The exciting ordeal of crossing from the land of stars and stripes to that of the maple leaf, from the toughness of border police to the warmth of an island home. My one and only cherished couchsurfing experience, and strong Canadian ladies. Welcome to Campobello Island!
Flags Everywhere, but Gas is Across the Border...
I was flagged out of my mind in Maine. Everybody seemed to proclaim their national pride in front and on top of their houses. Some people do that in Canada too, but generally speaking, the flag hysteria is down a few notches. In this border town people do feel they need to make a statement, though. Here are pictures of the ultimate proud Canadian show:
Mary gave me a map of Campobello and a list of “Over 30 things to do or see on Campobello Island (most of which are free)”. It is a cute document, several years old, some parts of which were clearly outdated – for example #14: “Stop at Norcam Currency Exchange, or the Bank of Nova Scotia to exchange your currency” – no exchange, no bank anymore on the island!
The 30 points included:
- Cross International bridge from Lubec, Maine . See the swift currents under the bridge.
- Visit one of Canada’s most photographed lighthouses
- Stop at Canadian customs
- Visit the tourist information center
- Drink the cold refreshing water from the magical barrel Well
- Swim in a salt water swimming hole
So, by now there isn’t even a gas station on the island… Where else in the world are you obligated to drive to another country to fuel your car?
The reason, of course, is that gasoline is cheaper down the road, where a superpower makes sure it stays that way, but, still, nice…
Furthermore, I found out Campobello had the only territory held in common between the U.S. and Canada – Roosevelt’s family summer house. It is nice to think this is based in mutual appreciation of the man and his deeds. The two flags hang proudly side by side and the site is beautifully maintained.
Mary also gave me a current map of the island and the recommendation to go to the Roosevelt Park. Well, I tried to get there but failed. Somehow I got to the other side of the island instead. With my sense of direction it is no surprise, but that was a tremendous bonus, and I still got to see the Park later. Like Columbus who thought he arrived in India but got to Cuba, I “discovered” the far side of island, the lighthouse and the Campobello tides…
I take pictures of dilapidated houses wherever I travel. The one above just happened to be on the side of the road that I thought was taking me to Roosevelt Park. By now I have a decent photo collection of roofless ruined houses from Scotland, Ireland and the Northern Isles. It’s that sweet and sour feeling of times long past, memories of life that persist in the ruins, longing…
Well, I never heard of Quoddy Head or its tremendous tides, so I was in for a suprrise when I found myself physically there and a sign popped up in front of my face:
“Extreme Hazard. Beach exposed only at low tide. Incoming tide rises 5 feet per hour. And may leave you stranded for 8 hours. Wading or swimming are extremely dangerous due to swift currents and cold water”. Tide rises 5 feet an hour!!! “
Isn’t it wonderful to be ignorant? The world just plays you!!! And you rediscover the wheel every day!
First it was low tide:
Cormorants and seagulls at low tide
I got to the lighthouse an hour before they closed the passage with a cross chain and kicked the people out. A red and white structure, it was much prettier than its brother at Owl’s Head. Getting there necessitated climbing 3 metal ladders, one of which was kind of “hairy”, constructed diagonally, and there were fords, pieces of land you walk on that will soon become the bottom of the sea…
When the rangers started to ward us away from the lighthouse, I began walking back with many other folks. I stationed myself at a point between the last ford (the closest to the office) and the chain, so I could document the exciting event. People said we were allowed to stand there, no problem, as it was elevated. A bunch of us stayed to shoot pictures, but none persisted as long as I did. It took about an hour and a half to record the entire proceeding, and I came back again later for further documentation…
When everybody else was busy with their children, spouses or partners, my sola situation enabled me to focus on the astonishing event unfolding in front of my eyes. Many of these people might also have been more familiar than me with extreme tides, or specifically with the Campobello tides, but to me it was a marvel of Nature, something completely primeval and extraordinary. From my spot of choice I started to take photos at intervals, like a stop motion movie. When you watch the pictures in succession in the slider above, you see the ford disappearing in front of your eyes.
