1-2/08/11 Learning

Last night I slept in a bed and breakfast provided by the lovely Cherrie of the Mulberries cafe in Bourton on the water. To get me well earned rest in Tongue I pushed on the 15 or so miles from Maryhill to get there.

I was welcomed in – told there was a tv lounge – met the other folk there (psychotherapists from leamington – god is clearly watching out for me) – made a vague promise that I’d watch the telly, speak to someone – fell asleep on my bed and woke up at about 7.30 the following morning.

Rock and roll man.

I enjoyed the wonderful cooked breakfast before loading up and getting on my way.

Tongue us a cute village nestlings next to the Kyle of Tongue. Any pictures I’ve posted pale into insignificance when I compare them to the actual place.
It is breathtaking. A huge expanse of sea loch meeting the hills – the clouds and mists rolling around to add to the overall ambience and then…
Well, and then I’m in a land of rolling moorland where the only inhabitants are sheep and rabbits, waving at passing cars on the single track road by way if thanking them for not running me over.

More importantly, for me anyway, I had no phone signal. I thought this would be for about a day – it turned out to be closer to 2 days.

Reckless? I’m not sure. Certainly anxiety provoking.

So learning then. I learned that I do not like to be out of phone contact.
I met a couple of cyclists – they were going up a particularly steep hill as I was going down.

“It’s much easier going my way…” what a joker I am.

The husband was determined to get to the top without getting off his bike – the wife didn’t care and stopped to talk to me.

I told her about my quest – they live in Surrey – she told me not to expect the same level of hospitality down south – that people down that way are somehow different.

I’m not sure about that.

She told me a little anecdote about how she walks her children the half mile or so to their school. One of her neighbours approached her, head slightly tilted to one side, almost apologetically asking,”Aaw, don’t you drive?”

Between Tongue and my next destination, Durness there is pretty much nothing apart from beautiful countryside. And cars. And motorhomes. And motorbikes. All happy to wave and smile.

According to my map there would be a functioning mobile phone pylon up on the hill just as I walked next to Loch Eriboll (no, it’s not made up, thank you). There was – but it didn’t talk to my phone – which was a little disappointing.

It was strange camping up on a flat piece of grass near to the road knowing there was absolutely no-one I could speak to.

Weird, but not awful in any way.
With this level of solitude one’s mind begins to wander – what do midges eat when they’re not eating people? There doesn’t seem to be enough animal life to keep that amount of the little blighters going…

Horseflies? Cleggs ( horseflies by another name)? Now I have observed them eating animal poo before tucking into me.

Well, that’s just unhygienic, isn’t it?
Thank god Gwynn stopped in his car before I managed to completely rot my brain with my mental meandering.
He asked what I was up to – I told him – and he told me about some stuff I didn’t know…

His job is to import trees (up to 40 feet) into large towns. How cool is that? I always thought trees in towns had just grown from where they were planted…
He also goes fishing for salmon using barbless hooks – tagging them before he puts them back. That must be nicer for the fish…mustn’t it?

He told me that salmon farms are polluting the loch – the fish are overfed – what isn’t eaten floats to the floor of the loch, feeds sea lice which in turn feed on the naturally spawning salmon on their way to their breeding grounds.
I asked him if he knew of a place with a mobile signal – he didn’t.

He liked the cut of my jib and what I was doing and so he thrust £20 into my hand before he drove off.
How very kind.

Further round the loch I came across a smiling Swiss chap, Mikael, on his bike. He loves Scotland because, unlike Switzerland he tells me, one can get up into the hills and the beautiful scenery very quickly.

He told me about a small cafe further up the road and slipped me £5 to ensure I could get myself a little smackeral of something.

It was standing talking to him that I realised just how many horse flies were devouring me (and him). The Avon skin so soft lotion which smells like petrol but kills midges was having no effect on them.

Cue Gwynn – he and his fellow holiday makers had driven to Durness, picked up supplies for me – juice, fruit and chocolate – he smiled as I thanked him profusely ,”Have ye got anything for those insects?”

“Well, er, I , no…” I can be really convincing at times.
He thrust jungle formula all insect repellant into my hand,”Try this…” and then they drove off.

I now expect Gwynn to appear at any crisis points in my life – if I’m in a car that runs out of petrol, if I’m marooned for…

Look, I’d been on the road alone for a while. One can become a little wandered.

That said, I did apply a large amount of the jungle formula – it hurt like Hell and my lips inflated – I think I might be a bit allergic. I think I’ll let the beasties bite instead.

Once one the west side of the loch there were weird luxuries like the coffee shop – like the large garden of sculptures (I’ve taken photos – they’ll be up on Facebook shortly)…they just added to the pleasantly surreal experience of feeling like I was in the middle of nowhere with no means of contacting folk.

In the cafe I spoke to a woman from Aberdeen , Deborah, she had been up visiting the place in Tongue where they had put her brothers ashes.

She immediately understood what I was about and contributed £10 to my cause.

Continued kindness.

It was a relief when neared Durness and the bleeps and tinkles of the emails, texts and missed phone calls flooded in. I suddenly felt properly cared for again.

Which is weird considering it had been Gwynn , Mikael, Deborah and the many driving people who’d been watching out for me.

I’ve learned that both streams of care are invaluable to me.

I’ve also learned that it’s quite strange behaviour to walk hard to a place so I can rest – only then to walk hard to another place.

I’m in Durness – I’m resting – I’ve washed my clothes so I don’t smell like a dead bear any more.

Do you know, I think I might have a snooze.

Walk a mile


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2 Responses to 1-2/08/11 Learning

  1. lola says:

    I have travelled up that part of the country and stood in tears when I saw Durness. Black monoliths standing in turquoise August ocean, Just beautiful and the smoo caves nearby great acoustics. But Chris that was in the summer, with family and friends. I hear your isolation and I think you are very brave. Well done. One love xx

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