30 September 2007

Cape Breton



We have just returned from a week camping in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is certainly wild and there is only one road running for about one hundred and fifty miles around the perimeter of the designated National Park zone - it is called the Cabot Trail and we toured it. As it was my first time camping you can guess what fun we had… We left PEI by car ferry and drove the roughly two hundred and fifty miles through Nova Scotia to stay in the wilderness at the northern end of Cape Breton. It reminded me a lot of the foothills of the French Alps. In winter the scant local population is completely cut off. There are only a few small villages and very few shops – just the occasional general store.

The area is a protected wildlife preserve of more than four hundred square miles. There are wolves, black bear and moose as well as American bald eagles and golden eagles. We heard wolves baying one morning and saw a female moose deep in the woods one day. Another day we saw a second moose, it was close enough to sound like an elephant as it tramped through the undergrowth but everywhere was so dense that I caught only a glimpse despite it being very close. Luckily we encountered no bears!!

One morning we took a whale-watching cruise from a small fishing village in Bay St Lawrence. We were taken out to open ocean on a forty foot fishing boat by an experienced captain of Irish decent. He had a great dark sense of humour. We saw some seals but sadly however no whales. I had better luck perched high on a one thousand foot mountain with my binoculars from where we saw several pods of pilot whales. Another time I saw distant water spouts they were blowing up. I took some video footage but it is too far away to see real detail. Nonetheless it was a superb experience and not a sight likely to be seen in the English Channel!

The weather was awesome for us – in the twenties every day and not a cloud in the sky. How about that for September! I bought a decent tent (Woods EZtent) that pops up like an igloo in about ten seconds, then you just spend a few minutes installing the fly-sheet and hammering in the pegs. The new air mattress was very comfortable too. We had two lanterns and were really quite cozy.

However the sleeping bags we borrowed were useless. Although burning by day, the night time temperatures were low. After our first night shivering at just three degrees we visited a camping store and bought a very big bag for ninety dollars which is meant to be warm even at minus seven. It proved to be incredibly warm although a slight squeeze! I also bought a stove to take with us so we had eggs for breakfast and soup or beans for dinner. Lunch was usually sandwiches taken with us on our daily hikes.

We moved camp three times but spent the last three nights in a row at the same pitch which was much more convenient. We stayed at a tiny remote site right by the Atlantic Ocean - see the above photos. The crashing waves were great to go to sleep to. There were only four or five other tents there.

Every night I lit a fire in the pit provided. I managed with paper and kindling wood even in the wind! When it was alight we burned several large logs each evening. We needed the warmth by about 7pm and also it kept the dreaded mosquitoes and flies away effectively. Aren't the stars unbelievably bright that far from modern civilisation? One guy from Ontario had a big telescope with him. He set it up and we looked at Jupiter and its moons. Seeing our own moon was fascinating too. Only a part of it would fit in the screen – you had to scan around to view it all! My interest in astronomy has been well and truly rekindled. (I feel a significant purchase coming on!)

On our final night the wind rose to a fierce gale. The people next to us were away all evening and while gone their tent was wrenched off its pegs and blown over the short cliff. Another camper retrieved it from the small rocky beach and the telescope man from Ontario helped put it back up. When the people got back they took it down and slept in their car! We hardly slept that night, our own tent was regularly flattened under the high wind but having flexible poles it regained its shape. Luckily the pegs held firm.

On the night of my fiftieth birthday we stayed in a Motel which I had pre-booked. That evening we found the only restaurant for miles around and ate there. Our portions were huge and I ate quite a lot of Michelle's too! The restaurant had previously been a General Store and the owners had collected a lot of fishing and domestic memorabilia to decorate the walls and ceiling. There was of course the ubiquitous set of moose antlers!

All good things come to an end and we drove home after a week still wanting more. Next year perhaps a long ferry ride to Newfoundland...

18 comments:

I'm just sayin' said...

Sounds quite fun, looks very relaxing. Keep traveling and posting. Happy 50th. I was 55 in Sept but living nowhere near as grand a life as you. I shall not be jealous (much).

Miss Independent said...

Paul,

What a great trip. Thank you for sharing it with us. DO you know that in all of the time I have been reading your blog, I don't think I have ever read one that I didn't have to decipher what you were saying. But TODAAY, today Paul, you have amazed me and this must men that all things are going well and I am so happy for you. It's great to see Michelle too.

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

April

Mrs CeCrux said...

wow..what a view. yeah september has great weather over there and usually well into october for the most part....thats one of the things i am missing here...so far we are into like 10 or 11 only...it stinks! save some of that warm sun for me please!

Perfect Virgo said...

IJS - belated happy virgo birthday! I hope my reserves hold out to travel a little more.

April - I am so glad you enjoyed. You are exactly right about the style of this, mostly I do wrap things up in in riddles and code. It's as if by only hinting at issues I don't get as scared as I would by facing them head on.

For once I could talk in an open conversational way and you noticed - thank you April.

Mrs C - yes, this part of Atlantic Canada is on the same latitude as southern France and it may be October before the icy winds return to remind us we are on the edge of an icy continent. I'll see how much sun there is to go round!

cocaine jesus said...

oh, man. two gorgeous views and one of 'em isn't you!!

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - cheeky rascal! But yep you are quite right!

Katie McKenna said...

Sounds like a fabulous time! I enjoyed the pictures throughout the sections of your blog that I did read. Thank you for sharing!

Perfect Virgo said...

Katie - yep it was a great week and thank you for reading, I am glad you enjoyed the pictures too.

fathorse said...

Bears? Mooses (meese moose meeses??) and wolves? PISH! you should see the size of the spiders in my house!

Perfect Virgo said...

FH - like their smaller cousins deer, moose are not favoured with an "s" in the plural. Seems cheap but there it is!

Now don't tell me said arachnids are those marauding autumn giants with a span of a whole 2 milimeters... ;)

fathorse said...

Seriously they're huge. And furry, but with nasty pointy bits on the ends of their legs. And they SCUTTLE really quickly. urrrrgh. Gimme a bear any day.

cocaine jesus said...

a bear or a spider?
hmmmm, let me see now, which one is easier to squish?

Perfect Virgo said...

FH - ah, I see you mean the sort which speed across the carpet then rear up and nibble your ankles. Nice house pets! Sir David Attenburgh would doubtless explain the significance of the fur and the "pointy" bits but for the layman they are a mystery.

btw, you probably won't remember this but I was stung by a dragonfly in the back garden in Staines. Made me hyperventilate and my chest grew bright red.

CJ - well it's a close thing but you might have more luck grinding the bear under your shoe. Those spiders are big brutes and you have to ride them like a bucking bronco!

fathorse said...

hmm, no can't remember staines at all. what a bizarre thing to be stung by!

GeL (Emerald Eyes) said...

Sounds like an incredible trip, especially for your first time camping. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your experiences.
My camping experiences have been rather limited and uneventful. My hubby, though, has enjoyed roughing it outdoors for many many years. Now that he's in great physical shape again, I think he may coerce me to come along!

GeL (Emerald Eyes) said...

oh my- i've been out of blogland a long time.
Very belated but sincerely happy bd wishes for the 19th, a bd date you share with "Sapphire." September is good month to be born in!

Da Gal said...

That trip sounds absolutely amazing!! It sounds like you had a delightful time and so many memories to keep. I hope you are continuing to enjoy your time. Take gentle care! meg

Perfect Virgo said...

Meg - thank you for reading and enjoying. It was indeed amazing and one day I would like to go back and explore some more.