A technical note: The last picture was taken about two hours later, after a good lunch. The timing for the slides could be an hour off as I am not sure if my Israeli-set camera was showing the correct time even in Israel or what the exact time difference was then to NB. The numbers I wrote assume a 5 hour difference between what the camera showed and the actual time. For clarification: the first picture of the ford was taken from the lighthouse. The rest of the pictures were taken from a spot above the ford and between it and the chain blocking the road, below the office.
Now that I look back at the pictures, I am still amazed how normal each stage looks. The beginning and the end points seen by themselves do not hint at the grand action that took place in between. The later pictures do not give any indication this has not always been just a small bay or fjord.
This to me was an interesting insight. What is true here is true everywhere. Giving enough geological time all places change, metamorphose. Smart people try to figure all this out for the rest of us, so we can imagine how our geography looked in the Cretaceous or the Perm. This live experience helps open the imagination to how the Planet actually works, shaking our notions about permanence, solidity, perception and reality in general.
There was an extra little drama on the human side as well. Despite all the warnings, a teenage boy took off from the safe side and ran across the ford towards the lighthouse. The sign said if he was stranded, it could last 8 hours…. I was walking past the office towards the car on my way to the restaurant, when I heard uncharacteristic shouting: the wardens were yelling at the teenager. I don’t know how he was caught, or how the story unfolded, but it sounded like he might have gotten fined or even prosecuted…
Haddock on the Plate,Whales in the Sea
At “Family Fisheries” I had a nice clam chowder and a full portion of haddock fillet with mashed potatoes. For salad there was the universal coleslaw. The waitress got out of her way to get me something to substitute for it, but could only come up with some cut tomatoes… Some things are so automatic, nobody knows what to do if you challenge them. Coleslaw is one, tartar sauce another.
This was a prolific day. Driving back, I noticed lots of people by the side of the road. I pulled over. A very friendly lady was running excitedly around her car, trying to see something far out in the ocean.
Somewhere in the distance there was a black body with a back fin gliding fast into the air, then splashing back into the world of water. What amazing animals! The lady was B., a student counsellor from Syracuse university, NY, who was here on a short vacation. She explained that the “whale tours” with the funny people in orange life jackets cost $50 a piece. Furthermore, these tours actually disturb the poor whales since they basically chase them. Here, on the other hand, we could watch the animals for free and without the bad side effects and karma… The two of us shared our political worries about the Trump option. She was very concerned.
In the evening, I went back to the nearby beach to play my flutes, but this time Hamelin did not attract any followers…
Morning, August 10th
Under the Weather
Under the weather? Sick? Just got a notice my article was published two days ago and haven’t even taken a look!
Something is moving in the branches outside my window: squirrel? chipmunk? bird? So much roadkill everywhere: hedgehogs, small mammals, awful!!! Mars the enjoyment of travel.
Last evening I finally found a site to watch the Olympics, but it was too late – after midnight in Rio. I succeeded to see Michael Phelps getting another medal with three more Americans. There was also a group of cute youngish Japanese getting a bronze. I uploaded the pictures of the rising Campobello tides on Flickr and sent to daughters.
Every island has a main road running around it, and a few crossroads going through it. Every island has a “side” with private residences and a “side” for tourists. Every island has a protected side with swimmable beaches and a seaward wavy, wilder side.
Every northern island has two grocery stores with a small selection of products, usually quite low on fruit and vegetables, but here I actually found some. What was hard to find, though, were uncooked grains and legumes. The vendor scratched her head trying to think where such exotic products might be. Eventually I found some rice and lentils in plastic bags on a low shelf somewhere in the back, but the amounts were too large. I still had some grains left from the Whole Foods store in Portland, so I only got some quick-to-cook whole oatmeal. There were no herbal teas. A box of regular black tea pretended to be something else, with a picture of oranges on the box, but was found out to be a fraud.
I eventually had a totally marvelous day at Roosevelt International Park, forgetting about “under the weather”, but was spent and tired by the evening.