Gampo Abbey, Cape Breton. An inspirational visit to a Buddhist monastery and stupa located in Pleasant Bay, off the Cabot Trail., Grounds are beautifully maintained, creating a sense of the sacred. A nice climb leads to a mountain shrine. Stone panels in the stupa yard are inscribed with spiritual messages.
Cabot Trail - West
29.8.2016, at a parking in Cap Rouge, opposite the sea
The weather turned and the mundane easy campground turned out in the morning not to be. The grass was soaked. The tent was soaking. Crazy rain swamped the entire day.
So, in the morning – Le Buttereau, fascinating and very instructive. I did the loop plus the northern part of Le Chemin du Buttereau, but turned back at a certain point wanting to make it to the famous Skyline Trail as well.
The Cheticamp River’s estuary on the western Cabot Trail served as the source of livelihood for an Acadian community composed of five families who lived here during the early 20th century. Each woman had 9-11 children plus Knitting, spinning, water carrying, cooking. The men were catching lobsters and fish, selling them for pennies. The Acadians were an early French settler group.
I am deliberating with myself whether a man wearing a monk’s robe and smiling to everybody as he is “working on himself”, is in any way “higher” than a fisherman’s wife, raising 11 children in this harsh climate, living at basic subsistence and still hosting travelers and guests…
Celibate men and the very idea of celibacy do not sit well with me. Male celibacy implies to me a wrongness with sexuality and, by implication, with women, or the other way around. I oppose it on both counts. Our bodies are designed to flow with the universe. Sexuality is one of the most essential expressions of that. Still, the effort a monk makes and his/her contribution can be significant. I can see that there’s a place for that in society, but my heart goes to the fishermen’s wives.
Down the road you see the holes that remained from the family houses. Arab “hirbes” (village ruins) in Israel look better… Such a destruction over a 100 years? Pourquoi? Comment? Must be the abundant precipitation. Things preserve better in drier climate.
The children used to walk to school barefoot, later there was one truck. Most of the traffic was through the sea or on ice with ski. The huge ranges of French Mountain and Mount McKinsey separated them from the community at Pleasant Bay. People lived in isolation.
From Le Buttereau I continued along the western Cabot Trail north to the famous Skyline Trail. So many people recommended it, there was no way to skip it. Some trails are iconic – “everybody” is there, rain or shine. Others like “Le Buttereau” waited for my sola presence to be acknowledged. Apparently the old time fishermen do not interest too many people…
An almost 4-hour hike. I did the entire loop as total rain and total wind switched roles.
There were lots of Asian visitors, most or all Chinese. Friendly. A few “Anglos”. Some people have seen moose, but I only saw droppings, tracks in the mud and signs of biting on the tree trunks.
Scientists are conducting an experiment to check whether moose deters forest regrowth. So far, the results are that savannah-like vegetation was taking over in the moose-free fenced area. From my experience in biologial research, in the “real world” it is hard to get consistent, provable, repeatable results. There are always many factors at play…
An exciting-looking extra section of the trail descended from the loop to the cliffs below, but the wind was so forceful, I gave up after a few steps. Having my rain cape was a hindrance, as it blew up and acted as a parachute, almsot lifting me off the ground…
The Chinese women were giggling and holding on to the Chinese men, who were barely holding on themselves. The wind was, indeed, outrageous. Most of the Chinese had the same red rain capes that were short and not as effective against the rain as mine, but on the other hand, were not as conducive to making one fly… Still there were some beautiful vistas and so I did what everybody else did – tried to take pictures.
My blue hood was purchased originally in and for the Scottish highlands. The intense wind at Skyline tore the snap buttons with a piece of the plastic away. The Chinese and I took each other’s pictures.
This pic was the best I could do for the down-to-the-ocean trail without having my camera fly. One or two guys ventured the steps down towards the coast, but quickly came back up:
On the way down from Skyline, I stopped at Cap Rouge lookout and filmed an incredibly powerful stormy sea. There was a family from Bangladesh at the parking. Like everybody else, the word “Israeli” confused them. For a second they were speechless, but then they took it in with a stride. We all kept the energy neutral. They asked me to take their photo on their iPad, and I asked them for the same. She was wearing a sari.
It was raining again. I drove at 18 km/h down the rainy French Mountain and the hills to follow, pulling over to the side several times to let everybody pass. Sorry…
As I drove by the Grande Falaise, an impressive “cliffy” mountain, I stopped one more time, now to get to the Le Chemin du Buttereau from the southern end. I wanted to complete the walk I cut short in the morning. But the forest started to remind me of Little Red Riding Hood; it was getting dark, and I decided to retrace my steps.
Gabrielle’s and Rhonda
And then it was Gabrielle Restaurant, following another of Gloria’s recommendations. And a good one! Music from 7-9, a guy and a girl singing classical ear-pleasing songs in English and French (the girl did most of the French), accompanying themselves with acoustic guitars.
Here I met Rhonda, a super-friendly blonde from Ottawa. She adopted me there and then, took me under her wing, inviting herself to sit by me, so ”she can see the baseball better”. Her husband, solidly built, was watchimg the game intently. That I was alone and from Israel, plus my strange name, all that was sensational for her. We took each other’s pictures alone and together, and she immediately sent the pic to her daughters/friends on the phone.
I told Rhonda about the Buddhist monastery and she said she could get interested in visiting it, but her husband would for sure stay in the car and read a book. I said: “or will listen to baseball on the radio”… We laughed. I raved about how much I liked Canada, and she recommended I go to PEI because of the red sand. I should make a reservation for the ferry in advance. Thinking…
The food was nice, too!
Leaving Cape Breton
Why did I dream again about not controlling a class? Here I am in a campground in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and instead of enjoying the circumstances, my subconscious mind brings back my teaching failures and fears….Come on!
12:25 Lookout over stormy sea on way to Caribou
Still in Cape Breton. At every lookout there are Chinese taking pictures.
I want to talk about the wonders of the local CBC radio:
Five minutes conversation with a father who ate rotten blueberries on a walk with his daughter;
Ten minutes conversation with a woman from some god-forsaken location in Cape Breton. She is trying to get workers for her business and can’t find any by the traditional means. Eventually she decides to give the would-be workers 2 acres of woodland each for free and is advertising that on the radio. The tradeoff is they’ll have to understand this is a work for life… She recounts that she herself left Cape Breton for “real life”, but returned when she understood that in no other location would she be surrounded by sea, forest, lakes, and at night with a panorama of stars.
Five minutes were dedicated to Donald Trump and his voters who are not interested in facts.
Then there was a long talk about the emotional crisis pets have when their owners, who pampered them 24/7 during summer vacation, now return to work and school.
Such a pleasure compared with the endless exhuasting and loaded political interviews and commentary on Israeli talk shows… but what to do? It’s our reality…
So CBC keeps me alert as I drive this long, but beautiful, road. When I get to Caribou I’ll make up my mind on the spot if to go or not to go to PEI. The world is open.
Bye Bye beautiful Cape Breton.