Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Travel Adventure To The Canadian Maritimes Part Three: Northumberland Strait, New Glasgow and Cape Breton Nova Scotia

Beach and Mountain Range On Cabot Trail Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
By Der Kosmonaut 

Before departing from Moncton, I asked the Nova Scotians in town which parts of the province I should check out. Everyone said that I had to go to Cape Breton. One of the residents of my hostel told me to "get Cape Breton out of the way." He suggested that I get a coach directly from Moncton to Sydney. When I asked about beaches, he advised Louisbourg behind the fortress. I went to the public library to read road maps of Nova Scotia. I made a tentative itinerary. I would hit Amherst and then head South to Parrsboro. From there I would turn East and stop at Five Islands Provincial Park for a couple of days of camping and swimming on the Bay of Fundy. Afterwards I would continue East to Truro. There I would decide whether to go North to Cape Breton or continue East to Halifax. On the Couchsurfing site I initially found a family to host me in Amherst for one night. As normal I would always make multiple requests because one could never be sure if people will accept, decline or not reply. There was a profile which caught my attention. A woman named Sarah lived on a farm by North Port on the Northumberland Strait. She said that her house was walking distance to the beach. My primary motive for heading to The Maritimes was to enjoy a summer of sun and surf. Moncton is too far inland and since I don't own a vehicle I couldn't access Fundy Park or Shediac. Sarah not only accepted my request but agreed to come to Moncton to pick me up. I cancelled the request in Amherst.

  The pick up point was arranged at the Laundromat Cafe on St. George street in Moncton. Sarah and her boyfriend picked me up in a Volkswagen bus. They were in New Brunswick for farm related business. We drove to Sackville on the New Brunswick side of the border with Nova Scotia. Sackville has a quaint little central district. After concluding business there we drove across the border to Nova Scotia and stopped in Amherst. Amherst appeared as a grim depressed town. I was glad that I managed to make other arrangements.
Northumberland Strait
  Sarah and her boyfriend lived with another couple in Amherst Shore. They offered me a beer. I hadn't drank beer since the last weekend of May before I left Montreal. I didn't have a drop of alcohol to drink during my 31 day sojourn in New Brunswick. First I was broke and due to taxes beer's quite expensive in New Brunswick. The hostel didn't allow drinking inside and discouraged people from drinking during the day. The hostel reserved the right to exclude residents who returned intoxicated. At the Tam Tam drum circles and at both Inspire Festival and Canada Day celebrations there was neither free alcohol nor did anyone offer me a drink. I went 33 days of sobriety. I believe that's a record. The last time I went that long without a drink was when I was 19 years old.
  At Amherst Shore I was offered 3-4 bottles of a local microbrewery. More than a month of sobriety revealed itself after my first bottle. I was suddenly much more relaxed, lighthearted and witty. My tongue loosened itself considerably. The gift of the gab returned and I was the life of the party. I had my hosts cracking up constantly with various stories of my world travels and previous jobs. I explained how in Moncton I learnt the origins of many idiomatic expressions. I also told the story of one of the residents of the hostel in Moncton.
"There was this guy from London, Ontario. He was really fat! He would never miss a meal. Not only would he never miss a meal but made sure that he was always the first in line. While most of us were halfway through our first servings, he was already on to his second serving. By the time we had our second serving, he was nearly done with his third. I had never seen anyone eat as much as he did. He was a sloppy eater. Food would always fall out from his mouth down to his shirt. He really needed a bib to eat with. He wore the same shirt day in and day out and it was covered with food and grease stains accumulated from multiple meals. Despite the food that fell on his shirt, he still managed to leave a dirty mess on the table. He was truly a fat slob! I've used that term many times over the years but never had I actually seen a real living fat slob! He was disgusting! I had never seen anything like that before in my life!"
Another alcohol inspired anecdote related to my years working in call centres in Montreal. I explained how tedious outbound sales calling could be and we would have creative fun with some of the calls.
"I used to sell medical alert bracelets. It was a scam. We used to call the American South. I always enjoyed calling Southerners because they're stupid and it was a piece of cake to make sales. One day during the summer I called what sounded like an older Southern lady. I would say: 'How's the weather in Alabama today? It must be really hot!' To which she would reply: 'Yes sir it's mighty hot today!' Then I said: 'Tickle your cunt with a feather.' The lady would react: 'Excuse me!?' Then I would say: 'Typical country weather.'"
 It's remarkable what a month of abstinence can produce with a poet when he resumes drinking.
  The next day I decided to hit the beach. Sarah's boyfriend loaned me his bike. I biked West down the road and followed the sign to Amherst Shore Provincial Park. As I biked on the dirt path to the beach, I became concerned for the bike. The bicycle was a speed bike and seemed too fragile for the rugged path. When I reached the water I was aghast by what I saw. Instead of sand the ground was made of tough rocky terrain. There were patches of red mud. The water was brown and the scene stank with the stench of sewage. Surely this had to be a mistake, I thought. I went on the bike and returned to the interior woods and took the path to the right. It led deeper into the woods towards the changing stations of toilets. I asked passerby where the beach was. They indicated it was where I had just came. Yuck! What a dump! There was no place to even properly sit or lay down, let alone would I deign swim in that water. I'd sooner swim in the certifiably poisonous East River than in that water.
  I jumped on the bike and decided to try my lick at North Port Provincial Park 2KM to the East. Sarah had said that she might join me at Amherst Shore beach after she was finished. I returned to the farm. She was surprised to see me back so quickly. "Did you go to the beach?"
