Our time on PEI has been short but very sweet, and longer than most!
It turns out that most people who cycle Trans-Canada don’t come to Prince Edward Island, or if they do they just do the 80km or so between the ferry and the bridge. Admittedly, this is what we had originally planned but (as has become our style) we decided to zig zag around and spend some more time exploring Canada’s smallest province. We also learnt that Charlottetown on PEI was the “birthplace” of confederation, so we thought it could be a cool place to spend Canada’s 150th birthday on 1st July.
We left New Glasgow early on Tuesday morning after a great rest/admin day getting lots of things ticked off our to-do list. Alasdair joined us for our cycle to Caribou, making a great opportunity for a bit of a photo shoot. Unfortunately I was feeling quite run down and cold-y, so have a smile missing from most of the pictures! It was another beautiful blue-on-blue day, and the crossing of the causeway to the cute town of Pictou was lovely. We passed a flock of Cormorants who were also enjoying the view, but were also unfortunately stinking out the bridge so we couldn’t stay for long. Pictou itself homes the replica of the Hector, the ship that the first Scots took to (what would become) Nova Scotia in 1773. It was mad to imagine over 200 people aboard, setting off to an unknown land… sadly mostly to escape religious prosecution back home.
We caught the ferry from Caribou over to Wood Islands and again I soaked in the blue on blue, enjoying the smooth crossing out on the deck. Once on PEI, we decided to pretty much head straight north to hit the coast. The roads are crazy straight, but not flat like we were promised they would be! Most of the land is rolling farms, which could explain the straight roads splitting the properties. The soil is an amazing colour of red, and the farms were so neat with rows and rows of crops. Apparently the colour comes from a high iron content so we wondered if this helps the famous PEI potatoes grow.
We stopped in Montague for a celebratory 1000km ice cream sundae before cycling on to St Peters to complete our first accidental almost 90km day. On the way, we saw a couple of members of the Amish community, one of whom was driving a horse and cart and looked quite surprised to see us! We happily arrived in St Peters and rolled around looking for a place to pitch our tents. We spotted a patch of grass next to the water and asked a lady who was hanging out her washing if she thought we could camp there. It turned out it was her land and she was happy to let us set up for the night. Anne ended up coming over a couple of times to chat and filled us in on local history including where we might find some distant relatives on the island. She later came over with cinammon buns for the morning, and showed us again that Canadians are a special breed of kindness. We had very warm hearts while we watched the beautiful sunset and settled down for the night.
We enjoyed a slow start on Wednesday, having coffee and breakfast in the community gazebo. After soaking up some WiFi from the tourist information centre, we started off our day by cycling along the confederation trail. It was a treat to be away from the road and cars, and a pleasure to be surrounded by green trees. We stopped in Morell for Kirsty to search out her McGuire ancestors, then again in Mount Steward for a greasy lunch. The trail began to get quite loose and deep gravel, so we both lost traction in our back wheels a couple of times. Turning off on to the route 6 coast road was really nice, especially as we came in to the national park so the potholes stopped and the green and the blue were intensified. The beach went on for miles and the sand was a golden brown, we stopped at the first opportunity but Kirsty to dip her feet, then again a few kilometers later for us both to have a snack and a nap. We still had 30km to go though, so didn’t stop for long.
It was another accidental almost 90km day, so we decided to spend the following day looking around and taking some time to soak in the coast and beautiful surroundings. Cavendish is where Anne of Green Gables was imagined and set, so we went to visit the house which inspired the stories. It was beautiful, but really busy and touristy (great for PEI, not great for me!) so I found a quiet spot to sit and soak up the sun and the hills while Kirsty wandered around. We then went to Cavendish beach which unfortunately was similar.. beautiful but busy. This was our first real experience of Canada tourism as the season is really just beginning, but I was keen to explore the area a bit more so I left Kirsty sleeping on the beach and cycled off on my own.
I headed off towards Oceanview national park, and as soon as I turned off the highway I was greeted with quiet and calm. I spotted a path down to the shore which didn’t have a parking lot next to it, so wandered down with my bike. A couple were just leaving, and I found I had this perfect little beach all to myself. The sea was calm and clear, and it was hard to believe the red rocks lining the shore hadn’t been designed and man made. I sat for almost an hour enjoying the calm, and couldn’t help but feel like my mum and my Uncle John had something to do with the perfection of the moment.
