Ingonish National Park and Cape Breton were so marvellous I did not have time to mourn leaving Newfoundland. The highlight was the empowering night walk, "Seeing in the Dark", where we sharpened hidden survival capacities. There is also a wonderful double beach - lake plus ocean right by the campground.
From Meat Cove to Pleasant Bay
The Israelis were going to climb the most challenging mountain in the Meat Cove area. Clearly, they preferred their own company and not an older lady dragging behind, so…back on the Cabot Trail.
We said goodbye. M. wrote down my mail and phone number for her father. You never know…[we did indeed meet eventually and became kind of friends, but it did not extend beyond that…]
I was voraciously hungry, but still managed to do a half-an-hour sortie called “McIntosh Brook” and see the waterfalls in a forest of birch and maple. Everybody there was my age and up. Two young girls stayed at the trail head, swinging on swings in a small playground, waiting for their folks to come back.
I shot more photos of mushrooms (hundreds of kinds in these forests, as the guide in Fundy informed us), leafage and moss.
At the end of the trail were the promised waterfalls. I love waterfalls, but people miss the life that happens when they are busy trying to reach “the goal” – the glorious mini corners, niches, shapes, colors, the secrets told by the creatures and beings of the forest. Perhaps you need to come from a drier country to appreciate this, or, maybe, it is a quality of the soul.
It was hard to find a place to eat, but in the end I located a restaurant, the first one I saw after hours of driving and hiking. I gulped down a fried haddock with baked potatoes. The kind waitress agreed to bring me a vegetable salad instead of the ubiquitous coleslaw, but there was nothing to do about the spongy white bun…
Gampo Abbey – The Sacred Forest
I came to the Buddhist monastery in Pleasant Bay thanks to Gloria, the wonderful woman I met on the hill at Meat Cove. I would not have known about it otherwise. Lucky!!!
From the Cabot Trail it was a graveled road 9 km long, bumpy but reasonably drivable. Gloria told me there was a daily tour for visitors at 13:30, but I wasn’t going to make it and she forgot to say they did not take visitors on Sundays. The drive was close to the water, crossing the village first, then there was some forest, fields.
All of a sudden I saw a man in a red robe – a monk!…and then another one, a black guy with a conical Vietnamese hat … It was so unexpected, even though I knew where I was going. I gasped, and slowed down. The visitor parking was right there, and signs were pointing in different directions.
Every building had a sign announcing: Retreat area, No entry. I could not even find a bathroom and ended up peeing behind a tool shed.
I asked the monk about my options, and he said the buildings are closed now to visitors, but I can feel free to walk the grounds. He recommended I go first to see the stupa.
Everywhere there were small Buddhas or other sacred objects, sometimes hard to spot:
Quiet. Something in the air makes that section of forest, that piece of land, sacred. The walk to the falls was charming; the walk here is magical. The concentration and intentions of the people living and meditating here imbue everything, natural or human-made – the trees, flowers, sculptures, the land itself.
The Fifty Nine Precepts
I walked through the sacred forest to the stupa, passing a small stream on the way:
I followed the advice for visitors and circumambulated the stupa court, reading all the stone tablets that were placed in a wide circle.
FIfty nine precepts in all, very profound, some much beyond my comprehension. But I’m not a Buddhist, at least not yet. I doubt I have what it takes to reach the spiritual level practiced here. I’m too much in the world. The one advice I could easily follow, was to not be the fastest. I clearly never am!!
The Woodland Hike
After the visit to the stupa, I took the Woodland Hike that was marked with a small sign.
I had no idea what I was getiing into. The trail started with dense vegetation. It seemed it had not been travelled for a long time. It then opened a bit, and continued in a conifer forest. Some trees had orange ribbons tied around them for markings.
I expected to see the sea that I glimpsed before between the trees, but that did not happen. Just as I was struggling with myself whether to continue or not, I saw stone pile markers, very cutely organized, followed by makeshift flags on poles:
And then a little shrine appeared seemingly out of nowhere:
I went on this walk, having no idea it was more than a stroll, but it was quite a climb actually. The discovery of the markers and the shrine erased my ever-present apprehensions about getting lost. Joyfully I wrote my name in Hebrew and in English on a names’ flag. How magical and empowering.
Charged with all that spiritual energy, I went back to the car, and drove straight down to the Cheticamp Campground, the Western counterpart of the Ingonish campground.