Archive for July, 2014

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Scotland : The Isle of Skye part 2

July 28, 2014

Darling You

I have a couple of hours left on this beautiful island.

Aaah, sweet sorrow.

I must catch up on these tales for more are no doubt to come and should I get too behind….

How are you? Well? Happy? Busy? I am well.

If it was never winter in Scotland and if the government let me stay more than 90 days I think I would move here. It is so strikingly beautiful and I am well impressed. Why do not more people talk of these lands I roam? I have had a good week, mixed with the mellow and the adventure, sunshine and storms, mingling and solitude, stretching and lentils. I began the week with a visit to the Fairy Glen, which was indeed enchanting. I thought I’d best start taking some photos but do forgive me, I am not known as a photographer and am also using a busted phone so….

with that request for forgiveness…   image

I just found this this much truer photo at fairytaletraveler.files.wordpress   image It was on and off raining all day and I have this problem with the hood of my raincoat. I have a droopy left eye, and feel like I am a strangely disguised pirate with a patch. It is a little problematic and my already rough eyesight is being reduced to 50%. The sweet fairy glen are a collection of small, mossy, green, swirling hills, I think from glaciers (though I heard grazing sheep as a theory), and there were a few children clambering about having a gay old time. I hung out with the sheep and nibbled on shortbread. I ducked out of the rain and into the Uig hotel, where there was a collie behind the desk, and a flyer about a boat into the Cuillens sporting a picture of a puffin and a red deer. I wanted in.

I had a windy lunch on the step of this mini castle. image

 

The following day, Gavin of Flodigarry let me leave all my kit in the caravan at no charge while I headed to the southern part of the Island and to these famous Cuillen hills. I dropped my gear off at the hostel; pjs, a can of soup, last night’s lentil brew and Doc’s sloppy muesli a mere 6 hours before they allowed check-in but, thanks to a large Belgian crew, I was slipped the door code and snuck on in. I let the owners in on it though, frightened my pjs might disappear. I bought the soup just prior to the boots the previous day, in a healthy healthy store.

I wanted to go mad, for it was the first I’d seen of its kind since Christmas, but I breathed deeply and settled on cranberries and the soup. Haloumi was in my hot little hand but one girl can’t support both goat and haloumi so very, very reluctantly, I put it back.

The Uig hotel had printed me a bus timetable to add to my north and south Skye tables, but when I got to Broadford for the change, I discovered it was an hour out. An hour later out. I was to miss my boat, so I geared up to hitch the 20 miles to Elgor where the boats live. Lonely back roads are gems for hitching it seems, busy roads not so good.

There was Ross the geologist from Aberdeen who told me not to bother visiting, and a pair from Sheffield who had felt sorry for me. Their helmets lay at my feet and a big bit of driftwood beside me on the seat. The helmets were for when clambering up the gravelly part of the mountains, I forget what he called it. He pointed one out to me, madness. Like a ski run, made of gray gravel. And they were going up it. Madness. They’d like to move up here but he works close to home for Outward Bound and it was too good to give up. I did Outward Bound once. I was 14, and it was the first ever outdoor anything I’d no doubt done in my life, apart from a swim in the sea. With 15 other prissy little brats I remember we whined. Well, I whined, perhaps they were tougher. Doubt it though. We had to raft, abseil, cook, (did we??), and sleep under a piece of plastic they called a bivouac. I mostly remember our mockery of the guide because he wore the same pair of blue leggings the entire 10 days. You’d think we might have wondered a little about the trees and the birds, but I don’t think so. Some months later I was shipped off to the bush for an entire year. I was a good girl and I didn’t really deserve it, but it seems I came out alright, perhaps. I apologised to Mr Sheffield on behalf of all the little brats he must break in and thanked them for the ride.

I arrived as my boat was sailing (they came back in for me) and off into the Cuillens we went. They are quite a striking range, let it be said. And I asked the skipper about puffins to which he replied “St Kilda.” “Where’s that then?” I was the only lass on our voyage with a one-way ticket so I accepted their invitation to stay on board for a cuppa and some really fine shortbread. “Take another bit.” “Ok”. Best not to offer me more of this buttery gem, for I plan to roll out of this country. There was a nice Kiwi on her first day of the job and the skipper’s collie, of course.

