Having exhausted ourselves, and ruined our hearing, at the Big Red concert, and having nowhere to stay for the night, we consulted our pathetic, smart-phone sized map of the province in search of a nearby beach. PEI is tiny. And, obviously, an island. In some areas, it doesn’t take much over a half hour to get from one side north to the other, so our plan to drive from Charlottetown (on the south coast of PEI) to Brackley Beach (on the north coast), was not so absurd.
Of course, the half hour drive that the map said it would be was clearly meant for people who were driving perhaps in the day light, people who had not spent eight hours getting their brains blasted in the sun, and who were perhaps departing from Charlottetown before 11pm. No matter. We pressed on. The roads were empty, the night was calm, the music was blasting – all was well. We even managed to find parking, and other vehicles, clearly it was a good night for beach camping for everyone. Unlike those sensible people, we did not have a tent. Or mats to put under our sleeping bag. Or bug spray. But, undeterred, we found a spot on the beach (not in the bog that we inadvertently waded into in the pitch night trying to find the beach), set up our pathetic camp, and stared up into the most perfectly clear night. Rachel announced she had never seen so many stars, and – more alarmingly – she had never seen fireflies. She, the girl of the tiny town. The well-lit tiny town, apparently.
The lapping waves lulled us to sleep, and but for the tiny flies who thought we were dinner, it was perfection. Until we were rudely awoken by the sun at five in the morning.
Good news: the sunrise was perfect. The beach was empty. It was warm, and dry, and beautiful. The classic red sand of PEI was in our toes, and had between the sand and the sunburn, we were both tinged a humorous red.
Bad news: there was no place on our bodies that had not been bitten by flies. A rodent had discovered our stash of granola. We had no water left. And, because of the colour of the sand, combined with our painful sunburns, we were red.
But walking down the beach, admiring the dunes and washing our faces in the fresh Atlantic Ocean… I do believe it was the most perfect morning I have experienced in my twenty-something years. We drove off down a deserted road, stopping every so often to admire the sun coming up on the water. Big farmhouses dotted the fields surrounding us, and cows stopped chewing to gaze at us. The air was fresh, and we were happy. This is what we had imagined.
We found eggs and hash browns and french toast and coffee at a truck stop somewhere east of the beach. By the time the islanders were rising on that Sunday morning, we were already checking out a lighthouse – my first PEI lighthouse (we don’t have them out west…) – and sharing our travel tale with the woman tending the flower beds outside her house. We napped in the grass, drove some more, found ourselves in a pub in Montague and partook of the fish and chips. We had been given the name of a B&B owned by a friend of a friend, but after two hours of attempting to locate the thing, we gave up. From the parking lot of a church, I called various hostels to try to find us a room. I failed. Rachel, sensibly, avoided the disappointment and wandered the church’s meditation garden, where wooded trails, ponds, and gnomes abounded. Having established that there were no vacancies anywhere on the island, we got back on the road to Charlottetown, stopped for a supper of iced tea from a gas station, and found a room in a hotel on the outskirts of town. Although the waves were not lapping at our toes, there were also no bugs. I call that a win.