Day 63: Cumberland Cove to Northumberland Cove (105km)
It may be amusing for English folk to know that today I cycled from Cumberland to Northumberland via Cornwall.
I woke up early enough to see the sunrise. The days are getting so much shorter now that orange slice of sun was only sliding through the far line of trees while I brewed my morning coffee. I set off at 8am along quiet roads. The early morning light tinted the agricultural landscape as if I were looking at the golden fields and rows of green potatoes through a glass jar of runny honey. The air was soft and hazy. It was also unexpectedly hilly.
My legs are strong now, I can tell, as I tapped out another climb. Cresting over a hill would afford me views of the island, disappearing in bands of fading blue on the horizon in front. Wooden houses stood on farm fields and cows munched languidly in the fields. The soil here is as red as the coast. Farm trucks spray out a film of this rusty dust as they bump along the tracks back to the barn.
When I reached the town of Cornwall I knew it wasn’t much farther to Charlottetown. I had a number of jobs to do in Charlottetown as I had got into my head that this provincial capital would be the last busting metropolis I would meet until Halifax. First I had to swing by a bike to shop to get Monty a new tyre. Although they had the right tyre in stock (a Schwalbe Marathon Plus) they also gained the prize for being the first bike shop in Canada to charge me for labour. For putting my tyre on? Pah! I would have done it myself. I thought they were just being friendly. Oh well, job done and Monty is now happy.
Today I spent a ridiculous amount of money on protein bars. For those that think that cycling is “free” compared to the old motorcar please note: I spend more on protein bars per week cycling across Canada than I used to spend on gas (translation: petrol) per week at home. I now have enough protein bars that I can munch two a day for the rest of my trip. I nipped to the grocery store to stock up on crackers, avocado and Kraft dinner. My panniers now weighs a ton.
Jobs done, I headed to downtown Charlottetown. There were lots of tourists bimbling around the waterfront. I guess I am a tourist too as I sat in the shade by the wharf eating lobster roll and another icecream. I met a very bearded man with small round spectacles propped on the end of his nose and a yellow cycling jersey pulled snuggly over his round belly. He was from Montreal and was visiting his holiday home on Ile de la Madeleine. Everyone who has mentioned this island has enthuse with how beautiful it is. Floating north in the gulf of the St Lawrence it is closer to PEI than its home province, Quebec. It’s so far out the way that I cannot cycled there this time but it does give me an excuse to come back and explore more another time.
By the wharf stood Founders Hall. I felt a bit silly only nipping into the Founders Hall information centre to use the washroom and fill up my water bottles. Here is history! Here in 1864 delegates met to discuss confederation and Canada as we know it was born. But the muddy path of history sometimes leads from majestic moment of founding a nation to the mundane moment of nipping to refill. Hey ho. Best get cycling…
It was hilly this afternoon. I was not expecting such big hills. Up, down, and up again in 28 degree heat all afternoon was hard work and had me reaching for the emergency Skittles. I am beginning to worry a tad about the Cabot trail. I have been warned of “3 mountains” which are 15%. And over a cup of tea, friends of Aaron and Shelley told me that the Cabot trail was the hardest cycling in Canada. I believe them because these two cycled across Canada in 2008. That was how they met… and they are now married.
Oh but I have not cycled across anything that steep since Devon. And Devon is fiendish! And in Devon I was not hauling along a ton of protein bars. Wish me luck…
Just before I reached my campground I saw a liquor store so nipped in to get a local brew. David, another trans-Canada cyclist who is a few days ahead of me, had tweeted me to recommend this spot. And it is gorgeous. There is a red sandy shore dotted with slimey apple green rocks. A couple play in the rolling waves. A lone gull is flapping its way home. A boat’s horn sounds in the distance. You look out to the horizon. First you see a lighthouse blinking from the rocks and then a faint smudge of land.
I pitched my tent by the sea front and pondered what to do next: drink the beer or go for a swim in the sea? Tough decision.
The breakers crashed into my knee caps, splashing the cool, salty water up my sweaty, suncream sticky body. The sea was refreshing. I thought of childhood holidays in Cornwall. I had a body board and I used to paddle out into the salty waves of the Atlantic on it and ride back in under a hot blue sky. This water here is part of Northumberland Strait and looks over to the mainland and Nova Scotia. It is almost the Atlantic. It is almost far enough.
Tomorrow I will take the ferry over to my last and final province. The pull of the sea is great. Soon enough I will be by the sea again but this time, if the world could only be squashed flat, then it would be England I could see on the far shore. And Rock, Padstow and the sandy beaches of the original Cornwall. Home is soon to be in sight.