Sunday, 21 October 2012
Walk to the top of the world.
Danw was up very early and she wasn't adapt at being quiet, I heard doors closing loudly everywhere. But then again I did want to set out early myself too. I was likely to have to walk maybe most of both directions to Hermaness today, because it was Friday and the bus times were few and far between, unless you phoned to pre-book, and that was dependant on knowing where you were in relation to those bus routes. So I ate my breakfast and packed the bag to leave it in the laundry room, out of the way, just in case there would be a full hostel on my return, full paying guests. I hadn't seen the warden and apparently they were away on holiday anyway, according to Danw.
The walk was brisk at the beginning, the absence of my pack evident in my stride and pace. I followed the coast towards the far end of the cove and then back towards the main road and up to Ballasound. As Alan had said yesterday, it was indeed a long and straight open and boring road to walk, but the sun came out and I had to take off my coat and a fleece jacket also, it was that warm. It was like a very nice spring day back in old Blighty, and I couldn't hardly believe my luck to be here with such fine weather. You know what's coming next don't you???
Well surprisingly not, for it continued as it had begun and I was singing away and as happy as Larry. Before the two hour mark I had seen the villages spread about below me in the bay and voe and the local airport to my right. Well I say airport....loosly.... it is a strip of tarmac in a field and a rusty metal shed....
I visited the church, just to see what they looked like here in the most northerly parts of the British empire. Same as everywhere else actually. When I found the heralded shop come bakery come cafe, I became aware that the power was off here, the shop in obscure shades with phantom people sneaking about me. No power means no tea or coffee, but the soup was still warm from earlier so I had a couple of bowls of that for my mid morning lunch break. As with all the other shops on the islands it was well stocked, but nothing that could compare to Mary's emporium on Yell. The staff were very jolly and made me feel welcomed as a stranger as I sat reading all about the local life past and present in the self service cafe. It would seem Unst had a past during the world war conflicts and was a very strategic place for the military, guarding against the Germans and their nasty little U-Boats. Knitting of course and fishing coming in a close second and third respectively. Looking at the bleak landscapes it was hard to see what Land Girls would actually be doing here except looking pretty on tractors. Many people were also scouting around the dimly lit shop, some foreigners like me. I bought a few basics for the rest of the day, as my funds are very tight at present and every penny counts. So I had to put back to bottle of Macallan whiskey and the Havana cigars, the Beluga Caviar and the leg of cured ham on the bone.
Seriously, I did need to be sure I have stuff not only for the rest of today but something for breakfast, as there is nothing here in Uyeasound except the hostel and a few houses. But I would also have to carry it out to Hermaness and back again as the shops would possibly be closed when I got away from there this afternoon. Oh the logistical nightmares I have to put up with......
The people at the shop asked me where I was going and I told them. They all agreed that I was on a mission to defeat if I thought I could walk out there and back again before dark. They suggested I try for a lift from someone along the road. Well I have had a bit of luck recently with this, so took heed of their advice and set out to put it to the test. The third person I saw came to the rescue, and I wasn't actually thumbing at that moment either. He took me in his van, about 2 miles along the road and set me down on the road out to Hermaness. I carried on along this road and before you could say Jemimah de catso villa franco de souza, a car pulled up along side me and the man offered me a lift to the car park a mile or so away. When I opened the door to get in I was further surprised to see he had two beautiful young ladies with him. They were people I had just seen briefly at the shop, two French girls on a trip here from Aberdeen University. Remember I said that yesterday I thought Karel was a lucky so and so because he had a French girl all to himself, well eat your heart out mate, I have two.......
Seriously they were lovely fun company as we all set out to see the end of the world as we know it. What a way to go.... I mean the top of Great Britain.
Apparently they were stopping at a B&B and the driver of the car was the owner who had kindly offered to bring them down here to see the Hermaness nature reserve. They both spoke proper like what I does, their English tainted sweetly by that haw he haw French, Allo Allo accent that we Brits find so amusing but so seductive in the women who speak it.
I asked them if they minded me tagging along with them as they walked. They said that they would be glad to have the company, and little did they realise so was I. Not because they were girls you see, they were young ladies but because they were fun and used to laughing all the time. And because I was fed up of being on my own all day, most days whilst I walked to some of the most amazing places on the planet. We talked about many things as we walked and Ninon (pronounced Nee-noh) clicked away like a Japanese tourist with her camera, and Julie (pronounced Zjoo-lee) followed up the rear smiling and pointing out how many sheep pictures her friend had taken so far. But to be honest they are a cuddly bunch. The sheep not the French girls, but then again.....
