Chapter 5: The Acadian Coast, New Brunswick

7 days, 500.2km, 1782.2km total distance

I left PEI with a love for cycle touring and the community that comes with it, excited for seeing New Brunswick and to then get on to the (slightly) bigger provinces. Although Kirsty mentioned she was getting tired of the cycling, I heard but struggled to listen to what she was saying, and kept pushing on trying to find the pedaling motivation for both of us. However, something about our trip through New Brunswick broke both our spirits. It turns out we don’t love cycle touring as much as we love cycle exploring… We love getting off the highway and seeing beautiful places; mountains, beaches and wild spots, and we love meeting the people that live and love in that landscape. Unfortunately (for us) New Brunswick was mostly just a road, and in some sense lacked the magic that the other provinces had, although (as always!) we met some fantastic and amazing characters along the way.

We started our New Brunswick journey by arriving via the Confederation Bridge from Prince Edward Island. The bridge is 13km along and sadly they don’t allow cyclists to pedal across. They do however provide a very cheap shuttle service, so we couldn’t complain. It was a mean feat of engineering, apparently taking over 3 years to build only 20 years ago. Once every couple of years they close the bridge for a running race across it, which would be pretty cool to do! 

We arrived late in the afternoon and only really knew we wanted to head north along the coast, eventually getting to Campbellton and then crossing the border to Quebec. So we took the smallest road we could and kept an eye out for a camp spot for the night. Immediately the place felt different, bigger and less openly friendly in some ways. Every house seemed to have lots of garden so there weren’t any wild places for us to pitch our tents. We spotted a man outside mowing his lawn next to a paddock of horses, so asked if we could possibly pitch in his garden. He kindly agreed, letting us also use the washroom inside! We were greeted in the morning by his super friendly golden retriever Owen, who ended up joining us for breakfast and plenty of pats before we set off again.

We had arranged a warmshowers stop in Shediac, so had that in our sights for the end of the day. It would only be about 65km away so we felt cruisy and at about 12km in decided we both felt like stopping for a coffee. This first place arrived at almost 40km and up until then we hadn’t seen anything but tarmac, trees and the odd house. We filled ourselves up with a greasy lunch and hoped for a more scenic afternoon.

We were following the ‘Acadian Coastal Scenic Drive’ so we thought we’d be on the coast… But the road was just inland enough that we could tell the coast was there, but couldn’t see it. We stopped for an overpriced ice cream when we arrived in Shediac before heading to our warmshowers, feeling a bit meh from the day. Alana and Daniel were lovely hosts and we camped under the trees in their garden. We went for a wander down to the rocky shore for a paddle but the water was a bit warm and stagnant… Not too refreshing! So we whiled away the evening looking at maps and watching the sunset through the trees.

In my journal for the following day, I say the highlight of the road was eating a whole jar of peanut butter. From Shediac to Bouctouche was especially unexciting, but from there the scenery got a bit prettier. We passed through a few communities, and as New Brunswick is the only officially official bilingual province in Canada, we enjoyed the presence of the French language on shop signs etc. High school French slowly started to come back, and it was fun to start practicing before Quebec. We arrived in St Ignace and our warmshowers there was such a treat!! Marthe and Charles had crossed Canada by bike in 2015 and were both of Acadian descent. They cooked us a delicious dinner and we had a lovely evening laughing and chatting over the table. We had a short day the next day, so Marthe took us to Kouchibouguac beach which was just stunning. It showed us that New Brunswick sure has the beauty, it’s just not as in your face obvious as the other provinces.

We set off for the 60km to Miramichi with warm hearts after spending time on the deserted early morning beach. Kirsty had been for a swim (her favourite thing to do) and we’d been fed and watered to perfection. Most of the cycle was on highway, so again not very exciting. It wasn’t hilly either though so we powered through the kilometers. We stopped around 30km for a snack and shortly after restarting saw a mum and baby moose crossing the road! They were a wee way in the distance and I didn’t have time to get a photo, but it was still pretty cool.

