August 11, 2008

Dublin, Edinbugh, and Arran

August 8

Napping in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin
“We landed in Dublin at 8:30 AM. Hiked into the city. Bought lunch at Tesco, €3.07. Ate lunch along a city canal. Hiked into the city center. Stopped at St. Patrick’s for a 1 hr. nap. Meandered back to the airport. Got back at 5:30 PM. Flew out at 8:40.

Arrived in Edinburgh at 9:30 PM. Repacked and got water. Hiked a few miles out and camped at the edge of a field at 12:45 AM.PM 55°
Airport exchange: $175 USD for £79.23"

Above is the first journal entry of my trip to the UK in the fall of 2008. Here follow my reminiscences. We were upgraded on our flight to Dublin because of an airline mix-up. It will probably be the only time I ever fly higher than coach. Dublin was a nice town, but it wasn’t that fun walking on so much pavement with full packs – especially since I was so out of shape. Still it was my first taste of international travel and the novelty was enough to give some respite to my tiring feet. I especially loved hearing the accents. Strangely enough, I felt a sort of increased self-awareness of my own identity when my characteristics were set in relief to what I considered foreign. Minor adjustments where inevitable though – I had a hard time getting used to the traffic. We walked a lot that day, but it was only a foretaste and I knew it.

We flew out of Dublin, over the western islands of Scotland, and on to Edinburgh. Surprisingly, we walked off the plane and out the terminal without being checked by customs. I suppose I could have stayed in the UK indefinitely without technically overstaying my visa since I had none. Our jet lag made it easy to stay awake to find a campsite, despite our lack of sleep and the day’s walk. It wasn’t easy finding a place to camp, in part because we were in a foreign country that we had never seen by daylight. We found a place in some trees and set up the tarp. Had I known how active the insect community was, even in the lowlands, I would never have fallen asleep out of the tent. I don’t what to know how many three inch slugs slimmed their way over me in the night.

August 9
Ian and I in the fields outside of Edinburgh

“Slept until 1:45 PM. Packed and headed into the city. Late afternoon bought groceries at Somerfiled. £18.20/2. Hiked to the city center. Ate at Prince Street Gardens. It rained during lunch (7PM). Walked to High Street. There were a lot of people at High Street. The Military Tattoo was sold out so we walked down to a fringe show. It was two jugglers. One was on a tall unicycle. We decided to look for a place to camp at Holyrood Park and walked down Cowgate. There were a lot of bars, clubs, and young people. We made our way to Holyrood and hiked a while looking for a campsite. Finally found one at the edge of the park overlooking the city. Went to bed at 11:15 PM.

PM 60°
13.75 miles”

It’s true. We slept until 1:45 pm our first day in Scotland, without a thought as to who might come along. Realistically, there was nothing to be worried about. We were in a normal patch of trees out in the midst of the fields. No one would see us. Once we got going, it was simply a matter of walking in the direction of the orange glow of the night before. We wondered a not-so-straight line into the city, taking walking paths when we found them, but usually sidewalks. There had just been a big football game in the city and we met a lot of fans on our way in.

While shopping, I felt conspicuous for several reasons. First of all, it was our backpacks. It was awkward meeting people in the narrow aisles with our over-sized rucksacks. That must be what it’s like to be obese. The other reason for our conspicuousness was the very friendly, homeless Scottish chap outside who began by conversing loudly with us outside the grocery and who then took it upon himself to (in)formally welcome us to Scotland by entering the store and chanting down the long aisles “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

We filled our packs with the Scottish delicacies (chief among them, digestive biscuits) and made our way to Prince’s Street Gardens. From there we ascended to High Street where we took in the sights and found our way to Holyrood Park. While I assumed there was no camping allowed, I didn’t see a sign (and wasn’t about to look for one) so we began searching for place to set up. We hiked all the way through the park, most of it was either too steep or too wet, before finding a less than ideal strip of trees toward the edge. It was right next to a street but, as we discovered later on, that street is closed to auto traffic each Sunday so we had more privacy than expected. We saw another tent near by and first tried the tarp only. When Ian found a slug the size of one of my fingers on a tree near by, we decided to use the bug hut.