After a raging river crossing, my shoes now in my pack beside last night’s spaghetti (I think I just discovered leek), I headed on up. It was all fairly gentle for I was on the cheat’s route, and I found a Danish family a little way up the hill with both mum and dad clutching gps machines. They led me to my path and told me of geocashing. Ever heard of it? Millions have. “Millions!” People leave little boxes “in a telephone box the size of your thumbnail, or under that rock over there,” inside which you find a piece of paper and sign it. A global treasure hunt, without the jewels. I want in. But I can’t read a map, and so I must let go of this short lived dream. Sounded fun though. Millions! They had had to circumnavigate the loch as the river I’d crossed had been too high. Perhaps it was still too high, it had been quite challenging.   image After reaching the top and down the other side, it was a good, rock hopping, stride along the belt of a long valley all along which I could see my destination 3 hours away. I met a few people as I strolled, most memorably the Japanese pair I bowed and “hajimemashite’d” to (how do you do?). I love the Japanese, they are perhaps the most interesting and odd of us all. I didn’t get an opportunity to sprout out my one other line, “o nomimono wa nani ni nasai masu ka”… as it might have been a little too weird given our meeting point. It is my very polite way to ask either what do you want to drink? or eat, I forget.

 

At one stage I heard this dreadful squealing behind me only to turn and see my first real life mountain biker. Stunned. I have never, ever. People do the most extraordinary things. It really did stop me dead in my tracks out there alone in the middle of nowhere with all those pebbles. The new shoes came in just in the nick of time. Puddles along the way and do you think I worried? Oh no, not me.   Made all the more wonderful thanks to the genius who placed all the rocks so perfectly. image

And by the way, the comb for this now very, very long hair of mine was to replace the teaspoon I’d used the previous evening. Long is a somewhat debatable description but, to need a comb? Long.

I dined on my canned organic bean soup and breakfasted on Doc’s awful muesli and, having carried all my stuff in a shoebag, life was good. No mates to speak of, for there was a large group that were a bit clicky and so I ran away.

I didn’t linger long down south as it was raining when I woke and the mountains invisible, so I headed home to Flodigarry. That afternoon I was headed to Joss’ healing loch a few miles down the track (another of the “most beautiful, remarkable and incredible things” she’d ever seen) but the bus cruised past en route and I ended up at this Old Man of Stoor instead. It began raining again as I started up and I was almost blown off the hill. Good man, made it all the more exhilarating. He is a large stone sticking up amongst other large stones. And the highest of his kind around here. Scientific explanations and descriptions are not my strong suit, I’ll get back to you with a wikipedia link one day.

Yesterday morning I was double-bus headed to the Dunvegan Castle but spotted more postcards in the post office sending me off piste again. “Where is this?” I pointed to my postcard of Neist Point as I paid for the stamps. Same bus as the castle, 23 miles from the nearest last stop. Easy hitch in, not so easy out, but I made it eventually and spent the better part of the day sitting on large black rocks by the sea reading, picnicking, and spotting my first Scottish dolphins. Super. Super. I forgot to photograph the photograph before mailing it. Oops.

Neist Point image

Image courtesy of skye-self-catering-cottages-carbost.com

I bought two tickets to the Edinburgh tatoo last night. I have only me as my friend and I’m not that large, but perhaps between now and then I might find a mate. And if I don’t, I thought I might just approach a super random on my way and say how about it?. I thought about lining up an internet date for it but a bit intense or daggy for a first date isn’t it?

And I came up with an idea for Burning Man in the shower today. I am expected to be creative and interactive. Oh dear. And crafty. Fuck. I thought I might sing Nature Boy (it is the only song I know all the words to) twice a day in the same spot. I have 20 small chandelier pieces I bought in Buenos Aires that I intend to make into necklaces (I have a standard knot up my sleeve if no teacher comes forth) and to give them to members of my audience if I have any. They’ll have to be fast, the song only goes for about 78 seconds and I doubt there’ll be much volume in it to reel them in as I’ll be terrified.

I’ve been learning it on the piano, and had a practice on this very out of tune Flodigarry gem. image

 

So farewell to you my darling Skye, you have been so wonderful. Thank you for having me, I shall miss you.

And farewell to you darling.

 

k xxo

p.s. I am waiting for the boat to take me to the Isle of Harris and, while my backpack, mattress and food bag are touring the north of Skye once more (great suggestion by the bus driver, cheers champ), I have mailed 3 pairs of shoes and one hat to Edinburgh. Here they all come now on the 57c.

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Scotland : The Isle of Skye

July 27, 2014

Hello beautiful

I did not win the lottery and Germany did not win 2-1. This the world now knows, at least the football bit, but I am surprised, and perhaps you too, about the numbers not matching up. At least I can now rest better, safe in the knowledge that the first murder on the moon will not take place this month, nor will a famous British model’s boob explode on an aeroplane, nor will Miley Cyrus launch a campaign about sexual abuse using a tape catching her on the job in her next concert with “whore” written in large neon lights underneath.

