Following the Sunset into the
Ferry into the Sunset
I came to Northumberland Provincial Park at night. This was one of the occasions where I took a quick spontaneous decision on the spot, and was very happy I did.
I had until the weekend to return the car in Maine, and still be covered by the card insurance. That was the contingency. Some things I don’t take risks on, like overstaying my visa, or not being covered in case of an accident. So heading back, I took road 19 from Cheticamp Campground, and then the 104 via Antigonish and New Glasgow. Beautiful sea views were replaced by green cow pastures and small village scenes. The Canadian radio kept me engaged with a long interview of a Paralympics swimming champion and French music.
When I reached the junction to Pictou, two options presented themselves: going on to re-find that saccharine and boring family campground in Truro, or brave my chances and see Prince Edward Island (PEI) after all. I say, “after all”, because my earlier image of PEI was of a yuppie place, full of rich people, fancy hotels etc. BUT, as so often happens in traveling, previous mind constructs crumble when faced with reality. How enriching.
I’ve made up my mind – luck will decide – there will be a boat, or there won’t be. If not, I’ll find a place to sleep in Pictou.
Lacking charge on my phone and Internet access, I opted to take my chances and drive the several kilometers north to Pictou. It was a close call. According to previous info I had, the last boat would be leaving at 6:15pm. Luckily, that info was incorrect, and the boat was scheduled for 7 o’clock.
That left me with an hour to get my act together. Though the ferry station was officially closed, a kind secretary helped me with maps and brochures. She used to live on PEI, but now lived in Pictou. No reason was given why she moved, and I didn’t ask. She said she missed her life on the island. You cross people’s lives at certain points, and for a split second you share something. Then to each their own. I had a light snack in the car.
The ferry ride was breathtaking.
Since my first boat ride to Greece, I am always up on the deck. I’ll be as forward, upward and outward as possible, to see, hear, smell and feel the freedom of the sea.
What is the point of a luxury cabin if it imprisons you in the belly of a boat, seeing everything through scratched glass or plastic windows, if you miss the smell of the salt, the sound of the seagulls shrieking?
From experience, I had three extra layers ready, and indeed put them all on right away. The wind was strong and the air got chillier, but an incredible sunset started unfolding [see slider above], and porpoises popped up in the water as we got closer to shore.
Loving love, I took photos of a hugging couple against the sunset. Years ago, in England’s Lake District, an old beautiful man told me and my partner: “This is a sacred spot. Last time I was here, a young couple was making love…”. Some great people inhabit this earth.
Dusk was descending through the spectacular twilight. The porpoises were trying to chase the ferry as the island was getting closer.
After we docked, I typed “campground” on my GPS. I was led, instead, towards an open area with a lighthouse. It didn’t feel right, so I signaled somebody to ask. He told me there was another campground down the road, and the camping here was just a daytime facility for the lighthouse.
Into the Dark - Northumberland Provinvial Park
In the creeping darkness I turned back and east on the nearly deserted road #1. Eventually an unmarked turnoff proved to be the road leading to a campground. In a well-lit large booth two rangers greeted me kindly. There was no problem getting in and putting up my tent depite the hour.
One of them offered to drive me to the site on her golf cart. Freezing, I ran back to the car to get a sweater.
Once on the site, I was left alone with the cold and the dark. Keeping my headlights on, I did my technical best to put up the tent and rain jacket with maximum speed. I learned to always have the head torch handy, and that, of course, helped as well.
As in many of these campgrounds, the ground is so well cleared, you can’t find a rock to hammer the pegs. As I became better aware of my surroundings, I noticed a French-speaking family at a nearby site. They provided me with a small rock and informed me there was no Wi-Fi in the camp.
Once in the tent, I hung up the lantern and went back to my Kindle book, “Reading Lolita in Tehran”. Something about the complete darkness relaxed me. I wrote in my diary:
Despite the total strangeness I had an almost perfect feeling of safety. What? Black bears here on the PEI? Kidding? And then I heard the far rumble of the sea. “
This is what is so incredible about reaching a place at night. You discover it bit by bit… In daylight, everything is revealed at once.”
Eventually my curiosity got the better of me and, here of all places, I tried to practice my walking in the dark skills. After crossing the dirt road, I navigated in the direction of the surf. At a certain point, I noticed the grass is up-sloping. In the nick of time I turned on my head flashlight to view a “Fallaise Dangeroux” (dangerous cliffs) sign materializing right in front of my nose…
By daytime, those cliffs appeared to be 8-10 meter beach rocks, towering over a beautiful serene bay.
