Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Cabot Trail Nova Scotia

Monday 17th May 2010

Jill here! After a days r&r at the campsite, and a close examination of the weather, we set off for the Cabot Trail, part of the Cape Breton Island. The day was dry and cold as we headed north. Our inspiration for doing this journey came from Billy Connelly's TV series: Journey to the Edge of the World. Of course we are on a much more comfortable bike than a Harley! And I think we had warmer weather for a change!

After a Subway sandwich in Truro, (I told you we are really still in the UK), a coffee at Robins, and about 220 miles under our belt, we arrived at Baddeck, the home of Alexander Graham Bell, and right at the edge of the village, we found the hospitable fold of Barbie & Ken at Tree Seat B&B. A quiet self effacing host, Barbie offered us a choice of rooms and David chose this time, the one with the huge bathroom! A local restaurant: the Yellow Cello was recommended, where I had pasta and David a pizza, washed down with a Canadian beer (well mine was). A post-prandial stroll along the harbour revealed an understated haven of waterside homes clad in lap-board, I assume derived from these apparently abundant forests. The gentle lapping of the waves against the shoreline, and evening birdsong was a joy to behold, after a day of hard motoring through some pretty bleak forests with large expanses of scarified trees, denuded of branches, projecting towards the sky like pleading hands.

There is something a bit unnerving about large swathes of dead trees stabbing the skyline. It was like nobody noticed their death. Where they had given up all hope of survival, they leaned into one another like malnutritioned victims of a malignant force. For sure, Canada has abundant forests, but it is deeply depressing to see so much death. It has to be said though that at this time of the year, the living trees have yet to burst into life, so much of what we can see is the skeletal bleakness of hibernation. Of course there are many fir trees but even they look ragged, with only small tufts of green sprouting from the very top, like pom-poms.

Coming from a country where it seems every inch of land is managed, it seems anathema, that huge swathes of forest can die and apparently just be left to rot. On occasion we have come upon a small stretch of cleared ground, and even some replanting. But it feels like there is so much forest here, that death doesn't really matter. The humans have what they need-wood for building, heating, mulching. As for the wildlife, well there are road signs warning of mouse and elk so there must be some (unless they are just there for the benefit of tourists), but we haven't seen any more than a rabbit and a red squirrel. Even the birds seem few and far between. It may have something to do with it being early in the season. But I am not convinced there is much to awaken from the long winter around here.

Even the people are hidden away. Communities are less a close gathering of dwellings and services, and more isolated plots, scattered across miles, like debris fallen from the sky. Homes range from trailers (caravans) to large yet rather simple barn-like structures scattered randomly in expansive featureless lots, of half to 2 acres plus. Even though there is so much space, my heart aches at the lack of imagination about how to use it. As you will know, I grow some of my own fruit and veg at home, but it is not a passion in evidence here. We have only seen a couple of small plots of home vegetable growing. Mostly people seem to like vast expanses of beautifully mowed lawns. The most activity we have seen is owners of said lawns manicuring them perched on sit-on mowers. So imagine houses in clearings, like a beautifully managed (if not slightly undulating) football pitch, anything from 200 meters to a couple of miles apart, and you will envisage what I mean.

But back to Baddeck, which is actually a very quaint village and our wonderful B&B. After our little stoll and photography competition-to see who could take the best shot of lighthouse-(here's mine: we ambled back to our guesthouse, where I promptly put to use that huge bathroom, and had a long luxurious soak in the bath!

The following morning Barbie treated us to a breakfast feast of fruit salad, cereal, toast and the most scrumptious selection of cakes. Once again we drooled and asked if we could take some with us, and she promptly allowed us to fill a take home bag which kept us going for elevenses and afternoon tea for 2 days!! Thank you Barbie, the rhubarb cake, lemon cake, and various biscuits were mouth watering!
Once again loaded up we set off for the Cabot Trail, via Ingonish and St Lawrence, bathed in glorious sunshine. The rest of the day was just perfect motor-biking country and weather. After a short bike maintenance stop at the foot of Smokey Hill, whilst David did something to the plugs, and we chatted with a couple of other bikers doing the Trail, we made our way to Meat Cove at the very northern tip of Nova Scotia, where the St Lawrence Seaway meets the Atlantic Ocean. It has to have the best campsite in the world . It is one of those places in life where you find yourself thinking of being still whilst the world is moving (thank you Tim!).Of course out of season it was empty save ourselves and a hardy couple who set off down the cliff in their car, only to be pursued by the owner when we heard them revving madly, to warn them of losing the car over the edge!

After a leisurely lunch we headed back along the south of the Trail via Cheticamp and Inverness! As we gentky glided along the deserted road (I think there is only one), we glimpsed small plates of compacted snow snuggled in deep hollows amongst the trees. Gradually we came upon a whole heap, which was a bit of a surprise

Hugging the coast towards Whycocomagh where we thought we would try out a Motel for the night. Now I am not big on Motels. My experience of them in the US was of dim lights, musty, brown d├ęcor, dingy, dark, stained everything. But we thought it might be cheap. Well it wasn't cheap, and didn't even include breakfast and cakes! Nevertheless it was clean (although dimly lit and brown) and we didn't get bitten by fleas!

Time to reflect on one of those blissful days!

The following day started well. The sun was shining and the air was warm, but gradually it gave way to cool and grey. After a breakfast of pancake and fried egg for me (it's hard work being pillion) and an omelette for David, we headed back towards our campsite, along Marine Drive only 210 miles. We hugged the coast until we got tired then wound inland beating a hasty retreat.

I still have mixed feelings about being in Canada. It could just be the weather right now.Like most of us I guess I am used to jetting off to warmer climes than my own so I am still in shock at how cold it is!!

Until next time xxxx

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