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August 7th, 2013 | Canada

Prince Edward Island…

Prince Edward Island, or just P.E.I., as it is most often referred to, is Canada’s smallest province, both in area and population. It lies cradled between three other provinces; to the west by New Brunswick province, to the south by Nova Scotia; and to the east by Cape Breton Island, and is separated from all three, by the Northumberland Strait.

Ode to Prince Edward Islanders...

Ode to Prince Edward Islanders…

This relatively small island’s rich soil, accounts for 25% of Canada’s potato production, and forms the backbone of PEI’s economy. With a population of only a little over 140 000 people, you are never going to experience any “bustle” on PEI… The roads are generally quiet, their surfaces as good as any you’ll find on the mainland, and when the weather is good, makes for the perfect outing by bike…

In summer, it is a popular destination for bikers, who use both methods of getting onto and back off the island when touring Canada’s eastern provinces. You can ride onto PEI using the Confederation Bridge, where you only pay to leave the island from, and then take the ferry from Wood Island Harbour in the south-east, across the strait to Caribou in Nova Scotia. The cost for a bike and rider is about $100.00…

Apart from the sight of vast swathes of potato plant, we also came across fields of Canola and maize...

Apart from the sight of vast swathes of potato plant, we also came across fields of Canola and maize…

The island is covered in rolling green hills, much of it given over to farming, which I guess accounts for the slower pace and general relaxed attitude I felt throughout my stay. Tourists come here to experience the peace and quiet of the countryside, renting bicycles and taking on the long cycle trails that have been laid out from one end of the island to the other…

The coastline also attracts visitors to some of the best beaches in Canada, and long walks taken along red sandstone cliffs, through salt water marshes and around the many small bay and natural harbours, keeps them coming back year after year… Or should I say, summer after summer, because just like most other provinces in this part of Canada, PEI is covered in snow for much of the winter.

Patricia and I smiled to each other as we came upon this place at Rustico Harbour. We had been married at a place with the same name on Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Patricia and I smiled to each other as we came upon this place at Rustico Harbour. We had been married at a place with the same name on Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

With the wedding festivities behind us, and before the family dispersed back to their homes in the USA, Patricia and I joined Donna and Mimi on a short tour of the northern shores of the island. The weather was the best on the day we drove out, but in places the sun shone through and still made for an enjoyable day out.

Blueberry Pumphouse Ale, a beer I actually came to enjoy...

Blueberry Pumphouse Ale, a beer I actually came to enjoy…

 It took four of us to get to the bottom of this huge bowl of fresh mussels...

It took four of us to get to the bottom of this huge bowl of fresh mussells…

We headed north out of Charlottetown on what is known as the Blue Heron Coastal Drive, and followed the shoreline through the lush green countryside, all the way west to North Rustico Harbour, where we sat down to lunch, just moments before a rain-squall passed over us.

It rained on and off for the rest of the afternoon, canceling our plans to find a beach to swim at and relax on, and sending us scuttling back to the house we were now sharing with Sally and Richard.

The beautiful, two-storey historical home, was situated out on the tongue of land, that juts out into Hillsborough Bay, about 20 km south of Charlottetown. This would be our base for the remainder of our stay on the island, and on winding country roads, through potato fields and dairy farms, Charlottetown was an interesting and short ride away… We made this ride often, as Patricia had very quickly discovered where the yoga studio was located…

Rustico Harbour Lighthouse, still functioning today, having been built in 1899.

Rustico Harbour Lighthouse, still functioning today, having been built in 1899.

While we ate at sidewalk cafes, tourists passed us in horse drawn carriages, touring the historical sights of Charlottetown.

While we ate at sidewalk cafes, tourists passed us in horse-drawn carriages, touring the historical sites of Charlottetown.

