Monday, August 25, 2008

Ride The Wild Bore

Nova Scotia seems to be half way between the sublime and the ridiculous. The scenery is beautiful, the tides extreme, the outdoor activities challenging and invigorating. But sharing those experiences through the blog has been quite the issue. Our cell phones and pc card connector for the laptop have been at the intersection of “where I’ll work and where I won’t.” Some of the campgrounds have wifi (or actually they THINK they have wifi) but they either can’t connect because of a cloud or the rain or a tree or a rotor or something else. At the last stop, they told us their system had just been hit by lightning. Possibly. But I think that was putting the best face on a bad system. I did manage to find a spot driving around in the car where if I was willing to twist and turn and type on the keyboard with the computer in the seat next to me and the windows down I could get a few things done. Oh, yes…and all those mosquitoes we did NOT see when we were in Alaska? They are all here. They are mean and they are hungry. And they seem to prefer Americans over Canadians.

Right now I’m typing this in a word file in the hopes that the cafĂ© in the village of Baddeck will be able to keep me connected long enough to cut, paste, and upload whatever it takes to activate the post.
Now if you thought I spelled “bore” wrong on the title- you would be wrong, not me. This ain’t no hog. This is a tidal bore: the sudden return of the tide to the flats and rivers in an area with an extreme tide. The bore looks rather like a wave going the wrong direction. Even in the river where the water running out to sea is fast and furious and making rips of its own, the bore rolls right across those rips, reverses them, and makes for some pretty impressive standing waves. If you were stranded on the flats by the rapidly returning tide, you’d be in deep do-do, not to mention deep water, in a hurry. But in a rubber white water raft, piloted by someone who knows what they are doing- it just makes for a good time and a wild ride. And so we set out to do just that, ride the bore tide at Shubenacadie with the Shubenacadie River Adventure Tours in South Maitland, Nova Scotia.

On the way we found a Bald Eagle bathing in the reddish brown muddy waters of the river. Clear, pristine water this is not. Terminally turbulent and “chocolate mud slide” it is.

It seems like even the local sculpture passes comment on the fact that once you are in this water- you ARE gonna need a bath.

We have the feeling traveling in Canada and especially in Nova Scotia that we are “up north.” There is a tendency to think we are a long way from the equator and pretty darn close to the arctic circle. In reality this is the exact half way point between the equator and the North Pole- and here’s the sign to prove it at Mammoth Ridge.

The river and the old canal look harmless enough at low tide. Not much action at all. But come the tide, the place will have some 20 - 28 more feet of water depth, long series of 8 -10 foot standing wave rapids, and 30 or more rubber rafts each filled with 12 or so screaming people riding over, through, and occasionally under, the waves…and getting soaked to the bone doing it.

There’s one spot at the canal marker where there’s an observation post for those who don’t want to ride the wild bore, or even get a bit wet.

And just up river from that spot is where you can go to slide down the extremely slippery mud banks into the river. Getting down is easy. Getting back up? Not so much.

Below, you’ll find a slide show from the raft trip. The first images show us walking down to the river and loading the boats. Then we ride down the rips to the mouth of the river and get out and stretch a bit on the mud flats. Mud wrestling and mud tossing contests occupy some until the “Back in the boats” command is yelled from the tour leader. There is no time to waste. Next, look for the white foam line tracing the shore line and creating that first “up river” wave - that’s the beginning of the bore. Then you’ll see us riding ever increasing sets of waves as the tide bores in heavier and heavier. Many of us thought when the waves hit two to three feet in height, we were already riding the bore.
“No,” said skipper Jeffrey, “this is just a warm up.”
Ten minutes later we were soaked and bobbing up and down over 8 - 10 foot waves. As you look at the pictures, keep a couple things in mind please:

1 This ride is rougher than it looks.
2 I’m the only one in the boat holding on with only one hand
3 I’m the only one in the boat crazy enough to try to photograph this ride
4 The blurs are water drops on the lens and a moving camera hand
5 It’s hard to do a photo shoot with waves pounding you in the face! And…
6 This ride is rougher than it looks

One further bit of info if you decide to watch the whole show: When the girls who wanted to be in the front of the boat move to the back of the boat and the guys are forced to move up- that’s when it started getting pretty rough. Me? I was in the back of the boat taking pics the whole time. Lucky me!

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