I woke up with determination to complete my plan for the weekend. Too often I give up on my photo-goals for the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee or some more sleep. However, knowing that it will be a long time before I will be out this way again, I sucked it up, got up at an ungodly hour and hit the road. With coffee in hand, I turned up the FM radio and drove until my bladder was about to burst.
Driving over the Canso Causeway bridge that officially welcomes you to Cape Breton Island, was amazing. It marked the furthest East that I have ever been in Canada as well as immediate relief in the form of a bathroom in the town of Port Hastings. Potty humour aside I had a sense of adventure this day. I had not clue what to expect as I set out, just a few points on a map that people had told me that I should check out.
I was following the legendary Cabot Trail which is marked as one of Canada’s great scenic drives. I was shocked that it was a tight 2-lane highway for the most part. I stopped a few times just to make sure that I was on the right road. Each time, I was still not exactly sure where I was. I was flying blind as there was not a wifi signal in the area and I dare not touch my phone for fear of what charged my come with accessing a Korean phone on a Canadian network. This left me with an old school road map which never seemed to give me an accurate location until I was in the middle of a major attraction.
One of the interesting things about travelling through small towns is that people love talking to new people. I have gotten used to being talked about in the manner of “hey look! there is a foreigner” Which makes you feel even more like an outsider than simply not looking like everyone around you. In these small towns even getting gas can spark a good conversation on a range of topics. When you travel by yourself, you come to welcome these conversations.
As I made my way up to Cheticamp, I was in awe of the landscape. The grey skies had opened up almost as if I had passed through some sort of mystical gate. I couldn’t make up my mind as to where to start photographing first. I finally found a roadside pull-off and got out. It was amazing! The ocean was right there alongside the road with the grassy plains blanketing the surrounding landscape.
I wanted to shoot everything my eyes fell upon. It was tough making up my mind as I was not sure what was around the next corner. I was also slowing down traffic quite a bit so I decided to pull over and get my head straight. I was happy that I did as there was a beautiful lookout and I was blown away. It was amazing! Blue skies, ocean, and nature at it’s finest.
I got my shots and decided that it was best to make haste and move on. I did not want to lose any time or spend too much of it in one particular place. I jumped back into my trusty toyota and hammered on down the road. My indecisiveness was starting to get the best of me and I was sort of happy that I was in an area that the police are few and far between as I am sure that my erratic driving would have gotten me pulled over for sure.
I had not even made into the town of Cheticamp and I wa pulling over every few kilometres. My brain was overloading! “Here? no! wait down there! or maybe…. right there! or there… okay no! here!” I kept running around getting different shots. It was great to be in such a beautiful area. Perhaps few of the shots I got would get me on the cover a magazine, but I didn’t really care. I was in the moment and I loved the world around me.
I decided to push through the town and head towards the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I love the Canadian National Parks and this is a gem. There is just something about the way that they are set up. It is the remoteness and ruggedness mixed with tourists and people getting out to enjoy nature that makes these parks special. I drove until I was sure that if I carried on any longer that I would miss the sunset shot that I was planning for in the evening. It has also started to rain again.
As I pulled the car around and stopped to take it all in, I heard a distinct noise from the ditch. Sure enough there was a young bull moose just wandering alongside the road. I slowly attempted to get my camera but he made a break for the treeline as another car rushed past. I decided just to watch him go as he made his way to safety.
Heading back I stopped at a number of locations. Each offered their own view of the Atlantic Ocean. It was as if time stopped. Realizing that I had blown past the gate and didn’t pay the entrance fee. So, my stops were a little on the short side. It is tough to say “Just passing through” when you have all your gear and tripod set up and are just sipping the last of your coffee watching the waves crash on the shore below.
Finally, stopping in Cheticamp, I was intrigued to see a sign that offered “Lobster Poutine” You cannot get more Atlantic Canada than that. I pulled in and got myself a plate. I gorged myself on this meal with the ferocity of hungry lion on the Serengeti. The embarrassing moment occurred when the young waitress came to check on the meal. I swear I had a mouthful of poutine, part of a napkin and a piece of the plate jammed in my mouth as I tried formulate a sentence. I failed and just gave a sheepish “thumbs-up” It was that good and surprisingly not that expensive either.
After stopping off at a huge cathedral and realizing how creepy it is being the only person inside such a massive historic building, I was on the road again. This time I had my sights set on the Mabou Harbour. The problem was that the map was not exactly too clear as to where it was. I made a few wrong turns but arrived in the beautiful town of Mabou. The old buildings were really cool and I wished that I was there on a weekday because there was a great little cafe there that was sadly closed on Sundays.
At any rate, I arrived at the lighthouse just in time. The sun was going down and I was in the most perfect place. I ended up talking to a wonderful Swiss family that evening and it was the highlight of the weekend. It is always amazing to be able to sit and have an intelligent conversation in such an amazing place. I will never forget their kindness and hospitality.
It was late when I got on to the road but I was happy. I managed to get to almost all of the points on my list in a single weekend. I also drove from one end of Nova Scotia to the other. I got up the next morning and dropped of the car. I had to thank the guys at the Antigonish Enterprise Rent-a-Car as they gave me a great rate and also made this weekend a reality. I walked back with a smile on my face, the weekend mission was a success.