Windy capes, plentiful potatoes and abundant Canadian hospitality; Port Hastings (Nova Scotia) to Cap-Pele

Leg; 514 miles / 827 km
Total; 12,556 miles / 20,207 km

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We left Port Hastings naively positive about the weather. It was a glorious day, with tailwinds pushing us along the snappily titled ‘Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell Way’. The day ended with a perfect free camping spot behind the library at Margaree Forks; the start of the world famous Cabot Trail. Our weather app warned us that les suêtes winds were expected that night, but out tent was the only accommodation option and we went to sleep hoping the library would shelter us from any dangerous winds. And they provided free wifi!😁

It was an uneventful night and we started the 300km Cabot Trail ride happy we’d ignored the wind warnings. The moment we reached the ocean we realised why the road is so famous. It’s breathtaking. Rugged, green, dramatic coastline, dotted with cute Acadian villages and lighthouses. Fourteen miles in, it all changed. Breakneck winds from the east were pushing us into the other side of the road and it was near impossible to stand with the bikes, let alone ride any further. We took shelter on the west wall of a garage, waiting for the winds to recede. Within 30 minutes a local guy, Hector, came out of his house and simply asked where we needed to go. He was born and bred on Cape Breton and knew there was no chance of us riding our bike in the les suêtes.

Hector drove us to Cheticamp, mocking Chris’ pronunciation of the town the whole way; “Chet-ee-camp” “Chet-ee-camp” “Chet-ee-camp” sang Hector, over and over again! Apparently, it’s pronounced “Shet-ee-com”. We went to three motels before we found one open and eventually – by 9:30am – we had a room at Alberts Motel. The owner told us that he is a lobster buyer and he opened his motel early this year because the les suêtes winds made it impossible for the lobster boats to go out and the season had been delayed. No surprise then that we found cycling so tough! We hibernated in our room for the next two days hoping the forecast would change and the winds would calm down. They never did and eventually we had no option but to call our host Lenny in Guysborough, and ask for his help.

Within a few hours Lenny had picked up his friends’ trailer and was waiting outside the motel for us. The extent of the winds became clear when Lenny explained he was an hour later than expected because a bridge was flooded and he had to make several diversions. Lenny offered to drive us around the Cabot Trail so we got to see why everyone raves about it so much. The views are epic and – even in mid-May – so is the snow! Even after all the wind and rain the snow was still deep and we were extremely grateful to see the sights from the comfort and warmth of Lenny’s car.

After a rest day at Lenny’s in Guysborough we headed to Antigonish were we stayed with Matt, the local bike shop owner. Matt had agreed to receive Chris’ new chainring and sprocket and that night he fitted the chainring and a new belt to Chris’ bike. Amazingly, the first belt had managed 12,000 miles with no issues. In the same time, Ties’ bike had been through six chains! Matt couldn’t replace the sprocket but suggested a shop in Pictou that could. We left Antigonish and immediately Chris realised he was missing the top three gears of his Rohloff hub. On a bike with already low gearing this was very frustrating and we hoped the bike shop in Pictou could replace the sprocket and resolve the issue. Sadly, the shop was unable to fix it and it turned out the new sprocket was the wrong size…

Undeterred we pedalled onto the Wood Islands ferry and made our way to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Nova Scotians told us that PEI was famous for two things; potatoes and tourism. They’re not wrong! While we were too early in the year to witness the latter, the importance of the potato to PEI is clear in whatever direction you look.

We followed the Trans Canada Highway to Charlottetown, noting how this was the longest stretch of Canada’s main arterial road we’d ridden, without being passed by a single vehicle!! That’s how quiet PEI is. At Charlottetown we again tried unsuccessfully to have Chris’ gears fixed, before accepting we’d have to deal with a maximum flat-surface speed of 15mph. We ended the night camping [probably unlawfully] in the closed PEI National Park, thankful that the power and water was left on, and the washrooms were still open. The next day we had the privilege of cycling along two stretches of the Gulfshore Parkway; a pristine road, flanked by a dedicated paved cycle path that runs through the PEI National Park. The road follows the coastline and gives you a perfect view of PEI’s famed red clay cliffs.

