612. Wednesday 16th and Thursday 17th May 2018. North coast of PEI and a lay day…


Wednesday 16th May

The sun was up when I woke so decided to step outside to feel the sun on my face. It was a case of one small step for Donnis, one small step for me and one giant leap back into the house. It was still cold despite how it looked through the windows.

Today we started on Highway 2 which basically divides the island into a north half and a south half. We turned off to head through the town of Kensington which is like many other communities, villages and towns on the island. You sort of take a step back in time as far as some of the houses are concerned. Some houses and sheds on the outskirts of town are in various stages of collapse. There is no one reason for the collapse but often it is the foundations and basement being on unsuitable moist ground which eventually sinks as does one side of the house. There can be no arresting this decline . Another reason seems to be early barns and houses used unsuitable timber to span a long roof area. After awhile the soft timber sags from moisture seeping through old cedar roof shingles and the roof slowly caves in. In our drives we have seen many examples of collapsing buildings in every town or village or on the farmhouse properties.

First stop was at Kensington where bakery shops abound.  I mention bakeries because we made the mistake of stopping here to buy some gluten free bake items for Alecia…and me. They do not bake gluten free but a pack of cinnamon scrolls caught Donnis attention as did some coconut chocolate macaroons for Alecia. I was intrigued by their cheese biscuits which is basically an Australia scone only less fluffy and a bit crispier.

The railway ran through here once upon a time but came to a stop in 1969. The station house, the third on this site in the brief 100 year history of rail travel in PEI. The third station house was built from field stone and is quite an impressive building. The station property was purchased privately, the line outside the building was left intact. The railway line into and out of Kensington has been removed as have the sleepers. The remaining gravel has been covered in crusher dust and the entire 470 Km line converted into the Confederation Trail walking track. The station house has been made into a popular pub. I wonder if it is open all year round?

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The old railway station at Kensington has been retained along with the railway line and sleepers. It has been turned into a pub.

After about 20 minutes we found ourselves in the Malpeque area specifically Darnley Basin a fishing harbour which today was almost full of empty lobster boats.

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The fishermen speak an interesting dialect as we found when visiting the harbour. It was too rough to venture out lobster fishing so had an opportunity to speak with them.

We stopped to talk with a couple of local fishermen who told us with the northerly blowing it was too rough and cold to go fishing.

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The boatharbour at Darnley has a collection of these old fishermens sheds. In their own way they are colourful and intriguing

One fisherman pointed he was wearing 5 layers of clothing to keep warm. Listening to the fishermen and their local dialects it was like listening to a North Dakota conversation from the movie Fargo.

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The lighthouse at Darnley

Moving along we drove into New London.

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The lighthouse in New London (actually one of a pair known as front and back ligthouses) This one is set just behind the sandhills in a swampy area with bulrushes growing around.

At this point I should mention the entire island is a convoluted series of bays, headlands and tributaries. Literally there are thousands of twists and turns in the coastline.

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A lobster boat comes home at New London.

It is easy to get lost as many sealed roads turn into dirt roads then bumpy tracks and eventually goat tracks leading nowhere or at least nowhere the car could go. Let me hasten to add we were never lost. Several times we were not lost but we did see some amazing scenery. At the risk of repeating myself many buildings are old and in a state of collapse. Many are old and badly needing maintenance. Many are old and moving past being restored by maintenance. Mixed in amongst these tumble down properties are the marina and harbour buildings mostly still closed and I wondered how they manage to still stay erect. In fact with my marine insurance background I wonder how they get their insurance renewed each year. Or do they?

We descended a hill and crossed a bridge into New London and found a dining place which was open.

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A glass of wine while waiting fo lunch and enjoying the view. It was cold and windy outside.

The SouWest Bar and Grill specialises in seafood and beer.

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This a popular bear on PEI. They also make a beer called Radler which is a light beer of 4% alcohol plus a mix of citrus juices. It sounds pretty gruesome to mix fruit juice and beer but I tasted it…reluctantly. Actually its not bad tasting. I might even look for something similar when we return to Australia.