"No it's a filthy dump. I'm going to North Port beach. I just thought I'd let you know so that if you went to Amherst Shore and didn't see me, that you wouldn't think that I had drowned."
I biked to North Port beach and it was a nicer beach. It had a proper sand beach. I could see Prince Edward Island across the water. When I entered into the water, it was ice cold. There was no way that I could swim. I just went calves deep in the water for a few minutes before the cold temperature compelled me to step out. A wall of cloud moved in from the West and the sun went away without saying goodbye. It was my 33rd day in the Maritimes and I still hadn't had a proper swim. Damn!
 An Urban Poet Is Someone Unable To Pitch a Tent 
 I returned to the farm and took out the tent that my friend in Moncton had given to me. Like nearly all native New Yorkers, especially from Manhattan, I shunned camping and nature for most of my life. While I did go to "sleep away camp" when I was a teen, they really weren't proper camping trips deep in the wilderness. I had only been camping three times before in my adult life. The first time was 1994 in the Four-Corners region of the US Southwest. That was such a horrible experience dealing with racist cowboys and deadly Indians. It culminated with stupid hippie racists threatening to lynch me in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The next trip into nature was 1999 in the UK when I was on tour with the legendary underground electronic outfit LLIDD in Devon and Cornwall.  The last time was 2008 on my very first trip to Serbia when I attended the European Rainbow Gathering in Eastern Serbia near the border with Bulgaria. My sojourns to nature are few and far between. I've spent the majority of my life living and traveling from one metropolis to another. This makes me quite inept with anything related to camping. When I went to Serbia I was unable to pitch my tent. I was helpless with the canvass, poles, clamps and spikes. An Austrian woman had to set up my tent for me.
  At the farm in Amherst Shore I decided to learn how to set up my tent with the advice and supervision of Sarah's boyfriend. To my surprise, the tent wasn't that complicated to assemble. It turned out to be quite a nice tent. It's a blue and white 3 person tent with a waterproof roof. Since I was traveling alone, I would have plenty of room for myself and all my gear. I recalled the following quote by US Vice President Spiro Agnew: "An intellectual is a man who doesn't know how to park a bike." I've adopted that quote and have made up a new one: An urban poet is someone unable to pitch a tent.
  The next day Sarah's boyfriend drove me 23KM to Pugwash. He dropped me off by the Royal Canadian Legion Hall. He told me that Legion Halls are considered community centres. If I ever needed to use the toilet or to drink water or to shelter from rain I could use Royal Canadian Legion Halls to do so. I was surprised. I had seen a Hall or two in Montreal and Ottawa but never considered them to be community centres. As I'm neither Canadian nor a veteran, it never occurred to me to ever step foot inside of a Legion Hall. I would discover how important the Legion Halls are in the fabric of rural Nova Scotia.
  I was on the road again hitchhiking. After a 30 minute wait a car pulled up with Massachusetts plates. I was skeptical and reluctant at first considering my last experience in Boston. On the other hand Massachusetts is more than Boston. I spent three months in Western Massachusetts in Northampton/Amherst and had a very positive experience. The driver was a man. It turned out that he was from Framingham, a suburb to the west of Boston. His name was Edward. He was neither a vampire nor the Thought Police nor was he a Masshole. He was in his mid 50s and a progressive liberal. Like myself he was living in political exile from the USA. He left the USA after the start of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Bostonians and New Yorkers have quite a bit in common. Despite a fierce rivalry between the two cities in baseball, both are in the American Northeast. I encountered many Bostonians when I lived in Portland, Oregon and Seattle. I always got along with them. The Bostonians I met were just as unimpressed with the Pacific Northwest as I was. We would often snigger, make snide comments and disparaging jokes about the people of the West Coast. I told Edward that I attended Boston University and knew the city and region quite well. We talked about our impressions of Canada and Canadians. We both preferred Canadians to Americans. He shared a story about how he lost his temper one day and launched into a loud profanity laced tirade. "The entire town stopped and looked at me. I never again would behave like a Bostonian." Edward said. I had to laugh and agree. I told him that I found myself having to check my use of profanity in Ottawa. Outside of Montreal Canadians are very sensitive to profanity. Saying "Fuck you" to a Canadian has a deep negative affect than it would to a Bostonian or New Yorker. I told Edward how I was most impressed by the use of profanity in Serbia. The Serbs use of profanity is extreme by New York standards. The Serbs have the most creative yet intense profanity I've ever heard. They often use profanity as punctuation marks. I explained how often Serbs use the word jebiga which translates as "fuck it." I gave an example how it's used. "I went to see Red Star, fuck it, play against Partizan, fuck it. It was a terrible game, fuck it. Red Star fucked up, fuck it. Partizan won, fuck it. But Red Star was winning, fuck it. Red Star should've won the game, fuck it but let Partizan, fuck it, get away with a victory, fuck it." I further explained how the Serbs rarely employ the words "Fuck you." That's too boring and cheap. Instead the Serbs say: "Fuck you and your mother's pussy that you come from." That made Edward wince as it would even the most hardened wise guy from Brooklyn. 
  Edward dropped me off at Wallace. He asked if I had change for a $20 note. I replied in the negative. He went across the street to the convenience shop. He returned and gave me a $10 note. "Happy 4th of July!" Edward said to me. It was actually the day of American Independence Day.
