and spooky driving!
05.10.2011 - 09.10.2011 10 °C
On our drive from North Sydney to Halifax, we detour for a couple of hours at the Glace Bay Mining Museum in (of course), Glace Bay. If you’re looking for quirky and interesting Canada – this is it.
Now neither of us have any history or association with coal mining, but Lonely Planet gives it a great wrap. It’s freezing cold and pelting rain when we arrive, and the lady in charge forever refers to us as ‘the Australians’. We take a wander through the well-stocked museum before starting our tour of the mine – our guide is an ex-miner and years of being underground don’t reflect his 70 years. We actually go down underground into the mine for a quarter of a mile, complete with attractive rain poncho, hard hat and miner's helmut lamp. It’s dark, damp and despite being a short-arse, I (and most others) cannot stand upright in the small tunnels. We hear amazing stories from our guide about the difficult times miners withstood (17c a day pay anyone?), and the ongoing battles between the greedy mining companies and the miners during 1800’s and early 1900’s. We hear about how our guide’s family lived in a mine-provided house with seven siblings, and how the snow would enter the house during winter. It really made us appreciate how fortunate our childhoods were.
After the tour we continue our drive towards our final destination of Halifax. A massive Atlantic storm hit, and we only just make the drive across the very low-lying 1.3klm Canso Causeway linking Cape Breton to the Nova Scotia peninsula. Massive waves smash across our vehicle and the road, and the causeway is closed ten minutes after we cross. This was to be our introduction to extreme weather driving. We overnight in the town of Antigonish, after passing through beautiful Anne of Green Gables countryside and Alexander Bell’s burial site and former estate. We also encounter the small town of Stewiacke, which claims to be halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. No wonder it's cold!
Heading out the next day we encounter snow!. For us, driving in snow is like someone from Alice Springs swimming in surf the very first time. It’s a novelty for about the first minute, and very quickly turns into an exercise of white-knuckled, mega concentration. We finally reach Halifax (actually, we decide to stay in Dartmouth, which is Halifax’s poor [and cheaper] cousin across the harbour).
During our stay, we take the third ferry trip of our journey for a quick ten minutes across the bay (spotting Peggy’s Cove lighthouse – apparently the most photographed lighthouse in the world. Our lack of fancy, expensive photography equipment means no pics, sorry ).
Halifax has a rather eerie and sad history. It’s had lots of military involvement (and we visit the very large Citadel on the hill one day), but it’s saddest tale was the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion in 1917, when a munitions ship collided in the harbour killing around 2,000 residents, injuring 9,000 more and decimating the city. We explore the amazing Maritime Museum and also discover the role Halifax played in the Titanic tragedy. In the museum there’s a recovered and renovated Titanic deckchair and plenty of other memorabilia including a tiny pair of shoes belonging to ‘the unknown child’. We also learn that some of those who perished and whose bodies were recovered (209), were brought to Halifax and ‘processed’ in what’s now known as one of the most haunted buildings in Canada – the Five Fisherman Restaurant. The building was once owned by Anna of “The King & I” fame before it became the town morgue. We visit the Fairview Cemetary that hosts the graves of many from the Titanic incident, including J. Dawson (the person whose character Leonardo Di Caprio was named for the Titanic movie). We also discover the grave of an Australian who died in the tragedy.
The church across from the Five Fisherman's restaurant supposedly has a regular apparition from someone who was hurled through a top window during the munitions blast, and on mailing some gifts home, the small Post Office opposite our hotel tells of their own ghost!
Fortunately we have no ghostly encounters during our stay, but the many Halifax stories pique my interest and I'm sucked into watching repeat episodes of Ghost Hunters on reality tv.