A slow feeling of gathering sadness as each familiar place flashes by the window and disappears and becomes part of the past. Time is made visible, and it moves as the landscape moves.”
― Paul Theroux
I felt this sentiment driving away from Wales in the back seat. A climb to the top of Mt. Snowdon, a wedding of a good friend, and then a jump around a cave with a trampoline inside. This map holds all of the memories of that week, and to make it even a little better was made by hand by a dear friend.
The Great Glen Way (North Half), Scotland
There was no sunrise over the Loch Ness that morning only a heavy fog, and the cruel cloud cover was rubbing my already grey mood in. There had only been eighteen insignificant miles up and down highland hills when we started hiking, optimistic and well caffeinated the day before. It was the first day out of the gates of Inverness along the Great Glen Way fault line in Scotland and I’d been envisioning our first camp of the five day 120km trek, above the Loch that night. Waking up to the sight of Nessy in the morning sounded ideal; but I was obdurate that day pushing too fast and too far to the point of injury to get there.
My knee burned as soon as I laid down to bed that first night, and I was paying for that unrelenting optimism again that morning as I dragged myself out of the tent to grey skies and muted views.
I paid for it every day for the rest of the trip.
An “I told you so” was well deserved but Shannon my hiking partner and best friend was quiet. The “I told you so” was communicated only in the consequences.
Buying a knee brace at a pharmacy when we dropped down the crest of the hills into Invermoriston; I told you so.
Icing my knee in a gas station at the side of the road; I told you so.
In long stretches of silence when I wondered with every step, and crunch of gravel if I was doing permanent damage; I told you so.
Peculiar Travel Suggestions are Dancing Lessons From God – Kurt Vonnegut
My knee was elevated, and an ice pack was strapped to my foot. The mountains surrounding Fort Williams stood silent beyond the windows of the wooden hostel. You sat in front of me and asked about my knee. I told you that against the best advice of my hiking partner I pushed myself too hard, walked too far, too fast, and injured myself. Proud that I completed the 120km walk across the Great Glen Way fault line in Scotland, I was ashamed I popped two painkillers to get through the last five miles. You were no stranger to the self medicating outdoor enthusiast within, and told me stories of your own mountaineering, ruining the cartilage in your knees.
It was the evening and after one more day of rest I knew that I would leave Fort Williams, but now maimed I couldn’t continue with my original travel plans. I wasn’t upset, I was sore, but I had just walked five days and another week of walking could be saved for another trip. It was just a question of where to next.
I remember you were from South Africa and we talked about what freedom meant and why you had decided to live the last few decades in the UK away from family and friends. You said it was just impossible to walk and camp freely as a young female, just as I had done the week prior. That was a freedom no women should take for granted in the UK or anywhere. The freedom of movement without fear, the freedom to enjoy the outdoors. We talked about the hidden treasures on the west coast of Scotland, and with utter authority, after knowing just briefly my love for photography, cheap travel, and the urge to get off the beaten path; you said; “go to the Isle Eigg.”
“From here just take the train to Mallaig in the morning, you can catch the ferry in the afternoon, you can camp for free! It is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
And it was. And I had an amazing time.
So this is a little thank you note, Linda, because of what at first seemed like a peculiar travel suggestion turned into quite an adventure. You never needed to ask about my knee, and I could have avoided a conversation, but instead I had a lovely night, taking pictures of the stars and talking about life over cider with you.