  It took 15 minutes before I got another lift. It was a Canadian man from the area. He dropped me off at the traffic roundabout outside of Pictou. It took nearly an hour before I got another lift to New Glasgow. The driver dropped me off at the outskirts of town. I walked 2KM into the town centre. There was a stand with shelter with tourist information. There was a large map of the North Shore. On the next panel was information. One part of my text caught my eye: "Being on the Norhumberland Strait we have the warmest waters of Atlantic Canada and the warmest north of the Carolinas." Hmm. New Brunswick makes the very same claim. I never got to test the waters of New Brunswick. The previous day I was just in the water and it was cold. It was certainly colder than the waters off New York and New Jersey. Someone is lying. 
  I walked further on and read tourist plaques about the history of New Glasgow. Scottish Highlanders were expelled from Scotland for reasons not mentioned on the plaque. I think that they were most likely Roman Catholics or they were victims of the Enclosure Movement or both. Pictou was the original harbour port of Nova Scotia. However, Pictou was miserable and most of the immigrants moved down the Pictou River and settled New Glasgow. The first railway line in Canada ran between Pictou and New Glasgow.
  It began raining and I went into a cafe/restaurant. A woman saw my gear and asked if I were traveling. I explained that I had just arrived in Nova Scotia and was heading to Cape Breton. She told me that the best spot to camp would be at a park about 3 KM up the road. I took her advice. The walk felt longer because of the 3 bags that I was carrying. I eventually crossed the railway line and walked past a cemetery. I realized that I was past the 3KM mark and hadn't seen a park. I wasn't going to camp in the cemetery. I turned around to head back towards town. At a sharp curve where the main road turned left there was a small road that went straight into a wooded area. I didn't notice it heading out on the other side of the road. I walked in. There was a lumber factory to the left which had shut for the day. On the right were plenty of trees and grass. The trees had low hanging branches which made it a perfect spot to pitch my tent. I wasn't far from the other railway line. I fell asleep shortly after nightfall. I was brutally woken up by the sound of a freight train rumbling right behind my tent blowing its whistle and it's headlights illuminating the interior of my tent. I eventually returned to sleep. I woke up early the next morning. What would become my morning ritual was commenced. Folding up my tent, stuffing it in its bag, as well as folding up my large sleeping bag and struggling to stuff it into my backpack. This was followed by a long walk to the highway. 

Louisbourg, Cape Breton
  On my original tentative itinerary I had planned that if I went to Cape Breton, I would stop at New Glasgow and Antigonish. There weren't many Couchsurfing members in Antigonish. There was one profile that really interested me but he never replied to my request. I would have to get used to that for the remainder of my journey through Nova Scotia. I figured that I would make it at least to Sydney.
  I had to wait 90 minutes before I got a lift. The driver was a gay septuagenarian man. He said that I was the very first hitchhiker he had ever picked up. He thought that I was an African immigrant from Ethiopia/Eritrea. I told him that I was from Ottawa. Once again, I was asked where I was really from. He assumed that I had to be an immigrant or at the very least the child of African immigrants. I told him that I was originally from New York City. In fact, I'm a 5th generation New Yorker. He pulled off into Antigonish to give me a drive through tour of the town and to stop at Tim Horton's for coffee. Our next stop was just before the Canso Causeway on the mainland. He was helping a woman friend of hers move to Sydney. There was some concern about the availability of space. I took the backseat squeezed between bags, boxes and furniture while his friend took the front seat. I told him that my ultimate destination was Louisbourg. He agreed to drive me directly there.
  We crossed the Canso Causeway and entered Cape Breton Island. We took the highway east of Bras d'Or Lake. I was quite surprised by the landscape. I had pictured Cape Breton to be barren like Newfoundland. It's quite wooded. I wasn't that impressed with the scenery. I recalled what the Nova Scotian resident at the Moncton hostel said about autumn being the best time of the year to visit Cape Breton. That made sense with all the trees. I was convinced that it the foliage would be remarkable.
  By the time we got closer to Louisbourg the air temperature dropped noticeably. When the driver announced that we had arrived I was surprised. I asked if he could drop me off in the town centre. He replied that we were there. There was hardly anything there. He let me off at the harbour by a fish processing plant. He pointed the direction of a campsite on the harbour next to the processing plant. He drove off.
  Louisbourg was a bleak and dead town. It was quite chilly. The air stank of fish. The town seemed deserted. Why on earth was I there? I asked myself. Why did the hostel resident suggest that I come here to swim and go to the beach. By looking on the map, I had assumed that Louisbourg is to Sydney what Brighton is to London. Sydney was an inland harbour port. Louisbourg was directly on the ocean. I had expected it to be a lively, if touristic, seaside town. Instead I found a town more depressed and duller than Astoria, Oregon.
  I walked along the harbour front and read the tourist plaques. Louisbourg was originally a fortress built by the French during the Seven Years War in a final and desperate attempt to defend New France from New England. Louisbourg was the last French holdout to fall to New England. The original fort was destroyed in the battle but had in recent decades been reconstructed for tourists. It was the premier fishing town of colonial and early Confederation Nova Scotia. Like the fisheries all across Atlantic Canada, its industry and economy collapsed.
  I decided to walk along the harbour trail between the town and the fortress. There were large wooden chairs along the trail for pedestrians to sit and view the water. In my case, the chairs were strategically placed at lengths where I would begin to tire from carrying all my belongings. A few locals were taking early evening strolls along the trail. They stopped to talk to me. They correctly guessed that I was in town to go camping. They told me that I could camp in the national park which was located at the end of the trail. Continuing along I ran into more people jogging and strolling along. One man noted my hiking shoes and saw my winter jacket attached to my backpack and remarked: "You're well prepared!"
