Road Trippin’

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Another big day of travel today as we leave PEI and head towards Nova Scotia. We decided not to travel back over the Confederation Bridge and into New Brunswick, but rather to drive to the southern edge of PEI at Wood Island and catch the car ferry directly to Caribou. Nova Scotia. We figured this would save us an hour or two of travel time, and deliver us closer to the part of Nova Scotia we were aiming for. The cost to get off the island via the Confed Bridge is $40.50, and the cost on the ferry was $59, so once you take the savings in fuel and time into account it was a pretty clear decision to go the ferry. Incidentally, it costs nothing to get onto the island - both the ferry and the bridge charge a one way fee to get off PEI, but both are free to get on it.

Once on firm ground again at Caribou, on Pictou Harbour, we GPS’ed our way to the freeway and headed north. The roads here are excellent and apart from a bit of roadworks was a quick trip up onto our destination for the day, Cape Breton Isand. Our plan was to drive the famous Cabot Trail and get as far as we could before we decided to stop for the evening. The weather was not ideal - it was intermittently drizzling and raining, with low cloud and fog, and quite a dull light. Although it would have been nice to have a bright blue sky and sunny day, there was a certain beauty to the misty, foggy day as the thick cloud hung around the mountains. In fact, it was unusual to see mountains like these, as most of Canada that we’ve seen so far has been fairly flat. Ontario is very flat, and although some of the other provinces we’ve visited have had a few mountains, these mountains in Nova Scotia were much more dramatic, rising sharply with deep valleys and glens between them. Alex commented that Nova Scotia looked a lot like what he imagined Scotland to look like. Of course, the name Nova Scotia translates literally as New Scotland, so the early settlers must have agreed with Alex.

After a quick stop at an Info Centre we got onto the Ceilidh Trail (pronounced ‘Kayley’, rhymes with ‘daily’ - Celtic spelling is weird) The road wound its way north along the coast, darting back into woods every now often, then emerging back onto the coast. The scenery was beautiful and the drive was a lot of fun. We stopped at a small pub in Mabou for lunch - the Red Shoe Pub. The Red Shoe was highly recommended by Kevin H at work, so we couldn’t resist taking a peek. The pub is owned by the Rankin Sisters, a local musical group who figured that instead of trying to find pubs to play at, they may as well buy their own. They perform there regularly, although unfortunately it was too early for live music as we passed through. The Ceilidh Trail eventually became the Cabot trail as we snaked our way up the amazing coastline.

We headed further north to the township of Cheticamp and the start of the Cape Breton Island National Park, and the most scenic part of the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is listed as one of the 10 Great Drives in the world, and I can see why. Once within the National Park, the scenery along the road increases in interest and drama, with stunning vistas of mountain and ocean. The fog and mist shrouded the tops of the range, cascading through the valleys and adding an impressive and almost theatrical visual impact. Our photographs don’t do it justice - although the muted colours and delicate chiaroscuro layers of tone created by the fog looked amazing to the naked eye, it was far too subtle for the digital camera’s CCD.

The road ascended sharply up through the fog, twisting around the edges of the mountains and onto the flats of the highland plains, before plunging steeply back down to the ocean again. To say it was stunning scenery is a vast understatement. I’d love to come back here and drive it in the sunshine, but the overcast and foggy conditions was still a very special way to see it.

After a quick fuel stop on the tip of Cape North, we carried on down the road to find some accommodation for the night. In typical Betcher-travel fashion, we kept saying “just a bit further”, and before we knew it we’d come off the Cabot Trail, crossed a ferry and a bridge and ended up in Sydney for the night. We thought it funny that a family from Sydney, Australia would be staying in Sydney, Nova Scotia. It was even funnier when the arch bridge we crossed on the way to this Sydney looked suspiciously like the famous coathanger back home in our Sydney.

After nearly 13 hours on the road we found a lovely little hotel, the Royal Hotel built in 1895, and called it home for the night. What a day!

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