Yes, it sounds Russian – but it’s astonishingly Scottish. So Scottish I might say that it’s probably the most stunning bit of countryside I’ve seen so far.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Scourie had been wonderful – the people very kind.
It’s the contrast between that level of kindness and the unforgiving nature of the hills that’s sometimes hard.
I have an ‘O’ level in geography. That’s what makes it so entertaining when I’m eternally surprised when I encounter a hill – going up or down. Now, give me a church with or without a steeple, then I’m your man.
Contour lines? A complete mystery.
Perhaps if I used a proper sized map?
Anyway – up hill and, er, up hill really.
This part of the journey has been a bit of a challenge because it’s been a but of a wilderness.
Western Europe’s least populated expanse – the lack of folk should not gave come as a surprise.
It is beautiful. It is rugged.
The dream of the lager shandy came upon me early on.
As I walked down into a beautiful valley I found myself grinning as I was passed by a tractor travelling at…roughly twenty miles an hour. So many folk come up to these parts searching for a more sedate pace of life – this guy was making sure that the people behind him were adhering to that particular part of their dream.
Their red faces and roaring engines suggested they wanted to relax – only as fast as they could.
I met the large, smiling Dane a couple of miles further down the road. He was holding court with a couple of nervous looking young Frenchmen.
I turned my own volume and personality up a bit – and what a fun interchange it was.
He has driven 20 thousand kilometres around Europe so far in his tractor / caravan combo. He believes 20 miles an hour is just the right pace of life.
He laughed as he showed me the box at the back, claiming it held his mother in law (the spirit of les Dawson – ask your parents- lives on), he exclaimed that I didn’t look like one (hadn’t heard that for a while)…
But there was something attractive about him. He told me people often asked how he could afford to do this for several months a year – this was his vice – driving his tractor – pissing people off – then making them laugh when they pulled over to talk to him.
My day was certainly richer for meeting him.
He blasted his horn at me as he passed me further down the road. Immediately after that the three bikers from earlier passed, again, blasting their horns and waving wildly.
Our own little road community.
I broke through the hills eventually to find a viewing point for Kylesku. Go and look at it from above on google earth – a mere photograph from me doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
I watched as a number of folk came and went in their cars, briefly ogling the splendour of this place before zipping off again.
John appeared on his 60 year old Triumph. He’d moved up from Essex a while back – he loved his bike and he loved Kylesku, so he chose to live there. Most days he ride up to this vantage point high in the hills to look down at this beautiful place.
He told me that in a village, Inchnadamph, further up the road, plate tectonics had been discovered through the dramatic beauty of this land.
To think, if it hadn’t been invented all the land on earth would all be squashed up together.
I told him about a book – Jupiter’s Travels – that tells the story of one man and his journey on an old Triumph motorcycle from north to south Africa.
I think he won on the information imparting front.
He growled off on his motorbike and I followed at a more sedate pace.
As I walked down into the valley I met a man who told me he was a deerstalker. We chatted about how I, as a towny, found it a little unpalatable that folk went around shooting bambi and his cousins.
I think he nearly smiled as I suggested that he made wealthy businessmen feel like big game hunters as they shot these magnificent beasts.
Fish in a barrel.
The wind in this part of the world is something to behold. The stalker told me there had been times when he’d been lifted off his feet by it – I could quite believe it.
Before I trundled off he gave me a stern warning. Further south, he explained, you can make mistakes with the environment and get away with it. Up here, he said, the weather can kill you.
I wish he’d told me that after I’d crossed the high scary windy bridge. It did more for me than a lorry load of All-Bran.
I arrived in Kylesku (a village of 8 houses) with the wind still chucking me about – doubting that I’d be able to put my tent up without being whisked over the nearby loch – where I found John waiting for me.
“You can put your tent up on my lawn if you like,” he smiled.
I explained that I’d promised myself a lager shandy – nodding towards the nearby hotel – and that I’d be back soon.
I worked my walk a mile magic at the hotel and was roundly ignored.
Sadly, I returned to Johns – where he told me I’d have to be wary of the visiting stags who ate most things around the place.
My tent? Me?
No wonder they employ people to shoot them.
It was a windy night.
My tent has a built in safety mechanism – it collapses in on itself when it encounters strong gales. It changes from a two man to a half person tent.
I entertained John the following morning with the battle as I wrapped my home up and put it back in it’s bag. I felt that I’d successfully wrestled a tiger back into it’s cage.
I looked up at John with not a little self satisfaction.
He looked at me with something close to pity.
I suspect Kylesku had had more houses in the past but they’d all been vanished, Wizard if Oz style, somewhere else.
I’m a towny – and altogether a little more nervous now….
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
Walk a mile