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Vagamonde: Chasing Euphoria and Getting Hit by Reality
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The last wee bit of Scotland

We come out of our hostel hibernation to find that the Isle of Skye is blue! I can't believe my eyes. There is not a cloud in the sky. It's hot and we are in shorts and T-shirts. Michele comments: this beautiful blue sky day just happened to land on my birthday. I couldn't have asked for a better gift. Especially on Skye, and in October, because in this place the running joke is that the weather doesn't change much from season to season except that the rain becomes horizontal in the fall and winter.

After a day's ride, we pitch our tent behind a house. It always feels a little weird at first when you're not sure if you're allowed. But being in Scotland, soon enough someone comes up to ask us if we need anything. She tells us there's been a bit of a disaster. Her husband drove his tractor down to the beach at low tide and left it there to go fishing. By the time he got back the tide had claimed it. The top of the tractor slowly vanishing from sight. She tells us that she'll be back in the morning with a wee kettle. In addition, she brought us yogurts and sausage sandwiches. Too nice, just too nice.

In the morning we pack up and head out. There's not a cloud in the sky and it's throwing our minds for a loop. But despite all that I still feel physically drained and I end up pushing my bike up every hill. With this nice weather, morale should be going up but it's not really. I do my best to stay the course. The ride takes us to Portree where we investigate two hostels. We pull up to the first one. It's closed for the day but the caretaker pops his head out of the window. This guy looks like he's had too much sex with 20-year-old women trying to find themselves. And he's an asshole too! Even worse than the Milton Keynes hostel caretaker. After being welcomed with open arms everywhere we camped in Scotland, this guy tells us to move our bikes because we're actually on private property.

We head to the second hostel. The weather is still stunning. Something that is extremly rare in Scotland. But in the hostel there are two annoyed looking dumpy chicks curled up on a couch watching some stupid romantic comedy. For some reason, going off on a rant about how pathetic they looked in contrast with the beautiful weather put me right back on track. Morale shoots way up and I am no longer tired. Giving the finger to the two hostels, we head out for some of the best cycling we've done so far.

At the bottom of a steep descent is a campsite that is closed for the season. Hence free. Later on, Martin shows up. Martin is someone we met at a hostel. The next day we all go hiking for a few hours. It's nice to be off the bikes and use some different muscles. During the hike, a distressed cow can be heard in the distance. The lamentations are such that we are not sure if we should go investigate. Doing so would mean trudging through boggy terrain for several hundred metres. Good thing we didn't. It turns out that the lamenting cries are actually coming from a rutting stag. I really don't want to be perceived as a challenge to the harem of a six point buck. Although getting chased by a deer with blue balls would make a great blog post.

But horny deer are not the only thing making noise in the area. The whole mountain range is a race course for the air force. Jet fighters wipe by us at no more than a 100 metres from the ground using the mountains as slalom poles. These guys better not screw up because it's game over in a split second.

That night we spent our fourth night wild camping. The grease is accumulating and smells are getting exotic. We need a shower soon.

The five glorious days of sunshine are over. It's back to the shit weather. My patience for rain has become negligible. I feel that I never want to see rain again. So, we decide to stay at a family run hostel. Not too eventful. At one point, everyone is in the kitchen preparing dinner. I'm talking to one of the owners about fishing. He says that he went today but didn't catch anything. Doesn't matter he tells me. He has fish in the fridge. As he opened the package, the worst rancid fish smell permeates the kitchen. I look up at Michele with a "what the fuck is that smell" look. I have to leave the room but the smell doesn't seem to bother the guy. The fish is thrown into a pan and the rest is history. I'm pretty sure he wasn't sick that night but I almost was just from the smell.

Back on the bikes we stumble upon a beach where free camping is O plenty. There's nothing there except a few abandoned caravans. We have a look around for a spot with no sheep shit. Slim pickings. Michele comments: I am so sick of seeing sheep shit, it isn't funny. Always a pile of those dark brown pebble-like turds that look like chocolate-covered almonds (but don't eat them). It was everywhere. But especially it seemed to be exactly where we wanted to set up our tent.

Two older fellows come up to us and point to another spot down the road. There are two caravans there, very close to each other, which they claim are abandoned as well. So, we pitch our tent between them. It's sheltered and there is no sheep shit. Soon after night falls, a car pulls up to our beloved spot. We are toasty warm in our sleeping bags. We hear foot steps outside the tent. It's not long before hellos start bouncing back and forth. We get out of the tent to explain that we were told that the caravans were abandoned and that we are really sorry to be bothering them. What we get is the classic Scottish response.
- No problem at all.

