Monday, 14 July 2014

..and Hello Nova Scotia!

...where Cape Breton hospitality kicked in immediately at Cabresto Ridge. Angela, Peggy and Mike provided a spacious stall for Lady and a comfortable base for me to rest and start planning the next leg, not to mention a couple of very convivial evenings.  Angela and mum Peggy in front of the barn ...

I was even able to take the opportunity do a little sightseeing when I spent a wet afternoon looking round Fort Louisbourg, built by the French in the first half of the eighteenth century when France was given Cape Breton (L'Ile Royalle) under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. It was subsequently taken and destroyed by British forces in 1758 after hostilities broke out between the two countries.  Interestingly Fort Louisbourg fell because its defences were essentially designed from attack by sea, whereas the British attacked overland.  Surprising then that British held Singapore fell to the Japanese in the Second World War for exactly the same reason!
The site was very impressive as there has been an extensive reconstruction of the original buildings within the fort complex, and what I thought would be a whistle stop tour of a small fort actually merited several hours visit.  Well worth a visit if you are ever in Cape Breton.
I also had a trip down to Truro to buy better saddlebags now that Lady is carrying all  my essentials, and called in with Rhonas Taylor, a Shetlander who runs Sumac Farm near Pictou. who was able to provide some useful advice and contacts.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Goodbye Newfoundland!

...but hopefully it will only be Au Revoir and not Farewell as I was made to feel as if it was a second home.    The help and hospitality I received while crossing The Rock was totally overwhelming, and I will treasure many precious memories of my time there.  Many many thanks to everyone who helped me on my way - I could not have done it without you!
Lady and me by the ferry harbour at Port aux Basques before boarding on Monday evening (photo by Gulf News reporter Brodie Thomas).
I had a lovely surprise on the ferry as John Carter's son Captain Colin Carter was captaining the ferry we were travelling on, and arranged for me to have a complimentary cabin.  It was the icing on the cake of my Newfoundland crossing success to find I had been given the owner's suite with shower, TV, sofa, double bed and view out over the prow, all of which I made good use of. 
Loving the towel bunny....
Lady waiting to set out after unloading in North Sydney the next morning...
We rode up to Cabresto Ridge Equestrian Centre at Coxheath , where I have been staying courtesy of Angela Mercer Penny for a couple of days while Lady has a rest and I plan the next leg.   Angela's parents Mike and Peggy have taken me into their home and have been spoiling me.    

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Solstice Success

Friday 20th June. Relaxed and pleasant ride along the beautiful Codroy valley to Doyles. (photo to follow)  I hope to include a couple of photos when I have worked out how to transfer them from my cell phone! 
About halfway I was approached by an elderly chap who was waiting on the side of the track.  Turned out he was Ralph Hilliard, a friend of Phil Taylor who sold Lady to me.  He lived nearby in Cape Anguille, and had come specially down to the rail bed to search us out....(photo to follow)

In Doyles I was being hosted by the Osmonds, not the Salt Lake City crowd but Carol's parents Harvey and Shirley.  A warm welcome awaited me, though my heart sank slightly when I saw the beautiful lawn where Lady was to be tethered, and I hoped she would not inflict too much damage pacing around.  We had an entertaining diversion when the neighbours called to say that Lady had escaped and was in the garden opposite -  the reason soon became clear!.....
She was quite enamoured of this black beauty, but at least I knew where I would find her if she slipped her tether again.
Saturday June 21st and the day that Lady and I reached our goal of Port aux Basques!   Another really beautiful ride, this time mainly along the coast.
Past St Andrews..
where I suppose it should come as no surprise to find ...

We reach Wreckhouse..
which has achieved dubious notoriety as the location with the highest winds in Newfoundland, not from the sea but sweeping down from the inland mountains, to the extent that railway carriages were blown off the track, and even today high sided vehicles are blown off the road.  Happily I was only blown away by the awesome mountain scenery cloaked in mist.
The Newfoundland Railway employed a gentleman known as McDougall who had an uncanny ability to forecast the wind conditions and advise the trains whether to run the gauntlet at Wreckhouse.  His house still stood until recently but is now gone, presumably wrecked.
What passes for a spruce tree at Wreckhouse...
More stunning coastal scenery - between sea and lagoon...
We made good time and reached the outskirts of Port aux Basques mid afternoon.  Gordon Mathews guided me through the suburbs to his red barn sited in a scenic position on a windy headland - this was Lady's hotel for the next couple of nights, and she could graze in the paddock outside during the day...
 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Ahoy there

