May 5th (on May 4th) 2010
Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, United Kingdom
Yesterday I awoke to the unpleasant sensation of not being able to swallow without a large amount of pain. Thus I realize I am now getting a cold and knowing how I am it will likely only get worse over the next few days. Thus I have decided, though basically per-arranged, to go back to Edinburgh and stay with Stuart and his family a) to see him again and b) to start to feel better. This morning I am in fact feeling worse and I’m hoping to just have enough energy to go find a puffin and see some neat stuff around here.
Anyway about yesterday I started to feel better after being up a while and had to make a train at 10:38 to Thurso. I made the train no problem and rather enjoyed the 4 hours of scenery and rural towns I got to take in. I did find it amusing to have the birds watching so intently from their rocky perches in the sea. Almost as if they were totally blown away by some human made contraption, though there is something like 3 trains a day alone just from the point I came from not to mention other trains. So it was amusing the crazy idiotic little animals.
After 4 hours on the train where I read, listened to music and watched the world go by I arrived in the sleepy little town of Thurso. Where upon arriving I had simply had enough of some of the junk I was carrying around that I had to mail some home and this is how I met Karen. I was asking the lady working the booth at the station how to get to the post office and another local popped in insisting she give me a ride. Which going with I think a healthy intuition I agreed and she was right I really needed someone to show me where it was because it was more or less hidden in the grocery store. Of course I got the average rundown of where I was from, what I had been doing? Was I homesick? Is the weather too cold for you? How cold is it in Colorado? The typical questions that I have been asked over and over again with. She dropped me off and we said our goodbyes and I went into hassle with mailing something home. Now this I was rather unaware of but a package going to the states from the U.K. Cannot exceed 2kg. So I was only able to mail home about half of what I wanted and will again have to mail some more stuff home today.
After all that I felt a coffee was in order and that’s where I met Keelie at a small bakery in Thurso. I ordered my stuff and after a while asked which taxi service to use to get to Scrabster for the Ferry. Well after I had said the first thing we struck up a great conversation on what I’d been up to. When I said Colorado she thought of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and told me she was going to go there one day and find and meet him. Then she asked about Forks, Washington in reference to Twilight and a couple other things actually surprising me that “South Park” wasn’t brought up. Oh and she told me when I first came into the shop she had thought I’d run away from home another blow to me trying to at least look my age, hey I wasn’t even wearing my glasses which make me look younger! Ah well I can’t win everything.
After the coffee I called myself a cab and popped up to Scrabster. I can’t remember my cab drivers name but he was truly a great laugh from the start. First, calling me Beverly just to torment me, then talking about how much he hated the English and the French! He was just hilarious and a lot of fun to talk to for those quick ten minutes.
After all that I was at the dock station which was a couple hours wait until I left so I worked on reorganizing my schedule. About an hour before departure I got onto the ferry and settled myself next to the window inside and warm. No outdoor freeze your ass off ferry but a really nice more luxurious type for the hour and a half trip. I also found a TV and watch scrubs and friends, which truly I was missing in a lot of ways. I really haven’t sat down and really watched TV since probably a couple days before I left Colorado. So in truth it was nice to veg out on old comforting shows and ignore the somewhat nauseating rocking of the boat.
I arrived in Stromness a little after 8 and was immediacy confused as to where I was due to my crappy bing map that I got. So instead of directly making it to my hostel I went all over until I found another map explaining it all. I was honestly a bit furious at this and have now learned not to trust bing maps either! But I got here okay and only a little wet and then settled in for the night and the lady that owns this Brown’s hostel is very sweet and understanding and put me in a room by myself for the dorm rate.
So here I am a bit under the weather this morning I hope a hot shower and some cold medicine will help. Otherwise I may be spending the day sadly in bed feeling too ill to do much.
Tomorrow is another long day of traveling, from meeting the Ferry at 6am to not arriving in Edinburgh until 4:30pm. But alas at least it won’t be too tiring because I can sleep and rest most the time.
Peace and Love,
May 5th 2010, wrting May 7th
As many of you know I took a side trip to the Orkney Islands or as many people around that area call it simply Orkney. Oh and don’t call them the “Orkneys” for some reason this doesn’t settle well, or at least that’s what I’ve been told and read. So I was in Orkney in the seaside village of Stromness and I was taken ill by some sort of cold that I caught who knows where. Originally I had planned to go to Orkney is search of probably their most famous bird a puffin. However due to me lovely little cold I was in no state to rent a bicycle and peddle out to some rural cliffs to find these rare birds. Thus I walked around the village briefly and more or less went to bed at 2, woke again at 4 got organized and packed for the next days early morning journey and then bought come groceries for the morning and decided on bed. Though that sounds dreadfully boring I plan to go into a little detail on what I did see, smell and taste while in Orkney.
I started the day about 11:30 after forcing some food down my system and making sure I was stable enough to leave. I then walked down the winding old stone streets along, that were almost abandoned and just had this feel of about 100 years ago. It truly felt like this town was left behind even to the point where one can see men with large beards and pipes and cabby hats standing by the bay. It’s truly feels like a portal to about 100 years ago, just the feel of the people, the hostel, the town, the smells in the air aren’t modern, the streets still remain small and bumpy. Horses graze on the steep grass slope just above you and the rest of the town, fenced in with old stone walls. It’s just so calming and mind blowing at the same time with how something could hold onto it’s original identity for so long. Of course, it’s not that the town hasn’t been exposed to anything modern it’s just that the core of it stays the same or is at least for now.