I cycled up and down the coast of the national park, soaking in the vista of the red rocks in the sunlight before heading home via picking up some chocolate to gorge on. We had dinner with Gary and Kathy, which was delicious fresh fish and chips. The rain was forecast to come in overnight, so Kathy invited us to sleep inside to avoid our tents getting wet and we eagerly accepted. The sunset was another beauty, so we tried to cycle down to the shore to catch it but unfortunately arrived about a minute too late. We still enjoyed the changing colours, and were feeling nice and revived on the cycle back. Unfortunately, I was enjoying biking without the bags a bit much, tried to go no-hands (“look Kirsty, no hands!”), and ended up having a faster speed crash than we’d experienced so far. I was also wearing shorts and flip flops, so had a nicely scraped knee and a pinky toe that is now at an interesting new angle. I iced it when we got back, and there’s no bruising now so I don’t think it’s broken.. and my toes have always been a little wonky anyway. (please ignore the old nail varnish/bruised nail combination, it is from the Kintyre Way Ultra rather than this particular incident…)
Friday brought a little change in weather and the wind and rain picked up just as we were setting off from Gary and Kathy’s. After 12km or so we stopped in New Glasgow (still on PEI!) at the PEI preserves for a second breakfast and some coffee. My toe only hurt occasionally while on the bike, and if I stayed unclipped from my cleats wasn’t too much of a bother. Our second breakfast was super delicious, and the preserves shop had samples of all their jams and relishes, so I had to pull myself away to make sure we would actually get somewhere by the end of the day. As it was still raining, we headed to the Garden of Hope centre, a hospice for islanders with cancer to go for restbite care. They have a butterfly house which you can go in and walk around or sit and have butterflys land on you. It was a little bit wonderful and the butterflys were beautiful…again, we didn’t want to leave.
We cycled on through the rain, knowing we had another warmshowers in our sights. We arrived in Bonshaw without passing a single shop to pick up some dinner, but arrived to an invitation from Marion and Tony to share their meal with them. They also offered us their cabin to sleep in, again to prevent the tents from getting wet, so again we eagerly accepted. We are now worried we are going soft, so need to do some wild camping once we get to New Brunswick! Tony and Marion live close to the Trans-Canada highway, but it couldn’t feel further away. They have a beautiful, big garden where they grow their own vegetables, have a solar powered shower and the cabin we are in has a composting toilet and is surrounded by trees. They also have a river practically on their doorstep, and we were lucky to join them for a paddle in their Canadian canoes before dinner. Again, a little bit wonderful. After dinner, we went for a drive down to the Argyle shore on the south coast of PEI where the sand is even redder than on the North, before listening to Marion and Tony sing and play guitar.
And then it was Canada Day! Lots of people had told us how cool it would be in Charlottetown on Canada’s 150th birthday, so we were looking forward to the buzz of the celebration day. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but it was a lot lower key! We still managed to take in a musical which highlighted that although it is 150 years since the confederation, the land itself is much older and the natives and indigenous people should also be celebrated. We also watched a video about the confederation itself, and how the joining of the provinces came about. Other than that, we ate a lot of food, wandered around the harbour and watched some live music in the rain. The fireworks weren’t due until 10pm, so we decided to flag them and cycle back to Marion and Tony’s cabin in the woods. We were greeted with more music, including “Never tire of the road”, which rings true to us as we get ready to set off again in the morning.
Never tire of the road, never tire of the rolling wheel
Never tire of the ways of the world
Way out yonder is calling me, and the long road leads you onwards
And the highway that’s your home
And the rolling voice that you hear in your head says
Never tire of the road
It seems like it’s becoming cliche, but I have fallen in love again, this time with Canada’s smallest province. This island certainly has little bit of magic, and it feels like something has been lifted or lightened since being here. We’re now one month and 1240.1km in, and heading to our fourth province tomorrow! I wonder if I’ll fall in love there too…