End of the World Meat Cove
Meat Cove, Cape Breton - The Campground and the Beach
Meat Cove – what a non-appealing name (for vegetarians at least) for such a great spot… One can imagine how animal blood was spilled here, carcasses hung to dry in the soaring winds under the direct sun.
But nowadays, most of us come here to “get the feel”. This is a place where Nature is the superior ruler and people live and adjust by Her cycles. Much of the local population still make their living out of fishing, but not anymore from terrestrial fauna, as the place’s name might indicate.
It’s one of the ends of the world, where you are bound to meet seabirds and cataceans, but also humanoids who, like me, are attracted by these ultimate land protrusions jutting into an infinite sea.
I looked at the map, found out that there was, indeed, a campground there. I made a phone call, and on I went. Driving here entailed moving out of the national parks jurisdiction into a wilderness even less touched. One road is all you can find here, and even that one ends kind of abruptly, transforming from a decently paved country road into dirt and potholes. And then you reach “The End”, yes. Welcome to Meat Cove.
The first people I saw as I landed by the campground “office” were hanging around “Oceanside Chowder’s Hut” . They were clearly enjoying fermented drinks, mostly beer, and tried to get me on to their vibe. The owner wasn’t present. I waited. Some were East Indians. There were several hippie types. A considerable number of foreigners and young people moved around and about, singles and families, but of the more adventurous, alternative type. This was clearly a different population than the national parks or the private campgrounds I visited so far.
The manager, who finally showed up, seemed as savvy as he was friendly, knowing exactly how to take care of his clientele. The rules were clear: you pay first, then he will lower the rope, enabling you to drive down to the lower parking and pick your site among the non-taken. And yes, I could have the one closest to the cliffs (#20) if I so wished.
To make my personal intentions clear, I asked him about walking opportunities. He gave me a small map and marked one or two trailheads, not making too much of an effort to elaborate.
The fee was relatively high, but that was a remote spot, no alternatives. Things for sure cost a lot of money to transport, and – it was a wonderful place. I paid what he asked without arguing, and he lowered the rope.
Initially, I thought of camping near the office. There were several free spots nearby, but the owner recommended I first see “everything”. I drove down to the lowest parking, walked all the way to the cliffs, and picked the lowest spot, site #20, right above the water. Underneath me, the sea was holding its unpredictable promise. It was totally clear this would be the windiest site on the ground, but I did not hesitate. This would be my place for wildness, elementals and beauty.
And I started running up and down the mountain, schlepping my “stuff”, making sure to ground everything that could fly with stones against the mighty wind. Erecting the tent under these conditions was a considerable endevor, but accomplished.
I wound my way down to the beach just to walk the walk. It was getting late and dark, and I thought better of getting into the water. As can be seen from the following photograph the sea was still quiet, people actually getting in, some were even swimming. In retrospect, I wish I had used this opportunity as well, since, alas, there was no second chance…
People do interesting things when they reach mountain tops or inspiring beaches…After all, we grow gardens and raise pets and farm animals, why not grow rocks? Seen a certain way, Manhattan is kind of a rock garden…:
Meeting a Kindred Soul - Gloria on the Hill
27.8.2016, 15:30, Meat Cove, at picnic table by tent
Time to be relaxed. I woke up late for a 3-4 hour trip to the lighthouse. Instead, I went for trail #1 – easy, but very beautiful.
After an initial climb through the forest, there was an option to continue from there to the lighthouse, or to climb down the hill to the sundrenched cliffs. Strangely, it wasn’t even clear if this lighthouse even existed. Nobody seemed to have actually seen it…
The descent on the meadow-like vegetated slope led to stunning cliffs, much “stunnier” than Green Gardens … Perhaps it’s a matter of percetpion – when things come as a surprise, their effect tends to be bigger.
Sea and mountain. Meat Cove.
But then there was another surprise – Gloria, sitting like the little mermaid on a sunny rock with a pink ribbon in her hair…
She has been travelling by herself for a while and preferred travelling alone to a bad relationship a hundred times over. So there are other women travelling by themselves and enjoying it! Gloria retired a year ago and was on the go ever since. She had also been to Newfoundland, and, like me, was enamored with “ends of the world”. In NL she made it further north, all the way to St. Anthony and the viking village. Everybody says it’s worth the trip. Rain check.
On her destination list: Australia. We talked about the men there. Gloria was never married, but had relationships. Huge blue eyes, attractive woman.