Yet perhaps Jaymar, the English bloke Doc and I saw perform twice (twice?) in the magic festival in Edinburgh a month ago, is simply rubbish with numbers and that those boobs will indeed explode. Regardless, I will not be flying First, ditching dormlife, producing White Walls Say Nothing (the graffitimundo doco), or getting a house with grass. £4,000,000! I was going to be so very generous!

The cup was some days ago now. I snuck over the stile from the rough Don Flodigarry Hostel to the snazzy Flodigarry Hotel to watch the only telly in the ‘hood. Having dined there the evening before they gave me the last table with little fuss and that morning, thanks to a marvellous Aussie bird from Queensland called Joss who will chat up everyone, I met Federico, possibly the only Argentine on the Isle of Skye, and certainly in the hostel. I kept my other seat free for him and while he didn’t really care for football, when the Germans won he left the building very very quickly with a tear in his eye.

Joss is 75 and energetic like you wouldn’t believe. May we all be that healthy and happy in 30 years time. She is setting up to live in a blue bus just north of the New South Wales border (her children have the house), and was once the matron of a boys’ house at my old school. It is a small, small world sometimes, isn’t it? Her old man was a pilot so she grew up in Sydney and beyond, and she had plenty of pretty brilliant tales tossing about. I suggested she get someone to write her memoir, not me, but someone, for she is one interesting cat. A kindred spirit you might say. She thanks the sun each day for rising, sings kumbaya to lochs, and cries at most concerts. I liked her very much, she was a good sort and has put Aussies back in the land of the fabulous. My house ‘matey’ was grim and dull and lifeless, and her punky daughter would grimace at us girls when she visited. So I now not only envy Joss’ pack but also those lucky boys for whom she sewed and cooked cupcakes.

My pack could almost pass as normal if it weren’t for the food and the coat. But it is for a tall man and I am not a tall man so normal it will never be. The coat is for freezing desert temperatures in Nevada next month, after which I’ll send it packing and be lifting the thing with my pinkie.

The day before the cup I headed for the Quairang. It was just starting to rain, but nay bother (this is the only Scottish phrase I have picked up), for I am now decked out in raincoat and raintrousers. The shoes are a bit ridiculously superdodge and I believe I am the only person, sin duda, walking the Scottish Highlands in the rain and mud sporting Italian black leather boots. I have since recitified this problem and, if I might take a moment here to brag, a purchase performed in no less than 6 minutes between buses in Portree.

 

Ssshhhh, tell no-one.

image

 

Much better. Bit big, but much much better.

image

I set off thinking it was a 45 minute walk and not a 4-5 hour hike, in the rain, in a boot that would do well with a skimpy skirt, with some water, two cheese filled scones courtesy of the Gaelic students, one chocolate cigar from cousin Tory after her wedding just one week earlier, and not 5 pence to my name.

It was very beautiful, the rain almost made it more so and I am delighted with all this green. And fresh air. And English words everywhere. And dogs scrambling about, everywhere.

I walked around one side of the rock, heading slowly for a carpark someone I passed had mentioned. I arrived as the rain was settling in more seriously and stalked a bloke heading for his truck. I gave him such a fright when I knocked, and asked for a lift down the long windy road. He was headed the other way and begging seemed inappropriate so I started to walk down the hill. “Get in then, I’ll take you on down”. Rain conjures sympathy. Wicked. On the way down he mentions he is off to the Sheepdog Trials in Waternish. We are in Trotternish. There are other nishes and when we survey the map I discover it is miles away. I look at the rain, remember I haven’t a cent, know that he, Matt, will not be bringing me back, pause and think with scones up my sleeve I shall survive.

I’d not heard of a sheepdog trial. Bet you have. I loved it. One hour was plenty for a lifetime, but I totally dug it. Everyone was watching from their cars so I didn’t get much mingling in but I gave it a red hot go, and Matt, the English farmer now set up in Wales leasing cars after the recruitment ratrace, explained the course and so on. He was well into dogs, saying he didn’t watch television then proceeded to mention one dog show after another. One Man and His Dog sounded pretty great. And these dogs were fantastic. All those whistling commands. Left, right, down boy….they had to herd 3 sheep around the course, split one from the other two, get them through various posts and pen them in the pen. Pen them in the pen? Can I get away with that? And the shepherds with hooks on their sticks. Brilliant. They’d come from all over the world and while I found no Aussies I did meet an American gal who was thrilled to be in awesome Scotland, the birthplace, she said, of these doggie splendours. I have not stopped seeing collies since, they are everywhere.