  I walked into the entrance of Louisbourg National Historic Park. It was no less than a 2 KM hike from the entrance of the park to the main gate. A young Parks Canada staff member came out of his booth to greet me. I asked him where I could find a nice spot along the ocean. He told me to walk to Simon Point which was another 3KM down the road. 
  3KM is easy to walk but not with a load of 100 plus pounds. It always seems to take longer getting to a destination that isn't known. My body was strained to capacity. I had to make several stops to adjust my gear. I looked for someplace just to set up camp. I found a trail to the right in the woods which seemed perfect to camp out. Upon entering there were signs of tents within circles and lines drawn across. I couldn't camp there. I trudged on. I couldn't take it. To the left I saw some clearings behind trees. That would be the spot! I actually went through but something wasn't right. The ground was too soft and squishy. I was in a bog. If I pitched my tent, then there would be a good chance that it would sink. But something much worse came to mind. There could be quicksand around. What a horrible way to perish! I would be swallowed up by the earth without a trace. I would disappear and die without a trace. Rather than being sucked in a Black Hole, Der Kosmonaut would devoured whole on not terra not so firma! I was obliged to carry on. I came upon a bridge over a brook. The sign read: "Fresh water brook." I made a note since I had failed to fill my water bottle earlier that day. 15 meters after the bridge was the sign for the trail to Simon Point. I made it! Actually not so fast. I still had to go through 500 meters of trail in the foliage before I actually reached the point. The train began with a wooden boardwalk before dropping in a steep slope. I eventually came across the fresh water pond. I walked over a wooden bridge and there I was at last!
  I found my perfect ideal hideaway spot! I looked around for signs indicating that camping was prohibited. There weren't any. I pitched my tent. I had the window facing directly on the ocean. I walked along the trail. I thought about other spots but they were too high up on cliffs. I could feel the wind. I didn't want the wind to blow me and my tent out to see. I was given an object lesson about the force of the Atlantic Canada wind. My first girlfriend in Canada was from Gaspesie. She had faint but still visible scars on her face. When she was 10 years old she was walking near the edge of the cliffs and water when a violent gust of wind snatched her and threw her down on to the rocks more than 50 feet below. The spot that I had selected was perfect.
I went into my tent and watched sunset. The stars came out. I went into my sleeping bag. I could see the stars from the window. I had a smile on my way. The waves of the Atlantic provided a lullaby. I was free. I was in splendid isolation. I had found my own private Cape Breton. Life was brilliant. I had a really nice sleep.
  I awoke the next morning to fog and moisture. Some morning hikers came around. I heard their voices. "Someone is camping here." A male voice said. I took that as a sign to get up and fold up up my tent. Eventually the sun burned off the fog. I hiked 2KM down to Kennington Cove. It was a beach. I tested the waters and found them frigid. I still failed to get my Atlantic swim in. There weren't many visitors. Two women with their kids came by. The 9 year old boy talked to me. He asked where I was from. I told him that I came from Ottawa. He asked how I got all the way to Kennington Cove. I told him that I hitchhiked all the way there. He was awed by such a feat. I talked to his mother. They left and I was alone at the beach. Unable to swim I decided to write in my journal. Bored I decided to walk to the fresh water brook. I filled up my water bottle. I thought of the risk of E-Coli. However, since the official sign indicated that it was fresh water, I took it as a sign that it was safe to drink. I've passed over many rivers and brooks and never before did I see a sign indicating that it was fresh. I took a mouthful of water and swished it around my mouth. It tasted clean. I decided to take a few slow sips. If my stomach reacted, I wouldn't drink more. I'm aware that E-Coli is deadly but sometimes the affects are nothing more severe than a stomach ache and diarrhea. When my body didn't react negatively I drank with confidence. It was the first time in my life that I actually drank fresh water. Many bottled "spring water" didn't taste as pure as that. I went back to my spot and pitched my tent. I spent another evening watching the waves.
  The next morning I had decided to go to Sydney. I hadn't eaten in more than 24 hours. I figured that 2 nights camping in Louisbourg would be enough. I had also decided not to do the Cabot Trail because the temperature had dropped. I figured that it would be a tough slog hitchhiking on the trail and didn't want to risk freezing to death on the Cabot Trail. I walked into Louisbourg town. I saw the tour shuttle buses going between the visitors centre and the fortress. Access to the fortress itself was restricted. Cars were not permitted past a certain point. I asked a woman if there was a public library in town and she informed me that there was. It was the smallest library I'd ever seen. It was a one room building in a former church. The librarian was a friendly and pleasant woman. She said that I could use Wireless service. I connected to the Net for the first time since I had left Amherst Shore. I asked the librarian if there was another spot to camp apart from the national park. She advised me to try the Lighthouse located on the other side of the harbour. It was about a 3 KM hike. I had managed to hike almost the entirety of the harbour minus the fortress. Louisbourg was so dreary that it made me think of the Morrissey song: "Everyday Is Like Sunday". Louisbourg fit the description: "This is the coastal town that they forgot to close down. Armageddon come!"