Wdednesday June 17th and Ralph had decided to accompany me on his quad bike to my next destination at Jeffries, so off we set ....
Crossing the trestle at Fischers Brook...
A cup of tea at Robinson's somehow turned into a bottle of beer, so it was just as well that sea captain John Carter, a school friend of Cabot's who was hosting me for the night, turned up to pilot me in to his house at Jeffries.  A wonderful welcome from John and wife Elvira and as a result I completely forgot to take photos again.  John comes from a family with a long nautical tradition, and has twin sons both of whom are captains on the ferries from Newfoundland to the mainland!  I imagine if you can pilot a ship in Newfoundland waters, you can pilot one anywhere.
Lady was rather unsettled on her tether across the road and I knew I had a long day ahead so I made an early start the next morning.  John showed me the way back to the rail bed...
...and then it was a rather wet ride

 through some superb scenery..

I had originally planned to camp at Codroy Pond, but decided to push on to South Branch where Katie Miuse had arranged for me to stay with her parents Norm and Shirley, and I knew Lady would have a paddock there.  A good decision as Codroy Pond had more mosquitos than cabins, and the spacious paddock at the Muise household was grassy and insect free.  Lady was able to have a good rest and even a lie down, which meant I was also able to relax.  As a result I made late start the next morning as I knew she would be tethered in a garden at Doyles.  Unfortunately my camera battery gave up just before South Branch and I did not have enough room to carry my charger, so was unable to take photos, but watch this space for photos from Shirley!
 
 

We reach the French Shore

Monday June 15th. Woke from a deep sleep to a rainy day, so I was glad it was not too far to Stephenville and I could delay my start. A drizzly afternoon ride through forest and across barrens, sometimes accompanied by a small coterie of mosquitoes.
 They may not often see a horse in the small community of Black Duck, but you can be sure that they had never seen anything like this fashion show before...
Me modelling my retro fisherman's rain gear and 'Chinese' hat  and Lady sporting gothic fly mask with matching bovver boots.
Horse owner and Stephenville vet Jessica Boyd had offered accommodation, and came with her truck and trailer to pick us up from the rail bed and take us to her home in Port aux Port.  Lady had cosy quarters in the garden with some of Jessica's horses on the other side of the fence for company - her appaloosa mare and Newfoundland pony mare with foal..
 Jessica treated me to an Atlantic salmon dinner at a local restaurant - an excellent choice as I love salmon!
 Breakfast with Jess the following morning at her marvellous local coffee shop - another really good choice!
My personal groom prepares my steed for me back at the rail bed on Tuesday...
 
 Approaching the trestle bridge at Stephenville Crossing.  This once used to have a lift section at the centre to let boats pass, but this was washed away in winter storms.  The bridge is now closed and we had to use the road bridge alongside.
 
Riding along a pretty alder bush lined section on the other side, I noticed an ATV had pulled in ahead.  It was Ralph Falls who had offered to accommodate Lady in St Georges further along the coast. He had come to meet me, together with friends Jessie and Claude Brewer.  Ralph opted to walk with me the rest of the way, and took me by a beautiful scenic route along the shoreline..
Lady had an enormous grassy field with sea view and access to a barn awaiting her in St Georges..
 ...while Jessie was adamant that I stay with her and Claude in their lovely house looking over their field to the bay.

 Jessie and her Newfoundland pony....
After supper and drinks with friends (including Ralph and wife, and great character June who used to live in Singapore so we had plenty to talk about) Jessie took me for a stunning sunset drive along the beach in their four seater ATV -
Almost in the driving seat.. I am usually dodging these on the rail bed - note the dog in the back.
 The end of a perfect day...

Back to School

Sunday June 14th and I was woken at 4.30am by Lady stamping around.  The mosquitoes had arisen and were tucking into breakfast. So I tethered her within range of a good patch of grass I had saved for the morning, brewed up some tea, and packed up while the sun rose over the pond....
A depressing start to the day being followed by a cloud of mosquitoes through drizzle in the damp forest, but eventually the trail climbed higher and we left the nippers behind. Note that Lady is now sporting the ultimate in equine sartorial elegance, her Shires fly mask or mosquito mask in this instance....
 It was around here that we encountered a huge moose ahead on the track.  Unlike Albert who has a definite dislike of moose, I was pleased to find Lady relatively unconcerned.  But like the one that got away, the moose disappeared into the forest before I had time to extract my camera.
An idyllic ride along the shores of St Georges Lake - and yes it is a lake this time and not a pond....
 
