Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 45: Dartmouth to Baddeck

350 kilometers, 3:38 hours

The weather was perfect for our transfer from Dartmouth to Cape Breton Island. The sky was clear blue except for a few puffs of cloud for emphasis; the breeze was fresh but not cold. If the weather were like this, even Hell would look good. The forests and waterways of Nova Scotia looked delightful, postcard-perfect.

We left the highway at New Glasgow in order to have lunch in the harbor town of Pictou, which is located on an inlet of the Northumberland Strait. Once a busy harbor town, now it has a placid marina.

Pictou calls itself "The Birthplace of New Scotland" because it was the landing point of many Scottish immigrants. The town is in the process of restoring a ship called Hector that brought about 200 Highland Scots in 1773. They haven't rebuilt the masts and sails yet.

Ship Hector, 1773
Lacks masts and rigging
The town also commemorated its heritage by identifying the Scottish clans on their light-posts.

Scottish Clans are identified by plaid, symbols, and motto
The Salt Water Cafe served us a good lunch and we enjoyed views of the harbor. 

Salt Water Cafe in Pictou
Not long after we got back on the road, we crossed the Canso causeway and bridge which connects the main part of Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island. We were enthused because Cape Breton was the ultimate destination of our journey, and a long-held dream of Dan's. We have spent about a month in Canada. When we head west in two days, we will be heading home. We will stop to see stuff and make each day interesting, but home will be our real objective.

The scenery on the island was so beautiful that I couldn't stop taking video, yet it was ordinary enough: very dense forest of firs, trees so short and thickly growing that the lumber couldn't be worth much. The highway wound gently through the forest with picturesque hills and dales.

The big resort town in Cape Breton is Baddeck, located on one of the arms of the Bras d'Or Lake. The Bras d'Or Lake is technically an inland sea, with northern and southern openings to the Atlantic; it is also fed by several rivers. It is shaped something like a split-leaf philodendron, and sprawls out across the center of Cape Breton island. Literally translated, Bras d'Or might mean arms of gold or golden arms, but the language heritage here includes both Gaelic and French, so it is hard to trace. My favorite theory is that it was originally French Bras d'Eau, arms of water, but that it got corrupted by a Scottish pronunciation. It is a very beautiful body of water.

We have a very nice room at the Silver Dart Lodge, with a wonderful view of the lake from the balcony. 

Lake Bras d'Or from Silver Dart Lodge

As soon as we got settled, we headed for the marina, arriving about 6 p.m. The last couple of hours of the day were glorious. The sky was blue, the breeze was mild, the water rippled hypnotically, the shape of the harbor was picturesque, the colors were as vivid as Kodachrome. A few water craft crossed the scene on mysterious trajectories. A few people were hanging around the wharf; everyone was blissful. I kept taking video of the scene, and the video shows the light reluctantly fading.

Baddeck Light
Baddeck Marina

Baddeck Marina
In order to have a reason to hang out and watch the light change, we drank a local beer and enjoyed the view from the upper deck of the Baddeck Yacht Club.  We got into a conversation with the folks at the next table, a couple from Perth who had sailed their motor yacht here from South Carolina. It was a beautiful, impressive craft. Their dinghy was tied to the wharf. 

Having lived in Australia myself, and traveled to most of the big cities, I was curious about Perth, which I had never seen, because it is so isolated from the other cities. I enjoyed their description of Perth and the settlement of Western Australia in general. We talked at some length about the various cities in Australia and the politics there.

Then a couple from Rochester, New York arrived and joined the conversation. The fellow was excited about a terrific storm they had witnessed the previous day on the east end of Prince Edward Island, but it was nearly dark by then and time for us to get going.