I discovered something new and not altogether exciting in the world of banking on my visit to New Brunswick.
I went into an RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) branch near Fredericton, as we were driving towards Nova Scotia. My intention was to change some American cash into Canadian money. I walked in and spoke to the teller, explaining what I'd hoped to do, and she said words that took me a minute or two to comprehend...
"I'm sorry sir, but we are a cashless bank".
A cashless bank? Never heard of such a thing. Isn't a bank the one place on earth that ALWAYS has cash? But not this bank... they were totally cashless - not a single bill or coin in the tellers' drawers available for cash transactions.
The way that this bank operates is entirely electronic. Payments and deposits are by check or e-deposit. If you DO put in cash, it goes immediately into a vault and is not again available for tender to the tellers.
I WAS able to get some Canadian cash, but I had to hit the ATM and use my debit card for withdrawals.
I will say this... I spent a little time in some other banks in Canada, and each time, I'd ask them if they were a "cashless" bank. Some of them laughed at the notion, so perhaps I wasn't completely 20th century in my outdated notion that banks usually have cash on hand.
When I returned to work after the biking trip Russ and I had made to Kouchibouguac National Park, I mentioned to one of the guys at the Office what a great time we had. As a result, he headed off there with his family the following weekend! They too had a very enjoyable experience in this National Park, including using the rental service for a biking expedition on the easy trails. His teenage daughter and son were biking ahead when they had to stop abruptly due to suddenly coming upon this young Black Bear cub beside the trail. There was a nice feed of plump blueberries nearby, and the young fellow did not seem the least perturbed by his sudden companions. However, caution is the word in situations like this, because you never know for sure just exactly what the mother bear may do if she feels her cub is threatened. It seemed strange, but my wife and I saw what appeared to be an identical cub a week later when we visited the Park. The Bear was into the Blueberries again, this time beside the highway and just outside the Park entrance - not the least bit concerned with the commotion it was causing!
Black bears can be found throughout the province and there have been a few cases where people have been threatened by them but no deaths so far. If they do take it in their head to attack, you are in big trouble because of their teeth, claws and strength, faster running speed than a human and, unlike western Grizzlies, they can also climb trees better than you!
You will find much warmer waters along New Brunswick's east coast (Gulf of St. Lawrence/Northumberland Strait) and possibly even on the north coast (Bay of Chaleur). However, one thing that does sometimes distract from full enjoyment of the waters along these coasts are the large numbers of jellyfish! The ones Sue and I saw at Kouchibouguac National Park in 2005 were reddish in colour (as seen here) and came in various sizes from an inch or so up to about 6-7 inches in diameter. These ones do not have very long tentacles dangling along in the water, so they are quite easy to avoid and their 'sting' is not of a serious nature. As we sat in our beach chairs dipping our feet, we occassionally would have to raise them as the waves washed the creatures past!
One good thing about the large jellyfish populations off the east coast of Canada is that they are helping to restore the population of the endangered Leatherback Turtle. These 500-kg (1200-lb) and 2-m (6.5 ft) turtles are the largest sea turtles in the world. Recently, hundreds of them have been observed in these waters gorging themselves on the jellyfish before making their return journey to the tropics some months after arriving for the feast.
Make no mistake, the water in the Bay of Fundy is COLD, with a peak summer temperature of 8 or 9 C. This is because the Arctic current flowing south along the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland meets the warm Gulf Stream flowing up along the US eastern seaboard. The result is that the Gulf Stream is deflected across the Atlantic Ocean to warm the cliffs of Cornwall, England while the cold Arctic current is diverted onto the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick southern coasts. Mind you, it is this cold water and it's resulting microscopic sealife that is so attractive to the summertime feeding habits of the whales! During these warm summer months, you can actually feel a sudden air temperature drop when you get within about 10 miles of the coastline along the Bay. This photo shows a 'swim' during a 2004 Grand Manan Island bicycle trip. Since since Russ and I were both brought up along this frigid coast, we had to at least get our feet wet on this beach at North Head to help us recall that numbing sensation!
Another consequence of the cold water of the Bay of Fundy is that when it meets warm summer air the result is Fog. This is a common occurrance along the Fundy coastline, but on a normal summer day the heat of the sun wins the battle and usually burns the fog off by late morning. That is what happened during our second day on the island, with the next photo showing a persistant fog bank still holding onto its headland near Deep Cove.
Canada has a reputation for its cold and snowy winters, but from my experience I don't think that things are as severe as they used to be. Even so, New Brunswick does not completely escape the cold and frozen months of December to April. This view of my snowshoe tracks across a frozen Beaver pond was taken in late-January, 2007 as I simply took off into the forest behind my house for an afternoon tromp. Without snowshoes, you would be very quickly tired out from sinking deep into the snow with each step.
The 2nd photo shows me shovelling away in my driveway in February, 1985 during the peak of the winter snow depths. A typical blizzard will usually drop about 30 cm (1 ft) of snow but sometimes 60 cm or more can be delivered in a blast. Quite often, freezing rain will complicate things by covering everything in a coat of ice. These days, with a snowblower, I find the banks don't get nearly as high because the snow gets blown further away than it does when you are using a shovel!