 
The mosquitoes had started to nip again when we rode through the drizzle into the small two street community of Gallants. I had been grandly told the previous day that there was a hotel here, and was directed up the hill.   And indeed there was an imposing building looking out over a playing field...
 This was a bed and breakfast run in a converted former school by Mary and Melvin Locklyn.  There was a quiet secluded and relatively mosquito free spot in the trees behind where Lady settled down calmly to graze...
 
 .....while I went inside for tea, sandwich and much needed snooze before a hearty turkey supper with a glass of wine.  Mary and Melvin run the establishment on a casual basis as they do not like to be tied down to the business.  They don't advertise but will take people in who turn up while they are in residence. A much recommended option for anyone using the T'Railway.   
 Mary and Melvin in the basement - actually the former gym/assembly hall - you can just see the stage at the back.
 
  The wooden structure is a cabin Melvyn is building ready to re-assemble in situ.- the gym makes an ideal workshop!
 
 
 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Long Day

About to start from Pasadena on Friday June 13th (!) equipped with essentials for the next eight days of travel...
The cantle bag (at back of saddle) contains tent, mattress and my thermal jacket, the rear saddle bags my sleeping bag on one side, change of clothes, cooking gear and food on the other, the front bags personal belongings (diary, kindle, chargers) plus tethering rope, boots and miscellaneous small oddments.
Only small sections of the rail bed remained from here and we mainly rode along service roads.   Through a dairy farm where they tried to persuade me to stay the night......

 It did not take long to reach Steady Brook where the plan was to camp overnight before leaving at the crack of dawn to lead Lady along the two unavoidable miles of Trans Canada Highway before the fast traffic built up.  In the event I had left the fly mask I knew I would need somewhere deep in my truck, so Ruth and Kevin, my unpaid taxi service, drove the truck over and I was able to sleep in the back.
By 5.30am I was on the Highway with Lady and not a vehicle in sight  .....
...and it was not long before we had safely reached the turn off to Corner Brook, having encountered only twelve vehicles.
Through Corner Brook...
Only small sections of the rail bed remained along the hillside on the other side,,,,,
and it was not until we reached Petries that the trail began again in earnest.  It was here Lady and I stopped for a rest - a nice young man let her graze in his garden (hope his parents didn't mind) and fetched her a couple of buckets of water......
..while the sleep deprived and bleary eyed Brit was taken in by the nice lady in the house opposite for coffee and a sandwich.  If one thing is certain, I will never starve in Newfoundland.
As this was a residential area it was slow progress along the trail. Children rushed over to stroke Lady, and people stopped to chat. The opening gambit is invariably a variation on  "It's not often you see a horse around here", sometimes followed by "Aren't you that lady who is riding across Newfoundland."
The trail soon turned inland into the hilly and forested interior..
 
..although there were still quite a few ATVs on the trail.  In spite of often owning houses in idyllic positions, almost everyone in Newfoundland seems to have a cabin (or sometimes two!) tucked away in the woods, for hunting, fishing, partying or just relaxing.  The government sometimes auctions off blocks of wilderness lots cheaply, the deal being that you use it or lose it, and must build within two years.  The successful applicants are put in a draw to decide lots, the winner having first choice of lot, which will usually be overlooking a small lake (or pond as they call them here).
My destination for the day was Big Cook Pond, where several lots have just been developed to the west side along the rail bed.  I had been told there was a small beach to the south, and made camp there.  Unfortunately the mosquitoes had also made camp, but with no grass to speak of anywhere else I had no option but to stay there, even though they plagued Lady.  There was a constant stream of people down to enjoy the beach - fishing, canoeing and hanging out, and they also made contributions to my anti mosquito fire.
   Three young lads pointed out a beaver to me swimming around in the pond, but I am so blind it took me some time to see it.
It was well after dark before the mossies abated, Lady settled down a bit, and I got some fitful sleep.