I would take her into town on the Big Fella, and while she took a class, I would explore the areas to the north and west of Charlottetown. Afterwards, we took strolls through the area near the harbor, and ate at sidewalk cafes, enjoying the un-hurried pace of life around us…

It was during this time that we began making plans to spend an extended period of time down in Georgia, as I was still negotiating the details of job offers from back home, and wasn’t quite sure where exactly I wanted to settle once we returned.

Or they took the Hippo Bus, which surged out of the waters of the harbour nearby and drove on to other landlocked sights of interest...

Or they took the Hippo Bus, which surged out of the waters of the harbour nearby and drove on to other landlocked sites of interest…

We figured that it would be best for us to stay in the USA until later in the year, and make a fresh start in South Africa in January…

Contrary to popular belief, my middle name is not Rockefeller, so during this period, one of us would have to work !! This onerous task would have to be filled by the ever-willing Patricia, as my visa did not allow for work related opportunities in the USA…

Patricia made a few calls to friends in Georgia and within a few days had confirmed a teaching position on Sea Island. “Knowing” that I would have another 90 days to stay in the USA after my return from Canada, we put our concerns about our imminent move to South Africa on hold, and instead talked about the things we could accomplish down in Georgia, before the end of November…

When Patricia wasn't chatting up strangers...

When Patricia wasn’t chatting up strangers…

 ...she was talking to Tuna...

…she was talking to Tuna…

We spent our last day together on PEI, taking a long ride on the Big Fella. We left the house early in the morning and headed out on a big loop that would cover most of the eastern part of the island.

The Heritage House which was rented by Sally and Richard, and where Patricia and I moved to after the wedding...

The Heritage House which was rented by Sally and Richard, and where Patricia and I moved to after the wedding…

Our first stop was at the Wood Islands ferry terminal, where I wanted to check on the sailing schedules to Caribou in Nova Scotia. We had breakfast at the little diner in the harbor, while I tried to figure which sailing would suit me best. Patricia would be heading back to Maine the following day, while I was heading to Cape Breton and Newfoundland, and would meet up with her in New Jersey in a few weeks time, and then head to Brunswick in Georgia.

From Wood Island, we rode along the coast, passing through Little Sands and High Bank, to Guernsey Cove, where we cut across the peninsula to Murray Harbour, and from there to the touristy town of Murray River. We were finding that the eastern part of the island was far prettier than the windswept western side had been a few days earlier. The weather was perfect, although it was a little chilly being on the bike…

From Murray River, we took the road leading directly to Montague, and from there to Cardigan and Dundas, along a beautiful country road, free of traffic. As we rode, we pointed out things of interest to each other, and my face wore a happy smile at the thought of Patricia sitting up behind me, and enjoying the ride…

I often dropped my left hand and squeezed her left knee to indicate how much I enjoyed having her with me on the Big Fella. She would wrap her arms around my chest and hug me in response… My smile got even wider !!

Souris Harbour, where the ferry leaves for the island of St. Madelaine, 134 km away...

Souris Harbour, where the ferry leaves for the island of St. Madelaine, 134 km away…

We were desperate to find a beach where we could relax and swim at, so skipped some of the coastline and headed for the town of Souris, where we stopped to look at the lighthouse there and take some photos of the harbor. We were told that the best beach along this part of the coast was at Basin Head. It had recently been voted as the best beach in Canada, and along with the other white sands beach at Red Point, was our best option…

The ubiquitous square, pyramidal wooden Canadian  lighthouse at Souris...

The ubiquitous square, pyramidal wooden Canadian lighthouse at Souris…

Many of the beaches on PEI are made of red sand, which I had found to be more mud than sand.  It was by now mid-afternoon, and we still had a number of places we wanted to see after our trip to the beach, so we picked up the pace, and rode quickly through the villages of Chepstow, Little Harbour and Red Point, to Kingsboro, where we took the turn-of down to Basin Head Beach…

Basin Head Beach near Kingsboro. We were not the first to arrive...