She gave me tips for the western side of the island: the Buddhist monastery, a famous restaurant and bakery in Cheticamp, the Skyline walk everybody is talking about. We even talked about car rentals. She recommended Budget, Enterprise and Rent a Wreck, but not from Bangor, about which she had some horror story…
Now I know I need the two nights in Cheticamp before “the big drive” back to Maine. What was so compelling about Gloria was her joy de vivre, the self-sufficiency, her love of storytelling. I’m not alone, and when I think back on my own life, at the age of 28 I rejected a marriage option to continue my South American travel. Interesting.
We talked about rural people in cold countries. Everybody seems happily paired and “familied”. Everybody is nice. She said you could not live in a place of a 100 people and quarrel with them. You must have the capacity to get along. I said that being single in Newfoundland’s winters seems to me like the definition of nightmare. It is imperative to have a warm household, a partner. Gloria said that where she comes from, in the city, she barely knows couples who are happy or even content.
Down by the beach, a couple was adding a new stone tower to the existing exhibition. The sea rolled back and forth. From the cliff where I sat with Gloria we could see 270 degrees. This huge infinite entity surrounds us and will live forever. This is where we really started – down in the huge womb. And like the sea birds we still hunt there in the belly of the huge mother.
End of the World? The Place to Meet Israelis
Guess what? This was the place to meet folks from the homeland. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear the familiar foreign sounds. Three Israelis: O., M. and A. When reaching an end of the world, there’s a good chance of meeting some of us, and usually of the best kind. These kids were friendly, generous, interesting, also good-looking. “Come over to #12”, they invited me, “There are beers, we’ll make dinner tonight on the fire”. They added: “We saw somebody had a tent at the #20 and were so jealous …Didn’t know it was you! “. There you go…
Crazy wind made me rush into the tent. There is some water penetration at the bottom. I tear a garbage bag and put underneath to protect Jim’s mattress. With half a “door” open I can sight the waves breaking on the shore.
This is the first time I use the tent as a home, not just a sleeping dorm. With most “doors” and “windows” closed, it is at least warm and relatively protected from the wind. I sit on the mattress and write. Opening the door towards the sea, I watch the Atlantic Ocean in all its power and freedom. It’s a bit like viewing a volcano erupting from a helicopter, but since I am who I am I will probably soon go down to the beach to experience the waves.
Nighttime, Meat Cove, Cape Breton
Amazing how half a meter of beach elevation is sufficient to tame these huge waves despite their amazing strength. At every level of the littoral there is another habitat. Sandpipers browsing the sand after the surf. Some birds fly over the water.
I came to the Israeli tent early evening. A bonfire.
M. to the “next tent” neighbors, two heavily tatooed Irish bikers: “Come over, come over, we have beers”, and the two big-bodied fellows could not resist and joined. They were crossing Canada on motocycle.
M. lives in Jerusalem and A. lives with O., who is studying a combination of philosophy and economics in NY. She finished something business. Everybody agrees Canada is best.
M., who is very well travelled, says Meat Cove is more impressive than Rishikesh, India…Wow. That supports my ambivalence about going to India. I got verification from the expert that I made the best choice… She told a story how an Indian guy locked her up for six hours waiting for a train…
In addition, the parks here, according to them, are not “anal” like the ones in the U.S., where everything is lawsuit-proof. Hey, look at your tent site, Orit, right at the edge of the cliff, and all there is between you and a grand fall is a small lame sign saying “Keep Back” …
The Irish guys also shared stories and impressions, joked, drank. We talked about Ireland, Canada, India, the U.S., universities, where we come from and where we are going to.
The kids made a great meal – pasta, steamed veggies. Most young Israeli backpackers do not see a restaurant on the inside. They go around with gas stoves, rice and lentils in bulk, a pot, a pan and some utensils. These youngsters were no exception, even though untypically they were travelling by car. But really…. how else can you get here, to Meat Cove, unless, like Tal, the girl I met at the Tablelands, you hitchhike your way through?
And, out of the blue, M. asked: “Can I be intrusive?” I said “Sure, be insturisve”, and she said: “I thought you might be suitable for our father. He’s also a walker and lives in Jerusalem. He just travelled alone to South America”. Life has its ways…I gave her my phone and the two of us did, indeed, start a correspondence. I sent him pictures of does and deer from Parc National du Bic, and he sent me ungulate pictures from the wadi near his home …
And as I walked back to my own tent, I suddenly discovered the sky – deep, dark, the Milky Way from horizon to horizon and “all the rest” of the heavens starred, dotted, full, rich. Wow!
The next day I went back on the Cabot Trail. Following Gloria’s recommendation I visited an amazing spiritual community in Pleasant Bay: Gampo Abbey or, as I called it: “Buddhas Everywhere”.