Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Cape Breton campers, religous answers and return of the Mack...erel.

I took the scenic route up the Nova Scotia coast, opting for imagery over brevity.  What I got was a sweet drive through villages with names like Spry Bay, Musquodoboit Harbour or my personal favourite, "Mushaboom" .

As I closed in on Port Hood, home of hockey legend Al McInnis, and my new hosts Bob and Lynn Martin, I was exasperated by the rugged cliffs nestled along the Island's western coast.  As seems to be the custom once again, I was greeted with warm hearts and handshakes by Bob and Lynn.  Their home a west facing multi-windowed and doored sea front bungalow was something out of a house and home magazine.  We chatted about the 23 million dollar boat parked in the bay a few hundred meters from their deck.  The giant boat owned by the the original builder of the World Trade Center, Larry Silverstein, was taking refuge from the rough seas beyond Port Hood island.  Bob mentioned the last boat of that size and stature was last seen over a decade previous and was none other then the one on the back of the Canadian dime, the Bluenose.

Lynn and Bob treated me in exemplary fashion, I felt like Prince William and Kate, yes, like both of them simultaneously.  They showed me to my quaters, a 30 plus foot camper, with all the amenities of modern living;  cable, internet, 2 TVs, fully functioning kitchen, shower and did I mention that it was 20 feet from the sea, whose waves would drift me off into slumber later that night?  To top it off, the camper was brand new, and I was to be the first passenger on her stationary, maiden voyage.  So far these were the nicest accommodations yet on the One Grand Adventure.  The final "coup d'etat" came when Bob offered me $100 bill to "help me along". I was blown out of my sandals.  If I could describe gratitude in words it would be a paltry attempt at describing the intense emotions I felt that night. 

It was a chilly night and an even chillier morning with the blustery winds blowing.  I decided to head off to Louisberg, a French built fortress on the Eastern side of Cape Breton that was the site of many battles with the invading British hordes.

I arrived at the fortress and was bussed to its front gates.  I was welcomed in by one of the many staff, fully dressed in the garb of the times and I headed towards the fortress town's square, where I could hear military style drumming.  Apparently one of the townspeople had been caught stealing wine from the church, and was being sentenced to time in the stockade.  The young man pleaded for his freedom as did his sister, well positioned within the crowd of onlookers.  After a convincing display, the man's punishment was downgraded to latrine cleaning duties instead, and released from his shackles.  It was pretty awesome, I was into it.

I wandered around for a few hours taking in many more "acts" as I tried to immerse myself in late 18th century life.  Muskets were fired, sheep herded, and gardens tended, all in the modality of the times.  I did a walking tour of the fortress with one of the guides (in plain clothes) and learned about the forts early history as a fishing outpost, due in large part to the Acadian expulsion in Nova Scotia.  I also learned that soldiers of the time rarely bathed, if ever, and feared water and cleanliness because they thought it was bad luck to be clean.  Louisberg comes highly recommended and is worth the $18 admission.  Again I have Lynn and Bob to thank.

The next day was a write off because of the uncharacteristic cold and wet weather happening in the maritimes.  I don't think the mercury cracked 12 degrees Celsius that day, so it was a "hang out in the camper" day, which I was more then happy to do.  I had a nice nap watched some TV and read and wrote.  I made the best of the crummy weather.

The next day was glorious, warm, sunny, with a cloudless sky.  It was boat time!!  The entire cove was alive with activity, the previous day's weather embargo now lifted.  Now I love boats, the fondest memories I have of my father are on a boat, the smell of open air and water lifts my spirits and puts a grin on my face.  Bob gave a great tour around Port Hood Island and Henry Island, and the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.  We stopped and decided to drop some jigs in the water to catch some mackerel.  A mackerel rod is not much more then a stick with a few dozen meters of line and several inter-spaced lures.  A far cry technologically from my lightweight carbon fiber, fancy shmancy fly rod.  A mackerel though is not a salmon or trout, and is a bait fish that swim in schools.  I am pretty sure they would bite a cheet-o if used as bait.  However, the Mackeral were elusive. After what seemed an eternity, Bob caught a nice sized one, as a seal that was out on the hunt looked on.  I couldn't catch a cold.  Bob promised we would return to the open sea after dinner to try our luck once more.

Lynn cooked up a nice dinner, once again, and Bob was on appetizer duty.  The mackerel was delicious, fresh from the ocean to our plates.  As I indulged I couldn't help feeling excitement about going back out, wanting to catch my first mackerel.  We were told by the neighbour's visiting son-in-law, a fishermen anchored just off  shore, that the mackerels don't bite when there is sun.  I looked to the heavens and saw the clouds coming in.  Tonight would be my night!

