Out of all places I travelled to within this nearly one month trip, Chéticamp offers the most unexpected journey indeed. Many things didn’t actually go as I planned, but at the end of the day, I realized that those are all the facts that made this journey very remarkable. And still, that shifting plans do not change the fact that this small town located just outside the entrance of the Cape Breton National Park is such a charm worth uncovering; with its bluish scene of the limitless Atlantic Ocean and the sparkling drops of goldish sun rays touching it, wildflowers of all magnificent summer hues that separates the ocean with a secret pedestrian road that I stumbled upon by chance, and of course the majestic green highlands on the other side of the road, surrounding the town with such splendid background.
That unexpected journey began when I arrived at my hostel in the Chéticamp Back Road, which only then I learned to have been a rather disguised route while all the other hostels are located on the main road. I found this place on Airbnb, and decided to book a room here right away simply because this was the cheapest option out of all places in town, and the owner actually guaranteed me that he could pick me up from Baddeck where all shuttle services stop, also arrange some day tours for me so I did not have to worry about not renting a car–even when everything was pretty distant from each other.
The listing did not have actual pictures of the interior even though it does display 62 pictures which mostly are just the exterior of the place, then pictures of some places surrounding the hostel, or some family pictures of the host’s. Nonetheless, the reviewers were all giving out 5 or 4 stars at least, and the comments were all very convincing so I thought I might as well just give it a try. After all, this is the only place that my budget seemed to agree with anyway!
At first I didn’t suspect anything when the reviews said about this place being “perfect for open-minded people” who want to experience some “different sort of adventure” and enjoy Chéticamp in the “best and most authentic way possible.” Those that I quoted from all the reviews seem to be such confident and selling taglines, so I thought this place must be really great, particularly for such price that is half of other accommodations in town.
And then the moment of truth came. To be very honest, I was surprised at the entire condition. There was not a single actual door except for wooden doors in the downstair washrooms; and even so they surprisingly did not even have locks. Hence sure enough if someone upstairs walks too exuberantly, those sliding doors will easily move and open because these two floors were only separated by wooden floors. There are only curtains separating all rooms including the upstairs bathroom where a bathtub is provided. I can’t really wonder who would like to use the bathtub anyway, when the only thing separating you from the main space that consists of living room, dining room, kitchen, and basically all other bedrooms are two sheets of cloths?
My room itself is basically a space consisting a single bed, and that’s all. With a small welcome mat and a single power outlet, also at the very least a window to let some sunshine in because otherwise the room is just extremely dark. And there’s no actual lamps in the house as well, except a pair of hanging lamps in the kitchen, and one in each downstairs bathrooms which only lighten the middle part of the washrooms, thus the toilets in the separated chambers are all dimmed. The other lighting source is some light strings, and bedroom lamp in the bigger bedrooms. I had to borrow an emergency lamp which did not even help at all to help me sleep at night because I could never sleep with the complete darkness.
As much as I wanted to complain about the fact that Zac, the owner, did not put actual photos on the listing, I felt challenged as well to spend four nights in such barn that is transformed into a hostel that is still under construction. Nevertheless, Zac is actually such a super kind-hearted and extremely friendly, not to mention outgoing and sociable person who would lift the worthiness of the place within seconds. I would say that while this place might not suit everyone’s needs for a rented room on Airbnb, this would be a real authentic pleasure for Couchsurfing purpose. But people sure need to make money, no?
And I still had to be thankful for the kitchen was fully equipped, the washrooms were all perfectly clean, the living room was spacious, and all the guests were all extremely nice. It was actually the only place in any place where I have ever rented a room, where I actually got a chance to enjoy some nice conversations with the fellow guests. Everyone greets each other and smiles to each other at the very least. I think it’s also because not everyone would “withstand” such place, but those who do are the kinds that are down-to-Earth enough to be bothered with casual conversations with people they know would likely not to meet again in the future.
Growing up as a perfectionist, I for sure had set up a list of daily itineraries which would only work if Zac was cooperating well enough from his side after promising me to bring me to some day tours upon my request. However, I was very unfortunate that he then said that all his vehicles were all screwed at the moment, and that he wouldn’t be able to do the promised tours with me. Which left me hanging because why else would I stay in such isolated town for four nights if it hadn’t been because of the tours?
And sure enough, it was very painful for a perfectionist who might as well suffer OCD to have their plans and expectations changed at the last moment without warnings. Nevertheless, the show must go on so with some forced creativity from my side, I still managed to get the best out of Cape Breton Island. Not entirely, but at least it’s still worth doing.
Also, it turns out that the town of Cheticamp actually has a couple of cab companies as well which would be able to take me back and forth to Baddeck and navigate around the city as well. So it wasn’t really necessary for me to have stayed in Zac’s place just because I was interested in additional service that he offered about giving me some rides around the town. But anyways, it was already too late to cancel the reservation and I would also like to give it a shot at the end of the day.
That was apparently a very wise decision that I did not figure out until my last night there (coming in the next post!). That day, I got real mad because none of my plans worked–and those weren’t even because of me myself. I called the cab early in the morning to drive me to the park entrance but he did not answer even after infinite numbers of missed calls, so I had to walk an hour under the sting sun ray only to find out that I have missed the hiking tour that I would like to join.
I tried walking into the trail for five minutes before I realized that walking alone in the middle of a forest where encounter of bears is a common thing might be the worst idea, so I walked back in hurry to the entrance until I realized that my favorite scarf had gone, probably somewhere in the trail while I was rushing back. I then waited for four hours for the park guide to come back after that hike because she told me she could facilitate me for another hike on afternoon, by reading a novel I just bought in the nearby bookstore which I knew for sure I wouldn’t finish anyway. All those until she came back and told me that she was assuming I had already left just because I didn’t reply her text for two minutes so she was going to do another program in the office instead.
I saw Nate Aucoin too, which seemed busy handling the special visitors on that day which he said to be from National Geographic the other day. I was going to say hi but I did not, and then I realized how terrible it was. That was my last glance ever of him, all of sudden I knew for sure that I’m going to miss the hike we had very much once I leave for good.
And of course, on top of all that the cab driver still wouldn’t answer my call in the afternoon, so I had to walk back home after accomplishing nothing. Tiresome and devastated, I crawled back to that old bed of Zac’s hostel.
That does not change the fact that the previous two days I had there had been real exciting though. A day full of amazing hikes and one other day of exploring downtown Cheticamp that is such a laid-back spot full of scenic hidden views of pretty beaches. So at the very least, I’m still trying to make up my mind and be thankful for what I had anyway.
After all, I’m in Nova Scotia, Canada’s one heaven of a hidden gem. What could be any wrong?