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Anxious to get to Halifax at an early hour, I woke the guys up before 6am with the heavy scent of bacon and the purposeful clanking and banging of cookware. Groggily they stumbled out of their bedrooms, apologetically hungover, and insistent that they were ready to go. In the gray, early morning light we ate breakfasted, washed the dishes, wrote Evan's uncle a thank you note for the hospitality, and packed up. With one last look in the rear view mirror at the little summer home, and misty loon lake, we set off for Canada with haste.
The main highway through New Brunswick has few exits, and travels through monotonously rolling, sparse hills. Tired from the previous days adventures, I probably would have fallen asleep at the wheel, if Evan had not been sitting in the front seat dramatically imparting his life story to me. Filled with sagely epiphanies, tales of love found then lost, and spanning several continents, he spun it out over hours, never requiring any commentary on my part. It was secretly amusing, DIY This American Life from someone you just met with a big personality. Anders was napping in the back seat, and from time to time he would wake up. Evan would break off his story to excitedly tell Anders something like, "Wilco is the best band ever. You need to start smoking cigarettes, so you can sound like Jeff Tweedy. If only I had smoked more and drank more, I could have written songs like this." As a drummer and DJ with hip hop leaning tastes, Anders would politely listen to the first couple songs of Summerteeth before falling back asleep. Perhaps in someways, it was an informative reflection of some of my more dubious character quirks. It was certainly a lesson in being a good listener.
Around lunchtime we stopped at a Tim Hortons, for copious amounts of coffee and much leg stretching. The Tim Hortons was at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, and pretty much every car on the road had pulled over, as it was the first sign of civilization in hours. Getting back on the road, Anders and Evan switched places. Evan immediately passing out in the back, and Anders and I continuing a spirited debate from the night before about illegal downloading of music. The conversation grew so heated and engrossing, I overshot exit for Nova Scotia by 20 miles, and had to backtrack. By the time we were attempting to navigate the convoluted downtown of Halifax, I was exhausted and anxious. We dropped Evan off at the waterfront where he planned to met a cousin later in the day. His constant commentary and exploding belongings spilled out of the car into the parking lot bustling with tourists. We were happy he had come along, but also happy for the bit of relaxed quiet that he would leave in his wake. With a lighter load Anders and I headed out of the city into the sun drenched, tangled wood countryside.
My brother was working for the summer on a Buddhist retreat and farm a little over an hour south of Halifax. From the highway, we took dirt roads occasionally dotted with small homes that wound around ponds swathed with tall reeds. In the long, low sunset of the north country in the summertime, we pulled up to the cluster of well-kept, traditional farmhouses and barns. Orion met us at the main building, and gave us a tour of the grounds. Sloping down to the lake were beautifully styled English tea gardens were friends and staff were gathering in the slanting sunbeams for a communal dinner. Sculpted to the contours of the land were beds of wildflowers, herbs, and hanging bushes arranged in fragrant bouquets. At the far end of the garden my brother had been helping to build a square gazebo with a shrine. Cultivated plots of vegetables were growing to the south to be sold at the farmers market. To the north were cottages for guests, who came to attend seminars on farming and meditation. We sat on the dock for awhile catching up, and hoping to catch a glimpse of otters.
Up the hill into the woods to the west, my brother was living in a wooden cabin built by hand, filled with bunks, books, and dried lavender. There was a well with a crank and bucket on a rope for water, and a small solar generator to power a few bulbs and electric hotplate in the evening. Combining supplies Evan's parents had given us, with Orion's share of the farmers market haul, we cooked a savory meal of local fish, spaghetti, and fresh veggies. It was a beautiful evening, and we fell asleep surrounded by the smell of evergreens and sound of soft rain.
We woke early, farming schedule, so we could say goodbye to my brother before he headed off to work. Then we quickly packed up, and got back on the road northwards. Due to many recommendations, we stopped in Lunenburg, an old seaside town, for coffee and breakfast. As the town woke up, we wandered the empty streets that clung to steep hills by the water, and were lined with quaint, brightly painted Victorian houses. Then we headed up to Halifax to tour some breweries and get a bite of fish and chips on the wharf for lunch.
Soon we were on the road to Prince Edward Island, my ultimate destination. Ever since reading all the Anne of Green Gable's books by L.M. Montgomery as a child, I had yearned to see the island that inspired her many fantastic stories. We drove the epically-long Confederation Bridge to get to PEI, and just when we finally touched down on the other side we saw a hitchhiker walking along with his thumb out. As we passed him we saw that he was about our age, slim, short, tan, and toting a pack nearly twice his size, so Anders proposed that we pick him up. I pulled the car over to the dusty shoulder, unlocked the doors, and waved him on in. Introductions were made, and so we met Michael, a true Canadian born and bred, who had been traveling around the country volunteering for the equivalent of AmeriCorps, and working on WWOOF farms. He was headed our way, so we got chatting and on the road to Charlottetown. Michael was nice guy, soft spoken, sober, knowledgeable about the land, and introspective in the way solo travel hones you.
In Charlottetown, we all went to the visitors center together, got maps, and explored a bit Then Michael headed to a hostel, and we picked up a bottle of wine for our CouchSurf host. Jonathan lived a little outside town with his parents in an ancestral farmhouse near a secluded bay. With thick PEI accents they warmly welcomed us with dinner and travel stories. A decade or so older than us, Jonathan had traveled the world by CouchSurf, and worked to help people immigrate to Canada. Though born and raised in PEI, his parents had also done their fair share of globe trotting, and had taken to living in Costa Rica for the winter. Together they overflowed with stories of learning new languages and making fast friends in far away lands. Earnestly sociable, we happily broke open the bottle of wine and talked late into the night. By midnight we headed to the attic, and there with windows open to the bay I wrote postcards to friends, and Anders fell asleep in a hammock hung from the rafters.