Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back on the Mainland

October 9th: When the ferry finally hit the port of North Sydney on Saturday morning, I was exhausted. The crossing was rough, the North Atlantic waves rocking the vessel starboard to port side throughout the blackness of night. Too cheap to spring for a cabin or dorm bed, I spent much of the night trying to arrange my body in a comfortable position within the restriction of the lounge seat. Marine Atlantic has this ridiculous rule about passengers not being permitted to sleep on the floor; they say it's not safe and hygienic or something. Of course, I'm sure it's just a ploy to get passengers to throw down the extra cash for the sleeper cabin upgrade. The ferry does, however, provide free shower facilities, which I took advantage of.

When we unloaded the vessel, the foot passengers were transfered off the boat via a shuttle bus. We were a tired and grumpy lot, probably because we'd waited an extra 5 hours for the ferry to depart and then the sailing was an hour or two longer than usual due to rough seas. Just before we made it to the terminal, a customer service representitive boarded the shuttle, apologising profusely for the delays, then announcing that the checked baggage had, unfortunately, failed to make it on the sailing. C'mon Marine Atlantic! The shuttle, full of already disgruntled passengers, was in an uproar. Me? I was to tired to do anything but sigh and wish that I hadn't abandoned my bike in St. John's, because if I still had my bike I wouldn't have checked my baggage, therefor I would still have all my belongings with me.

So I filled out a form, marking down Antigonish for baggage destination. Marine Atlantic promised to send my luggage along on the evening bus, but I wasn't overly hopeful that I would be seeing my belongings anytime soon. As it turns out, I didn't regain possession of my bags for another four days, meaning that I had to borrow clothes and rely on kindness of donors (thanks Rachel and Wendy!) for the time being.

If you check out my entry Rainy Days in Antigonish (September), you'll see why I was keen to visit this north coast Nova Scotian university town again. Rachel, a free-spirited girl from the organic bakery and her family had taken me in last month when the weather turned foul. I spent a couple of days hanging around the house, getting to know her mother Dolna, father David, and brother Julian. There's few things I love more in this world than reunions with old friends, or people that I hardly know but wish I could know better, so I planned to drop by and see the Garbarys one last time on my way to New Brunswick for Thanksgiving.

With my handlebar bag slung over my shoulder and my sleeping bag tucked under my arm, I headed out toward the highway to hitch a ride. On route, I was accosted by a shuttle bus driver who promised to get me to Antigonish before three, and it "wouldn't cost too much". Now, if there is one thing that I've learned from backpacking southeast asia, it's that you should never, EVER board a vehicle prior to negotiating the fare. But at this point, my mind was impaired by exhaustion in such a way that I was incapable of making thought out decisions, so I merely shrugged my shoulders in agreement and let him hustle me into the crammed minivan with all the other human sardines. Bad decision.

I hate shuttle buses. The air-conditioning never works, the music usually blows, and I always seem to get stuck with a middle seat. It was a scenic, but altogether unpleasant ride through Nova Scotia, with eight of us in a seven passenger van. When it came time for me to exit in Antigonish, the driver dropped me off at Tim Hortons because he didn't know the location of the address I gave him, then declared that I owed him $60 for the ride. The conversation which followed went something like this:

me: "sixty bucks? That's a lot of money! That's, like, my food budget for the week! I don't even have that much cash!"
driver: "hmmm, well how much do you have?"
me, pulling out my wallet, and counting my bills, the driver leaning over to make sure I wasn't missing anything: "$55, I only have 55 dollars"
driver: "Well, $50 is fine. It's a good deal; that's what you'd pay on the bus" (and I googled this later; because I'm a student, or have a student ID, it would only cost me $37)
me: "hmmm, well if I hitchhiked I wouldn't have paid a it's not that good of a deal for me, is it?"
driver (with his palm extended): "$50 dollars"
me: "I'm not giving you all my money. How about $40? That's fair."
driver: "How about $50, Miss" (said as a statement, not a question. I think he was getting tired of my incessant bartering)
me, and by this point, I'm not too impressed with this shady little shuttle bus driver who doesn't inform passengers of the fare before boarding: "Listen sir, you had seven passengers in a six passenger van; I could report you. How about $40." (also a statement)
driver: "fine."

So we both stormed off, me feeling slightly victorious but still wishing I hitchhiked and saved myself the forty bucks. I can almost guarantee the ride would have been more comfortable than inside that crammed, stuffy shuttle.

I walked up to the Garbary place around 3:15 in the afternoon, admiring the magnificence and splendor of the fall maples as I went. Inside, their kitchen was alive with the bustling of bodies and the scents of Thanksiving dinner preparation-Dolna with half a dozen tasks on the go and Julian baking up pecan pies. The stress from the past 24 hours faded away, and I was happy to be at a home, even if it was someone elses. David served me up some of their fresh veggie stew, and I ate for what I realized was the first time since I woke up that morning.

We spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen prepping squash and pies for the following day, cooking up a harvest feast for dinner, and chatting about all the little things that make up life. Late at night, Dolna tried to teach me the ways of the Cryptic Crossword, but I was too tired to follow. I crashed on the sofa bed, comfortable in Rachel's baggy purple tie-dye pants.

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