Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

August 2, 2006.
Being on Cape Breton

Aside from all this intellectual cogitation (is that redundant?), Cape Breton Island was a real pleasure. Maybe Cape Cod was like this fifty years ago, or longer. It’s a rural area dotted with small towns, farms, fishing villages, and a little bit of forestry. Along the coast it is beautiful, lots of open shore and only a little bit of human settlement. You can swim anywhere – no crowded beaches or town stickers or parking rules to restrict entry the way there are in the US. One dark cloudy day I went race walking and on my return, feeling hot and grubby, I walked straight into the sea in my shorts and t-shirt. The air was cool, everyone else on the beach was in long pants and sweaters, but the water was warm. Another day, I drove past a lovely beach and made a sudden u-turn to go back and have a dip. In Chéticamp I biked a few miles to a beach, where I hung out in the sun for far too long. In the national park I was going to go for a hike in the inland forest, but got sidetracked by Paquette Lake, way up on the Cape Breton Highlands. The lake was muddy and full of weeds, but it was amazing to be out there in the middle, surrounded by trees on the shore, with no one around for miles. I hoped to see a moose amble to the shore for a drink, but they stayed away.

Camping is easy too. At the park entrance I asked and they said you had to stay in the campgrounds, but actually you didn’t. So after paying for one night and making lavish use of the showers and the electricity, Matilda and I spent our nights wherever we got tired of driving. In Louisbourg I drove out to the end of Lighthouse Point, and decided that was my place for the night. The dirt road ended in a parking area on a bit of a headland, with tumbled rocks overlooking the coast on three sides. When darkness fell I was the only person left, so I popped the top of the van and settled in to do some work on my computer.

By the time I went to sleep, around midnight, a howling wind had kicked up. All night long I woke and slept, wondering whether my van would be wrecked in the gales, the poptop canvas shredded, or the engine immersed in salt water as the surf rose and rose. The whole van bounced and clattered, like sleeping in a ship on rough

seas. I dreamed about disasters – that Matilda was a badly shod horse, that I was surrounded by Central American day laborers gaping at me in the van (though they turned out to be nice in my dream), that Matilda had broken down and my bike had

rusted out from the salt spray and I was stuck in the mud myself, so I had no way to get anywhere. I wouldn’t call it a restful night, but being kept up by the wind and the sea might be a “real” Cape Breton experience!

In the morning, when I finally clambered down from the upstairs bed and stepped outside, it was a wonderful place to be. The water danced with whitecaps, the wind raced across the point, and the grasses were bent sideways in a rippling flow, but the air was warm and smelled of the sea. It was worth the lousy night, to wake up in that place and feel the wind as I climbed up to the highest rock to look at the world around me.

Continue to the next entry.
Return home.

Unless otherwise indicated, all text
and photos on this site © Joy E. Hecht.