Basin Head Beach near Kingsboro. We were not the first to arrive…

The parking area was filled with hundreds of vehicles, the beach was crowded from one end to the other, but we managed to find an open spot and went directly into the water for a swim. It was cold, but not as cold as Montauk on Long Island had been.. We took a long stroll along the shore, then headed back to where we had left our bags and prepared to continue our ride.

The white silica sand found at Basin Head is unique to this part of the coastline of Prince Edward, and the sand grains cause a scrubbing noise as they rub against each other when walked on, and are known by locals as the “singing sands”.

Patricia has an impromptu yoga session on the Singing Sands of Basin Head...

Patricia has an impromptu yoga session on the Singing Sands of Basin Head…

We stopped to watch people jumping off the wooden bridge and into the river which carried them out onto the beach. Had we spent the day there, no doubt Patricia and I would have taken a few turns ourselves…

Bridge jumpers at Basin Head. It looked like fun. Once in the water, the river washes you out to sea, onto a shallow sand bank, where you can then clamber back onto the shire and take another turn at jumping off the bridge...

Bridge jumpers at Basin Head. It looked like fun. Once in the water, the river washes you out to sea, onto a shallow sand bank, where you can then clamber back onto the shire and take another turn at jumping off the bridge…

From Basin head we rode to the most eastern tip of the island, to where the East Point lighthouse is situated, a popular tourist destination and a beautiful spot to visit.

We spent some time taking photos and checking out the little curio shop, where “Sea Glass” (pieces of glass washed up onto the shore) sold for $5.00 a piece !! This part of the island was known for the odd bit of piracy and smuggling in days of yore, and I saw a few interesting signs with a Pirate Theme that I thought were quite funny.

One said: “PIRACY : It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye !” and another which really got me giggling because it reminded me of my days in the army, “Beatings will continue until Morale improves !”…

East Point Lighthouse...

East Point Lighthouse…

The Big Fella waits patiemtly while Patricia figures out if she need her jacket or not...

The Big Fella waits patiently while Patricia figures out if she need her jacket or not…

The Red Sandstone Cliffs of the eastern coastline...

The Red Sandstone Cliffs of the eastern coastline…

From East Point, we followed the coastal road to Campbell’s Cove and on to Priest Pond and rock Barra. It was there we saw a sign for the Prince Edward Distillery near Hermansville, and decided to stop there and take the short tour on offer. The fact that it included a tasting of five or six of the liquors distilled there had nothing to do with our decision…

We felt a visit to the ditellery was a must. The cold wind that had sprung up required some medicinal remedies...

We felt a visit to the distillery was a must. The cold wind that had sprung up required some medicinal remedies…

We spent a pleasant hour there, chatting to the tour guide who just happened to own a 1200 GS himself, while sipping on gin, vodka, whisky and rum… I never felt the cold wind that sprang up on the way home…

We were shown the various processes that potatoes are put through to make the purest vodka...

We were shown the various processes that potatoes are put through to make the purest vodka…

Raw material and finished product on display...

Raw material and finished product on display…

"One barrel or two, Honey...??"... "Just the one, Dear, we're on the bike remember...!!"

“One barrel or two, Honey…??”… “Just the one, Dear, we’re on the bike remember…!!”

 ...and occasionally roasted or in the form of fries...!!

…and occasionally roasted or in the form of fries…!!

 It does...!!

It does…!!

Couldn't agree more...

Couldn’t agree more…

We had skipped lunch in favour of sitting on the beach and taking the distillery tour, and by late afternoon, both Patricia and I were feeling rather peckish…

I had been eyeing the large bowl of Blueberries that were on display to show some of the many ingredients that went into making their Vodka’s and Gins, and it had taken an enormous amount of willpower to stop myself from snatching a handful, and cramming them into my mouth…

Even the raw potatoes were beginning to look good !! I was that hungry !!

Another one of the many funky t-shirts on sale at the distillery...

Another one of the many funky t-shirts on sale at the distillery…

Our guide advised us to try a local restaurant at Shipwreck Cove, where many of the locals apparently ate.

