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Reports

Thursday, 15 May 2003
Judique -> Sydney, Nova Scotia -> Newfoundland, Canada

Dave woke me up this morning and after a shower I joined them for breakfast on their covered patio.

Today I had to get myself to my next hostess in Sydney, a town northeast of Cape Breton, where my ferry to Newfoundland would leave tonight.


I did not have to go hitchhiking today. Coincidentally Camille had an appointment in Sydney today, so that was a good excuse for Dave to get their black Mercedes out of the garage and go for a scenic drive to Sydney.

From Port Hastings we drove straight through the middle of Cape Breton Island on the historic route 4, along the Bras d'Or Lake.

We drove along the rolling heartland, where the highlands meet the lowlands along the shores of this beautiful inland sea. The Bras d'Or Lake is the largest lake in Nova Scotia. It is situated in the center of Cape Breton Island, where it covers 360 square miles.

With a slow pace of 90km/hr we arrived in Sydney around 2pm in the afternoon. I thanked Dave and Camille for helping me out when they dropped me of on downtown Charlottestreet.

The buildings along this street clearly show its historical value, however there wasn't much occupying them. I walked up and down Charlottestreet and saw a lot of empty stores, businesses that recently closed its doors and shops for sale. It was clear that this was another downtown area becoming extinct because of out-of-town shopping malls.

One store had an 'everything-must-go-today'-sale and was selling its last items for a very low price. Outside the shop was a stereo system playing The Bee Gees' "Staying Alive". It did not matter: Charlottestreet was dying as I looked at it.

I tried to contact my hostess in Sydney with a payphone on Charlottestreet. With the few quarters I had with me I could make a phone call, but the phone was unable to take quarters. Something was stuck in it.

I decided to call the operator to tell her that this phone was failing. I heard I had to call 811 and ended up in a big menu of number of the Aliant Repair Services. After five minutes I finally ended up with a lady on the other side. "Hi, I want to tell you that this payphone I am using doesn't accept any coins anymore."
"But you can use your phone card, can't you?" I heard the gum chewing lady on the other side. "No, this is an old phone, it has no card option. And I have no card."
"What do you want me to do with this information, sir?" she asked. What? "Well, maybe you can report it and have somebody have a look at it?" Perhaps that would give her an idea of what to do. "Alright. Thanks. Bye." And she hung up. Friendly person.

So I walked to the next payphone down the road, because I just had to tell my hostess in Sydney I had arrived.

Guess what, this next payphone didn't work either. I enjoyed it a bit, honestly, and dialed 811 again, got through the menu numbers and ended up with the same lady on the line. "Hi, it's me again. I am now at another payphone on Charlottestreet but this one can't accept any money or cards either!"
"Sir, I don't know what your intentions are, but I have more important things to do then to report failing phones in Sydney."
"Excuse me?" I was baffled! "I am not from around here and I try to phone somebody but your phones don't seem to working. I thought I am very polite by reporting these failures to you."
She was silent. "I might already understand why these phones don't work," I finally said. She still was silent for a few seconds and then she hung up. She just hung up.

I hereby declare Charlottestreet totally dead.

I managed to call my hostess Mary Harris at a phone in a pool hall nearby. "Oh, I work just around the corner," she said and within a few minutes we met up.

She took me along to her work spot, a small store on Charlottestreet named "The Best of Cape Breton". This is another workshop dedicated to the development of mentally challenged persons and provides personal and vocational training assisting each individual in realizing their potential through teamwork, expertise and open communication. Hey, where have I used that line before?

I could not stay the night with the Harris family as my ferry leaves tonight. "But you can come over for dinner," Mary said and she promised to drop me off at the ferry terminal.

Not long after I had a look around in the cosy craft shop I met up with Mary's husband Fred, who had arrived to pick us up.

Before heading to their home on the other side of the Sydney River, we first had a stroll through the supermarket to buy some groceries. I had asked Mary if she could –perhaps – help me out with something for on the road as the ferry crossing will take the night, but then I would have to sit in a bus for the rest of the coming day and I wouldn't have anything to eat with me.

"Just get what you need," she said. And with her support I got me some granola bars, small packages of juice, bread buns with some meat to put on them and even a bag of chips! "Now you don't have to worry," Mary told me. Boy, was that a relief to me!

At their home I met up with one of their two sons, Robert, who was playing on his guitar and humming along with his music, right on the couch in de living room.

Fred tried to get me with some Cape Breton humour and jokes, but I was always too fast back at him. He enjoyed fooling around with me, but couldn't get me. Somehow you don't fool me that easily! Hehe.

Mary ended up to be the lady that told my previous hostess Laurie Burns and her family in Moncton (New Brunswick) about the existence of this website. It was Mary's enthusiasm that made Laurie invite me over. I stayed with them a few weeks ago.

Fred is a technical engineer, but since the economy dropped to a disastrous low point in Nova Scotia, and lots of big industries closed down, he ended up in the same field as what Mary is in now. It's now all about helping people in the community.

After dinner it was getting time to get going again. I said goodbye to Robert and Fred and Mary took me along to North Sydney, where the terminal of the ferries to Newfoundland are located.

Mary joined me when I checked in my baggage, but when I got my ticket – paid for by one of my hosts in Newfoundland!I was told that the ferry was delayed by two hours. "Fishing boats had blocked the passage and the ferry could not leave Port Aux Basques earlier today." Why did they do that? "The Canadian government has decided that you can't fish anymore and lots of Newfies are angry about this decision, because it leaves them out of a job in the fishing industry." I can believe that.

So my ferry did not leave at 9pm, but just after 11pm. Mary offered to take me back again so I didn't have to wait at this terminal, but someway I felt I had to stay. I made it this far on my way to the most eastern point of the American continent… What if we got a flat tyre on the way back to the ferry again? I rather stayed there.

I thanked Mary for her support, for the grocery pack the bought me for on the road and for the dinner this evening. I might stay overnight with the Harris on the way back from Newfoundland.

Around 11pm the ferry had arrived back and within fifteen minutes I had to board a little bus that brought all the walk-on passengers on board.

It was a huge ferry, the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood. I am not really used to these big ones things and it amazes me to see an escalator on board a ship!

I had a walk around on the main passenger on the 5th floor of the ferry. There was a movie theatre, a games arcade, a children play area, a big gift shop, a cafeteria and a bar lounge where hockey was shown on a big television. This was the place where the men ended up first. Chatting around and drinking beers and watching the hockey on television.

Outside it was dark and I couldn't see anything than the lights of North Sydney disappear in more darkness. It was the night of the lunar eclipse, but it was clouded and I had to miss that event.

My ticket did not include a sleeper, a bed for the night, but I settled myself in the comfy seats of the movie theatre lounge room. I still wondered why they were showing CBC Television until midnight. Then their programming stopped and an old episode of Seinfeld ran on the screen. Then at 12.30am the screen was suddenly turned off and the lights dimmed. I guess that was it for the night.

I am off. I'll awake when the ferry arrives in Port Aux Basques in the morning.

Good night big ocean…

Ramon.