We stopped at a gas station as we came in to Miramichi and I had the biggest ice cream ever! So good! I even ended up with it on my sunglasses cos it was so big. While there we also met Brian who would be staying at the same warmshowers as us that evening. Brian is 80, had cycled our previous 2 days in one day before 3pm, and was sleeping in a hammock along the way. He has cycled trans Canada, as well as various adventures in all the individual provinces, and he’s still going. #lifegoals

We spent the evening in our host (James)’s pool and chatting to Brian, leaving the next day refreshed and inspired. We had Bathurst in our sites and could either go straight up the highway or take an extra day and go around the coast. We’d heard the highway was a bit unsafe and we were craving some beauty so opted for the coast. The road conditions were great, but again there wasn’t much to see. We flew through the kilometers, stopping at a couple of pretty churches on the way.

We arrived in Tracadie quite early, but had done 90km so decided to search out somewhere to stay. Campgrounds were full of RVs and children’s fairground types things, so we tried again to find a wild, beautiful spot. It was all private land though, but we were lucky to find ourselves with Robert, Lise and their family. We initially asked them for some cold water, but ended up camping on their lawn, eating their soup, going for a drive and being given a punnet of strawberries to have with our breakfast! I really enjoyed chatting to them all, learning more about how the Acadians came to populate this area and being amazed at their bilingual skills! It really made me feel shameful about how lazy English language speakers are sometimes.

We set off again feeling great about the people we were meeting, and had a warmshowers in Bathurst in our sites for the evening. The cycle to Caraquet was fast and easy, and Caraquet itself is a lovely wee French town. We had delicious coffee and croissants, and were able to join a cycle trail along the coast for 10km or so.

From there, the road mostly stuck to the coast and we could look over to the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec. This meant we could see the thunderstorms brewing to the north before we got caught in the many torrential rain showers. Most of the time the warmth and movement would dry us off but by the time we crossed the 100km mark we were looking forward to our warm shower! We camped in the garden again, but were under a tree so amazingly didn’t get too wet. It was so nice just to be able to sit inside, even if Meghan and Dustin’s dog did eat our whole block of cheese…including the wrapper.

We are scenery seekers above cyclists, and after a few days of tarmac we were a bit mentally tired. We opted for a shorter day, taking some time to look around Bathurst before cruising for 20km up the coast. More thunderstorms were forecast and my boyfriend Paul offered to shout us a hotel room to allow us to recuperate and stay dry. We were grateful to say the least!

On the way to Petite Rocher, Kirsty stopped at a gas station to buy new sunglasses (after 2 pairs broke in 2 days) and we met Daniel, who took a glance at our filthy bikes and offered to clean them up for us! He told us he had hiked the Appalachian trail a couple of years ago and was blown away by the kindness of strangers, so had come back determined to pay it back to the travelling community. We took him up on the offer, dropped our bags at the hotel and cycled to his garage a few buildings down. He took time to teach us a bit about tuning and taking care of our bikes, and even bought us beer to drink while he worked away!

The rest of the evening was spent eating, watching Netflix and being on the comfiest bed in the world. We both slept like logs.

Campbellton was less than 100km, which is the border between new Brunswick and Quebec. And the shores of the St Lawrence river were 200km beyond that. So we set off feeling refreshed, with a loose goal of trying to do 300km in 3 days. I stopped for a roadside pee 20km in, and Kirsty’s tyre exploded! We thanks our lucky stars it hasn’t happened while she was moving, and got around to changing it. In the hour that it took to get sorted, not a single car stopped to offer help. We weren’t in Newfoundland any more…

Setting off again we both felt pretty heavy. The highway was hilly and boring and the headwind meant we were pedalling to go 16kmph downhill. Kirsty even dipped below her usual 5/10 emotional state and the road ahead seemed long and uninviting. We floated the idea of public transport to skip the slog and get to the scenery, so when we arrived in Campbellton that became our mission. There was an overnight train to Quebec city for $600, but we opted instead for a bus the following day. The decision and booking was made in haste, and I felt a little disappointed that we were caving. However, we’ve been on the road for 5 weeks, have cycled almost 1800km and are a team. We came to experience Canada in the 4 months that we’ve got, and in that time we don’t just want to be slogging through kilometers on our bikes. And even Stumpy is looking a bit tired of the road.

So we waved goodbye to Campbellton and New Brunswick and crossed the bridge in to Quebec, turning our clocks back an hour as we did so. On the bus now to Quebec city, hoping to rediscover our mojos, hunt out some beauty and EXPERIENCE province number 5!

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