Day 85 – St Peters to Ben Eoin

Day 85 – a simple journey today but very hilly. The route followed the eastern shore of Bras D’Or Lake the entire way, and I stopped at a campsite located on a spit of land that juts out into the lake, which is saltwater and tidal. It’s also the most money I’ve been charged on this whole trip for a single night’s camping, no services (water or electricity), and you even have to pay for a shower. I think I might design, make and present them with an award or something. (owner accepts prize, looks at camera, smiles, says “It’s good to be the only campsite for miles on a spit of land!”)

  • Today’s Distance (miles/km): / 55
  • Time in saddle: 2h 43
  • Max/min temp (°c): 40°/22°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 2070 / 2052
  • Calories used: 
  • Cafe time: 0h 22

What a day – from first light it’s been a clear blue sky, a light breeze, and a welcome change from the drizzle yesterday. But there’s something else special about today. Not far from us here, down in the US,  from Oregon to South Carolina, there’s going to be total solar eclipse, and there should even be a partial one here near to the eastern coast. As I write this, eating a late lunch at the campground in hot sun, and at around the predicted time of the eclipse, the the light is changing to a greyish tinge, as if it were being filtered, which it is. I remember this effect, much magnified, from the full eclipse in the UK a few years ago, which we watched near our house with our kids from the top of the hill at Alexandra Palace in North London. I spoke to the guy working at the canteen here where i got my meal, and he had an unexpected take on it.

“You wanna know what I think about it? I think those guys in North Korea are thinking “perfect moment,  let’s do it now!”.

Back to this morning – the sea was shimmering and beautiful when I walked down with my coffee,

…so I decided to take my first swim in the Atlantic Ocean to wake up:

The water was warm compared with everywhere else I’ve swum so far, but it was very rocky underfoot. After filming the traditional first dip I got back in and swam and floated about a bit looking at the natural beauty all around tme:

Then i pulled myself together and got packing, as I was heading for a record late-departure this morning. But then camping always creates these distractions or encounters that have been central to my enjoyment of this journey. After swimming I met a Swiss couple back at my tent – so sorry to have forgotten your names guys! I should write these things down in the morning when I’m thinking about other things. He had lived in Coast Rica for a few years, and they were driving a rental camper van from Newfoundland to San José Costa Rica with their two very young children. The youngest went completely unnoticed by me until mum turned around and pointed out that she wasn’t wearing a backpack, but a baby. Fast asleep. I said what a staggering journey it sounded like. “What way are you going?” I asked. “”We don’t know yet”. That’s the spirit!I keep meeting people with a Central American connection on this trip.

Then at the office as I was about to leave I met Lisa, cycling solo from Wisconsin to Newfoundland via Vermont. We discussed various problems on the road, including a stupid thing I did the other day. My tiny Swedish stove (Trangia 27 if you’re interested) has a little O-Ring to seal the alcohol in when you’re all packed up. The other day I didn’t see that it had fallen onto the stove, and then I set fire to it. It burned beautifully, but left me with a leaky stove. It just so happened that Lisa carried spares of such things, clever person, and very kindly donated one to me. 

It got hot quickly out on the road, and it’s a well-known hilly stretch of road, so I knew it was going to be a bit tougher than usual.  I didn’t have too far to go so decided to make a bit of an effort on the hills, and then flew down the descents with the breeze cooling me off. I find my mind wanders these days back to the super-light carbon fibre road bike sitting quietly at home, and I think about how it will feel to be back on a bike that weighs around 7 kilos, rather than 35-40 kilos.

One stop for the essential chocolate milk:

(and something new, yoghurt-covered pretzels. Weird, but I ate the lot)

I paused at a high point to take a picture of the start of the bay I was heading for:

…and the stunning lakeside road brought me to Ben Eoin, where I’m camping tonight. Although very pricey the site has superb beaches all around the little island with kids swimming and playing everywhere. There’s an excellent old hand-made diving board that was very busy with kids mucking about before I came back to take this picture. “Look mom, I’m a drunk guy at a party having a heart-attack – aaaaargh!” (splash):

I swam for the second time today, this time in the lake of course. I could have stayed in the water all day today if only was a different kind of trip. As the weeks go by you do tend to start fantasising about staying put – late coffee, swim, buy the paper, talk to people, shop at a the town market, the sort of things all of you have been doing on your holidays this summer I’m sure! I had spotted several jellyfish earlier:

…but did a highly scientific toe-test and found them harmless:

This lake is so reminiscent of Italian or Swiss lakes in places, especially in this still, hot weather, but an undefinable atmosphere is different; it doesn’t quite have that romance that we associate with those places. It has pristine beauty, mile upon mile of unsullied waterfront, and crystal clear waters though, and also the feeling that it owns itself, rather than being owned by the wealthy few in Lugano or Maggiore.

Back to the eclipse briefly – my brother Oliver in Florida sent me a picture of what he was seeing, and I described the odd effect where I was.

Here’s an attempt to capture the strange light for a few minutes this afternoon:

(OK, I failed, but could you imagine an amazing photo for me? Thanks – Ed)

Slightly-used joke for you: how does Patrick Moore cut his hair? Eclipse it. Ha! Watch out in tomorrow’s blog for the fifteen funniest gags from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. A favourite from years gone by: My girlfriend and I watched a whole DVD box set back-to-back the other night – luckily I was facing the TV.

There is yet one more oddity about this place: everywhere I look there are Christmas Decorations and so on:

What on earth is going on? I shall endeavour to solve this strange situation for you all…

Update…..I just spoke to Beverley, who explained it all to me. People who camp here all summer consider each other an extended family, and like to celebrate Christmas twice, the first time on Ben Eoin! She told me that Father Christmas is coming in on Saturday (the 26th, but who cares?), arriving from up the lake by boat, and ho-ho-ho-ing his way over to the basketball court, where he will hand out gifts for all the kids. Then later in the evening “it’s the adults’ time”, and a local musician on the site, Spyder, and his band will be playing whilst everyone dances about and celebrates with Yule-time spirit. I hear they do the same earlier in the season for hallowe’en, which explains the stuff I saw on sale in the Dollarama the other day. 

That counts as our sign for today as well. The sun has set, and I’m typing outside the canteen in the dark so may be writing things I shouldn’t, perish the thought. Goodnight all, we’re off to the Arm of Gold (geddit?) campground tomorrow, right by Wednesday’s ferry to Newfoundland. Huge congratulations to the Calgary Two who finished their epic journey in St Johns two days ago. I wish we could have celebrated together, but it can wait until we meet again. England, perhaps?

5 thoughts on “Day 85 – St Peters to Ben Eoin

  1. Does dipping in the Atlantic make you feel the homecoming?
    We watched the extraordinary eclipse shore on the news yesterday and wondered if you wd see anything. The unearthly little White House gets the atmosphere so shut up ed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I loved the photos/video from your swim this morning. Peaceful? Birdsong?

    Do you know much about the geology of the part you were travelling through today?

    You were brave (or should I say foolhardy?) with those jellyfish! Don’t go taking too many risks now you’re so close to the finish! 😉

    I think you’ve successfully managed to capture some eerie quality of the light in that photo. Did you notice the birds behaving differently, stop singing etc.?

    At present I’m at Holt Hall doing a project on gammarid shrimps and their acanthocephalan parasites! I still look forward to reading your blog after a tiring day of data collection.

    Lots of love,

    Sam xx

    Liked by 1 person

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