Story Ideas

Weird & wacky

Offbeat adventures include pumpkin regattas, kilted cycling and slithering snakes

03 August 2011
by Mark Stevens

We Canadians are anything but staid. Adventurous, for sure. Maybe even offbeat.

Consider this: In Newfoundland a visitor’s rite of passage entails kissing a cod. Then there are the thousands who celebrate New Year’s Day by stripping down to bathing suits and immersing themselves in ice-encrusted lakes and rivers. For fun.

Want more proof?

Quebec City in March. Take a narrow cobblestone street called “Breakneck Hill,” cover it in sheets of ice – hairpin turns and drop-offs, send competitors rushing down that precipice on ice skates with only one rule: first one to the bottom wins.

The Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships is an adrenaline-pumping experience that will have your hearts in your throats. And that’s just the spectators. Think roller derby meets hockey meets downhill skiing on double black diamond runs.

Staid? Exhibit B’s downright lascivious.

Ever wonder what the Scots wear beneath their kilts? Here’s a chance to find out. The folks at Ripple Fitness near New Brunswick’s St. Andrews by-the-Sea (ergo the kilts) offer a variety of mountain biking tours. Experience the world’s biggest tides at the Bay of Fundy or pedal out to Minister’s Island at low tide. Included in the price is the bike and the kilt and – luckily – you’re allowed to wear biking shorts underneath. Good thing, for otherwise, here by the seaside of New Brunswick, you’ll experience downright breathtaking views … no matter where you look. Or maybe your thoughts lean to harvest memories – incandescent maple forests, the aroma of pumpkin pie. Or paddling a pumpkin across Lake Pesaquid near Windsor, Nova Scotia.

No ordinary regatta this, a fleet of floating pumpkins racing for glory, but it’s great fun to watch and you might even uncover the world’s biggest pumpkin, for the pumpkin festival, weigh-off and regatta is a celebration of the hometown of record-breaking vegetables. Can you imagine a better place on the planet for a slice of pumpkin pie? Or a better place than Prince Edward Island for the entrée – a great feed of clams you’ve dug up yourself?

For that’s where local Ron Perry sets you up with pail, shovel and a lesson in digging up and recognizing clams, finishing the harvesting with the world’s best clambake.And if you’re not squeamish, he’ll teach you how to find one species by using your toes.

Speaking of squeamish, how about strolling through picturesque meadows and forests, watching tens of thousands of garter snakes in their dens, squirming and roiling and slithering?

In the spring they’re mating at the four dens scattered along a 3-km trail at Narcisse, an hour and a half from Winnipeg, Manitoba, though you can also see them in the fall. Downright romantic.

And speaking of romantic – how about a stroll through Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley in British Columbia, holding hands with your significant other, finding that perfect chanterelle? We Canadians are known as hewers of wood and drawers of water. Now add gatherers of mushrooms – followed by a gourmet feast washed down with vintage BC wines. A Benedictine monk guides your pilgrimage – which guarantees a heavenly repast at Amusé Bistro.

Staid? Anything but.

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