Day 83 – Anti-g’Nish to St Peter’s, Cape Breton Island

Day 83 – Since I have a ferry place booked on Wednesday, I’ve known for a while that I have some time in hand, but what to do with it? Arriving into St Peter’s this afternoon, the decision was made. It’s a lovely spot, straddling either side of the canal that links Bras d’Or Lake with the ocean. I was heading for a site a little way out of town but saw signs in town to Battery Park Campground, and that’s where I am now. I’ve got three grassy pitches to myself, protected from the ocean by a stand of pine trees, and a short steep walk through the grass takes me to my own private beach overlooking St Peter’s Bay, where I ate my supper, checked the emergency hipflask, and played a bit of uke, watching three Gannets catch their supper by dive-bombing a shoal of fish just off-shore. There’s a line in a Mel Brooks movie where he is King Louis IVth, and after behaving atrociously to one of his female courtiers in the palace gardens he looks at the camera with a huge grin, and says “It’s good to be the king!”. After tucking in their wings, firing themselves into the sea at incredible speed, grabbing a fish before resurfacing and taking to the air with amazing agility, I imagine the gannet saying to itself “Its good to be a gannet!”

  • Today’s Distance (miles/km):  / 104
  • Time in saddle: 5h 09
  • Max/min temp (°c): 28°/14°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 2346 / 2365
  • Calories used: 
  • Cafe time: 2h 02

(This map is so well-used that it’s getting harder every day to take a picture of the route)

I barely mentioned Antigonish yesterday, which is a shame because it’s a great place with an excellent and secure campground very unusually located in a park right in the heart of town.

After pitching my tent I headed out to see what happens there on a Friday night in August. An Art Festival, is what, complete with live music until midnight, all by local bands, and mostly folky and acoustic rather than rocky and amplified, which was fine by me (covers of Mumford & Sons and Barenakedladies, funniest band name contender).

(Sorry, guybehindapillar)

At the campground I had passed a family of three kids on bikes and a mum pulling a trailer along which was full of bright yellow beans. I laughed and asked if she wanted a hand pulling it, but said to just grab as many as I wanted, which I suppose would make the trailer lighter anyway. I had hands full of clothes for my washing line, but said I’d come over later. She said they had an allotment next door and stayed all summer at their trailer, harvesting by day and BBQing by night. When I dropped by to claim my beans I met her husband who gave me a demonstration of the awesome power of his hifi system. The walls of his trailer have panels which swing out to reveal speakers. Trying not to sound critical, I asked “Is that normal for a trailer?”. “It’s an option” he said, proudly. As I walked away I prayed that he wasn’t an over-sharer in the late-night country music department, of which I’ve had a few. When I got back in the dark from supper all I could hear was the crackle of campfires, the happy chatter of many gatherings, and the whir of crickets.

I was up at dawn, which is getting noticeably later as August runs down and cycled for around 50km before stopping for lunch. The Subway where I ate was overlooking the Canso Causeway (from yesterday’s signs) that links the mainland of Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island across the Strait of Canso.

I have had a plan for some time to cycle the Cabot Trail, a famous route which runs right around Cape Breton, but it takes several days to do and is extremely hilly and dependent on good weather. Maybe earlier in the trip I would have been more up for the challenge, but since I now have a ferry booked and would be riding against the clock and the trail is a several-hundred-mile diversion, it’s not going to happen on this trip. I’ll just have to do it next time…here’s the point in the road where I made the crunch decision and headed east rather than north:

After only a few miles I was into nothing but wooded terrain, with many rolling hills. I hardly saw any vehicles and got great views on either side of Bras d’Or Lake (left) and the sea (right). As I said, St Peter’s looked like a great place to spend a day, and has a rotating bridge to allow ships through the canal from lake to ocean.

Whilst waiting for the bridge to swing back I got talking to a lady out walking her two gorgeous Labrador dogs (chocolate brown and black – hello Roly Chisholm!) who stopped beside me, also waiting to cross. I asked her about the bridge, whilst her black Lab got as close to my right leg as his lead would allow, trying with all his might to lean against me. Why do dogs do that? It’s so endearing, and always makes me laugh, so we ended up talking more about Labs than bridges. She did say that this bridge is brand new, replacing a venerable and unreliable one that was always causing problems, and is really a big deal for their small town. She was from St Peters but lived away in Halifax for seventeen years before returning, and finding that her heart had been here all along. Many conversations I’ve had with people in small towns have taken this direction. Work takes you away, full of ambition, but you heart takes you home again.

The entrance to the park was a touch intimidating:

…but the office location was wonderful:

…with fine views out over St Peters Bay:

As I said, I ate on the beach with the gulls and gannets, and also a brief sighting of the most beautiful tern, (I think). No photo, but it was smallish (tern-sized!), brilliant white, with amazingly long, thin elegant wings, tapering to almost nothing, and flew like a virtuoso overhead. Any ideas, Sam, Seb, Stewart, Mum, Diana? The usual suspects! I’ve never seen one like it before. I also got a shot to rival the amazing photography of Lawrence Jackson, ex-leader of the CBSO (his action-photos of birds and bears on Facebook are superb).

First, LJ’s “attempt”:

And now let’s see how the masters do it – here is my “Raven landing on the wing of a Bald Eagle”, taken with an iPhone. Ha!

A good haul of signs from today’s cycling:

“I like it, but do you have any smooth finishes?”

Is Danny human, or a “prawn”?

17 thoughts on “Day 83 – Anti-g’Nish to St Peter’s, Cape Breton Island

  1. what a great trek… outside is the good side
    here we are sitting in our cosy apt, surrounded by the trees of Toronto in all directions below us
    there you are, in the elements, where we should be
    thanks for taking us there vicariously, we occupy your space a bit
    and wish you more miles of being where you are and going where you’re going
    we enjoyed Susie’s visit so much, and the lbeautiful gifts she left us
    make us think of her. Her sensitive and caring presence is the
    greatest gift of all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello from Kelowna, Ben. Wonderful to see you getting so close to your destination. Keep up the good work -we’ve loved your travelogues — best ever for Canada. Will be lifting a glass in your direction at your conclusion.

    Dagmar & Brant

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great thought to motivate me! I’m in the baking hot sun right now by Bras D’Or Lake after a very hilly ride from St Peters. Cape Breton is a great place to travel, with loads to see at every bend in the road. I often think of sitting in the hot tub chatting with you over a cold beer! All the best. Ben


  3. Dear Uncle Ben,
    Was that really your own personalised raven on the eagles wing?
    And what a lovely picture of you with the lake and railway track behind.
    See you soon

    With Love and hugs

    Millie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. District 9! Nice reference. I think one of the main issues was the lack of a democratic council and a few too many Nigerian drug barons running the show.

    I can imagine Chafes stuff would take a serious toll on ones shoes… Also, I think it’s only fair to mention that LJs camera hasn’t cycled thousands of miles (to my knowledge), your iPhone probably just needs a rest.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well there’s something called an ivory gull, lives up in CNadian Arctic but is on list of cape Breton birds. All the terns listed seem to have dark heads.

    Never knew about ravens cadging lifts off eagles – amazing

    What an idyllic tent site

    And dogs – we met a beautiful Hungarian vizsler at Gogs dog playing field yesterday, champion leaner.Wicken jealous, jostled it out of the way. Leaning is a speaking act.

    Very excited at the thought of seeing you for real soon xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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