Monthly Archives: December 2016

Hitch Hiking to Tobermory Continued.

After about  15 minutes and only one car speeding past us, I was rethinking this  euphoric hitch hiking adventure. It’s dark. Winter. Scotland. Wet jeans. Cold hands. All of it didn’t add up. Two old broads with backpacks and waning enthusiasm. On a desolate island . You have heard of the road less traveled? Well we were on it and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  I shouldn’t speak for Heli. She’s not old…and she such a free spirit she probably was invested in the adventure, maybe even having fun. But not me. I had  one foot in and one foot out. I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie and I was playing Woody himself. Neurotic, worried, skiddish about what might or might not happen next. Where were we going to stay if and when we got there? Would we even see the Xmas tree lighting.? We’d called B and B’s and none answered. Shut down for the winter. The same was true for the hostel. Shut down for the winter. Eek, there was no limit to the amount of conjured scenarios that could possibly go wrong. But look, up ahead, that car that sped past came to a holt and the driver jumped out and cleared his tools off the backseat and we were on our way once again.

We made it to Tobermory in time for the lighting of the tree and the harbor. Every shop was opened and was serving wine and beer and cookies and other hors d’oeuvres. It was quaint and simple and seemed just right. Kids were running everywhere. There was a choir singing under the clock tower that later roamed from shop to shop.  The choir was roaming, not the tower.

We found a room at the Mishnish Hotel,that much to our surprise,had a gigantic tub with very hot water!  This had been on our wish list of accommodations away from the hostel (which only has a weak little dribble of a shower).

We stayed two nights, took lots of baths, and had the time of our lives. We met the lady who owns the Tobermory Cat. Three books have been written about this comical local cat. She owns a very curious shop filled with hardwear type merchandise and old Chinese artifacts, vintage guitars and ukuleles and various antique lamps. One could spend hours milling around finding unusual things. I was able to buy things I couldn’t get on Iona. Shoelaces for my hiking boots. A crochet hook. A kilt pin. A full set of gorgeous Faber Castell pastels in a tin case, and of course,the Tobermory Cat book that showed the cat out and about in Tobermory. It’s very funny and added much to our adventure to see this silly cat lounging around town in all sorts of predicaments and scenarios. We laughed our heads off at his antics.

We also visited the coop as Heli calls it, and now everyone at the hostel calls it the coop. Heli has a thick Finnish accent and is very creative with her English. The coop is the co op to the rest of us. But we liked her version so now it’s the coop for all of us. Gathering enough affordable groceries is always a priority for all of us. The small store on Iona called the Spar is expensive and limited in its variety.

We especially enjoyed our visit to the art center up the hill . There was a lovely show about ice and snow with many scenes I already recognized. Ben Mor was depicted in a few of the landscapes. It’s a beautiful snow capped mountain I see daily  on my walk.  Looking across the Sound of Iona over to the large island of Mull one only has to find the what looks like an island itself called the Berg.  Just behind that , one sees Ben Mor standing like a chocolate dusted in powdered sugar. The ice show had some lovely contemporary pieces as well as some wonderful abstracts represented. The center is also a bookstore and cafe, so it was a great place to hangout. It had a gift shop also,where I was able to get some Xmas presents.

The second night was completely different than the night we first arrived with all the festivities that had been going on. The town was dead. Streets empty. After an uneventful Chinese dinner, Heli really wanted chocolate cake.  We were told to go to the far end of the pier to a restaurant that was painted red. We had the best, biggest piece of fudge cake you could imagine all smothered in custard and ice cream. It definetly made up for the ho hum Chinese we’d just eaten. Both of us were ready to leave.   Tomorrow  was Sunday. Buses don’t run on Sunday. Hitch hiking may prove to be difficult. Not much traffic this time of year. Just as the restaurant was about to close, in walks Mike from Mike for Hire Transportation. There was our ride for the last leg of our trip. On to Dervaig!

Dervaig is a small village of less than 100 people. It has a row of very neat little white Croft style houses all facing each other. The Inn was closed for the winter. Heli came to see the church there with its beautiful stained-glass windows.  Even though it was cold we sat inside for a long time. We took pictures. We turned on the lights. We sat in many different pews. We read captions and brochures. We took it all in. We would be back for the 2:00 service. But by now we were hungry. The restaurant at the Inn wasn’t open. The bar was only serving drinks. Scotland closes down in winter. So we walked through the village to the Spar/post office and ate huddled on an old leather sofa watching the locals come and go as they bought groceries. We were happy to be out of the weather. We had cucumbers and cheese and bread with hot chocolate from a vending machine.

