A Travellerspoint blog



Dribble dribble dribble, and so the days drip away. But like a steady drip the time accumulates, a whole puddle of it somehow passed. Even yesterday, which felt so long, has somehow gone. In the morning we were still in Pierowall, eating cereal and packing desultorily in the wind-combed sunshine. Then those hours in Kirkwall, frantically interneting, and, when the library closed, grocery shopping all the afternoon. Kirkwall not so much bigger to us than the Lidl store. At last an overnight ferry to Aberdeen. Loud, obnoxious Scottish men yelling the whole night away, playing cards and sticky alcohol and swear words--"cunt" "fuck" "shit"--everywhere until even the child was yelling "shut up! shut up!" A man asked them softly and politely to quiet down, everyone was asleep, but to no effect. As for me, I was too afraid, remembering the German priest on the West Highland Way who asked a group of Scottish lads for a bit of peace during their prayer and was met with a show of knife. The friendliest, most courteous people here, but also some who make Americans look good.

Wind-combed sunshine

What little of Kirkwall we saw outside the grocery stores

Sleeping (or trying to sleep) on the ferry

A pie a day keeps the doctor away! (They really shouldn't have relied on rhyming "a day" with "away.")

Why we took a picture of this, I don't know. Is it because we needed more socks or because the ad didn't make any sense?

It's raining again. Nothing to do with me while I'm inside the ship, but in a few hours we'll be shunted out into the elements again, turtled once more with our heavy, dripping packs. Then the rain will feel real enough, not just a cascading blur over the window.

* * *

If I had grown up poor, it is certain that I would have been a shame-faced, hounded, defensive sort of person cringing from authority and wealth and desperately yearning, yearning. Back in the city and our second day of living like hobos bring these thoughts to mind. We sleep in the shelter of a self-pay car park tonight. What self-respecting...oh, but I'm so weary, and I don't want to move. I will just sit here until my foggy mind turns off, and maybe when I open my eyes it will be past 4 am, and we can wedge ourselves back into a corner of the tiny Aberdeen airport again.

It is not overly cold on this friendless night. Judging by this journal you would think we spent the majority of our time sleeping in places we ought not to when it's only that at these moments I have time to write, when I feel the day hasn't been a roaring cascade upon my senses.

We are so far away from everyone we know.

(It is not quite as friendless as I make it out to seem. All the workers have been surprisingly warm and sympathetic--not even the remotest hint of judgment. Maybe they're used to vagrants like us; maybe they can see we're not bad kids.)

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Pierowall Goodbyes

Another cozy kitchen where we could escape the wind and rain

When it was too damp outside, all we did was play darts

Goodbye, faithful stick. I don't think I can bring you on the plane.

Goodbye, "downtown" Pierowall...

...and your blank, utilitarian buildings

Posted by chschen 05:50 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Ordinary Life

I've given up writing about traveling altogether, see; it's just an ordinary part of life now. Set up the tent, throw everything into it, walk around for a few days, uproot, repeat. Meet some people, or not. Exchange smiles with strangers, or not. Get rained on, almost always. Squabble with Chris and walk silently for a few hours. Dream, retreat, dream again. Wonder fondly about everyone back at home. Worry that they've forgotten me. Plan everything we'll eat. Plan the next place we'll go. Shout and point at wildlife--bounding bunnies, strutting puffins, a lone hedgehog caught in our lamp, then shuffling noisily into the brush while we quiver in awe at our luck. Eat too much, grow fat. Walk too much, grow thin. A few sunny days and forget what cold feels like. A few rainy days and forget what warmth feels like. Life quieter and quieter, faded away.

Tomorrow we leave Orkney, begin a multi-day journey to Iceland.

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Puffin Watching

On a puffin hunt, but first we stop by a castle/fort

Maybe a few walls are missing

But the design really lets the light in, you know?

Inside it's a little dank, though

Butler Chris, showing the way up to the banquet hall

A young archer, preparing her shot

The stonework on the stairs is pretty impressive

Halt, stranger!

All right, we're approaching puffin land

They should be around here somewhere...

Baby seabird

And we found some puffins!

Shh! Don't tell them I'm here.

My puffin-watching perch

Puffin habitat

Having had our fill of puffins, we hike home

Posted by chschen 05:11 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)


Goodbye, Stromness

* * *

This, too, shall end? I cannot help but think this transience is slowly degenerating me. Not only does nothing seem permanent, but nothing seems worth making permanent anymore, human attachments included. And so the cynicism spreads. But it hasn't the counterbalancing bitterness of youth, when such minor betrayals were first discovered and condemned. Resignation is the word of the day. Anyway, friendships (at least) need proximity to survive, and right now we are proximate to no one--but each other.

We move ever further north to colder and colder locales. At night we dash from kitchen to bathroom to tent with our noisy, shivering plaints. Then we huddle in our sleeping bags and wait for our body warmth to spread. It does, miraculously, though a certain numbness about the toes persists.

Posted by chschen 05:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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