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We had a delightful lunch at Sou West Bar and Grill at New London.

Mostly they serve mussels done a dozen different ways including by the bucket…with chips of course.

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Waiting for lunch at Sou West.

Donnis and I had the Seafood Chowder which included lobster, mussels, oysters and scallops amongst other things. Alecia opted for a lobster roll which is served in a gluten free bun. The normally wonderful view was still on display but all from inside . It was simply too cold and windy to sit on the deck.

Around here the main fishing is all about lobster and mussels. Some fishermen still catch Bluefin tuna or other pelagic species but marine fishing regulations make it too difficult to comply for all but a few fishermen. We saw quite a few oyster and or mussel farms in the many tight bays.

The more coastline we saw the more lighthouses which caught our attention. I thought maybe there are too many lighthouses to see. Then again, maybe not.

From here we went to the Cavendish Beach area which is inside a Canada Parks area which normally has an entry fee. At the moment the park is technically closed while open season rolls towards us. Today several workmen are building a new fee collection station so we rolled on passed them. The north coast, particularly here at Cavendish is open to the north. Apart from Newfoundland and Labrador to the north the next northerly stop is the Arctic circle. That means all the bitter cold northerly winds have free access to this coastline. This is the first time I have seen surf while on PEI and the first time I have seen sand which is not quite blood red.

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Cavendish Beach

Further along the parkway road the usual red soil comes back and the erosion is plain to see especially in one part of the cliffs where the sea has tunnelled an opening through the headland.

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Showing the erosion at CAvendish which is typical of most of the coastline at PEI.

Our last stop on the north coast drive was North Rustico and the name seems to say it all.

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The harbour at Rustico

Most of the houses and businesses are rustic.

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At Rustico, all the houses we saw were closed or boarded closed waiting for the end of winter. On our visit winter has not left.. Notice the effects of time and climate on the pint on the walls.
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House in early stages of collapse at Rustico.
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Lighthouse and lighthouse style house at the Rustico Harbour.

In fact some have gone beyond rustic. The wharves, jetties and decking are badly in need repairs but I guess nothing will start until the tourist season.

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THe buidings look nice from a distance but up close they show the signs of wear and tear due to the harsh climate plus saltwater tides and prolific marine growth.
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A shop right on the harbour also showing the effects of time, tide and weather conditions.
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There were lots of old caravans near the harbour which are obviously used as a summer accommodation.

It was here we saw the skull of a whale beached here in 1927.

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With a bit of patience you can see this is the skull of a whale. What happened to the rest of the body? Perhaps the harbour or the beach was different in 1927 as I puzzled why it was so high above the water line in the dune area.
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Funny sign especially at the time of our visit. All the shops around the harbour were closed. We were the only people we saw during our visit. Nearby, none of the houses have a fence. When we walked to the beach we could never be sure if we were on a vacant block or in somebody’s yard.

On our way home we were thankfull Alecia was driving as Donnis and I snoozed off and on.

For dinner tonight it was lobster and scallops. I know its tough work but somebody has to do it.

Thursday 17th May

Today is a lay day. That is, we do not have any trips planned and have to do a few domestic chores.

Donnis and Alecia went shopping for groceries and other goodies for our trip to  Refrigerator Freezer umm no, that should read, Nova Scotia tomorrow. They dropped me at WalMart to explore. I have to say thank you to my friend Graham who lent me a warm coat. Since arriving not a day has gone by without me wearing it. Perhaps I should have invested in a coat before I left. I did bring a pair of long johns which I am sure I will need in coming days and weeks.

We stopped at a coffee shop called Samuels for a light lunch. Donnis and I shared a curried sweet potato soup accompanied by a lobster and coleslaw on rye. The additional good news is they serve real espresso coffee. Bliss!

Dinner was the remaining scallops and lobster.


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