Matt had a dog. Fern. A terrier mongrel. I met only her nose as she was in her home/cage in the back of his 4×4 and hating him, or so he thought. She’d rolled in human poo, yuck, and he’d rubbed what he could off in the grass, pissing Fern off and losing all the confidence, love and trust he’d worked so hard to build in the few months since rescuing her. I think she was a nice dog, she looked pretty. She had a nice nose.

So, that arvo I had my trickiest Scottish hitch yet. Matt drove me to the Edinbane Inn, brilliant on a Sunday when it is all tunes and locals and good, but it was Saturday and come back tomorrow? I don’t think so, for rain and hitching do not mix. You’d think it might, but it doesn’t. I wouldn’t pick up a drowned rat. Not desirable at all. I waited 15 whole minutes, and, horrified at the 14th, I began chanting. My old flattie used to do it the keep the cupboard doors sliding smoothly and I was ready to try anything.

A German couple passed me and swung back in pity. She handed me a towel. Love her. I towelled my blue polyester down and sat on said towel for added waterproofing effect and, as is my virginal hitching way, start babbling at them about me and how about you lot then?, trying rapidly to prove that I am a good sort and that they have made the very best of decisions. They took me to Portree where I walked to the edge of town, wet and a bit cold, to try out the thumb again. Bit of a sketchy bend but I didn’t know the layout ahead and when I spied the bus I hesitated then flagged it down.
“I have no money.”
“I can’t let you on.”
“I understand.”
“Oh! Get on then! They’ll ‘ave my ‘ead.”
Love him. When the rest of them had all got off, for Flodigarry is far to the north, I told him my tale.
“Now, just you never ever leave ‘ome without a few pounds in that there pocket of yours. Let this be a lesson to you, a’ight?”
Consider myself schooled kind sir.

There is more to tell about this charming Isle of Skye, but I will give you a rest from all this dribble and get onto Skye part 2 another day.

 

All my love

K xxo

P.s. A stranger in Edinburgh called Alana signed up to Darling You after first post Scotland.
Then an American chap jumped on board.
Then I thought, it is time, and so I told all my mates.
And so, hello dear people should you be reading these rambling tales, I hope you are splendid.

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Scotland : Roy Bridge to the Isle of Skye

July 20, 2014

Darling You

I am safe and sound in Flodigarry. The weather is perfect and I can see mountains on the mainland far across the water. Such a sighting is rare, I am told, so I have brought my machine and saucepan out here to the sunshine to scribble this letter to you.

Are you well? What is happening in your world?

The trip up here was pretty easy. Manuela ended up giving me a ride into Fort William and there was no drama getting a seat on the steam train. There was just an unpleasant Australian woman sitting in my seat who eventually moved, spitting “there are children here. All around here. They just aren’t here right now. They’re in the Harry Potter carriage.”
“Harry Potter carriage?”
“This. Is. The Harry Potter train” she snarled.
“Oh”.

I dumped the backpack in the centre of the carriage as instructed (no-one had to step over it) and headed back to the conductor telling her my neighbour was a grump and could I please change. I moved one seat from her, across the aisle, not far away but enough and she looked a little embarassed mumbling “no problem, no worries”. Her very blonde Flemish friend eventually returned with dozens of children and I was indeed surrounded. They had met as neighbours in Borneo, working for Shell and they were not in the least bit interested in talking to me.

The only other Australians I have met were last night at Aite Cruinnichidh Hostel in Roy Bridge, from the Central Coast, and they were so criminally dull I’ll speak of them no more. A good one better turn up soon or I will worry about this idea to return to the homeland more than I already am.

My new neighbour was an overfed Swiss fella and told me that Argentina has won again. Brilliant. I feel a little sorry for myself that I am not there to cheer, as this is the year I pretend that I actually care about football. I have initiated conversations regarding the sport, I know what colour Ghana wears, what a penalty is, that there is an offside.

He also taught me quite a bit about Swiss politics as we discussed the upcoming referendum here in Scottyland. Will they ditch the poms or not? Switzerland has about 5 referendums a year. Direct democracy he said. They said “no” to a new fighter plane and “no” to more immigrants. And then Mister Swiss, for I never asked him his name, told me that one of his son’s had fallen off a cliff and died when he was just 13. We must have been talking about hiking or mountains and he just came out with it. The things you tell strangers, when you know you’ll never see them again. It was 20 years ago and he’d just slipped, just like that. Awful.

