Friday, October 19, 2012

Highlands

Despite being totally unprepared for wayfaring the Highlands, my adventurous nature was stronger than my fears. I put myself in the hands of fate, thinking "Sleeping in odd places doesn't scare me. And even if I don't make it to the very North, at least I'll have seen the dramatic West," the only part of the Highlands where I managed to find couchsurfing hosts.

I stay with Polish-Scottish family living in the picturesque countryside just six miles from Isle of Skye. After having lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle for years, Magda, Alex and their adorable kids, Katie and Michael, finally got a place of their own. It's still pretty barren construction site and the conditions are rustic. Rubble, wood and dust get in your way all the time. I barely ever take my jacket off inside the house, it's so cold. But the warmth that radiates from my hosts more than makes up for these inconveniences. Within minutes I feel completely adopted into the family and this feeling grows with every moment we spend together.

The Scottish weather granted us with lots of warmth and sunshine for our adventure in the Isle of Skye. By many regarded as a paradise, it's too diverse to be properly appreciated during a slapdash visit. From sandy beaches to jagged monster peaks of the Black Cullins, each of Skye's peninsulas is entirely different world of its own when it comes to landscape. We decided to visit Trotternish, the northernmost one and hike up to the Storr, one of the most sought-after geological treasures of the island. It's a series of rock pinnacles sculpted by volcanic activity, the most famous of which is the Old Man of Storr. The first glimpses of these giant natural features greeted us from the roadside, just to disappear soon, set back and swathed in dense forestry. After a 1-km walk among the woodlands the first proper view of Storr's rugged landscape finally met our eyes. I recalled the words of Guido, telling me "you can't leave Skye without seeing the Old Man of Storr." Now I knew why - these heart-wrenchingly beautiful giants lived up to their promise, and the views from the very top were stunners - a perfect reward for the steep hike on loose rocks.









Apart from the Old Man of Storr we also went for shorter walks along Trotternish scraggly coast. Here I saw another evidence of former volcanic activity on Skye - black beaches, a spitting image of black sand beaches in Blönduós or Vík í Mýrdal on Iceland.




For the remaining two days of my visit th weather didn't cooperate at all. Instead of enjoying long walks I decided to do something useful and help my hosts with the construction. Moreover, I can't forget to mention that Michael and I swiftly became best friends - this adorable six-year-old boy who would not yield an inch to me could convert even the most unbending people who don't want to have kids to the other side. Our story-reading sessions would never finish after just one story; it would endlessly continue like "That's my favorite book, read this one." "I haven't heard this one for so long." "This story is the best one, you have to read it." As it usually works for me with kids, I couldn't refuse any of his wishes.

In Magda and Alex's house filled with jolly atmosphere and laughs there were enough things to keep me there for months. Yet the rainy weather was the biggest turn-off for me. I started feeling sick and unwell. Full of sorrow I bid farewell to these wonderful people and slowly started heading south...








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