  The Lighthouse wasn't anything so special. There was a trail that lead 1.5KM along the coast. I found a safe place to pitch my tent. The wind gusts were picking up. The crashing waves and blowing wind lulled me to sleep. I was awoken around 3AM by violent sounds. A rain storm was raging. My tent was bending and twisting. Were it nor for my body and all my gear, the tent would've been blown out to see. My tent was leaking water but it wasn't too bad. Little puddles of water accumulated at the corners. Flashes of lightening illuminated outside my tent. I was reminded of riding the IRT subway trains back in the 1970s. At the time it was common for at least one car not to have lights on. As the trains raced through the dark tunnels, they would occasionally be illuminated by brilliant flashes of blue as the car shoes eparated from the third rail. At the same time due to the rain and wind, I felt that I was in a submarine being attacked by depth charges. Yet I remained very calm. I didn't panic nor did I scramble. The first night camping at the national park I took my time. I stepped very carefully. I looked at the ground before I walked. I was confronted with the full force and fury of nature. Yet my urban mind remained calmed and focused.
  Somehow I managed to fall back asleep. It was daylight. My tent was flooded. It was time to get the hell out of there. I cannot overstate how my 15 month sojourn in the Pacific Northwest in Portland and Seattle had prepared me for the elements. I had packed my waterproof Bogz boots just for this occasion. I had also packed a rain jacket as well as rain trousers. While the temperature was above freezing, it was in the single digits Celsius. I was compelled to put on my winter toque, scarf and gloves. I put on my Universite de Montreal hoodie. Finally I put on my winter jacket. Then I folded my soggy sleeping bag and wrestled with it into the backpack. I closed up my backpack. I made sure that my laptop bag was properly closed. I was really concerned about my laptop. I emerged from my tent and set the two bags outside. With remarkable calm and serenity I managed to take down the tent. I had to fight the wind but I used the laptop bag and backpack as a weight to keep the tent from blowing away. The rainfly roof became a kite. I had to hold the strings of it to keep it flying away. It was an epic struggle to hold and fold it. The main tent was a greater struggle. Throughout it I remained calm. Even more remarkable was the fact that it didn't take very long. I did lose one peg but I still had enough. 
  I hiked towards the Lighthouse. Just as I arrived a car had pulled up with a white male and Asian woman. The man opened his window and told me to get in. It was a lucky break. The couple were German tourists from Munich. They were on a driving holiday around Cape Breton from Halifax. They had driven to see the Lighthouse but there was nothing to see. They dropped me off at a petrol station on the road just outside Louisbourg. 
  I went inside. I desperately needed a cup of hot coffee. The young cashier told me that I didn't need to pay. A few drivers were entering and leaving. I didn't feel like standing on the side of the road in the pouring cold rain to get a lift. I asked each person that left the shop if they were headed to Sydney. One woman told me that she was heading to Glace Bay but she would drop me off outside of Sydney. She drove a pick-up truck. "You're going to have to ride in the back. I'm not going to let a strange man ride with me." I was slightly annoyed but I was grateful for getting any lift.
  I rode on the back of the pick up truck in driving rain and wind. However, I remained dry. Only my face got wet. My head, ears, hands and feet remained dry. She left me off at the highway roundabout. I made my way into Sydney.
Lousy Sydney 
  I walked about 1KM from the roundabout and stepped into the first convenience store. I asked the cashier how much further it was to the town centre. He told me it was another 3 KM. I then asked if there was a public library. He told me to keep going on the road. I would see a shopping mall and to look for Falmouth Street on the left hand side. 
  I followed his directions. I was now in the residential part of town. I didn't like the feel nor look of Sydney. There was something bleak and dark about it. I discounted these sentiments as it was a dreary cold and rainy day. No place ever seems nice when the weather is dreadful. I found the library. It was a rather hideous structure that looked like an American inner-city public school. That it, it seemed to be designed and constructed with malicious contempt. As soon as I entered I didn't get the good sense about it. I was grateful to get out from the rain. I found a long round table in the back with decrepit 1950s diner booth seats. I was nervous about the state of my laptop in the rain. To my relief it worked. I went online. I read the news and checked my email. After nearly 2 hours I decided to go out for a cigarette. Then one of the two worst things on my adventure occurred. 
  As I had done in Moncton, I would lock my computer and leave my gear at my seat. I would go outside away from the entrance door to smoke a cigarette. The rain had mostly stopped with intermittent showers. I decided to take a walk around the corner. When I returned the security guard, a white man in his late 50s to early 60s accosted me.
"Hey you! I need to talk to you.!" His tone was belligerent. "There's no smoking library property."
"Well I'm on the street and more than 10 meters from the door!" I replied in defense.
"No the property includes the street and the entire block! You have to stand in the street or go across the street to smoke!"
I was taken aback by this extreme enforcement of no-smoking.
"I'm not done with you." He continued. "Is that your stuff with your computer and shit?"
"You're not allowed to leave your things when you leave. When you leave the library you must take everything with you!" He then went back inside.
I was flabbergasted. I couldn't believe his tone! It was most un-Canadian. Usually in Ottawa the guard would be very polite and calmly explain the rules. Then I became angry. He had no right to be abusive to me. Normally I would've cursed him out. When I went to the main branch of the San Francisco public library, I cursed out the racist librarian at the desk who told me that I would have to pay $8 for a day pass to use the computer terminals. Unlike San Francisco where I didn't care as I knew that I would find access to the Net nonetheless, I had to be more careful in Sydney. I didn't want to get banned from the library. Worse, I knew that asshole would likely call the stupid police. The last thing I needed or wanted was to have to deal with the cops in a strange town. The possibility that the guard was being racist certainly crossed my mind. However, I don't always want to draw the race card. He was probably just a miserable loser. Besides, given the weather that day, it would've turned Mary Poppins into a nasty bitch. 