My first moment of odd was when I was walking the main sort of street which is really about five different streets all linked together. Suddenly from no where I see a Hearst winding it’s way down the road and then I realize it in fact has a coffin in it. So I stop to let it pass being that the streets are so narrow one can barely fit any car through it. The coffin was simple wood and then covered in a rich an kind array of flowers. A large van followed probably filled with close family and friends but after that I was truly surprised at the 30-40 people walking behind the van and Hearst in mourning. Walking behind in their black suits all with solemn looks on their face, as only to be expected. Of course it’s by no means weird a funeral and all that happens with it but I was truly surprised on the group walking to the cemetery. It was really like something out of a movie for me and I of course don’t know how Scottish Tradition on such things work in this day but I was under the impression it was very much like at home where we drove because everything was so far spread out. So this rare sort of intimate sight was another conformation on how little this area has truly changed. It was just beautiful and tragic and heartfelt and something, though morbid, I won’t likely forget.
After seeing the funeral procession and snapping photos of the town along the way I made my way to the small local Museum of Stromness. So small and low on visitors I was only charged £2.50 and was told I could come back as many times as I liked in the next week. For being such a small museum they really had some interesting items from local famous shipwreck dating back to the 1700’s and more modernly Germany fleet from the first world war. It was haunting and fascinating to look on these items with barnacles and sea urchins still attached from their ocean graves. They also had interesting bits on whaling, fishing, arctic explorations and trade in Canada. All of which was fascinating but I felt so bad I had to hurry to start heading back to my bed because nothing sounded better.
I admittedly stopped in a gift shop and bought some local honey and a wool hat made from wool from a rare type of sheep only in that area. The hat is adorable and so warm! But the honey, is simply the best I have ever had in my life. At home I’m a total honey junky commonly eating spoonfuls on a daily basis, and while I’ve been traveling my honey eating has been few and far between so I felt spoiling myself and and helping my sore throat was in order. The best way to describe the honey is the taste is the same as the smell of the entire island. That may sounds almost disgusting but it’s one of the single most pleasurable tastes and sensations one can have with food. The smell of the island is rich, salty ocean, earthy, grassy, fields and with it’s lack of modernization it almost smells like an antique. Not quite musty and not really mildew, not rust but just calming and a beautiful sensation. The honey of course seems to have captured this in the perfect means and makes it so delightful and soft and just a work of perfection! So thank you you little Orkney bees!
After my honey venture I picked up some fish and chips for a quick lunch and found myself a small stuffed toy puffin to try and satisfy my anguish at not seeing a wild one. I truly can’t win everything but I have done so much I can’t complain!
I slept for a couple hours and then walked to the grocery store to try and find some apple cider vinegar, which they didn’t have and some other food items for next days breakfast.
I then planned on sleep after reading a short while but was surprisingly not allowed this plan of action do to the accidental pushing of a fire alarm. Not my fault of course but a small, confused french woman thinking that was the way to call the owner to check in. So the alarm goes off and we all scurry to the front door in whatever shoes and clothes and coats we could put on. Only to find out it had been a mistake and then it was back to bed hoping they could sort it out. But alas it wasn’t a simple turn it off and tell the fire Marshall that it was only a simple mistake. They had to fight with the thing then get the fire Marshall to come in and inspect the fire alarms in every single room including mine. Of course there was not a knock on the door more a barge into room check the alarm with Mrs. Brown apologizing for the noise and interruption then closing the door and moving on. About 20 minutes later they got the buzzer turned off which really the sound is more that of a large kitchen timer that any fire alarm I’m used to. At first I wasn’t even sure it was a fire alarm! Oh well part of the adventure right? Oh and after all that I got a very good nights sleep in my room I had alone.
I did have to get up at 4:15am to get myself ready to get on the ferry which left at 6:30am back to Scrabster. I wasn’t overly groggy either and left 30 minutes earlier than my sort of last call out the door I had planned. This time I found my way to the dock no problem! Oh and the odd thing about being so far north is it never gets truly truly dark! It’s more a gray overshadow all “night” and then the sun eventually may peak through the clouds. It’s rather odd and charming at the same time.
The ferry was a nice ride back to the mainland, I joyfully watched the large beasts of islands show up out my window and take over the plain of vision. Sea birds happily diving in the water for their breakfast and the thick deep blue cold water churning around the boat peaking into small wisps of light blue as it beat upon the side. It made me realize how much more I love being on the sea and in that environment. Maybe my next adventure will be buying a boat or buying a ticket on one that travels around for a time. I think that would be a grand adventure right there!
I am now back in Edinburgh for a while, after a whole day of train travel. I am still a bit ill but not horribly so a good nights rest is helping me sort of fight off the bug as I hope just taking it easy for a couple days will as well.
I hope all is well wherever you may be reading this from!
Peace and Love,