The cliffs on the other side, the west side of the headland were breathtaking. I mean even the young ladies were in second place to the majesty and awesomeness of the weathered cliff faces, covered in birds, grass, sheep and Spagnum moss. I struggled to take it all in, as my appreciations grew for the beauty of nature all around me, and the power of the Ocean below. The day could hardly get any better than this. Sunshine, amazing views out over the Atlantic Ocean and the remainder of the North sea to my right, and company and sheep poo and wet feet from traipsing through boggy mossy marshlands.
I helped the girls by taking some of those incredible shots you like to have, but are hardly ever in, yourself. They appreciated it I think. Julie's camera battery had died because the zoom had used so much of the power, but Ninon just kept clicking away at everything like a woman possessed. When we finally arrived close to the end of the headland we could see the lighthouse clearly less than a quarter of a mile away, which I believe is now automatic rather than manned 24/7.
I made use of the good lighting to do a video which I hope will tell the story of the arrival and my deep relief at not having to go any further north now. Finally at the top of Great Britain, where our land boarders end, I felt a huge triumph at being here after 14 weeks of walking, and about 800 miles I guess of actual travel. I have done a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as you may know not following any route religiously and soaking up the mood and the spirit of the places I have visited as best I can.
The young ladies and I ate a snack for our lunches, and soon decided that we had better begin the return journey, and I have much further to walk than they. The day had produced one or two small and brief showers but in the main it was still an incredible day, one that I shall remember for a while. The way back seemed far longer than the path out here earlier, but well I know that arrivals can be more exciting therefore, the chance to misjudge the time and distances, taken by the newness of all that you are seeing.
The girls had decided not to phone the host of the B&B to collect them, I think they wanted the chance to find an alternative return method. Although I was walking with them I none the less didn't assume that we had to return together, and it would be far more difficult to find a solution where we all could be accommodated in a vehicle. Without wanting to take charge of their situation I looked for a way to help if they wanted it. In the finish, no cars were going our way anyway, so it was out of our hands really. I saw a minibus and believed it was one of those that do the small community collections so stopped the driver to ask if they could give us a ride to the south. The lady driving said that she was not going to be going that direction for a while but if we still hadn't been taken by the time she returned south she would help us.
So that is what happened, just as the girls were seemingly getting worried about not getting back or having to walk the whole of the next 2 or 3 miles on top of what they had already walked so far, the bus came along and took us all to Baltasound. The lady had a young girl with her, and it turned out that the people who run the B&B were her other grandparents, so the girls were to be taken directly there. I said my farewells to Julie and Ninon as I was dropped off by the kind and helpful driver, close to the main road junction. It only took two vehicles to have passed me, before the third, a lady who works at the shop I had visited earlier and her husband picked me up and took me almost all the way back to Uyeasound on the south of the islands.
And here I am drying my socks and typing after a lovely hot shower, in the comfort of my own private room (nobody else here) next to the storage heater. Thanking my lucky stars, and the Universe for answering nearly all of my prayers and request.
I feel it might be time to go back to Lerwick tomorrow, but I shall continue to let the omens and the opportunities flow to give me a clue as to where to go next. I have pretty well covered the whole of the Shetland isles now, some of it several times. The people have proved again to be as good as any others I have met around great Britain, though I do have some observations to outline, and this is not specifically about Shetland.
It would seem part of the common culture for many people, (fortunately not everyone) to put themselves into a self imposed bubble. They live in a self contained home environment, with every luxury one can have on credit. They leave that periodically in the confines of a self contained vehicle bubble, where again they have every device known to man to accommodate their tastes and personal pleasure whilst traveling. They enter into another pretty safe work environment bubble, or shopping trip bubble and find few or certainly create few opportunities to expand this bubble very far to include others, especially strangers. They claim that they are independent free thinking people but have such rigid views that they cannot see that a stranger poses no immediate threat to them, except the need to maybe invest some of their precious time and resources. And they let precious few people close to, or into this bubble type comfort zone world thingy, for a fear of things changing too dramatically that they might actually enjoy a new experience and learn something new from a stranger.
And this is the basis for my walking project, IMAGINE.
Imagine, walk with a stranger, make a new friend.
To try to help myself and anyone else sponsor a willingness to expand our horizons and our comfort zones and include rather than exclude others despite some obvious or not so obvious unique natures and differences. To be a society built on trust founded in knowledge rather than fear, and a world leader in compassionate and sustainable peaceful endeavours to create something rather than to destroy it all with our selfishness, collectively and individually. Britain could be great again if we knew one another and paid attention to the root of the problem rather than legislating to get a few bad apples off the streets. Give people hope Mr Prime Minister, give them self respecting careers with a future, and wages that can equate to real living costs. See to it that they get the best type of health care and education that our money can buy, and not line the pockets of rich industrialists and bankers. Bring prosperity back to our own shores by actually producing something ourselves that can be made and distributed here, that doesn't add stress to the environment and ecology of the planet in the pursuit of filling greedy corporate pockets.