August 10

A look toward Caltron Hill, Edinburgh
5 AM 54°; 10 PM 61°

Rose at Holyrood at 5 AM. Took pictures of the city in the morning sun. Decided to leave for the west coast. Steripen isn’t working. Took the long route to the train station. Train to Glasglow at 11 AM. In Glasgow from 12:30-2. Bought Nalgene & Iodine at Tiso. Got 2 cheeseburgers  at Burger King. Paid credit card bill at Néro Café. Train to Androssan Harbour 2:05-2:55. Fifteen day ferry pass and left the harbour at 3:15. Arrived at Brodick at 4:00, got petrol, and groceries. Calling card wouldn’t work. Started hiking toward the center of the island. A Scottish man gave us a ride to Glen Rosa Campground. We got directions to the trail and hiked 2 miles in, set up the tarp, and cooked supper. We made shephards’s pie with potatoes, cheese, beef, carrots, and onion. Quite good. Set up the bug hut because the midges got really bad for a while. Cleaned up and got in bed. It just started raining and I’m going to bed.

Train ticket: £13.75
Nalgene & Iodine: £18(-5)
15-day ferry pass:£79
Groceries: £5.72/2
Petrol: £2.00/2
Oh yeah, Irn-bru: 80p/2. It was good.”

Of course by long route, I mean wrong route. The streets of Edinburgh, especially around Holyrood are confusing, particularly if you don’t have a decent map. Nonetheless, we made it to Waverly and hoped the rail to Glasgow. The hour long jaunt across the Scottish lowlands was pleasant, though the view from the window wasn’t what I had expected to see.  We had to walk a few blocks from Queen Street to Central and on the way we saw an outdoor shop. Since my water purifier didn’t work I needed some iodine and since I had forgotten my Nalgene in the States (I had been drinking from my unused fuel bottle) I had been looking out for a shop that might supply these essentials. Tiso was a decent gear shop. The horrendous price I paid for a Nalgene could only be justified by the fact that I really did need it and that it turned out to be one of the only “souvenirs” I brought back from my trip. We made it to Central Station and Ian stayed with my pack while I when looking for an internet café to pay some bills that I had neglected to pay before taking off."Mostly Cloudy, mist

When we arrived at Ardrossan Harbour we had a 15 minutes until the ferry sailed. I remember that the lady selling tickets was difficult to understand. She asked me if I had a bike and I thought she said ‘bag,’ even after she repeated it twice. The ferry ride was liberating. Out of civilization and into the wild Scottish islands. It was exhilarating to see the mainland drift away as the southern massif of the Isle of Arran approach. Brodick was both rustic and charming. We filled our fuel bottles at the petrol station but I panicked when I saw a sign on the pump that said “£2 minimum.” Ian ran in to buy of bottle of anything so we could make the minimum purchase – well not Scotch, since we had to drink it fast and then keep walking. In doing so Ian discovered Irn-bru, as genuinely Scottish as Scotch, and not nearly as expensive.

Once finished in the town we headed for the central mountains and found a decent camp beside Glen Rosa Creek.

August 11

“Night rain, sprinkles; windy all day
Cloudy; 9 AM 61°

Rose at 9am in the hills of Arran. Last night at 1:30 we woke up and mist was coming in the hut. We jumped out and tightened it down. The wind was blowing hard we stayed dry the rest of the time. Baked apple pie for breakfast. Needed a little more cinnamon and sugar and a thinner top but otherwise pretty tasty. Not a bad breakfast. Found the coolest swimming hole ever. We swam for a while and took off at 2pm. had a lunch a ways up the valley and crossed the pass. It was very, very windy, 40+ mph. Scrambled down the other side. Saw about 12 red deer. One nice buck. Got to the end of the valley and 2 more deer. Looked around a cemetery. Got to the coast at 7pm. Hiked for a mile or so and ate something. Lunch supplies almost out. Hiked until 9:15 and set up camp by the coast. I can see town lights across the channel. We made the tarp tight tonight, just in case. Cooked rice and beans. The ground is smooth, the hut warm, and the wave relaxing. Goodnight.”

Looking toward the other end of the island
It was indeed one of the greatest swimming holes I have ever seen. While Ian was in the icy water and about to come out, I heard voices. We were both in our underwear and I was drying in the sun. I grabbed what I thought were my pants and forced them on. And let me tell you, it took a lot of force since I had Ian’s pants and I outweighed him by 40+ pounds. Poor Ian had to persevere through his body’s steady decent into hypothermia while the Scottish family, from Glasgow I think, came over and chatted with us.

After our swim we climbed the pass and headed down toward the north coast. It was a muddy decent and the ferns kept my pants wet all afternoon. When we made it to the coast we picked up a trail that circumnavigated the island. We followed it through some lush terrain and as far as we thought necessary that night. We stopped at a normal campground along a creek for an evening snack and continued for a few miles. We were already running low on food but I was confidant of finding a grocery store in one of the three ports we would go through the next day. I was content as I drifted to sleep to the sound of waves on the beach in my newly christened “Slug Hut.”

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