Turns out that they've been keeping their caravans there for the last twenty years. They know everyone in the village and they're a bit annoyed that we were told false information. We chat and joke around for a while and they even offer us the other caravan for the night. Already set up we declined but we should have accepted because the night was pretty cold. In the morning, while having coffee, the man who told us the fib walks by. We tell him that we must have misunderstood him and that we thought he had said that the caravans were abandoned. Right in front of Michael the guy replies:
- Yes, they're both abandoned.

The sun is shining. Yet another lucky day. That's what I'm calling them now. Not nice days but lucky days. Doesn't matter really because this is our last cycling day. The route takes us past Eilean Donan. The mother of all Scottish castles were Mel Gibson delivered his (multiple Scottish accents???) Irish accent in Braveheart. Michele comments: Eilean Donan castle had a special significance for me. Years ago, when I was miserable at my job, I placed a picture of that castle on the front cover of my research notes. You know, as inspiration for better days to come. So it felt pretty amazing to be right there in front of it and on a fantastically sunny day too. Several hours later we arrive at the Plockton hostel. Not to eventful except that we have to be in the hostel tool shed in order to get internet. Being several metres away from the hostel, we can piggy back on an unsecured network. We could do all this outside but I'll give you three guesses why we can't. The first two don't count.

The hostel lounge offers a nice view of the now snowy mountains. The days are short and cold. Since we have given up cycling we catch a train to Inverness where we spent one night in a bizarre hostel. This place had cameras everywhere except the dorm rooms and bathrooms. All feeds are displayed in a mozaic on a plasma screen which no one pays attention to. No light switches either. All lights are activated by motion sensors. Michele comments: The kitchen was filthy too. I went to dry my hands on a tea towel, and came away with my fingers covered in something greasy. Shudder. The next day the staff tells us that a high school will be staying there. We decide to bail to the next hostel. Alright, I'm really getting sick of writing about hostels. It's on to Edinburgh by train of course.

In Edinburgh, we were taken in by John and Jane Butters who gave us much more than a place to stay. They took us to a concert one night and a play the next night to give us a view of the city that you would not get if you were a complete stranger. During the day we went shopping and got our stuff ready for the flight. In the evening they entertained us with their great dynamics. Like the time Jane was saying that in her career as a nurse she never once saw a doctor spell inoculation correctly. All the while John was trying to politely cut in by telling her to please stop because the conversation was terribly boring. We want to thank you for opening your door to us. We greatly enjoyed staying with you. Michele comments: I second that! Loved the jazz, loved the night at the theatre, loved the chance to chat with touring cyclists such as yourselves.

All our Scotland photos are here: Scotland 2010

To be continued...


  1. cool l'avion, c'est comme au military channel ! vous etes au maroc, la ?


  2. W-O-W. These updates are fantastic! Sounds like a real blast. If you guys want to write a book about your travels when you're done, I'd be more than willing to help write and/or edit it for you. Miss you much. B.T.W., Gus is getting FAT, even though he spends about 12 hours a day outside.

  3. Hey Seb! Ouiiiii c'est comme le military channel en directe. Y en a sans arret. C'est le seul que Benoit a pu filmer.

  4. ... et oui, nous sommes au Maroc. Avec la chiasse.

  5. Hey Jay, thanks for the comment. yes, maybe a book later. Much later. But we could use help for sure. Glad that Gus is doing well. You guys are really the best family for him. Give his fat belly a rub for us.

  6. bon courage avec la ch..sse ! vive l'imodium!


  7. What a great morning I spent sipping coffee and catching up with your blog. Scotland looks amazing and a great terrain to cycle. Keep up the posts. I'll live vicariously through you guys for the next several months. Nothing but rain and work here.

  8. Hey Rick! What a great morning for us to know that you are reading our blog. Say hi to everyone in Vancouver.

  9. J'ai hâte de lire des nouvelles du Maroc! Pensez-vous aller aussi ailleurs en Afrique? Ma tante est au Bénin, si ça peut servir :-)

  10. Viviane! Merci pour le contact. Nous attendons le printemps pour aller vers l'est, mais on ne sait jamais. Les nouvelles du Maroc vont etre dans le prochain post. A plus!

  11. je vois que vous avez le sourire!!!!
    continuez bien, moi je profite encore une dixaine de jours du Chili.

  12. !Hola Morgane! ?Como estas? Quand il fait beau, nous sourions beaucoup. Elles sont super belles tes photos de Chili!! Profites-toi bien du reste de ton voyage.