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Reports

Wednesday, 14 May 2003
St Paul --> Judique, Nova Scotia, Canada

This morning I was waken around 7.30am and joined my hostesses Carla Dumaresq and Teresa Love for breakfast. Carla had to start at the wood shop in New Glasgow again and Teresa offered to take me along and drop me on the highway east of the town, after a quick visit to Carla's wood shop.


It was not hard to catch a ride with my hitchhiking today. Within ten minutes a business man took me along.

In the car we talked about the usual stuff (my travels, my experiences, and my background) until we saw this Buddhist monk walking along the road.

"What the heck is he doing?"
The man was easily recognized as a monk as he was wrapped in pink clothes only. "He must be from one of the Buddhist communities on Cape Breton," I said, as I knew there are quite a few Buddhist retreats hidden on Cape Breton. "Really? I have lived on Cape Breton all my life and I have never heard about that!" But he had to trust me on that one, because I had heard about it myself a few days earlier.

My driver had to go to Port Hastings, the city right on the other side of the causeway (which basically makes the island connected to Nova Scotia) on Cape Breton, but it was nothing for him to take me up the west coastal road to Judique, where my next hosts had invited me over. Judique is one of the many tiny ribbon villages that dot the island.

On the road I was intrigued by the scenery of forestry hills (or small mountains) that I saw on the other side of the Strait of Canso with the Bay of St. George at my left.

When I found the right four-digit number along the road, he drove me on the one-kilometre long driveway and dropped me off straight in front of the house! I thanked him and he turned around and returned to Port Hastings.

Most people living on Cape Breton are fishers or they work at the pulp and paper plant in Port Hastings. Next to them are the rich Americans that have their summer homes here and many Canadians decided to retire on Cape Breton.

I am staying with Camille and Dave Chapman who live in this nice two-storey wooden house with the ocean just next door. "We can see Nova Scotia from the living room window and on a clear day you'd be able to see all the way to Prince Edward Island," Camille told me.

Camille is a graphic designer and she creates anything that needs graphics, like corporate logos and etcetera. Dave is retired; he used to work as a chemic at the nearby paper and pulp mill.

Camille let me have a quick mail check on her computer as today I would hear what my possibilities are to get over to the province known as Newfoundland and Labrador, in other words: that big rocky island!

One of my hosts in Newfoundland had offered me a free ferry passage a long time ago, but today I learned that the ferry would drop me off at the southwest tip of the island, and my three hosts live 800 kilometres away on the east side of the island. That's not a distance I like to hitchhike when the ferry arrives in the evening or early morning. I needed some help on the road!...


With my lucky lift ride to this place in Judique, I had arrived here around 11am. I had not expected that at all! So my lunch package that Carla and Teresa gave me for on the road (carrots and celery with chickpeas as a dipping sauce, very healthy!) joined in the lunch I had with Camille and Dave.

My hosts were eager to take me on a drive. They live on the road to Judique, but I haven't seen it yet. And I wasn't really allowed to leave this part of Cape Breton tomorrow already without seeing something of the world's most scenic island, as the tourism department likes to call this island.

Cape Breton has its name from the small cape or promontory named after the fishermen from French Bretagne, Breton in English. The Scottish Highlanders (from the north of Scotland) settled much of the island in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries brought with them some strong cultural traditions and today they are best recalled by the island musicians, especially fiddle players. If you ever hear Canadian fiddling music, the chance will be big that it comes from Cape Breton. (More history of Cape Breton right here)

We drove the one kilometre of their driveway and got on Highway 19, the only road along the west coast of Cape Breton. Dave's plan for tonight's dinner was lobster, so our quest was also to find fishers that just got some lobster in at the fishing plants.

Judique was passed in the blink of an eye. It has a small grocery shop, a church and a few houses are dotted around. Most people here either work in the fishing industry or drive all the way to the mill in Port Hastings.

We continued driving up north towards the town called Mabou. Halfway to Mabou we got on more scenic roads through the rising and falling country side along the coast.

I have discovered that from Quebec on the roads in Canada get bad, well it might not get any worse than here in Cape Breton! At some places the roads contained more potholes and different colours of recovery patches than the surrounding scenery had to offer!

We ended up at a small port along the waters of St. George's Bay, where we turned around after checking if there were any boats with fresh caught lobster on board.

The drive back was beautiful; however I saw lots of trees, more trees, and even forests full of trees. And it just continues along the lengthy highway. Dave eventually ended up buying a few lobsters at a friend's place in Judique. Back home he got some water from the ocean to keep them alive and kicking.

Back at their home I also met up with Ben, one of the two sons of the Chapmans. Ben is visiting over from his home in Ottawa, where he works for Health Canada. He is also working for Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières –MSF - in French) and has been to many third world countries to support their mission.

During our dinner he told me all about that. "You should be surprised how many small town doctors there are in Canada that would give up their job within 48 hours and go to an African country to help out."

I asked him why that was.

"As a doctor they have elderly patients with flu or kids who hit their head. You know -those minor things. Doctors aren't trained for that and they don't get challenged anymore. When they have to take care of people with diseases or war wounds in a country where lots of things are lacking, they go because it challenges them."

Ben is not a doctor for MSF. He is the one out there that has to hire all these doctors and other personnel. "They don't a big salary like at home, but they are provided with food and a place to stay. For many people in these circumstances it is enough." For a moment I thought he was trying to recruite me there!

And Ben even speaks a few words of Dutch! "MSF has exchanged me from here to Denmark and The Netherlands a few years ago and I picked up quite some words in Dutch." It was very good to hear him offer me a drink in Dutch, it doesn't happen that often.

The lobster dinner was great! However Ben tried to tell me in the beginning how to crack open the lobster and eat every piece of meat inside of it, I was the first person wiping my hands when I finished my orange big one! "You are good!" I heard, but I honestly haven't had many lobsters yet.

After dinner I joined the family for coffee (they had Dutch coffee, haha) after dinner and then headed up to Camille's office upstairs where I logged on to my writings. The family went to bed very early, so I had all the time to catch up things and get some rest before I'd head out north again tomorrow.

The latest news on email told me that my first host in Newfoundland contacted the DRL bus company on the island. They run the bus line from ferry port Port Aux Basques all the way to St. John's, the province's capital city. My hostess there contacted DRL and they were happy to throw in a free fare seat on the bus for me!

The bus would leave at 8am on Friday morning. Mmm!

Some calculating got me to my senses again and I realised I had to get on the late ferry tomorrow evening already!

I contacted the hosts in northern city Sydney where I am supposed to stay with tomorrow and told them about my ferry crossing. "Ramon, we'll meet you up when you get to here, have you over for dinner and we will drop you at the ferry terminal on time."

That really chilled me down and gave me enough calms to get a good night sleep: apparently my one and only night of sleep on Cape Breton so far.

Tomorrow I am heading to Newfoundland!

Good night Judique!

Ramon.