After the famous Glenfinnan viaduct bridge we got off the train for a wander around and I discovered I didn’t win the lottery. I hadn’t wanted to check on the train because I didn’t want the grump to be part of the momentous memory of the changing of my life. It’s ok, I have another chance, for the psychic had said “next week’s lotto numbers” which would include Saturday. I am feeling quietly confident.

It feels a little cheeky, but I have been asking “so..what’s going to happen in September eh?” Out here in the sticks it feels like a yes or a maybe. I am not hearing too many no’s. And the Flodigarry Hostel has a massive YES stationed at the front gate, and stickers and pamplets littered about the place all bearing the same message. You even get 10% discount if you are a member of the Scottish National Party. They mean business. And they charge £2 for the internet, to support the campaign. If you don’t want to support the campaign, tough, no internet for you.

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The popular take-away fish and chip joint The Cabin in Mallaig (where the train stopped), asked not whether I wanted battered or crumbed so battered it was. I think I liked it. And I think our Aussie batter is too thick which is why you can never find the fish inside. Perhaps this explains why I have never liked battered fish. Haddock. Maybe I’ll tuck once a year. A Scottish pair opened up a fish and chip joint in Buenos Aires a year or so ago and all the Brits went mad for it. Would you go mad for it? Am I being an odd Australian again or are we just not as into as Brits are?

And are you aware of the size of the seagulls in Scotland? Oh my God, they’re from outerspace. Enormous. All those fish and chips this lot gobble and spill I suppose. They are actually a bit frightening and I hope I get used to them.

Dear Trolley busted as I neared the gangway for boarding. Bugger. I was just trying to close it up and three bits blew off. The vet, who is doggie sitting Monalisa, showed me the “weak link” but I didn’t pay proper attention. Like people giving me directions, the voice in my head starts singing loudly after the second instruction.

Squeeze is well by the way. Except that she has had to undergo yet another name change. Her original name was Lisa. She arrived at my door as Monalisa. Monalisa is a very long name and cannot be shortened easily as her name must always somehow rhyme with Lisa. Et voila! Squeezer. Squeeze. Squeezy.

Federico the vet has sent me a couple of videos to show how happy she is, along with regular mood and poo reports. She is in good hands and she is officially in quarantine until October, proven by Federico who signs a form saying he spotted her in the country once a month. The plan is to sneak back into Buenos Aires early November to put her on a plane bound for beaches.

I gathered Trolley’s bits up and shoved them in the bag, trying to deal as best I could with all the junk; 5 carrots, 3 apples, cheddar cheese, crackers, rice, lentils, ginger, coriander, and a red capsicum. The milk didn’t make the cut. And life is good, for another half bag of oats was waiting for me here in Flodigarry. I really do love ma porridge.

I noticed two blokes, on that quick trip over to Skye, watching me turn the trolley upside down a few times over. “Either of you engineers?” One gave it a red hot go with no success and I have since tossed the bits out. It still rolls. Another bit fell off as I tried to get off the boat. Can’t bear it. The handle is important. I packed it all up again while the chap radioed down “there is still one last passenger”.

I had a three hour wait in Armadale for the bus which was quite pleasant really. I put the pack behind the phone box and kept my passport. If someone wants it they are welcome to it, I shall survive and life would be lighter.

The first pair I met were from Brighton and will move to Skye in the next few years. She is a retired barrister (she had been pretty darned important too, so he said), who will quilt and teach jive and belly dancing. He recovers stolen art. “A bit James Bond of you” I said and he told me about his site Art Hostage and a tv series he is about to sign with NBC. Julie gave me a jive sample with great pleasure and drew me a very scruffy map of what I ought not miss. A castle, a fairy glen, a coral beach, the Old Man of Stoor (very cryptic), the Quiraing, and the Cuillens. The Cuillens include 3 of the munros which I learnt, as I hitched to the Parellel Lines, is a Scottish mountain higher than 3000ft.

There was a pop up shop with another Nationalist explaining why Scotland must separate from the United Kingdom in September, and a coastal walk bordering a permaculture camping ground.

And there was Charles waiting for the ferry, who had cycled to the port solo as his mate had busted his shoulder a few days earlier and had had to leave. He has just finished studying in Cambridge for one year and was quite handsome. About 15 years my junior I’d guess so not for me, but handsome is handsome. He had a mop of very curly hair which reminded me of Christopher Aitken from the Pirate Movie. Did you ever see it? As daggy as it gets and my favourite film for some time back in the day. He gave me a packet of camping pasta (add water and presto) and decent map of Skye. Cheers Charles.

