Halifax, Nova Scotia. There is a small shack on the seafront that actually sells T-Shirts with the writing New Scotland and a sign that says Nova Scotia in latin means new Scotland. This, I suspect like many other Scots before, is my port of entrance to Canada.
If first impressions are to be trusted, this is going to be a country that I will enjoy. Granted they made me have an interview with an immigration officer, but I suspect a forty something unemployed with a one way ticket sticks out a bit. As often before in my life, Tarn came to the rescue. The immigration officer that was being rather unconvinced by the story of this half Italian half British unemployed world traveller suddenly appeared to connect the dots once she understood that I had to trade my “normal” life for something else, once what came to pass came to pass.
The second impression was made by one of the ground stewards in Halifax International Airport, yes, they appear to have quite a few of those, in sparkling tartan outfits. He approached me as I was exiting the custom zone and gave me direction to all the things I needed: the wifi password for the airport network, the location of the cash machine and of the buss stop and even the place where to get the correct change for the bus. Excellent service.
In no time I was downtown and booked into the hostel with a brand new HI card that unlike the one I got in the UK was given to me direct, rather than sent to my home address. Once settled, as the weather was fair, and I had the whole afternoon in front of me I decide to go for a short exploratory walk. Amazing wonder is travelling west chasing the sun.
The next random act of friendliness comes as soon as I get back to the hostel. Richard, a fifty something chap from Winnipeg (Manitoba), who I’d never met before, asks me if I fancy some meat, he’s going to get some to barbecue and I’m invited to join if I like. Would I say no to steak? So it comes to pass that I have dinner with him and with William, a cycle tourist just arrived from Montreal that speaks little English, as in the bit of Quebec he comes from it’s only French thank you. After dinner we are joined by James, a Canadian Army officer that is over from Edmonton (Alberta), but who is originally from Ontario, to visit the Navy base her in Halifax. So the first night I meet and enjoy the company of people representing four out of the twelve provinces of Canada (Im not expecting to meet at any point anybody from Yucon, Nortwest Territories and Nunavut).
Saturday over and it’s time to go to bed, it’s only nine PM here but in my own personal clock is one in the morning of tomorrow, I got up 18 hours ago and I’m tired.
Sunday is rainy and I only go out to get a SIM card and then turn back into the hostel where I enjoy the company of a rather lively crowd while we all watch together the Euro 2016 final.
Monday, Wow! what a day. The plan was to get the motorbike and ride north to do the Cabot Trail before hitting the west coast and go to stay with my Couchsurfing host on Thursday. I had phoned from Scotland, before I bought the motorbike, to make sure I could get insurance for it with my UK driving licence and armed with the knowledge that it would have set me back some £200 pounds, I collected the motorbike and make my way to the insurance office. I was pretty happy at this point, the motorbike I thought I had bought, one year old second hand, had been damaged in the last two months so the dealership swapped it, at the same price, with a new 2015 model one, quite lucky, I got a 25% discount on a new motorbike.
However, read karma, my luck was just about to turn. As I explained to the insurance broker that I was not going to spend all my time in Nova Scotia (which I had done on the phone too), but rather cross most of Canada and part of the USA, she explained that they could still insure me but it was going to cost 3,560 Canadian dollars (that is £2,060 to you and me), I would not be covered for the USA, and I had to pay all in advance and cash. I fell off the chair and into the fire of Mount Doom.
The situation had just changed from: “I’m in Canada, I have a motorbike and I’m riding around for five months” to a possible worst case scenario of: “I’m taking back the motorbike and get a flight back to Glasgow where I will cry for five months”. I went back to the dealership where, thanks to the infinite patience and help of Pat, I managed to get, in a few short hours, a new insurance for around £350. Phewwwwww!
Tuesday, second time luckier? There is still an obstacle in my way, I do not have a permanent address in Nova Scotia and an unwelcome side effect of the fact that the bike is now new and not second hand, is that I have to get a registration plate. Requirements are: proof of insurance, tick, and a permanent address, no tick. The dealership people tell me to use the dealership address and it should be ok. I do, cross my fingers, and hey pronto, I’m cooking on gas.
Well, not that I needed it, but I have aged a bit more than two days in the last two days. At least now I have a bike and I can go on with a rather amended short term plan. I’m going to visit the south of Nova Scotia from tomorrow as I need to get back to Halifax on Monday by which time I will have done the 1000 km needed for the first service.
I can relax for the afternoon and go for a ride down the coast to let the air wash all the troubles away, tomorrow is another day.