It’s been awhile since I wrote! Or it feels like it. So, what’s happened over the last 6 days?
August 25 – was the amazing hike covered in the last post.
August 26 – Wednesday – bridie wasn’t tired of me yet so she let me join her for a second day of fun. It was going to be a rainy day, so we planned a short hike in the rain to the faerie glen and they figures we’d head to this “cafe” that we’d seen a sign for the day before. We took a quick glance at the directions and headed on our way to the glen and soon became convinced we were lost. So we turned around and headed to the cafe, which we reached by lunchtime and which served DELICIOUS food that we found utterly delightful. By this time we’d found a map and realized we just hadn’t walked far enough to reach the faerie glen so we headed back up and this timed we found ot! It met and exceeded our expectations. (As almost everything outdoors does in scotland).
August 27 -Thursday-bridie headed off this morning and Frans and I hugged her goodbye! I’ll miss her! I had planned to take a few buses all around isle of Skye this day, but as I planned Frans mentioned he was going to a lot of the same places I was planning to so I basically forced my way into his car for a chauffeured ride around the island.
Along the way we saw some cool sites — I showed him the faerie glen (second time) , we saw incredible islands and rock walls, an old cemetary and SHEEP! A lot of the sites didn’t lend themselves to pictures but the church ones did!
Frans dropped me off at a bus stop and I missed my bus anyway (turns out where I was standing wasn’t actually a bus shop :)), so I had soup and half pint of beer at this cute little place and wait for the next one, which took me o portree? Where I waited for the final bus back to uig.
I felt like I hadn’t moved enough that day so I decided to go for a run to the faerie glen( third time!)and it was awesome. I haven’t really run the entire time Ive been in Scotland, so being able to stretch my legs and MOVE FAST was refreshing. And, I got a sweet picture of thesunset.
After, I figured I’d have a quite night since bridie and Frans were gone, but alas, I met three wonderful women instead. They’d met at a camp years before and were in a road trip together. One of the women is a Scottish farmer! Another is an English doctor working in New Guinea! And the other is a Scottish woman who….I cannot remember. :(! (This is why it’s important to write things down right away, people!) we laughed and chatted most of the night, sharing our stories and adventures and they so so kindly offered to drive me to portree to my bus in the morning and along the way there stop and see some sites. Then it was off to bed.
August 28 – Friday – the day I traveled to Inverness! First things first, I took the group to the faerie glen (now my fourth –and last–time!) and smiled as the ooo-ed and ahh-ed over the waterfall and the rocks and the beauty of it. I felt bad because the girls were a little rushed becUse of Mexico, but they seemed really good natured about it. We stopped at another waterfall, which was overwhelmed by tourists, and stopped to take pictures of any cool sites we saw along the way. We listened to Scottish music and laughed all along the way. Love the kindness of strangers :)
August 29 – Saturday! – I rented a bike for entirely too much money and spend the day riding 25ish miles up and down the coast of Loch Ness! Which was a much more “me” way of exploring the lake versus a boat tour. The weather was variable, with some tough biking winds, some rain, and a teeny bit of sunshine :). I sat along the loch here and there and read my book for an hour, ate some packed lunch, and enjoyed the fact that I’d made it to Loch Ness, which I didn’t think I’d get to see on the trip.
After getting back to the hostel, I met a guy (who’s name I can’t believe I now forget – blame the alcohol) who had just spent a few weeks biking Skye and the western islands. (!). We decided to try to find some local music nearby at some places I’d heard of and it was fun to go out and listen but I also drank waaaay to much. Like 4-5 drinks. NO GOOD. Eventually I had to put a stop to it and fell dead asleep in my bunk only to be awoken not too much later by my alarm.
August 30 – Sunday – despite being oh so hungover, I caught the bus to the cairngorns ski centre, where a local outdoor shop told me to pick up a fairly easy trail to the top of the cairngorns highest mountain. The forecast said sunny, so I wasn’t worried, tho like a good little hiker I brought all my rain gear. Which is good, since is rained ALL DAY. off and on, but still. Because the wind was so high, the rain came and went quickly, and it didn’t fall too hard. It took about an hour and a half to get to the top of this hill but I stopped at one of the ski centre buildings on the way up to warm up and sit for a moment before continuing the rest of the way. And ended up falling asleep for an hour folded into a comfy couch. :)
When I came to, I continued up through the unrelenting wind (“wind?” said the ranger at the station later. “That wasn’t wind!”) to the top of this peak (more like a hill) and man oh man, not only did I see my first reindeer ever (which made me tear up) but from the top of this peak, the views were just bonkers. Nutso. Gorgeous. My camera does NOT do it justice.
August 31 – Monday- yesterday!! Arrived in Balmaha, along the eastern shore of the famed Loch Lomond. (According to two Scottish girls I met in Uig, they play this song at new years)
The ($50! way too expensive) bus dropped me off about a mile from Balloch, where I needed to grab a second bus to balmaha. About 30 seconds into my walk, it started pouring! Lucky that pouring in Scotland is relative — nothing like pouring in Florida. I scooted under a tree to this little ditch to wait out the rain but after a few minutes looked down and realized the ditch had become a full on stream of rainwater that was inching up my boots. Whoops! After laughing at myself a bit, I figured I’d walk in the rain and ambled along to pick up my second bus.
I finally arrived in balmaha around 6pm, 7 hours after my journey started and was horrified to find out that I did not in fact have a reservation at the bunkhouse. !!! I had accidentally made the request for my reservation for July 31. Not August 31! Very luckily, they had one bed open for me and were able to fit me in! That’s rare!! I settled in and immediately cooked up some dinner. I ended up chatting the evening away with three very fun German folks — amri (from Berlin, an illustrator), Vanessa (from a small town in Germany) and heiko, Vanessa’s husband. We drank beers together and chatted about jobs in Germany and how some companies in the country try to imitate American companies. Which is a bummer for the employees because America is one of the more rigid place for workplaces from a vacation/quality point of view.
September 1 – today! It’s officially been a month since I left America! Woke up today for breakfast with amri, Vanessa and heiko and we ended up chatting a bit more about America. The school loans and vacation time — too much and too little, respectively — as well as healthcare, which is, thankfully, slowly becoming more humane (yay obamacare)!
Amri was really surprised that companies in the U.S. generally only give two weeks off (if that!). In Germany, 4 to 5 is MANDATORY. and most places give 6 weeks. I wish I had been born in a another country from America so I could take advantage of the healthcare, workplace values and FREE school they have elsewhere. America might have the whole “work ethic” thing down, but what’s work ethic really mean if you don’t get to really enjoy the fruits of your labor? During my exit interview for my job in Rhode Island, one of the things they asked me was if there was anything that would make me want to stay. Knowing what I know about other countries, I told them that I’d probably stay if I got the 5-6 weeks that is normal elsewhere. We could learn a few things from these countries, me thinks. I wonder if we will.
Today was a bit of a rest day for me–amri and I hiked up this 1000ft hill that overlooks the highland fault line and the town of balmaha and the surrounding countryside. We talked about traveling alone (it’s Amri’s first solo trip) and how it can be very, well, lonely, but also really great, and we shared stories about our anxieties.
Here’s some of the sights we saw as we walked:
The rest of today I plan to relax and write and read and tomorrow I plan to walk seven miles to the base of a 5-6 hour hike. Big day!! And the last day in the outdoors! Exciting!!