And of course, with hours up my sleeve I wait until the bus arrives and my phone has 7% left on it to look for accommodation on the island, for I will not make the connection in the capital of Portree. Oops. I phone the first Portree b&b on Trip Advisor. No rooms, “but I think next door has one room left”. Fancy knowing. Next door happens to be her daugher and Queenslander son-in-law and, with 4%, I make contact and ask if they can pick me up as they are 3 miles out of town.

The place was bloody lovely. This is how I seem to roll. I’ll wear ear plugs and eye masks and wear thongs in the shower and then I will pay £100 for one evening of luxury. Rick was nice enough, though he didn’t like me saying he’d pass for a Scot. I think I insulted him and his Australian-ness and he looked at me very seriously and said “I’m an Australian and I’ll always be an Australian”. Got it.

I washed all my kit and hung it on the towel heater, I had a bath, I ate carrots and dipped them in humous, I drank tea, I ate the shortbread they’d left me and I began watching Downton Abbey. And I continued to watch Downton Abbey. And I now have a problem for I am now addicted to Downton Abbey. I hope this problem passes soon and thank Christ I have so far had no success in working out how to either buy it for an ipad or download naughty torrent business. I am sure it will wear off in time but I can’t stop thinking about Mary and Sybill and Edith. I watched 5.7 episodes before checking out at midday. Disgusting. It was a beautiful day outside and I felt dreadfully guilty but I haven’t watched telly for ages and it felt gluttonously good to do so.

So anyway, I got here early this afternoon. And it is great. As it is Friday I had asked Brian to book me in for the weekend but he put me in for two nights only and one was last night when I was stuck sensa bus and glued to the television. Annabelle said there was not a bed for tomorrow night. Saturday. I looked very sad, and she snuck out the back to consult with hubby Gavin. Gavin knows the other Gavin, “oh yes, Hookie” as I mentioned Hookie’s recommendation and how I’d ended up there. “We have one caravan out the back. You may use it till Tuesday if you like.” If I like? Are you mad? Another narrow escape from dorm life? “Of course I’ll take it!”

Good night to you. I am off to eat another carrot and make these lentils into something mildly edible.

lots of love beautiful

k

 

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Scotland : Roy Bridge

July 18, 2014

Darling You

I had a super day today in the Bridge of Roy. The hostel was 2 miles up the road and the owner agreed to collect me from the station. Not the chattiest of fellows and it took me till this morning to work out why on earth he was steering and changing gears with just his right hand. One arm. You’d think I might have spotted the hook but I did not and this morning I saw the colourful plastic arm with the hook poking out the bottom. I thought to ask how he did it but he wasn’t a terribly chatty person and each time I asked a question, he referred me to the pamphlet or the timetable nearby. Fair enough.

I am one of three girls in this hostel, and so my courageous idea to opt for a dorm bed has paid off and I sleep in a room of two bunks, four beds, and just messy little me. Still dealing with too much junk, and I swear I’d culled and culled again.

The others are Manuela and Chantalle, mother and daughter from Bristol/France. Manuela used to be a nighttime taxi driver but buggered her back up and now works for a charity that looks after racing car drivers who’ve had accidents.

This place is beside the train tracks. Upon arrival last night I wanted a walk and headed up the driveway having found no other exit point. On my way up I spotted a terrific looking swinging bridge (think Indiana Jones) and one second later a sign saying how to access it. So I sauntered down the busy, windy highway and after a few dead ends I eventually worked it out. It was beautiful and when I am not so tired I will wander in further. I just walked over and back and stared at the raging river below.

There was a sign to a hidden church on the road and today Manuela told me about the secret key and I will venture back there tomorrow too.

There is no food at this place. Bloody good thing for the baguette on the train and the bag of oats (Scooootland) someone left behind. There is some pasta. Manuela gave me a banana. And I can survive on tea minus milk, just.

Today I walked into town to buy some supplies and now have two more destinations up my sleeve. There were some picturesque postcards for sale and I bought 4. One of a steam train I will board tomorrow, one of the parallel lines 3 miles from the store (I hitched there for the first time in 20 years and I think for the first time solo), one of some joint I didn’t find but looked very pretty, and one of some vertical stones at sunset on the Isle of Lewis. I will now head to Lewis I think. May as well start to have a very loose idea even if only to change it tomorrow. Lewis is next to Skye and Go Explore (of the mossie killing fame) said you can jump about these islands quite simply.