Like Gandhi said, be the change you wish to see. So let Britain be the change and become great again, with sound economic reasoning, not those given to back handed deals with friends in high places. Make us proud by being honest in all you do and not by being bullied into schemes that make only rich people richer and the rest of us suffer the illness of our time, GREED.
Aww I feel much better now I have said that, and gotten it off my chest. This is in fact a brief but accurate summary of what the people of the nation are actually telling me and talking about amongst themselves, but it still needs to reach government ears and be acted upon. There is still time to save the Nation further embarrassments by leading the way and not following the rest into the drought that is coming.........
PAY ATTENTION TO THE PEOPLE.
Walking to Unst.
As far as I'm concerned I will have done most of this islands scenery by the time I reach Gurtcher, the port to Unst the last and most Northerly island of the Shetland isles. But to be honest it was a drag as the roads were so long and open and hilly and boring. I nearly passed out when I arrived at the village hall where we had played cards only a few hours ago last evening at about the seven mile mark. I could see the building for many miles even though it seemed so close across the voe, but walking all the way around was soul crushing. I ate a snack as the sweat began to cool on me, and knew I really needed accommodation that would let me shower and restore myself to tip top health. Nobody had seemed to have even acknowledged me today out on the roads, and I was not really looking forward to walking much further before the days end. The rucksack was beginning to hurt my left shoulder, kind of an injury sustained from regularly carrying the weight I suppose, but it was niggling me constantly. As I set out for what I thought would be another at least four or five mile stretch, amazingly I saw the ferry very close below me after only about two miles. I figured that it was an apparition or a mirage, despite there being no desert here. It was indeed the place I was expecting, but far sooner than I had imagined, so I nearly screamed for joy. Well I might have actually, but don't tell anyone......
The open mouth of the boat was a welcoming site, and I fairly flew onto the decks of the Unst ferry.
As I climbed down into the heart of the ship to where the signs indicated the passenger seating area was, I was surprised to see my old friend Karel below. And even more surprised (maybe annoyed/envious) that he had a woman with him. Lucy an attractive French girl was introduced and I thought how lucky he was to have met such a nice traveling companion. I say companion as they definitely seemed to have eyes for one another, and I remember that kind of thrill of being in love, once upon a time, long ago. They were doing some kind of island hopping thing at the moment and had been offered a lift to the top of the island and were supposedly going back to Lerwick this evening, though I wondered how they would do this as the buses were pretty scarce. Still I guess they have other things to occupy their attentions now......
The pier at the other side was barren and sparse and nothing to write home about at all. I set off up the road finding a huge hill in my way the more I walked ahead. It must be good for the heart I thought, all this up and down terrain and wind and cool temperatures. After a few miles there were signs for a youth hostel. I am not sure I can afford any expense but then a shower was what I had asked the universe for and here was a chance of it. The place was open and no-one at home. I debated what to do for a while but then decided to shower first ask questions later. No-one came and then in noticed that you have to ring a warden. I have no coverage on my phone or any change for the pay phone in the corridor, so I figured I would hang around and hope that the staff would come by sooner or later. I made use of the kettle and the power sockets and began this marathon session to catch up here with my accounts.
Later a lady called Danw (yes it is spelt correctly mister spell checker (Dean)) pronounced Danoo (meaning godess) came back from her traveling and we began chatting and got into some very deep and interesting conversations about many things, especially the choice of names as we have both chosen new names. Danw is a vegan and apologized that her dinner looked less than appetizing to me. I have no idea to be fair what a vegan really lives according to, but I guess I can find out now our paths have crossed. She set off to eat her meal alone and I had already eaten my meager supplies, but I am sure we shall talk more tomorrow. I may leave my bag here and walk to the north of the island and come back on the bus, as the chance to walk without it seems too good to be true. Somewhat like my last journey, when I arrived at the finale, I had the chance to leave my bag and return later on the train, to the hotel. I do hope that this won't end as did that adventure, with me being so sick I almost died. This isn't actually the end of my journey I must point out, but it certainly is the most northerly point I can walk to in the British isles and United Kingdom of Great Britain. I include all the descriptions because I am sure there must be some marked differences which I still have to unearth. Anyway Muckle Flugga is a lighthouse on a rock generally regarded as the last place of human existence in Great Britain. You can't get onto Muckle Flugger actually unless by private charter trips, so I will make do with the mainland's furthest north headland instead. I figure it will only be a short distance away having looked at a map.
Being this far north has one advantage with regards the Aurora Borealis, but if I don't get to see those northern lights soon then I may well never get a chance again.
Well time to turn in for the night, see you all later....