  It wasn't just the guard who was nasty. Even the librarians were sneering at me. What made this so unusual is that libraries are generally the most civil and polite places. Even in notoriously nasty Vienna, the library is always an oasis. I wouldn't even expect such a level of aggressive rudeness from a Viennese librarian. I clearly wasn't welcomed. I looked online for Starbucks. The only good thing about that corporation is that one can sit all day and night without having to purchase anything and use their wireless network. On the map it seemed clear forward enough. I would walk North 3 blocks and then turn east.
  I left the library. As I walked on I wondered where Sydney's town centre was located. There were tourist signs indicating that I was downtown but it seemed like I was in an industrial suburb. I saw the street that Starbucks was supposed to be located on but when I looked all that I saw was a sprawl of industrial estates. I continued walking until I hit a Canadian military base and a dead end. 
I turned down a street and found a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. I was exhausted and hungry. I asked the South Asian cashier if he knew the location of Starbucks. He told me that it was another 3KM down the road. After eating a light meal of chicken and fries I carried on. I finally found Starbucks but still no sign of Sydney town centre. My luck got another turn for the worse. Starbucks' wireless wasn't working. I had walked so far for nothing.
  To add to my trouble I couldn't figure out where I could pitch a tent or even sleep outside. Couchsurfing was once again useless. No one bothered to reply to my request. On the way to Starbucks I found a little league baseball field. By the time I returned it was nightfall and I had walked past it. I slept on the players bench in the dugout under the tin roof. My sleeping bag was soaked. I was chilled to the bone. I was determined to get the hell out of Sydney.
  I had to wake up early. I didn't even bother going out of my way to Starbucks as more likely than not, their wireless was still not in service. The asshole library wouldn't open until 10AM. It was around 8AM. I only needed the Net so I could figure out how to get out of town. I went down to the canal park and sat on my backpack in misery. A white woman my age was walking down the path when she spotted me. She saw the distress and misery on my face.
"Are you ok?"
"Not really."
"What's the matter?"
I explained how I was camping in Louisbourg and then the storm came. How I didn't have anyplace to sleep the previous night. How I had to wait for the library to open and that I was keen to depart Sydney as soon as possible.
She invited me to accompany her to a cafe for coffee and breakfast. We walked a short distance and indeed found a very cozy and friendly independent cafe with wireless. The woman's name was Bethany. She was the same age of me. She lived an interesting life. She was originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario but spent many years living in Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic. She was studying for a MBA but not for profit but rather for community organizing. I was introduced to her friend. We had lively conversations about my world travels, art and literature and of course politics. I was grateful that they treated me to coffee and breakfast. They agreed to give me a lift on the highway a bit out of town. 
  Unfortunately where they dropped me off was horrible for getting a lift. Not more than 10 cars passed my way after 2 hours. I decided to hike the highway to the next exit. I had no better success there. Another 2 hours passed and no one picked me up. But a car did stop.
  A white Toyota pulled right up to me. Delighted I motioned to gather my belongings until I realized that the occupants were two uniformed Cape Breton Regional Police officers. Both were white. The driver was male. His partner was female. He did all the talking.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to get to the Trans-Canada."
'You're on it."
"Oh really! I thought it began after North Sydney."
"What are you doing out here?"
I explained the nature of my trip. I told him about Louisbourg, Simon Point and the Lighthouse. I recounted the storm and how that ended my idyll. I told him that I was trying to reach Halifax.
"Where are you from?"
"We're not going to Halifax. It would be better if you went up the hill and hitch from there." He meant that I should actually go on to the highway rather than wait at the entrance ramp. I was surprised that he said that. I knew that in Ontario and Quebec it's illegal to hitch on the roads. He continued.
"You'll get a lift up there."
"OK. I'll do that then. Thank you."
"Yeah. See you later boy." He drove off.
Boy? Did I really hear that? He called me "boy"? Son of a bitch! 
The benefit of doubt that I had given to the library security guard evaporated. He was being racist! This cop had thoroughly disrespected me. The pigs wonder they they're getting taken out in the USA? All this blather about giving the police due respect is nonsense. Respect has to be earned and it must go both ways. I was well aware of racism in Nova Scotia. I braced myself for it. This was bad news. Upon further reflection I came upon the following conclusions. That cop was looking for trouble. But after listening to me speak, he realized that I was more educated than he. That indicates a definite class privilege. Second, I told him that I was from Ottawa. With my education and class background residing in Ottawa might have meant that I had connections. Perhaps I was acquainted with a MP or even more dangerous a Cabinet Minister. In the final analysis he thought of his pension. I'm forced to wonder what would've happened had I said that I was from Sydney or Cape Breton or even Nova Scotia? What if I said that I was from Moncton? Would I have received the centuries long mistreatment that Blacks have been subjected to? Would I have been beaten to a bloody pulp on the side of the Trans-Canada highway? Would I be sitting in some provincial jail cell on bogus trumped up charges? Nevertheless, I'm lucky that it reached the conclusion it did. If my worse encounter with the Cape Breton police was being called a "boy", I should consider it good fortune. When on my subsequent travels I told other Nova Scotians of the incident, they were livid. Most of them were white. One woman from the Eastern Shore was beside herself after hearing my tale: "I would've thrown a rock through his window, police or not!"
  Still I followed his advice. I went another 3 hours without a lift. Finally two young white women stopped and picked me up. They weren't going very far. They lived in Sydney Mines but were nice enough to take me as far as Bras d'Or. The driver told me that she had visited Uganda and Kenya. That's probably the reason why she stopped to pick me up. She was undoubtedly aware of the racism of her  fellow Cape Bretoners and how I probably had slim chance of being picked up.
