Making my way further up the country, I looked outside my bus window and saw the most beautiful sight. Solid green, not mostly green, Solid green mountain ranges. We split down the centre of these massive primary colours for about half an hour. I said to myself, “self, this is the best part of Scotland yet, but your just driving past it in a stupid bus.” It was a weird feeling, at this point I could use a car.
I arrived in Kyleakin, a small town just on the outer border of the Isle of Skye. It was a ghost town compared in Inverness. I walked into my hostel which was also the local shop and pub. I checked into my room which was a 6 man dorm and would prove to be my private room for the next two days.
It felt like one of those gas filling towns in the middle of California, on the way to and from Northern and Southern. There were a few locals sitting in the shop/reception who looked bored. They couldn’t have been older than 24. I asked them where all the cool things were on the Isle of Skye, thinking that they would set me in the right direction. They said in the kindest tone “Hey man, there isn’t much to see here. If I were you, I would just turn around and leave.” It wasn’t a mean or exclusive tone at all. It was a concerned tone. They were all very nice, but they hated where they lived.
I poked a little bit more and the lady from the front desk kept on walking by my table and dropping all sorts brochures. She really meant well. All of them meant well, but they didn’t actually know anything about the island. They didn’t know what to be proud of. They thought I was looking for Disney land, but I was looking for Scotland. I suggested that maybe they were taking for granted the natural beauty around them and they agreed.
I checked into my room and it was empty. I sat down on my bed and thought for the first time on my trip “What the hell am I doing here?” This, very importantly, was not the fabled “what am I doing on this round the world journey?” It was just a gut feeling that I needed to get out of town, and quick. “Maybe I can just ditch my reservation.” I thought, making it the first time I have considered letting a hostel have my money without staying in their bead, pissing in their shower, and shitting in their sink (Just Kidding about the second one).
I thought, “well hell, the best part of this island is the freaking bus ride into it?” For the first time since my newly found mantra of Fate Based Travel, I began to doubt it. I thought that this excursion would be a complete miss. I couldn’t get any direction from the locals, and the hostel was completely empty, so I couldn’t get any info from any backpackers either. At this point I could use a friend.
Soon after that, I saw the Belgian boys who I had met in the previous hostel in Inverness. The ones that hiked for 5 days in Kilts. I ran out of the shop and greeted them. “Are you guys staying here?” “No, we just rented a car and are traveling around the island for two days.”
“Take me with you! I can pay you money!”, I said in an anything by shy tone. The looked at each other and said “we would, but our car is full. If we had any extra space, we would.” Shit balls, no luck.
Sometimes you just have to believe though. Luckily the hostel had free internet and I used the power of The Google to sort myself out. This along with some of the brochures lead me to The Old Man of Storr. This was a site about an hour away that was a wonderful hike. I eventually figured out how to make the three bus connections to get there, still without a plan or a friend. I am fine with traveling alone, but hiking alone is just stupid.
During my first bus leg, I met a girl who was a geologist. Apparently, much of this land has not been surveyed. She said that there were a bunch of geologists temporarily living on the island for the next two months. She looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was here to hike.
On the second bus leg I was on it alone with another local gal that was trying to get a ferry out to an even further out island for a 1 week fiddling convention. She said she loved the outer islands, but they can be hell as far as the weather goes. This along with the complete lack of like minded people, trumped my idea to go out to the outer most islands.
I thought that the third bus would have to have some people who were on their way. Finally there were about 6 other people who were headed out for just that reason, to hike.
I started by speaking to the two girls in the front of the bus. Though they were friendly, I didn’t get the sense that they wanted to have a third. I got off the bus and just started hiking behind the group of 4 that were at the back of the bus, but they had a snails pace, so I charged forward with the endorphins being released. There were the occasional couple passing back and fourth on the trail, so I felt that I would be safe enough if I twisted an ankle or something. And any point that I thought it was getting hairy, I would just turn back. A lot like my wondering in cities strategy, just go strait and when you want to go home, go strait back.
I got up to The Old Man of Storr, the rock formation that the site is named after. Though not crowded, there were plenty of people around. I asked someone to take my picture, fearing that they would take a terrible one. Of course, it was one of those touristy pictures that they manage to cover up all significant scenery with your half chopped face. It only took me half an hour to get up there. I thought to myself “what am I going to do with the rest of my day now?” I wanted to push onward, but I didn’t have anyone to go on with. At this moment, there were two Polish guys who were taking some pictures with some very nice cameras to my left. I asked them to take a picture for me and I came out great.
They asked me if I was going to hike onward and I said “Yes, but I’m alone, so I don’t want to fall to my death without anyone blowing up a piece of the mountain to avenge my death.” They laughed and said in a boasting voice “why don’t you just come along with us?” They was actually Peter, the older of the two. I smiled and said “Sure!”
Sometimes it takes till the moment of truth until Fate Based Travel delivers. In the same breath, a streak never tastes better than when you are starving. We set off to make the 4 hour extension loop around and to the top of the mountain. As we made our way, we met up with the 4 people who I had passed earlier. Two of them Swiss and two of them French, they were about 18-20 years old.
