada, Parlee Beach.
The ‘no stop’ drive was because our entry to the Fundy National Park had to coincide with the low tide. (The time changes every day so it is best to check the tide table). 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 traversing Acadian nature presentations of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The 2kms./1.25 miles Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick is situated between the Canadian provinces with a portion touching Maine (USA). The name is a corruption of the French word Fendu meaning split and these dark sedimentary brooding marvels, Hopewell or Flower Pot Rocks, are the result of nearly 300 million years of battle between water and land.
A quick check in at Hopewell Rocks Motel & Country Inn, Hopewell Cape (accommodation close to the Bay) and we were at the Interpretive Center to book a shuttle. There was a wait so impatience made us walk down the winding rocky path towards the observation place.
As I stand at the look-out, a continuous stare, focused on the three main Rock formations, and my 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 the angry whales and one time residents of Bay of Fundy. The slaves were fleeing their captors but before they could reach the beach the whales turned them into rock formations. In our Hindu mythology, The Ramayana, there is an instance when Ram touches a ‘stone’ and it turns into ‘Ahalya’, a woman cursed into ‘stone’ by her husband for infidelity. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahalya). I was no ‘Ram’ to touch the ‘twitching’ stones and change them into humans. I could only admire these ‘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 continuing mystique of the Fundy Rocks.
Legend Resonates: The Mi’kmaq legend weaves magic and romance around the phenomenon of fluctuating tides. The legend goes that Gloosecap, a deity who lived with the Mi’kmaq in human form, decided to take bath and seeing no water in the Bay of Fundy summoned a beaver to get some water. The beaver dug a trench and water from ocean filled in. Just as Glooscap sat down, in the water, a whale stuck his head into the entrance of the Bay. When Glooscap got up to leave the whale swam away. This produced the high tides which rush in and out of the bay daily.tha
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 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….the Hopewell or Flowerpot Rocks. To the Míkmaq the site remains a special place to meditate and to pray, especially if there was shortage of food among the people. https://www.albertcountymuseum.com/the-mkmaq/
An hour spent sprinting in the pebbly sand, hunting for shells and miniature ‘fossils’ between rocky nooks and crannies and moss covered ‘spirals’, admiring the ‘water-art’ and playing peek-a-boo with my grand-daughter. Before we were shoo-ed off we were back at the Interpretative Center for lunch. Visitors are advised to leave the floor three hours before expected tides when the entire floor is inundated. Recently I read about a reality show ‘Race Against the Tide’ being organised in Fundy. Race Against the Tide TV Show, shot in New Brunswick
During waiting period (maximum six hours), between low and high tides, one can stroll the surrounding wood trails; spend time at the 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 return to hotel and 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 presents 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.
The return: 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 calling it ‘magic’ while her mother tried explaining the technicalities of the phenomenon. I don’t blame the kid as to a child’s eye it is an act of ‘magic’, the waving of an unseen wand.
And it was all water (the blue dot is where we were few hours ago)
The magical moment over 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.
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/Calgary.
The Road trip came to an end, eight days when we were seduced by the panoramic unknown vistas, the soaring mountains and stretching oceans, the wilderness camouflaged in green, a native historical land. But then “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey“. (Pat Conroy )
* 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.
*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.