The final pic shows a December, 1977 family skate on one of New Brunswick's many lakes - quite a bit of fun having miles and miles of smooth ice all to yourself. However, it can be very cold as the winds sweep unobstructed across the vast surface (temperatures sometimes drop to -35 C). The timing can be tricky too - you need to wait long enough to be sure that the ice is safely frozen yet must get going before the serious blizzards arrive to cover it all in snow! My mother was raised on the shores of this lake and, as a child, I can remember huge blocks of 2-3 foot thick ice being cut from the lake and covered with sawdust in a granite-walled underground storage shed - to be used for 'refrigeration' during the hot summer months!
Bottom line is, if you want 'pleasant' weather, visit between May and October!
Although the Bay of Fundy tides can vary by more than 50-ft (15-m) between the high and low levels at the upper end of the bay, the normal variations at the mouth of the bay are closer to 23 feet. It takes about 12.5 hours for the gravitational cycles of the Moon and the characteristic North Atlantic Ocean oscillations to cause successive Low tides (with a High tide occurring in-between). On our 2006 bicycle trip, Russ and I arrived at Head Harbour Lighthouse on the northern tip of Campobello Island just as the tide was nearing it's lowest ebb. Because the lighthouse is located on the 2nd of two small islands off this tip of land, we decided to wade across the ankle-high depth of water (with a water temperature about 9 C even in summer) separating us from the first island, as seen here. Once we were across, we stopped to put our sneakers back on and looked up to see other visitors simply walking across the now above-water stretch of rocks we had just crossed! I could not believe that the water level could fall so fast in just a minute or two. The point of the story is, if you are along the coastline somewhere when the tide is coming back in, you can easily be cut off from shore or around some steep-walled point of land if you are not paying attention to both the time and tide-tables! The 2nd photo shows Russ as we prepare to descend a set of steel stairs to the first island crossing, with the Head Harbour Lighthouse in the distant background. This from www.quoddyloop.com: "If you become stranded on the islands by the tide, WAIT FOR RESCUE. Even former keepers of this lighthouse have lost their lives by misjudging the STRONG, FRIGID, FAST-RISING tidal currents, and TIDE-PRESSURIZED UNSTABLE PEBBLE OCEAN FLOOR, while attempting to make this crossing. (During a summer in the 1990s, two visitors attempted to swim across this passage. One made it across, but the other was swept away by the current. After a rescue by boat, both had been stricken with hypothermia, were rushed to the hospital -- and luckily, survived.)"
When exploring the ocean floor at the Hopewell Rocks beware of the many mud monsters you will be sure to encounter, AKA children whose parents don't care what they do. They will splash in the mud, stomp in the mud, throw the mud....DUCK! Just steer clear.
One downfall to exploring New Brunswick is the HUGE amount of nasty, hungry mosquitos, also known as "the provincial bird" (or so some postcards claimed) Bring LOTS of bug repellant and keep reapplying. Despite doing this I got eaten alive.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and local police forces routinely conduct Checkstop Programs at randomly-selected locations throughout the province, at any time of the day or night.
Depending on the amount of traffic, you may be delayed for several minutes getting thru these Checkstop programs.
They are checking to ensure that you have a valid driver's licence, registration and insurance, and that the vehicle is safe for the road. At the same time, they also check to ensure that everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seatbelt, that the driver is not impaired, and that the vehicle is not transporting open liquor, illegal drugs, or contraband tobacco or liquor.
The wearing of seatbelts and the interdiction of impaired drivers are currently the top priorities for traffic enforcement units in Canada.
If you're transporting a firearm, Canadian residents should be prepared to show their Firearm Permit and proof of firearm registration. Others should be prepared to show proof that their firearms were declared to Canada Customs upon entry into the country. Failure to have the necessary documentation above will likely result in confiscation of the firearm, and possible criminal charges.
The penalties are stiff if you get caught for impaired driving and usually include a fine of between $750. - $1000., as well as a mandatory driving prohibition anywhere in the country of at least one year. Mandatory jail terms and longer driving prohibition periods apply to second and subsequent offences.
If you get caught for impaired driving and you're from outside the province, you will likely be held in custody until you either appear before a judge within 24 hours, or are released once you have paid a $500. bond to guarantee your return to court at a later date.
You will be given access to a lawyer free-of-charge while in police custody, and/or to your country's Embassy, should you put yourself in this situation.
So, have fun and enjoy your visit, but don't ruin your vacation.....DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE !
Drive carefully, especially at dawn and dusk. Lots of critters use this time to wander out onto the roadways. Not only can hitting a moose be fatal for the moose, but it could be fatal for you, please use caution.
Mosquitos are sometimes jokingly referred to as New Brunswick's provincial bird !
Like many places, Mosquitos and Black Flies can be quite a nuisance from Spring to the first half of the Summer, depending on how much rainfall we get. Horse Flies can be a nuisance on the beaches.
So, pick up a can of insect repellant, especially if you're planning to do any camping or other outdoor activities...just in case.
The tides in the Bay of Fundy are reputed to be the biggest in the world at 50 feet. If you are planning on strolling along a beach, you have to check and see if the tides are going out or in and just what time high tide is. You could be walking along a huge beach and soon find it no longer in existence. It is amazing just how fast the water comes in.
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