The congregation of about 12 was so happy to have visitors. They chatted at us like a brood of hens. There was one male in the group. He told me the church was an arts and crafts building built at the turn of the century.  But the bottom half of the building looks older because it is built out of stone like older structures. The walls were very thick. One could see this by looking through the window wells. We felt very welcome. We were chosen to light the Avent Candle at the appropriate time in the service. The minister gave a very meaningful sermon about advent. She wore a green outfit , a dog collar  ,

she called it and was a minister who travelled around to various churches fulfilling her duties as vicar to these small communities.  She had a dog tied to a pew who was friendly and well behaved. I was glad we went to the service. It felt appropriate and advent felt meaningful for the first time in many years.

When we left the church it was dark. Oh no, not another scenario of uncertainty! So I went over to the Vicar  as she was loading her dog in the back of her car and asked her if she was going anywhere near Craignure. That was her destination. Can you hear my sigh of relief! It amazed me this young women travels these desolute  roads all alone and such long distances. Perhaps that’s why she has the dog with her.  She said if we couldn’t find shelter for the night, we could stay at her Croft with her husband and herself. But it is very cold and said we should see if we could find someplace else to stay, and she’d be a backup.

Now it’s really dark and the cold has made me a little crazy. I have visions of my fingers turning purple and dropping off. I wonder if I will die of exposure. The nice minister with the polite dog is gone down the hiway and is now out of sight.  Heli sensing my woe walks along way to an Inn which she comes back and reports has a room. She encourages me to go warm myself by the fire.I do. But I feel guilty about her out there in the cold trying to get a ride for us. So I go back along the road and find Heli.  Almost immediately a car pulls up along side us.

What are the chances of getting a ride to Fionnsphort? It’s the end of the road. The ferry to Iona is there. But as fate would have it she was going to a place a mile from our destination! She lived at Finnhorn and was giving a workshop on a small island nearby. We had a chance to talk since we were in the car over an hour. She’s a therapist, leads workshops, is

a follower of Byron Katie who wrote Loving What Is .  I love Byron Katie !  Who are these people out here on the roads of Scotland that are so interesting, educated and creative? It looks so bleak and unpopulated. ( I’m tired of writing now, but coming over on the ferry the other day I met a film maker who does set designs and lives in Tobermory but does work for a London-based company and the there was the photographer who lived on Mull ……

 

Will this Hitch Hiking Story Ever End?

Out of nowhere, a car on the wrong side of the road came to a sudden halt. A man with a  large dog who  was riding shotgun grinned at us, (the man grinned, not the dog). Anyway, the man bolted out of his car to open doors and help us with our backpacks,  and said he was going to a town about 10 miles from our destination and was willing to take Heli and I that far. But when he opened the door to let us in, Hope, his very big, muddy ,hyper red setter leapt out of the car and ran into the other lane with great abandonment and senseless joy. Clearly, the man was dismayed and Hope wasn’t having any of it. She was free! Funny I don’t know the man’s name but the dog must have made an impression on me because I remember her name. The man frantically kept calling her, but she was having too much fun.

Most of this island of Mull that we where on is a one-lane hiway. If another car is coming someone needs to pullover and wait for the other person to pass. But this stretch has two lanes and Hope was enjoying romping in both of them. The man was worried , but he needn’t be because the traffic is sparse. Very sparse. We’re talking a car about every 5 minutes or so. Hope and I were having a hard time getting settled (Heli was in the backseat already.) By “settled” I mean now I was seated shotgun with Hope fidgeting on my lap! I guess I took that gigantic smelly rambunctious animal’s spot. All I could think of was wearing muddy wet jeans for the next few days. I hadn’t brought a change of clothes,just sox and underwear and a toothbrush. I was practicing to be a free spirit, like Heli. Go light, be lead…(lead by Spirit?)

I remember standing on the side of the road (OUT IN THE MIDDLE Of NO WHERE!) with my wet jeans and Heli, looking over at the ocean on the left and some heavily ladened moss covered tree and rocks on the right and thinking, I’d be really scared right now in the twilight out on this road if that man hadn’t said he’d check on us in about a half hour to see if we got a ride. If we hadn’t he’d drive us to Tobermory which was about 12 miles away. I knew this because there was a sign with arrows pointing in opposite directions. Tobermory 12 miles and Dervaig 8 miles.  So we waited as it got darker and darker.

Continued: Right to Roam or Heli and Vicki Hitch Hike etc…

Americans have a lot of rights. They love their rights. Under the constitution they have freedom of speech, press, religion, and petition. That’s the  first right. The second is the right to bear arms. There are 10 rights that are a part of our constitution which is called the Bill of Rights and was ratified in 1791 and is the first ten amendments to our constitution. I won’t name them all here, but I will say there is a right that Scotland has (and Ireland, Iceland, and the Scandinavian countries and to a limited degree the UK ) which we Americans do not have.

