Friday, August 14, 2009

Surviving Scotland

I walked the West Highland Way in the Scottish Highlands with three buddies -- Kathleen, Jan, and Sally - now just back a few days, recovering from jet lag, settling back into San Diego and missing the cool days, even the rain, of Scotland. Ninety five stunning miles, the most challenging long distance walk in Scotland.

Day one of the hike, I put on my hiking shoes and realized I had brought the wrong pair, an old pair smaller than my current sturdy, comfy shoes. How could this happen? What could be more important for a climb or long distance walk than your shoes? What an idiot, I thought, but I'll just have to make the best of it. After two days of walking I recognized that purplish color in my big toe nail that heralds the nail falling off. On the third day, the sole of the left shoe came loose, flapping freely as I walked. I borrowed duct tape from an innkeeper and wore the shoe again the next day. Double idiot...not only did the duct tape give out quickly but I was going to lose that toenail for sure by continuing to use the shoes.

I resigned myself to wearing my not so sturdy, not at all waterproof trail running shoes, took the traditional end of trail still life -- in this case, end of life still life - and sadly left the shoes behind in Inveroran.

Day ten, after walking into Fort William the day before and getting ready to set off for the Isle of Mull, I dropped my camera on the pavement. It was irreparably damaged, and at that point I had not even a camera to take a still life of my dead camera.

After I dropped the camera, we went over to the car rental place and found we had a stick shift car reserved (since 95% of cars in Scotland are stick shift!), compounding the terrifying fact that we would be driving on the "wrong" side of the road, in the rain.

What?! Did I leave all my judgment on the other side of the Atlantic? Desperate to get to Mull, we took the car and Sally, an experienced stick shifter, drove us there and back. After we left Sally and Jan at the train station to go back to Glasgow, Kathleen took over driving - saying something about she drove a truck some years ago and she knew it would come back.

Twenty minutes out of Fort William heading to the Isle of Skye, I asked Kathleen if she didn't think it was unusual that the hood was vibrating. Scot that she is, she said she could handle it, no worries. Ten minutes later, the entire front tire came off, all in one piece like a doughnut out of the deep fryer. The car rental place didn't buy the plea that we were two ditzy American women, and how were we to know we were driving on a flat tire and burning all the rubber where the tire met the wheel? They charged us the full amount for five days rental - plus 500 GBP deductible - and wanted us to take back the same car! We said, "just take us to the bus station", and we made our way through the rest of Scotland by foot, bus, and train. I can't help feeling that flat tire saved our lives.

The final "oh, no!" came when I walked in the house, hugged my kitties, and the little scoundrels showed me $40 worth of expensive hiking socks they had chewed up while I was gone. I could see the "serves you right" look in their eyes.

On telling the car story to a neighbor, with dramatic effect of course, he said "I can top that". He and his wife had rented a car in France, returned it to the agency where a man met them in the parking lot, clipboard and papers in hand. They left the car with this guy and flew back to San Diego. Later, they received a bill from the car rental agency for the entire amount of the car. Evidently, the man in the parking lot was not an employee and they had handed the car over to a thief.

Next post, the joys of Scotland!


Pat said...

Dag, Kathie! See what happens when I don't go along to protect you? :)

Katharine said...

And here I always thought it was the other way around!

chucker said...

A cousin of mine just returned from her first ever trip Scotland.

She is a Ross and the clan had a huge reunion so she did a 12-day motorcoach tour all over Scotland.

Have not heard any details yet but I copied your blog to her.

Let's see what HER trip was like.


Anonymous said...


Katharine said...

We met loads of clan people, how incredible they were all there for the Homecoming. Got my own certificate for the returning.

Pat said...

Kath - heheheh!

What does that mean, a certificate for the returning?

Joan said...

I can't even imagine. Lordy. Good walking shoes are the key aren't they? Sounds like quite the adventure.