Call Me Gilligan

Red marks the route

Red marks the route

I didn’t see this week coming. It never occurred to me, even. I had any number of things to worry about as we contemplated this trip to Scotland, but I never gave a thought to coming home.

I’m glad to be here, of course. I just didn’t expect the downside, which hasn’t been all that down but it’s noticeable. Some sleeping issues and just general weariness, no ambition, no energy to speak of. I’ve done chores but it was hard. My back hurts, etc.

Again. I could have looked this up and found plenty of anecdotal information. And this could be cumulative—that trip to Arizona the week before was a little stressful and certainly had its share of sleep deprivation and not enough food. The five days in between the two trips was busy, so yeah. None of this is surprising.

But I’ve lost a week, really. The past four days have been blurry. Yesterday I stayed inside almost all day, moving furniture around, a project that’s been on my list for a long time and struck me as important, for some reason. Honestly, I have no idea.

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We walked everywhere. A trip around the U.S. would involve a ton of driving, especially if we were doing it in two weeks, but in Scotland it was minimal. Our longest day involved maybe 5 hours in the van, plus a bus and a couple of ferries, but we still crawled over a castle for a few hours.

But I guess I could write about crawling. I have a story.

We left Seattle on Sunday afternoon, losing Monday in the process. We’d scheduled a longish layover at Heathrow, our first stop, because we were unsure of how long customs would take and wanted to give ourselves some extra time before the hop north to Glasgow.

Customs took about 60 seconds, as it turned out. The agent sort of shrugged and told us to use the kiosk the next time; it wasn’t worth the trouble to actually talk to a person, apparently.

So we had five sleep-deprived hours to pass in a very crowded European airport in a month when everyone goes on holiday. It was an adventure just finding two seats together.

By the time we set foot on Scottish soil, then, it was 2pm their time, and we had another eight hours before closing our eyes. We checked in at our rented apartment and then went out to have dinner with our friend’s Glaswegian cousins, who were fun people.

We had about four hours to make it to Oban on Tuesday, the next day, which was not much more than two hours away, so we had time to stop for coffee, and an easy trip really. Another couple of hours on ferries and a bus, and we were in Iona by late afternoon.

Our neighbors.

Our neighbors.

The nunnery, or what’s left of it.

The nunnery, or what’s left of it.

We explored a little, wandering through the various shops and the ruins of a nunnery before eating dinner at the hotel and settling down. Sheep and cattle grazed on the grounds outside our window, and one particular bull intermittently bellowed. We knew this place was different.

The main drag on Iona.

The main drag on Iona.

The next day, we split up at some point, and I followed some other tourists to a trail up a hillside. I went about a quarter of the way up and stopped to take in the view, deciding that I really wanted to climb that hill. People were scrambling over the rocks toward the top, and it didn’t seem daunting at all.

After lunch, then, Julie decided to lie down for a nap and I headed off to see what was on the other side of the mountain.

Never made it to the top, but I got very familiar.

Never made it to the top, but I got very familiar.

I should note that this was a very small island, if that hasn’t been clear. It’s roughly four miles long and a mile wide, a very manageable island. I figured I could cover every side of it before leaving, and I wanted to.

As I approached my hill, though, I was walking behind a couple of young guys who were just ambling, and not taking any of this seriously. They headed up the hillside and I decided to just keep on walking, maybe come back in 10 minutes after they’d gotten bored.

But I spotted some others, all walking in a certain direction, so I followed and found out where they were headed. A sandy trail led down to the beach, and this was no ordinary beach.

I followed these people. Thanks a lot, people.

I followed these people. Thanks a lot, people.

Even in the heart of the tourist season, just eyeballing, I estimated that there were more people on an average Saturday inside a Macy’s at a mall back home than on this island. As I headed north and then turned toward the western side of Iona, I saw only a few others, a family here, a lone hiker there. People were getting in the water or else soaking up the sun, but mostly they were otherwise engaged and not in my area.

The attraction was powerful, you think?

The attraction was powerful, you think?

I decided at some point to try to reach the south end of the island, where in theory I could see Ireland. As I meandered, the beach started to disappear, replaced by just those gleaming rocks, so I headed a bit inland. This turned out to be intermittently swampy, soaking my shoes, so I wandered more, up the hill, down the hill, the beach always in sight but sometimes a bit far away.

Eventually I gave up, noting that I’d been out for a while and not wanting to worry Julie, as I had my cellular service turned off (and the reception would have been lousy anyway). I turned back, and that’s when it got interesting.

I must have missed the original trail heading back up to the more populated area, and ended up scrambling over those rocks, assuming it would get easier. It wouldn’t, and while I wasn’t lost, exactly, I wasn’t all that clear on how I was going to get back.

That’s when I slipped on the rocks, gashing my arm and contemplating the stupidity of my entire afternoon. There were no people around. If I’d bumped my head and lost consciousness, it might have been awhile. I certainly wasn’t anywhere I’d mentioned going. All sorts of fun thoughts raced around my stupid brain.

Eventually I headed away from those rocks, climbed a couple of fences, walked through a farm and came upon some sheep, mildly curious about this interloper but not looking, you know. Scary. It wasn’t a herd of bears. Sheep. You know sheep.

And I discovered the trail, finally, and by now I was dragging. I walked that dirt road, the hotel in the distance, knowing exactly where I was but wondering about the odds of making it. I did, finally, trudging back up the stairs to our room, having been gone nearly four hours and having covered 11 miles, according to my Fitbit.

I was bloody and sweaty and looked like I’d been on an adventure, hoping this would smooth things over with my probably frantic wife. I made it to our room, glad to be on less rocky ground.

Which is when Julie woke up from her nap. “Did you climb your hill?” she asked me, sleepily, and I said yeah, sort of. I sort of did.


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Chuck Sigars1 Comment