Ingonish NS, Mile 3014

We awoke to a million dollar view this morning. The sun had risen over the headland down the coast and the sea was flat and creamy blue.

Meat Cove was nice when it was overcast, but in the sunshine it was gorgeous. Looking down the slope below us the other campers were sitting and admiring the golden morning. We had breakfast at our table outside looking over the sea and wouldn’t you know it, (drum roll here) WE SAW SOME WHALES! A pod of about ten pilot whales rolling and diving along in a tight group. They would dive simultaneously and come up thirty seconds later with little white bursts of waterspout.

Chris had told us about the path up the headland on the other side and we found the trailhead a little further up the road. It was a steep climb through woodland, before it opened into grassy meadow on a steep ridge up to the summit. It was quite a pinnacle up there and P and I both felt wobbly watching Tom skip about completely unconcerned by the drop on either side of him.

Just offshore we could see the whales again – and hear them when they came up for air; little whooshing noises like someone blowing through a hosepipe. While we watched, an eagle suddenly soared up from the cliffs below us and flew over our heads, no more than thirty feet away. Tom was more thrilled by that than seeing the whales I think.

On our way back down Tom suddenly stopped and asked “what’s that smell”. It was distinctly moosey and we saw fresh tracks in the mud that weren’t there on our way up. There was no other sign of the beast itself though we stopped and listened. Its amazing that such big animals can also be quite invisible if they want to be.

Ok. Time to tear ourselves away from wonderful Meat Cove. That meant navigating out of the campground up a steep gravel and grass rise and onto the gravel road. It was steep enough that grinding Harv’s rear ed into the dirt was a distinct possibility and to make matters worse there were a number of sightseers who were clearly interested in our aged motorhome, but more interested in whether we were going to make it out of our site. Harv has just started making a bit of belt squeal when cold too and I hate the thought of people nodding knowingly and dismissing Harv as just one more old banger. So, I let the engine warm up a bit, low gear, a gentle three point turn to get the angle right and up and over we went with only the meerest hint of Harv’s tail skidding on the grass and just the tiniest bit of belt squeal. I will have to sort that out though, its embarrassing.

The gravel road was perhaps more terrifying going back as we now had to go up the steepest bits, rather than go slowly down them. Harv’s not so keen on the steep corrugated gravel slopes being front wheel drive. The choice is to drive slowly to minimise the bumps but risk losing traction, or drive fast to get up the hill but risk crashing into potholes. I gritted Harvey’s teeth and roared up the hills, slaloming between the bumps, enjoying the wide-eyed terror of the oncoming drivers.

After four days of “dry camping” we needed to empty the holding tank and fill up with water, which we did at a nice little campsite back on the good road. The owner, a round-faced man with a walrus moustache saw us parked across from his office and said we were the second GMC to come in this year. He knew all about them and we talked big engines and pneumatic suspension for a bit until Philippa arrived and we changed the subject to the shellfish he was selling. We bought a small steamed lobster and half a King crab for lunch.

Further south was a good swimming beach with a car park which we pulled into, and pulled straight out of. It seemed that most of Nova Scotia had the same idea and the beach was standing room only. The sea looked like some kind of ferry disaster – a tangle of bodies being hurled around in the waves. Less than a mile further on was another car park, with three cars in it and another great stretch of coast. No sand here, but no crowds either and we had crab and lobster sandwiches watching the big waves crashing in.

There was something else coming in too; a large black and white lump of something entering the mouth of the bay. It took a long time to get closer but when it did I could see through the binoculars that it was something dead. We could see the people on the busy beach around the cove begin to notice it too and eventually a few people swam out to get a look at it. It had obviously been dead for some time and appeared to be on its back – probably a pilot whale like the ones we had been watching in the morning. As it got closer, people came out of the surf and joined the rows on the beach looking out to sea, arms crossed and apprehensive.

The whale was pushed ever closer towards the sand and the ranks of onlookers but at the last minute it veered off towards the rocks at the side of the beach. People in bright beachware crowded around to watch as it was lifted and thrown by the waves; into the rocks then out again, until it eventually lodged. The waves made it look alive as it flopped and rolled in the water. Even through the binoculars I could tell that people were somber about it. There is a macabre fascination with a dead whale. Few people want to see one actually die, but everyone wants to see one when its already dead.

The drama played out, we hit the road again and dipped back into the National Park. This campsite is quiet and pleasant and clean and tidy and, to be honest, rather boring compared to last night. What wouldn’t be? Sitting in this spot and writing last night I was intensely aware of being at the top of a steep green slope sweeping down into the sea. The atmosphere of your surroundings always changes the atmosphere of your living space somehow. Tonight that crackle of electricity has gone and our little sitting room is back to normal. Peaceful and quiet.

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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