We spent the rest of the day following signs for the PEI Central Coastal Drive. By 5pm we were flagging and looking for a place to camp. We waved to a couple who were taking part in PEI’s incredible Women’s Institute Roadside Cleanup. “What in the hell are you doing?” came the response. So we explained, and within a few minutes Winston and Edith had invited us to stay for the night. We had a wonderful evening, plied with great home cooking and stories from the couple who between them lived on PEI for more years than Canada is old.

The next day we hopped onto the North Cape Coastal Drive, determined to see the famous lighthouse, but weary of the strong winds after our Cape Breton experience. Sure enough, we again had to battle strong crosswinds and freezing rain, and severe winds were forecast for the next day. Thankfully we found a motel open and the owner had a room we could hibernate in for two days. We left the motel under a blanket of mist and freezing temperatures, wondering where we’d sleep that night but looking forward to seeing the West Cape. Five miles in we stopped at the grocery store in Tignish to refuel. Within minutes a local man called Andrew had invited us to stay and we gratefully accepted. Our ‘short ride’ turned into a 60 mile day as a car had taken out a bridge on the coastal road and we had to ride an exaggerated detour around the disaster zone. Eventually we turned up at Andrew’s house and were warmly greeted by his daughter and wife.

Andrew was also hosting a Welsh couple (Howard and Pauline) who were travelling around PEI delivering sermons at Gospel Halls. We all feasted on an amazing home cooked meal and then attended the service that Howard was delivering. The next day we felt the full benefit of the prevailing northwesterly winds, as we got blown down highway 2 towards Summerside. By noon we’d cycled 40 miles and took an early lunch in the oceanfront park. Within no time we had met Susan, a local Warm Showers host. Susan was walking her dog, killing time while waiting for her friends Jane and Dennis to return from a training ride for their upcoming Trans Canada cycle ride. She joked how they’d love to have met us and we thought it was a shame we hadn’t met as we cycled off to find a washroom. We parked our bikes up and Jane and Dennis happened to return from their ride. Within no time, they offered us a place to stay in return for tips and stories about our ride across Canada. We were all convinced we had the better end of the deal and gladly accepted the invitation!

Jane and Dennis live in an amazing house they converted from a boatshed a few years ago. Jane makes stunning leather bags by hand and Dennis has an awesome woodworking studio where he crafts incredible spoons, bowls and salad servers. We had a great time exchanging kit tips and route ideas, and we left the next day fuelled by an evening BBQ and breakfast burritos.

The ride down to the Confederation Bridge was short but scenic. Sadly you can’t cycle over the epic 8 mile long construction, so you have to pay to be shuttled over in a pickup. It works well but seems a bit of a con when your stuff is just chucked in the back of a maintenance truck along with traffic cones, buckets etc. The truck dropped us off at Cape Jourimain Nature Centre and moments later we were swerving debris from a car that had hit the dead moose on the side of the road. Unfortunately this was our second moose roadkill we’ve seen this trip – the first was in California – but we’re still hoping we’ll see one of these magnificent creatures alive in northern New Brunswick or Quebec.

We started our second stint in New Brunswick following the Acadian Costal Drive. Thankfully the road is pretty flat, unlike most coastal drives we’ve followed, which is lucky as the prevailing headwinds continue to be northwesterly; exactly the direction we’re heading. Our day ended in Cap-Pele where we’re currently staying with a Dutch couple Philippa and Robert who live in an incredible house with an acre of land bursting with flowers, herbs and artistic creations. Ties met Philippa on the Facebook group ‘Dutch Women abroad’ and we’re now enjoying a days’ rest, eating delicious food and hanging with new friends before we pedal north into the headwinds once more.