The parallel lines were great. A Glaswegian couple found me paused on a sweet bridge looking down into the river and he said after that he will always think of that bridge as “hitchhiker’s bridge”. To think my first hitch in 20 years and I change the name of a bridge. The sheer power of it is astounding. They were the first car to pass me (I’d only been at it for 20 minutes) and I shyly put out a thumb. The poor things didn’t have much of a choice as, with the speed they were going, I could have jumped on the back bumperbar and hung on.

The parallel lines were formed by glaciers way back when, and had left their marks at various intervals of melting. It was really beautiful. I’ll try to see if I can insert a photo when I get back to internet land as there is no internet in this joint. And there is no credit left on my ipad. And I have lost the important card that held the important numbers for recharging so unless I get a new sim that baby is a wifi option only. And my iphone doesn’t work for much more than a phone anymore and the all important voice memos that instruct me on how to do my pilates exercises. To be honest, it is quite disgusting how applefied I am on this trip, I am appauled, yet then again, it is kind of delightful as this machine with its wireless keyboard (currently sitting on an upside down saucepan with the keyboard on my lap) is genius as a mini laptop and I am certain everyone will be doing it like this soon (with a saucepan I mean).

I am almost too embarrassed to mention that I am also carrying an iddy biddy ipod. It’s because the iphone doesn’t last more than 4 hours now and I lent it to my old flattie Nicola (also responsible for telling me how to stretch) and she put all her tunes on it. New music. I actually haven’t turned it on yet, but when I remember on a bus that bus trips are better with music, I shall be utterly delighted. She has some great music and there will be some tracks in there to remind me of my brief sojourn into the world of ballet and boxing which, along with sufi shaking, yoga and pilates compiled her “warrior woman” class in Buenos Aires on Friday evenings.

One armed Gavin, when pushed a little harder, managed to cough up two hostels in Skye. Flodigarry and Skywalkers. Thank goodness the store had not only tomatoes, garlic and onion and postcards but also, lo and behold in the middle of nowhere, a UK adaptor for travellers. For me. I am a traveller now in the UK. I was using my computer to charge the junk and that there machine is now safely in Sydney thanks to my dear daddy. And that then left this disorganised soul in this sticks with just a bunch cords and a US plug I will be able to use in September but not July. Lucky lucky. Thank you store. I left all my tucker and the iphone charging in the store as I saw those excellent lines I was telling you about.

So to Flodigarry Hostel I go, in the northern tip of Skye. I am all about winging it, but with high season and a heavy backpack I am also all about having a room reserved ahead of time.

Most people seem to think I am bonkers not to have a car on the islands but there are buses and querida Buenos Aires taught me about bus survival so I’ll be just fine.

I hitched back up the hill with Steve who works in maritime environment and on his way to a course teaching how to save those who fall or sink in the sea. We went past my turnoff and had to turn into the church’s driveway and, as we looked for somewhere up there to turn around, he spotted some brocks. I think that is what he said. There were three large mounds of rocks, I wasn’t sure if there was meant to be a dead body buried underneath but Manuela said another rock is added when someone carks it. He was thrilled with the discovery.

I asked him where I should go in Scotland and he said Cape Wrath so I am going to go to Cape Wrath. He said it is exquisitely beautiful (Roy Bridge is almost exquisitely beautiful), and that I can stay in a bothy. A bothy is a cave I think and all you need is a sleeping bag and permission. I don’t have a sleeping bag and my back is already twitching with new beds, backpacks and a long flight’s xanaxed sleep so, for the moment, bothys are out. Which is not to say that Cape Wrath can’t be in.

Later that day…

I just had a long had a stretch out on the lawn and then went off in search of the hidden church key. It was across the road, on a hook, behind a gatepost. I’m not making this up Harrie. How the hell would you know there was even a key in the firstplace before hiking up there. Do all locked churches have a hidden key closeby? I might always look from here on in.

The church was charming. St Margaret’s. Charming. And I love a good old graveyard. My mother always liked to stop for them as we drove from New South Wales to Victoria and back again so I feel quite comfortable in them. And I must have walked 10 minutes up this driveway before it all came into view. They restored it a decade ago and there was a plaque on the wall for Saint Mary McKillop who lived once upon a long while ago in Roy Bridge, so how about that then. Stepping in the shoes of a fine Aussie lass.

Do you think the Pope pulled some strings to get Argentina this far in the cup? They play Holland this evening in the semi final which really is out of control. I am so so excited for them. Not sure they deserve it as even Argentines would agree they have played badly and have got lucky so far. But good luck to them. All the same, as I think I mentioned earlier, Germany will win 2-1 (I am a few letters behind and there is the proof). And I will win the lottery this evening. I’ll have to discover my millionaire-essness tomorrow when I can wifi to get the results, but I am fairly confident. And I’m sure you’ll not be surprised to hear that there is no telly in this place so the game is out too.