He gave us detailed instruction on how to get there and mentioned a “short-cut” that would save us a few kilometres…

We whizzed down the road, past Clear Springs and St. Margarets, took the turnoff which led down to the sea, and wound between fairly thick coastal forest… The road was cracked and patched in many places, and I was just beginning to wonder if this short cut would end in a dirt track somewhere, when out in the distance I saw the roofs of a few buildings that meant we were close to Shipwreck Point… Just before the little harbor, the road crossed a narrow, one-lane wooden bridge which must be the scene of quite a few accidents, as from its eastern approach, you cannot see any oncoming traffic until you are actually on the bridge itself !!The road comes around a sharp s-bend and when you look up, the bridge is only a few metres away and a good few metres above eye-level. It brings on one of those “OMG !!” moments that bikers sometimes have when you fly over a steep hill onto a very short unseen part of the road that ends in a very sharp turn to the left or right !!

With this bridge, there is no point in braking or stopping when you reach it, because if a car is coming the other way, you are not going to see each other at all, and he is going to hit you anyway !!

The narrow wooden bridge leading to Shipwreck Point... They should call this Car-wreck Point...

The narrow wooden bridge leading to Shipwreck Point… They should call this Car-wreck Point…

The Shipwreck Restaurant is a short distance further on and the parking lot was crowded when we arrived there. The food at the restaurant was a huge disappointment to Patricia (to me it was just food !!).

We had stood in a queue for half an hour, just to get into the restaurant, and then had to wait longer than usual to be served and finally get what we had ordered… Perhaps they were just too busy on this sunny day, but in the end , we were sorry that we did not ride on to St. Peters, a short distance away, and eat at the same place that Patricia and her sisters had enjoyed a meal a few days previously….

Might be ok for the locals, but we weren't impressed...

Might be ok for the locals, but we weren’t impressed…

We had to stop at St. Peters to refuel anyway, skirting the Bay of the same name, before continuing south-west to Morell and Mount Stewart, on the Hillsborough River. This, the largest river on the island, almost cuts PEI in half, flowing all the way through Charlottetown and into the Northumberland Strait.

We followed the river to where it crossed the long bridge into the city, and then cruised down the main street until we rejoined the highway that would take us out towards Cornwall and Meadow Bank, across the West River to New Dominion and Rocky Point. By now I knew all the bends and kinks in this country road and for a moment forgot that I had Patricia on board, and gave the throttle a good twist to take the Big Fella flying through a few corners…

She quickly reminded me she was there by clamping down on my shoulder muscles with enough force to make me cry out in pain !! Needless to say, the last stretch of our ride to Cumberland was taken at a sedate pace…

We enjoyed a last supper with Sally and Richard, as we were all leaving the following morning. I decided to take the cheaper option for leaving the Island, by using the Confederation Bridge, and paying the $19.50 toll, than the $100 it would have cost to take the ferry. I wanted to ride the Sunrise Trail again anyway, and see some of the places I had missed out on, on my way onto Prince Edward Island the week before…

There was something different about the shadow that chased us home that day...!!

There was something different about the shadow that chased us home that day…!!

I packed my gear onto the bike that same evening, and spent a quiet few hours chatting to Patricia about our plans for the next few months… The weight of having to return to South Africa in the very near future was off my shoulders, and I could now concentrate on planning my ride to Cape Breton, Newfoundland and perhaps even Labrador…

I was finding it more and more difficult to leave her on her own while I enjoyed the guilty pleasures of the long distance riding I had come to enjoy so much… I took a little heart that this did give Patricia time to spend with her family, who once she had left for South Africa, would probably not see her again for another year at least…

Still, being apart was sitting less and less comfortable with me, and if anything, at times I felt pangs of loneliness which I had not experienced for a long, long time…

Apparently, being married to a woman you love to bits, will do that sort of thing to you !!

©GBWT 2013

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