We went out into the breach once more and found a spot to anchor in forty feet of water.  It didn't take long for the fish to start biting, at least on Bob's line.  He pulled up and had three or four fish hooked to his jigs, we unhooked the fish and kept our lines in the water.  I eagerly waited for my time to come, when would I get some bites? After watching Bob haul in another load of mackerel my time had come.  I felt the fish tugging at my line, and as instructed I waited a few seconds before jerking upwards to set the hooks.  I pulled up on the line, it wasn't too much of a fight and brought some fair sized mackerels aboard.  There were three of them all roughly a pound or so struggling to get free.  One of them came loose, and found his way to freedom, but the other two ended up in a bucket with eight more of their brethren.  It felt good to finally catch a fish on the this adventure.  Now to catch one on my flyrod... hopefully Newfoundland will be the place.

They call me captain Highliner, Yarr!

We headed home, and got the boat out of the water with a minor mishap.  The family dog ended up being on the bow of the boat when we were pulling it out of the water, and when Bob hit the brakes, he went flying like a canine version of superman.  He hit the ground with a yelp but after a couple of dazed moments recovered and was running a muck.

While on our way back home, Bob noticed their long time family friend, Roddy, and company sitting on the porch of one of the houses we had pasted.  We turned around, boat in tow, and pulled over and greeted Roddy an 82 year old man, full of life, good cheer and humour.  The mackerel we had caught became an offering to the man, who in early 2010 had slipped on the ice while at a minor hockey league game, and broken his neck.  You would never know that a tragedy had befallen Roddy, as he was so full of energy and gusto, I got tired watching him.  His energy was contagious and everyone on that porch was laughing and smiling.  I wish him continued success in his amazing recovery.

 The next day was hard, as I had to say goodbye once more to some excellent people, people who had treated me so well that all I can do is learn from there generous example and incorporate it into my own personality.  Lynn presented me with a bag of food for my Journey to Newfoundland and again the warmth of the gesture overwhelmed me.  I said farewell and began my drive northwards to Gampo Abbey, a Buhddist monastery on the northwestern tip of Cape Breton.

I drove the Cabot Trail highway and was witness to yet another drive filled with post card quality mental snapshots.  As I travel Canada I am truly inspired by the limitless beauty that is this country.  I am grateful that I have this opportunity in my life, to take in so much of its staggering incandescence.

After a couple hours I arrived on a dirt road en route to the Abbey.  Being highly attracted to buhddism and many of its doctrines, this was a place I had planned to visit before my rubber had hit the road, one of few such destinations that was preplanned.

I found the Abbey and parked my car.  Quietly, I walked the grounds in contemplation, taking in the beautiful scenery that was part of such a harsh and rugged environment.  There was a sense of peace, prevalent and non-intrusive that accompanied my exploration of the Gampo's grounds, putting me at complete ease.  A tour of the Abbey had begun and I asked to tag along, of course it was no problem, this was a buhddist monastery after all.

Though there were many statues of the Buhdda and other great teachers of the doctrine strewn about, I learned these were not for worship, they were merely instruments to inspire meditation.  The religion doesn't worship the Buhdda, only his practice of attaining enlightenment.   At this particular facility, you may become part of the monastic life by studying buhddism and its tenents for a prolonged period of time, up to a year.  Students practice silence and meditation, work and study and live their lives according to buhddist principles for the duration of their stay.  Part of me wanted to join this peaceful environment and stay for the one year, however I am propelled by a deeper commitment to complete this journey.

When we entered the prayer room, I felt a sharp perceptible increase in positive energy.  I felt a hum of happiness and increase of peace.  The golden Buhdda looked on, urging me to keep sending out loving vibes, which I am trying to do as much as possible on a daily basis.  I will keep being inspired by the buhddist faith and living more from my heart.  I heart Buhddism, I really do.

The Gampo Abbey (this is not my photo!!)

During the tour I met 2 couples, one from Halifax and the other, two were friends traveling Nova Scotia together.  I walked with the two friends, he a school teacher from New Jersey and She a shrink from Calgary, (Sorry their names elude me!) to the Abbey's Stupa, a sort of miniature temple, surrounded with slogans of from the Monastery's founders.

I said goodbye to the others and headed for the North Syndney ferry, which was to take me to my final stop in the Maritimes: the "Rock".  Everyone has told me that the Newfies are the friendliest maritimers of all, I will soon let you know if the rumours are true....

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