2011/07/28: 57km to Ben Eoinn Campground
It took us some time to take our leave of Battery Provincial Park, because Gerry the camp caretaker invited us for tea at the gatehouse. This involved us listening to lengthy tales of his life and of his new love in Glace Bay, and him asking me for input on the two engagement ring options he had picked out. Gerry was over 50. Hearing this kind of thing and being asked for reassurance or approval seems to be something that my grey hair seems to bring on, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him what I really thought, which was that spending what must have been several months of his salary on a sparkly knick knack defies all common sense. Why not get something more useful? Perhaps a kayak?
We hadn’t stocked up on much picnic food, and as we rolled into Big Pond we saw Rita’s Tea Room. It looked attractive, so we stopped for an excellent mid-afternoon meal. There was somewhat familiar music playing in the tea room, and the waitresses were all singing along or humming as they moved among the tables. Then we noticed the gold and platinum records on the wall, the Junos and other awards, and countless photos of Rita MacNeil. Of course–she’s from Big Pond! She invites people to “drop in for tea”, so she opened a tea room probably to help her home community. The food was delicious and excellent value, possibly a lost leader for the sale of Rita’s CDs. I bought one.
In Ben Eoinn we camped in a functional but unaesthetic RV park, made use of the laundromat, and warmed up a nasty can of beans to dump onto fried bread.
2011/07/29: 58km to Catalone Campground
We headed towards Louisbourg, but would have arrive too late in the day to make a visit worthwhile, so we camped about 10km before reaching it. There is some sort of “bikefest” going on this weekend, which explains the gathering battalions of Harley-Davidsons, and also means much of the accommodation around Sydney or Louisbourg is full. Another damp night of swatting blackflies and nosee’ums.
2011/07/30: 17km to Louisbourg Fortress and B&B
From the Louisbourg Fortress interpretive centre where we left our bikes, we boarded a shuttle to the site of “North America’s largest historic reconstruction.” We stepped off the bus to “live for a day in the year 1744 in a French Colonial town” when Cape Breton Island was known as Isle Royale, a part of New France. Chris was almost not allowed past the first sentry because he had the audacity to be wearing his socks with Union Jacks on them. Mon dieu, quel horreur!! I got past the gate more quickly by switching into French. It was a good thing Chris kept his shoes on, because his socks even say “God save the Queen” on the bottoms.
Artillery and cannon firing, with shouts of “Vive le Roi!” at the end.
Clouds gathered and it began to spit again as we left the fortress. After five damp buggy nights out of the past six, we made our way to a B and B. I was getting grumpy about being chronically damp and covered in bites.
2011/07/31: 57km to North Sydney, NS, ferry to Port aux Basques, NL
What great B and B breakfast partners: A young couple travelling from Taiwan with both mothers in tow. Ming was Taiwanese and Jeremy was a native Nova Scotian, and neither mother spoke the other´s language but they seemed to get along beautifully. A straightforward ride to North Sydney got us on 14:30h sailing of the MV Blue Puttees for Channel Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland. Chris just overheard an astounded local voice in the dining room exclaiming “I’ve just met someone whose never been to Newfoundland before!” This will be a first for both of us, too.