  I tried to hitch further on but the hour grew late. I decided to pitch my tent on the side of the Trans-Canada and wait another day. It was a rough day. I had managed to only get 12KM in 8 hours. I could've walked that distance in under 3.

Cabot Trail 
  It was still cold and wet the following day. I knew it would be a miracle if I reached Halifax before nightfall. My goal was Truro. I desperately wanted to go south to warmer climes. I wanted to get the hell off Cape Breton as soon as humanly possible. Therefore I had written off the Cabot Trail altogether. It was probably over-rated anyhow. Who knows what type of reactionary morons I would encounter there! If I ran into ignorant racists on the main town of the Cape, as well as being Nova Scotia's second city after Halifax, I could only imagine the depths of backwardness I could encounter on the Cabot Trail, which is the most remote part of Nova Scotia. I had had enough of Cape Breton.
  I went across the road to the service station and made myself a cup of coffee. Once again, the cashier told me that I didn't have to pay for it. A pattern began to emerge which repeated itself on my travels through Nova Scotia. Backpackers are treated kindly and many service stations offer free coffee in the mornings to travelers. I've managed to always have enough change for my morning coffee. 
  To my surprise I didn't have to wait too long for a lift. A man gave me a lift. He was heading to English Town. It was only 10KM down the road but I was on my way. It started raining again. I was in the middle of the woods. While I was at Louisbourg national park, there were many signs warning of coyotes. Apparently the coyotes of Cape Breton are aggressive and dangerous against humans. I didn't encounter any. However, I thought what would happen if I crossed paths with one. I would grab a a big stick and a coyote tried to attack, I'd smash its skull. Conversely I would try to find some stones and hit it. I'm not an animal rights activist nor am I particularly an animal lover. I don't believe in animal cruelty nor should they be killed gratuitously. I'm a speciest. I belong in the superiority of the human species over the rest of the animal kingdom. We are at the top of the animal kingdom. That's the way that nature made it. I really think that "animal rights" have gone too far. There's a movement afoot to grant animals the status of "personhood".   This is asinine stupidity unlimited. Indeed, the entire "animal rights: agenda is reactionary through and through. Most, if not all animal rights activists elevate the rights of dumb animals over human rights. The film maker Michael Moore doesn't have many insightful things to say but he's right about one thing. He noted how whites reacted to a couple of scenes in his film Roger and Me. In it, a Black man wearing a Superman costume is gunned down by the Flint police department. One of the women he interviews is so impoverished, that she resorts to smashing in the heads of rabbits in order to skin them and sell their fur so that she can eat. Moore was inundated with complaints about the rabbits being killed but not one outraged voice about the Black man gunned down by the police. Two events over the past year have confirmed this. The recent case in Cincinnati when a Black child accidentally fell into the gorilla pit. When zoo officials shot the gorilla dead in order to save the child's life, the outrage generated was sickening. Let's be honest. Most "animal rights" activists are white. There are nary any Black or Brown faces in the "animal rights" movement. The outrage over the killing of the gorilla came exclusively from whites. Then there was the clamor for the Black mother to be prosecuted. It's quite telling that those many whites consider Blacks to be apes, gorillas and monkeys, whites still value the lives of apes and monkeys over Black lives. I can see whites watching the video of the Black child getting mauled and secretly hoping that it got killed. In the second example, a Black bear was killed by York Regional Police outside of Toronto. White residents were outraged. They came out from their homes and aggressively confronted the police that shot the bear. Yet, most of them are non-plussed with the countless videos of Blacks being gunned down. People care about black gorillas and Black Bears but don't give a damn about Black Human lives. But I digress.
  These thoughts crossed my mind as I was in the woods of Cape Breton waiting for a lift. I hadn't seen any wildlife up to that point in Nova Scotia. People were surprised that I didn't see any animals at Simon Point. The animals probably got a whiff of my metropolis scent and decided to give me a wide berth. The coyotes wisely sensed my animus towards them and decided to challenge another human. 
  Suddenly a stream of cars came rolling by. No less than 25 cars filed past me. None of them could've stopped for me even if they had wanted to without causing a pile up. I wondered how and why these sudden stream of traffic passed by. 15 minutes after the stream a car with Ontario plates stopped. I got it.
  The driver was a 22 year old white male with a woman in her late 40s. They were from the Greater Toronto Area. They explained that they had just got off the ferry from Newfoundland to North Sydney. That was where that stream of traffic came from. They had stopped at the service station from where I began my day from. They were mother and son. The son was soon to depart to Norway to live there for a couple of years. They were taking a trip of Atlantic Canada together before he left. He was a seasoned hitchhiker himself and that's why he picked me up. They were on their way to the Cabot Trail. They invited me along if I wanted to go. I told them that I had my own tent and since I didn't need to hitch along the trail that I was game.
  We drove up the east coast of the Cabot Trail. The rain, fog and clouds obscured the scenery. We drove all the way up to Highlands National Park near the northern end of Cape Breton. The mother had purchased a year pass to Canadian national parks. We stopped at the visitors centre at the entrance of the park. Neither of us were particularly impressed with the scenery of the Cabot Trail nor of Highlands National Park. We made a couple of stops to walk some trails. We picked and ate wild strawberries and blueberries. We climbed up peak. 
  We were soon out of the park and at the top of the Cabot Trail. We started looking out for places to camp. We went to Bay St. Lawrence at the northernmost end of Cape Breton. It was another bleak and dreary fishing town. The mother went to a lobster shack. She was interested in ordering a lobster sandwich. However, the price of $17 plus tax made her balk. She declined. We drove back south and stopped at a beach. It was the beach where John Cabot landed. 