The minute I tucked myself back into my womb-like tent, it started raining…
It is interesting that in this highly civilized island I have the most primeval camping experience.
My thoughts roam back to prehistory, to a broadcast I heard on CNN radio: Our famous African ancestor, Lucy, died falling off a tree! – a scientist studying her for 30 years determined. That happened 3 million years ago, and she was 16 or 17… She apparently tried to block the fall with her hand, just like my daughter did skating in our living room. My daughter only broke her arm, but poor Lucy had it really bad. Falling down 46 feet, she sprained her neck, sustaining several fractures before her death….
On the first light, I headed down to the beach, carefully sitting myself on a red sandy shelf, above which there was a patch of white sand, indicative of an interesting geology. Last night I could have fallen off that ledge, like Lucy off the tree, but now it seemed totally benign. I sat there surrounded by daisies and beach grasses. A plump 8-year-old came around, trying to coax me into conversation. I guessed she was connected to the elderly French couple sitting on wooden chairs by their trailer. We talked a little, then she skidded down the slope and ran along the beach.
The campground was equipped with a nice bathroom and a laundry facility. The French couple helped me change some loonies into quarters. As the laundry was tumbling, I plunged into the sea. Nobody else was in the water yet.
I had only two nights to get back, so couldn’t linger in the Northumberland Provincial Park, despite the beauty and comforts it had to offer. I had a calling to reach another “end of the world” at the northeastern “point” of the island, plus, I wanted to see Cavendish, the “Anne of Green Gables” place.
Transferring the laundry to the drier, I took a walk along the beach. Black blobs kept popping in and out of the water. I asked a passerby if she thought they were seals. She assured me that they were indeed seals or porpoises, and said they swam towards our ferry when it approached the island. She said the deep, humming sounds I heard at night and thought were a weird buoy or the hum of a generator, were produced by these sea mammals…
That’s how I met C., a charming, petite lady, a pharmacologist by profession. We joined each other for a walk along the beach and conversed. Although she complained a lot about Americans (pushy, gun culture), she could not understand why I came to Canada. Her national self -image must have been somewhat low. It reminded me a bit of us, Israelis, who invariably ask new immigrants: “Why on earth did you come here?”
I tried to explain to C. why Canada was so wonderful in my eyes. I hope I did some good. To my daughters I sent a text: “Canada to the U.S. is like Pride to Arrogance“, but that is only partially true, and not on the personal level. Most Americans I met on this trip were polite and friendly. Some went out of their way to be helpful to a stranger. And that was largely true during the years I lived in the United States. Still, there was something more down-to-earth and humbler about Canada.
Northumbria campground and beach
C.’s family comes here every summer. They rent a cottage at the eastern side of the beach. The cottage deal included kayaks and she offered me to go ocean kayaking with her!!! What an opportunity! We set up to meet by her cottage a little later.
In the meantime, I dismantled the tent, packed and transferred the laundry to the drier. A woman dressed like a nun, but with a bunch of children and a stroller, was in the bathroom lobby. I thought she might be Amish. Women in skirts and a host of children are a familiar sight in Jerusalem, but rare around here, so noticeable.
Another curiosity – people were filming a motion picture against the background of the sea. A guy dressed like a Buddhist monk was performing martial arts movements.
After packing, I evacuated my site and parked the car near the laundry, in order to avoid paying for another night. Then I walked down the beach to meet C. We had a great time rowing next to each other paralel to the shoreline, and chatting.
When I came back, the laundry was dry, but there was a complaint that I parked my car on somebody’s “lot”. I was allowed to park it further by the exit road. Apologizing for the inconvenience (a huge RV was trying to pull in…), I re-parked , collected my clothes, changed and finally set off. Bye, beautiful beach. Onwards!
The Gathering Storm
As blue as the sky was in the morning, now that I left Northumberland Provincial Park, it started downpouring, indeed “out of the blue”. The pictures above show the clouds gathering. I am indebted to a concerned cashier at an Esso gas station who called around for me (as usual the cellphone wasn’t connecting). She eventually got me in touch with Campbell’s Cove Campground, and I reserved a dry cabin for $53.
The GPS would, inevitably, take me on the fastest route, rather than on the scenic coastal drive, but what the heck! I couldn’t enjoy anything in that rain anyway. I drove through corn fields, wheat, squash, vines and cow pastures to the northernmost point of the island, letting the all-knowing GPS guide me through a panoply of country roads.