After the church, where money sat on the altar and a confusing small noose hung near the one rear window joined by others at the front, I returned the key to its hidey hole and headed back to my swinging bridge. Crossing it again I walked through a small forest and out into a clearing. Lots of ferns and tall trees and not a soul because I don’t think anyone stops in Roy Bridge, except my mate Mary and I. They mostly stop in Fort William where the train I’ll catch tomorrow leaves from.

Glaciers over the years have carved into the rocks below the bridge and I massaged the souls of my feet like Luis the Argentine Shiatsu master taught me. I probably should begin to take some photos, but I take such a dull photo and I don’t want to carry the phone around if I don’t need music or pilates or to place a phone call. But they were pretty sharp slithers and, beautiful as they are, I suspect they may not make it on to the postcard circuit so maybe i’ll start some rough snapping.

Gavin could only have given me a lift down today but Manuela said they’d give me a ride tomorrow so I get to linger another second here. I couldn’t have planned it better. It was dangerous as a foot passenger on that road today let alone with a trolley and its escorts, and anything to stop packing for a moment is really rather wicked. I feel like I have been packing for years.

So, off to Skye tomorrow. Flodigarry is expecting me. It’ll go a little something like this:

Hitch to the bus stop
Bus to Fort William
Steam train to Mallaig (if there is a seat left)
Ferry to Isle of Skye
Bus from Armadale to Portree
Bus from Portree to Flodigarry

Wish me luck.

The midgees are coming on in so I need to get away from this view of green hills and a train track and head on in to see if anyone else has turned up here.

All my love to you

K

 

 

 

 

 

 

h1

Scotland

July 16, 2014

My dear darling You

I am on a train.

Edinburgh to Roy Bridge.

I have just taken out this machine for the first time to take my first photos for the trip.

I am not a photographer, this we know, and waiting till 9.32pm to take my first snap no doubt confirms that, even while there is later light in these parts.

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How are you?

I am well.

I bid farewell to the old man today which made me sad for a moment as I sat on the bus from Edinburgh airport, having checked him in with my 73 kilos and a laptop, headed for Haymarket station. It was hardly sobbing but a few tears stained my cheeks, and the bloke next to me continued to stare my way. Perhaps he was just looking at the view but it did put a blubberer like me out of work. I considered coldly and bitterly asking whether he always stared at girls who cry, but thought against it. It would, afterall, have been my first solo move at the beginning of this four month journey, the beginning of the rest of my life, my forties, the year I change for the best, the year I discover my wisdom (all I must do is simply trust my instinct), emotionally mature, and the week in which I win the UK lottery (tomorrow is the big day). I wish it were the year Argentina won the World Cup but I know Germany will win 2-1 for the bloke who gave me the lotto numbers told me so, including the grizzly tale that there is soon to be the first murder on the moon.

A few stops back my train split in two. Just like that. We are now a mere two carriages and, at the last stop (Tulloch), passengers were told to alight from the back of the train. Tulloch must have the shortest platform on earth.

I am well fed on a rough two pound baguette I picked up in Glasgow station (I am headed slowly to the Isle of Skye) and have not much else worthy to report unless I bore you with my struggle in through the bathroom stile with a backpack on a trolley. Could I make such a tale worthy of reading?? Doubt it.

So yes, I am now with one big backpack and one small (bring back the 73kgs and the car and the old man who picked up the bill). And one pilates mat and one coat. And one scarf. And, newest addition to the family, one little trolley on which to put the big backpack. Kind of absurd as I may as well not have a pack at all, but the pack was the last man standing after all the other bags had been filled with my crap, and a mate of mine years back got herself a little trolley to put her pack on (we called it “trolley” with great affection) and I was on the hunt for one.

I have just dropped a magazine called Go Explore on a very large mosquito. I don’t generally go for death to animals, but mosquitos buy it everytime I’m afraid. This part of the world is also famous for its vast quantity of nasty nasty midgees. Famous famous. All the windows are now shut for the cold and I am rugged up to the nines..they’ll just be nibbling my hands and my face.

And thanks to Go Explore I now have a map of the country. Lost my other one.

Almost missed my stop. Hell. Dropped this machine scrambling off the train and there is now a wee but missing. Nothing like breaking in new toys.

Now I am in Roy Bridge. Till later.

k xxo