“There will be no lovely luxurious time while the fizzing drink cures the head and the coffee sends out soothing noises and smells from the percolator.” – Maeve Binchy, Whitehorn Woods
I am now about halfway through the telling of this particular adventure and I thought I would take this post to pause for a moment – a luxury one does not often have on a backpacking trip, no matter how conscious one attempts to be to the need to rest and recover.
Due to the packed nature of our trip, Kristen and I really did not have much time at all in any one place to stop and really take it all in. I guess this is why I am still writing these posts now, so many years later. In a way, I am attempting to recall those moments so fleeting and robbed of the savouring they deserved.
On that first and only night on the Isle of Skye detailed in the last post, we met two young men who graciously offered to take us up to Portree the next morning so that we could see a little more of the island before whisking ourselves off to yet another destination. And whisked we were – we arrived back in town just in time to grab our stuff and hitch a ride back across the bridge to catch our bus on to the next town.
When I stop to think about it all now, as I did not allow myself to then, Kristen and I really had some extraordinary experiences on this trip – ones that just don’t seem to occur, literally or figuratively, at home. For example, accepting a ride from two strange young men into a town a 20 minute drive away just so we could see and experiencing it is not something you would catch me ever attempting in Ottawa. If I have a hankering to explore Gatineau Park one day, you better believe I am finding my own way there using public transport or one of my lovely mobile friends. I would most certainly not head out to my local watering hole to find a stranger and request a lift.
Even upon our return to Kyleakin we continued to hold our home-bodied trepidation at arms length. In our defense, Kristen and I had already steeled ourselves to walk across the impossibly high Skyeway to Kyle of Lochalch on the other side of the channel. It was what we had planned and we were determined to do it – it was also by far our cheapest option. And yet by the time we were ready to set out, a light drizzle had turned into a steady rain, buffeted through the air by some impressively powerful winds. Honestly, as we carted our weighted bags up the hill out of town towards the bridge, I think we both looked up at the causeway above us more than once in fear wondering if we might be blown off halfway across – heavy cargo or no. It was then that a tiny Euro-style car stopped beside us on the road and the passenger rolled down her window to offer us a ride.
If we had been back home, we probably would have smiled tightly and shook our heads with a polite, “no thank you”, before involving ourselves in a deep conversation and avoiding eye contact until the hopefully good Samaritan took the hint and drove off. But yet again our instincts seemed to be on pause and we gratefully scrambled into the car, happy to not have to trek across the precariously anti-pedestrian bridge. And a good thing we did too – the car alone had a hard time staying the path, I can’t imagine the damage those winds would have wrought on our much thinner-skinned bodies.
The rest of the day passed by in a blur. We caught the bus to the middle of the woods somewhere in the highlands and waited in a small cement “bus station” under the silence of the thick canopy for a few hours until our next bus arrived to take us to our final destination: Fort Augustus. In this whirlwind of wayfaring and waiting, we did not have the luxury of taking a moment to stop and smell the coffee, so to speak. Not a moment to think of how far from ourselves we had strayed, how distant that lovely comfort zone of familiarity and forbearance was. How easy it was to let go of ones fears and drummed-in life lessons when in the throws of an adventure. Sure, nothing went wrong, but we hadn’t even thought for a moment of the possibility that something might.
But then had we merely arrived in Scotland, put our feet up, and enjoyed a coffee by the loch, it wouldn’t have been much of an adventure, or an escape.
I may not always recognize the self of my travels once I’m back in the comfort of my home and hobbit slippers but I never cease to admire her gumption. And it is during this time of recollection, in between expeditions into the unknown, that I can finally enjoy the soothing smells and sounds produced by my coffee maker. I am most certainly happy to spend this lovely luxurious time reliving and retelling these memories and moments so extraordinarily fleeting.
Remember, Life is Beautiful
Addendum: For those of you who may be curious as to why I have been so M.I.A. from this blog, stay tuned for the next one in which I explain my long, if sporadically alleviated, absence. My goal for February and beyond is to return to one post a week to keep those writing muscles honed. Here’s to challenging goals and refreshing new beginnings.