  I was in awe of the landscape. The pounding waves, the peaks at the top of high cliffs. How the surface of the earth rose exponentially from the beach. I realized just how powerful nature really is and how insignificant we are as human beings. What Hurricane Sandy taught me is how weak man is vis-a-vis nature. Nature knocked New York's teeth out.
  The way that the earth rose above the beach forced me to make comparisons with the elevated rail structures in New York. Up until then, I had always considered the trestles of the elevated to be the most impressive structures human beings have created. Yet I realized how nature trumps man. Suddenly I thought about the recent presidential primary election in New York State. The thought of the El's made me recall when Senator Ted Cruz had the nerve to go to The South Bronx. Cruz received a Bronx Cheer when he arrived. There was a photo of him under the El on Southern Boulevard. If he didn't have Secret Service bodyguards protecting him he would've been rolled. He wouldn't have been killed. Bronxites don't kill for the sake of it. He would've been badly assaulted. He would've been robbed. All of his clothes, including his underwear and shoes would've been ripped off him. He could've been chased and taunted naked through the streets of The South Bronx until he would've run across the 149th Street Bridge to Manhattan.
  We decided that we would camp in the old 18th century cemetery. The son helped me assemble the tent. He gave me some good advice. Never pull the poles. They could easily break pulling them. Always push the poles out. He taught me how to properly fold up my tent. He advised to fold it in thirds. The sack where the poles are held in can then be used to roll the tent up and give it a perfect fit in the tent bag. I followed his advice for the duration of my journey.
  We drove down the West coast of the Cabot Trail. We were all in agreement that the West trail is much more interesting and scenic than the East trail. We returned to Highlands National Park in order to go on an interpretative tour. We arrived shortly after the tour guide stepped out of his car and entered the trail. We were only a couple of minutes behind him. He walked so fast that he disappeared. We wondered where he went. We were sure that the tour didn't start yet. We caught up to him and another woman by 75 yards. The mother shouted for him to stop.
  The interpretative tour wasn't that impressive. The guide tried to be an actor. His role was that of a medical doctor in the Acadian village during the the former half of the 18th century. Apparently at that location was an early Acadian settlement. We weren't impressed. The mother and son voiced their criticisms. I didn't care. 
  We then drove on the Cheticamp which is the oldest surviving Acadian community in Nova Scotia. We stopped at an art gallery/cafe. I desperately needed my morning coffee to stay sane. Some locals started up a conversation with me, of which I have no recollection of. After Cheticamp we returned to the park and saw a couple of waterfalls. Afterwards we continued down the rest of the West coast of the Cabot Trail. We crossed the Canso Causeway back to the mainland. I got a better view of the causeway than when I first crossed over. When I thought of a Causeway, I imagined the former elevated trestles of the Boston rapid transit lines or the Robert Moses Causeway which is a bridge. The Canso Causeway is nothing but piles of large rocks strewn together with the top surface smoothed and paved for a two lane road along with a single railway line.
  The mother and son were slowly making their way back to Ontario. The son wanted to see the Tidal Bore at Truro. He sped the car trying to make it to Truro by 18:42, which was the time that the Tidal Bore was schedule in. I had already seen it in Moncton. We missed it by 7 minutes. We decided to have a look around town. We drove through the town centre and parked by the Truro River. At the bridge over the river stood a large iron sign indicating the border between the towns of Truro and Bible Hill. We did a bit of window shopping. We passed by a local who was operating a drone. He explained the specifics of his particular type of drone. He let us stand over his shoulder to watch the on board screen remotely showing the images from the camera on the drone. We asked if there was anything worth seeing in Truro. He recommended Victoria Park. He directed us to walk east towards the railway station and go through the "breezeway". None of us had any idea what a "breezeway" actually was. He walked to the railway station which consisted of a long building with various shops and businesses located. We stopped in front of one establishment which had posters promoting motorboating and kayaking along the Tidal Bore. The mother was quite keen. She went inside the office to inquire about schedule and rates. It turned out that the office was a taxi company. The dispatcher hadn't a clue about the Tidal Bore water tour. We walked around looking for the breezeway. Unable to find it we walked around the station building. On the wall along the platform was a colorful painted mural depicting the town and residents. We crossed over the tracks and walked a couple of blocks before reaching Victoria Park.
  Victoria Park is the most beautiful urban park I've ever seen. It consists of two waterfalls and a brook. The pathways lead into a lush wooded area. There are several wooden stairs which one could climb. Along the high bluffs were well constructed walkways and promenades made of wood. It was sunset when we arrived at the park. It grew darker. I realized that probably most of the youths in Truro had lost their virginity in Victoria Park. It was quite isolated and didn't have any lighting. Many of the park benches were designed as loveseats. It was the one spot where it was natural to have sex. Especially for teens living with their parents. 
  We drove back to the Tidal Bore and pitched our tents on the grass between the office and the river. If anyone challenged us or asked what we were doing, we would've explained how we were Oceanographers from University of Toronto doing field research on the tide. We were left alone. We woke up before 7 o'clock and folded our tents. 
  It was time to part ways. The mother and son were heading to New Brunswick. I had more of Nova Scotia to see. My next stop was Halifax. The on ramp to the highway to Halifax was just 300 meters from the Tidal Bore. They drove me to the on ramp. The weather was warm and sunny. The cold rain of Cape Breton was gone. I stuck out my thumb. Within 45 minutes I got a lift to Halifax.
To be continued....

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