Friday, 25 July 2014

Braving the bugs

Saturday June 28th.  With the same name as my younger daughter, it was inevitable that my route wended via this small settlement on the Barra Strait ...
Temperatures have been hotting up, and in spite of an early start the sun was soon beating down.  And as you can see from the Shires fly mask Lady is wearing, with it returned the bugs. A little further down the road a car stopped and a genial man in a cowboy hat stepped out.  It was Hughie from my list of contacts. And rather to my glad surprise he informed me that the elusive Aaron had organised an overnight stay a convenient distance away in Estmere.  My hostess Georgina MaCleod was also a little surprised when Hughie phoned to inform her an itinerant Welshwoman was on her way, but took it all in her stride and even drove out to give me directions.
If you go down to the woods today.... may find this shifty character leaning up against a tree.   I still haven't seen a real bear in the woods, but perhaps it is just as well.

A scenic detour through Estmere...

....before being welcomed by Georgina at her lovely traditional clapboard farmhouse..
The bedroom was a haven and her rhubarb and strawberry pie was to die for!
During the summer months the Canadian Maritime Provinces are plagued by a wide spectrum of biting insects, including mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, deer flies and tiny biting sandflies (ceratopogonidae) which Georgina told me are called locally no-see-ums.  I had been warned about them, but had managed to avoid their worst excesses in Newfoundland. Now they were becoming more and more of an issue.  I initially tried tethering Lady outside, but the bugs were too troublesome, and she was obviously relieved to be led into a stall in the barn, where she was tied overnight with a large mangerful of hay.

But she was able to have an early morning graze the next day - note the lovely red barn.
Also keeping a horse in the barn was local journalist Anne Farries, who immediately got on the case of trying to identify accommodation for Lady.
Sunday June 29th. Riding to West Alba in the cool of the morning..
...but the temperatures soon soared and the bugs came out.  We avoided some of the midday heat with a pleasant lunch stop in a park beside the lake at Orangedale....
..shady grazing for Lady with a breeze to keep most of the bugs at bay, and a bandstand for me to relax in.  And there was a shop only a couple of hundred yards away.  Who should turn up here in support but Mike and Peggy.from Cabresto Ridge, as they have a cabin not too far away.
This turned out to be a longer day than expected as some of the small trails marked on my map were now defunct and I had to take a more roundabout route.
The sun beat down and the bugs descended again, so by the time I reached my intended destination of River Denys I was desperate to find an overnight barn for Lady who was becoming increasingly distressed by the nippers.  And I did not escape their attention as there were lumps on my neck and encrusted dried blood on my brow from black fly bites.  I searched fruitlessly and was almost in tears when I arrived at a house in the woods belonging to German couple Willi and Anita. Without a word Willi immediately beckoned me over to a large barn which served as his garage cum workshop, and we led Lady inside.  Willi cleared a space among the work materials and within a few minutes Lady had calmed down and relaxed ("And so did you!"commented Willi later) in her unusual stable.
A journey like this is always full of ups and downs, and this episode demonstrated how the random kindness of strangers can turn a miserable experience into a delightful one, as I also had a enjoyable evening with Willi and Anita enlivened by a glass of German liqueur! ..
As the grazing was sparse and the bugs unremitting, Lady dined on a leftover banana I had in my saddle bag and some stale bread provided by my hosts (retired bakers!) and soaked in water, and on Monday morning I paused down the road soon after sunrise to graze her in the garden of an unoccupied house. 
Even at this hour the mosquitoes were beginning to be a nuisance, though a liberal application of insect repellent helped to keep them at bay.
 I experienced more Cape Breton goodwill when I stopped at West Bay Road in the hope of finding some refreshment. No shop or café, but friendly Post Office ladies Ruth and Rosemary made me a cup of coffee and even nobly insisted on sharing their packed lunches with me (though Lady scoffed the banana)
And as I was trudging along in the sweltering heat further down the road a pickup pulled up and I found myself being offered iced water (refreshingly cold) and iced cake (sickly sweet) by John, who had heard of me in the Post Office and had decided to make sure I did not die of thirst or starvation on my way to Port Hawkesbury.  
I had heard conflicting reports of the existence of a riding centre with a barn there, and found community riding club stables indeed existed conveniently on my route into town.
As you may deduce by the clue in the photo, the club stables are run side by side with a racing stables for pacers which boasts a small but well kept practice race track.  In spite of the fact that I had turned up unannounced out of the blue, club member Michelle dashed up to sort Lady out with a spacious loose box and feed, and then very generously took me home to shower, eat and sleep.  Many thanks to her and partner Kevin.  Unfortunately no photo as she was too camera shy!

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