I live in the country in Northern California on a beautiful piece of land. Most people have horses or cattle or at least chickens out where I live.  I have 3 pastures and a 100 year-old house and a smaller house which is a rental, and 2 1/2 acres and 7 gates! My neighbors have gates too and various amounts of acreage. Most of them have big metal electrical gates you can operate with a remote.  You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your car. Heaven forbid if the 70 degree weather is too much for you, one might injure oneself from all that movement! I’ve even thought of getting that setup myself. That way no one can come on my property.

So far  here in Scotland,  I haven’t seen any electrical gates. Besides, there is a law here called THE RIGHT  TO ROAM law and it states that anyone has the right to roam. Anywhere. On anyone’s property. In America you open those gates and start roaming around that 2nd amendment right is going to click in real fast, and before you know it , you could be staring down the barrel of a gun! Well maybe I’m being a little dramatic here…At least you’d have to explain why you were trespassing.  Roaming isn’t allowed in America, at least not on private land!

I just like the sound of a law called Right to Roam. I like to roam. So far I haven’t met any highland cows, just herds of sheep and tons of rabbits as I have meandered around through luscious green fields or walked the one mile stretch of road that goes into the village. I’ve opened a few gates and made sure they were closed behind me so the livestock didn’t go where the farmer didn’t want them to go.

But Heli is a free spirit and her sense of roaming is huge. Who else walks the Camino, goes home and sells everything and essentially is just on one big Roam! It’s called her Life. And really aren’t we all on that journey? Besides, she’s from Finland and the cold doesn’t even faze her. I’m just her sidekick. And all of a sudden, my sense of abandon has grown and here I am in December in the freezing cold at dusk hitch hiking at the age of 71 in Scotland with this incredible free-spirit wise women healer nearly half my age! We were giddy with the thrill of the adventure. The first part worked out just fine…stop reading now if you think some mishap is about to happen. It’s not. This story is about synchronicity, following Spirit, and how fun life can be. It’s about being like a child, being in the present and trusting.

So I’m standing on the road thinking.

“What the hell am I doing?” I couldn’t believe how cold I was. When in doubt about anything, go shopping. So I say to Heli, “I’ll just be inside ( we were dropped off in front of the  little ferry building which was still open and WARM) ” I need to do some Xmas shopping. ( Yah right! In the middle of hitch hiking? Nothing like a diversion. )”You keep your thumb out,call me when we get a ride.  I know what your thinking, why would she want me as a friend…

I’d only tried on one wool wrap when all of a sudden, Heli was at the window signaling for me to come outside. She’d gotten us a ride!

 

Right to Roam : OR Heli and Vicki hitchhike across a Scottish Island at Night in the Dead of Winter

My friend Heli and I decided to go to Tobermory to see the lighting of the Xmas tree and hear Xmas carols. We took an afternoon ferry across the sound of Iona to Fionnphort which you can see from Iona.  When we got on the other side, we were famished so we popped into a small cafe that normally wouldn’t be open this time of year. Our bus wouldn’t be here for a few hours. They were open only because the elders of the community were having their weekly brunch. After lunch we milled around at the Spar (little grocery store) which had a small gift shop.  By this time it was after 3pm and sunset is 3:20pm!  Would we make it on time for the lighting?  Tobermory is more than 2 hours away and we hadn’t even boarded our bus yet!  In fact, the bus hadn’t even arrived yet. I saw an elderly couple enter the little cafe. “I’m going to ask them if they are going to Tobermory”, I exclaimed to Heli.  As it turned out they were going to Craignure which is where the ferries come in from the mainland and where the buses depart for communities on the Island of Mull. Close enough. We were off!

They were the nicest Scots. But we couldn’t understood them  and they kept talking and talking over one another. We were exhausted after 2 hours. I didn’t want to talk about Trump no matter how informed these people were. I wanted to see Mull. It is a wild and desolate place. The beautiful flora and fauna kept speeding past the window as I tried to be polite and keep abreast of the political conversation. At one point I saw a mature  buck with a gigantic rack of horns! The layers of color of bracken and shrubs and trees intrigued me. Ochres, siennas,burnt umber , all autumn’s color offerings. I was trying to memorize the hues and shapes and feel of this landscape! The mountains loomed up before us bold and raw and ancient. Scraped up by volcanic activity and standing unabashedly in there nakedness they called to me.

 

When we got to Craignure, it was nearly dark and it was extremely cold and there isn’t much traffic on Mull. So here I was with Heli standing on the side of the road with my thumb out, freezing my butt off!