After the charming European atmosphere of Quebec City, we took another epic overnight train journey towards Moncton, New Brunswick.
To be perfectly honest I had no idea what to expect from this bilingual Maritime province. It doesn’t get a lot of publicity and I can’t remember ever meeting anyone who was from New Brunswick. It is one of the more sparely populated provinces you will travel through when you backpack across Canada, as it is mostly forest with only a few communities along the coastline.
However, although most people might simply pass through New Brunswick to get to the rest of the Maritimes, if you are going to backpack across Canada it is worth taking some time to check it out.
Waking Up to the Beauty of the Maritimes
One of the great things about an overnight train journey (other than the thrill of being lulled to sleep by the rocking and rolling of the train while curled up on the floor) is that you wake up in a completely different place than where you started.
That morning I opened my eyes at sunrise and looked up at Lee, who was staring out the window with a wistful smile on his face. “Look…” he whispered. I sat up, rubbed my eyes and looked out the window.
The train was slowly pulling through Campbellton, New Brunswick. The sky was a pale shade of purple, the autumn leaves were in full bloom and it was the first time we had seen the charming New England–style cottages of the Maritimes. Each little house was so sweet and perfect and the ocean glittered as the sun came up over the horizon.
We both gazed out the window in bleary-eyed awe at this lovely part of Canada, so different than anything else we had seen so far. When it comes to Lee and I and the Maritimes, it was very much love at first sight.
Lee the Professional Hot Dog Eater (Almost)
Sometimes, when you do something like backpack across Canada you end up in the most random and bizarre situations which you never could have planned for; and these are the experiences that make the best travel memories.
When we arrived in Moncton we were at a bit of a loss of what to do. It’s a cute little town but there really isn’t anything happening in the way of huge attractions. We took the opportunity to chill out in the motel room and while Lee watched television I flicked through the local paper.
I turned the page and happened upon a story about local eating competitions.
“Listen to this, babe,” I said, stretched out on my stomach on the enormous bed. “There is a new eating challenge at a sports bar downtown. It’s a huge pile of hot dogs and fries and stuff and if you eat it in 20 minutes it’s free. No one has ever beaten it before.”
Lee’s eyes lit up with excitement.
There were certain keywords in that story, such as “hot dog”, “challenge” and “free” which appealed to his appetite, competitive nature and backpacker frugality. I could see an idea start to form in his mind, a spark which began to grow into a serious hunger.
“I’m gonna do it,” he said, a slight smile creeping onto his face.
After hours of preparation (mostly psychological) we headed down to Overtime Sports Bar where several cute young waitresses in short referee uniforms gathered around to watch Lee battle an enormous plate of delicious artery-stopping goodness known as the “Ballpark”. The heaping platter consisted of four huge ballpark franks, a mountain of fries and onion rings, melted cheese, and heaps of pulled pork.
Although he attempted the feat bravely, he failed to make the 20 minute cut off and had to stop shovelling food in his mouth for fear of being publically ill. However, even though we didn’t get our meal for free we ended up taking the rest of the platter back to our hotel and feeding off of it for at least three days! Not a bad deal! When you backpack across Canada you really learn to appreciate good value and getting your money’s worth!
The End is Drawing Near
When we set out to backpack across Canada the country seemed so huge that we felt that we would never get across it. However, now that we are in New Brunswick we have almost reached the end of our journey. Soon we will be looking out at the Atlantic from the docks of Halifax, so stay tuned for the conclusion of our Cross Canada Adventure!