They asked us if they could tag along and the Polish guys said “Of Course”. In the course of 20 minutes, It went from lonely, to party. We pressed on with a sketchy map. We got to a point where we had to hop a fence to go any further. Then there were mountain ranges, only these ones had punctured the green blanket.
I’m not even going to try and describe the scale of beauty that I was walking though because I’ll surely fail and offend. But I will say that at no point were we truly sure that we were on the right path. We just looked into the mud for human foot prints to make sure that people had been that way.
Within less than an hour, the 2 Swiss and 2 French were ready to turn back, so they did and we pressed on to adventure. You’ll have to understand that the Polish guys, Peter and Charles, were very funny. Within the first few minutes we had met, they made a joke about killing me and eating me as soon as we got out of sight from the crowds. They were the perfect hiking partners and I wouldn’t have ever found them unless I was up on a particular ridge at that exact moment.
We kept going and Charles announced that he thought we were on the wrong mountain. He pointed to the one across the valley and said we should have turned left about an hour ago. Peter laughed and said ” Charles, be serious!” Charles said back “I am.”
I looked at them as said, “Well, we can always go back and find that left turn.” We all decided to keep going forward and just see how far we could get, since going forward at this point was actually turning back toward the car park(parking lot. Please excuse my international vocabulary). We got to the top of our mountain that was long and thin and it ended up being very flat on the top and covered with squishy, bouncy, grass.
The fog was rolling in periodically as we kept climbing up to the summit. There were several rams and sheep making noises at us as we walked bye. Eventually we got past a bolder on the top and saw two other people. Simultaneously, we all said “HUMANS!”. Which must have been a shock to the couple enjoying their sandwiches. We were at the top and the fog had thickened. There was nothing to see.
It was still magical to see all of the green around us in the low light. You could feel how high you were as the winds blasted up the face of the mountain. Eventually the fog cleared and we made our way down to an outcropping that looked like a diving board. Peter was the first to go out on the ledge, a 1000 foot drop below.
I began to get the feeling that I did when I went Bungee jumping in New Zealand. Fear. That gross feeling of your stomach turning inside out. The acids curling inside only blocked my the rush of adrenalin your body produces to give you the strength to save your life. By now I was out on the ledge on all fours. This time with no safety harness, I hugged the strip of land. I couldn’t see over the edge yet. Peter and Charles, said in a concerned tone, “Ok that’s far enough.” but I had to see.
I inched out, but by bit and looked over the edge, a thousand feet below. even lying flat and a 4-5 foot wide strip, my body prepared to die. Vertigo began to set in. The dizzy spinning feeling began to take hold. The Canyon would echo but I hadn’t the breath to play it as an instrument.
It was far enough. I inched my way back and we carried on. Slowly but surely making our way down the mountain, we made it to the bottom where a stream had soaked the land for a thousand years. It felt like a trampoline and there was about 3 inches of movement. Shortly after that, the ground grew to soup and my shoes instantly soaked to the bone. I had been warned about this part of the trek by the Polish guys earlier but didn’t care. We eventually made our way to the road that was lined with a barbed wire fence. I hopped it and just at Charles was making his way over, a man on the side of the road started yelling at us.
“Get down off that fence this instant.” in a wonderfully Scottish accent. “What do you think you are doing? Use the freaking gate, that’s what we put it there for. That fence costs money you know? If I catch you doing this again, I’ll call the police.”
I reply with “Sorry. Wait, there’s a gate? Where?” He realized that we didn’t even see the gate and this defused his anger. To tell you the truth, the moment I said sorry, I could see his face change to less than angry. I just thought of the way someone would respond to sorry in America. It wouldn’t defuse an angry person. It would be responded it to with “Sorry, Sorry doesn’t Cut it!”
I had missed my first bus back into the local town, so the Polish guys gave me a lift in their 1997 Mercedes Benz to the local town where I could catch the next two buses back to my hostel. Before they left we all had fish and chips as well as deep fried Haggas and ate it down in the small harbour of Portree. Yes, Haggas is still amazing when deep fried.
It turned out that Peter was Charles’s English teacher from a decade ago in Poland. These types of funny friendships tend to tickle me. But it was indeed the Polish who affirmed my belief that Fate Based Travel is infallible. I truly had my doubts though earlier.
By now if you have been following my blog for a while you might have heard or noticed the tone of Fate Based Travel before a few times. This blog serves many purposes, but one of the best ones is my attempt to take my short term memory and slap it onto paper while the ink of my brain is still wet in an attempt to construct something that is memorable and shareable forever.
It is this blog indeed that I will use as a road map for my first book “Fate Based Travel.” Because any great thing should be written about and shared and every man should write a book. Follow me in this blog on the surface and be prepped for a book that digs deep into select journeys and things that I have learned along the way.
I’m not claiming to be talented or professional and I’m not declaring this as a new career path. Far from it, I think that published authors who can make a living at it are about as rare and hopeless as rock stars (I hardly can read myself 🙂 . I just feel that it is the best souvenir you could ever have.
If No one reads it, I’ll just have kids and make them read it.
Below are some pics from The Hike and Below that are some videos. Forgive me that they come in a bunch of seperate ones. Since my computer got the virus, I havent been able to edit any films together. I ironically can’t see the films once posted online too, but still can do the posting. It’s a flash problem on my computer. Lame!