I had rented a car with Easirent Edinburgh Airport. The price was significantly cheaper than the usual rental car companies such a s Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, etc. I was thinking “how is this company so much cheaper.” I had reserved a vehicle through RentalCars.com in Queenstown NZ and we got an additional ding with insurance when we arrived at the rental car office. I should have remembered this when I made the reservation for herein Scotland. But I didn’t, so I paid for “full insurance” through RentalCars.com thinking that this would save me from putting a 1,500British Pound security deposit on my credit card as well as enable me to not purchase any insurance from Easirent. Wrongo!!!
When I arrived at the Easirent office, which is a few miles from Edinburgh airport and can be reached by a free shuttle, I was dented by 145Pound insurance cost. That’s because the insurance through RentalCars.com isn’t directly associated with Easirent and so would be a complete nightmare to deal with if anything were to happen. So, for peace of mind, I got the insurance through Easirent because I’m driving on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car. I may be a really good driver with a clean record, but you never know. Note to self and others – don’t buy insurance through RentalCars.com even though the website will guilt-trip and scare you towards it because 99.8% chance you will have to purchase insurance through the actual physical rental car company once you arrive that their office to pick up your car.
Got the car and headed out. I had an idea where I wanted to go, but since I don’t have a sim card and no wi-fi, I don’t have full navigation. So I was trying to follow route I had in my head, but that didn’t last too long as i was a bit anxious about driving on the wrong side of the road and the car. And it didn’t help that right out of the rental agency, I was basically driving on highways. So, I just got off one of the exits and followed it until I saw a gas station that I could turn into and chill out for a few minutes. I had meant to ask the rental car agency which type of fuel to put in the car. I was 98% sure it wasn’t diesel but I didn’t know specifically and for certain. So I connected to Shell’s free wifi, called the rental office, and asked. while I was on the phone, one of the gas station attendants came out and was trying to tell me, while I’m talking to the rental office, that I can’t be on the phone. I CAN’T TALK TO TWO PEOPLE AT ONCE!!! I then realized that the nice little screen in the dash-board has fully function map and navigation. YAY!! I decided to just head up to Tyndrum, where my accommodation is, and take my time. Maybe stop somewhere nice and have a PB&J lunch.
Once I got out of the city and off the highway, the drive was really, really beautiful. I’ll let pictures do the talking.
Got to my accommodation at By the Way Hostel and Campground around 3-ish. Decided to just chill out for the afternoon. I walked to the nearby petrol station which also had a cafe and outdoor gear store. I bought two small books; one with info on hikes in the southern highlands and the other with info on hikes and cycling trails in the northern highlands.
I also finally bought a pair of gloves for my hands (yes I’ve gone this whole time without gloves) and a pair of gators (covers that hook under the sole of your boot and cover the tops of your shoes so that water and rocks and other gunk don’t get into your shoes. I’ve been wanting a pair of those for a while. The only time I wished I had gloves was when I did the Tongariro Northern Circuit multi-day hike right before I left New Zealand. It got cold at night and up on top of that summit. So, now I’m very well geared up for my summer hiking!!
Back at the hostel, I made dinner and worked on my blog.
While I didn’t hike the Ben Lomond trail in Queenstown, New Zealand, I got a second chance at the trail in Stirling, on the east shore of Loch Lomond. I got to the car park and noticed,to my dismay, some pay-and-display machines. I say dismay because I knew I had very little change to pay for parking. So,I put in what I had (1Pound and 40 pence) and kept my fingers crossed that I didn’t have a 50Pound fine on my windshield when I returned. I did try to pay the full 3Pound fee with my credit card; one of the machines had a card reader, but it was not working. 😦 So that was rattling around my mind during the hike.
I had gotten a good way up the mountain when I saw it; the rain proceeding across the lake towards us. It reached us and I wasn’t ready to turn around and head back. I put my raincoat on, my rain-cover on my day pack, and kept hiking. It was getting rainier and before long the clouds reached ground level and so I couldn’t see anything. As you got higher and higher, the wind picked up. People were turning around and going back. But the summit was calling me. I knew I could reach it. I was pretty close; people coming back said you’re almost there, you’re really close! So I kept going. I reached a point where it looked like the summit. I didn’t know what the summit looked like and I didn’t know how much further it would be. The wind was really strong, it was really foggy and rainy, and I didn’t know how many more people, if any, would be coming down behind me. I didn’t really want to be the last one down. So, I reached my personal comfort level, my limit, and so stopped for a minute, recorded a short video to show how nasty it was, and then turned around to head back. I am pretty upset with myself though because in the rush to record a video and get heading back, I FORGOT TO DROP A POINT ON GOOGLE MAPS! So I have no idea where I actually was on the mountain and how far I actually got! GRRRRRRRR.
A video pano from maybe half-way up.
Enjoying killer views from the top! Bahahhaha, I’m joking. It was cold, windy, and rainy.
On the way back, I started realizing just how wet my pants actually were. They were saturated! My butt started feeling cold and wet. Thankfully I was wearing layers and kept moving at a good pace and so never got too chilled. On my way down, I ended up passing some of the people who had passed me when I was still on my way up. I was walking pretty fast and even did a slow jog at times to keep up my body temperature since I was now wet. I also had the added incentive to hurry back to the car so that, in case I hadn’t already, I would be able to hop in my car and leave if the parking police were handing out tickets.
I finally got down to the car park where I took off my heavier outer layers leaving just my damp base layers on. I turned the heat on high, and headed home. And NO!!! Thankfully I did not have a 50Pound fine on my car! Yay!! Headed home to the hostel and cooked a yummy hot “tramping cup” dinner of Uncle Ben’s Rice and white beans in tomato sauce. After a cold day of hiking, that really hits the spot. 😀
I was hoping that it wouldn’t be another rainy day. I wanted to get one good hike in. Can I just stop right here and say that the there is a middle-aged couple that runs this By the Way Hostel and Campsite. It is situated right on the West Highland Way, a multiple-day hike in Scotland that I plan to go back and do sometime in the relatively near future. Well, this guy lent me a book called “The Munros”; it’s their “bible” for hiking in the highlands. He was so helpful and made suggestions for things to do and places to hike. He was extremely knowledgeable about the current conditions of the trails I hiked (in regards to the snow cover still up at elevations).
After looking at this book, I decided that today I would hike towards the Ben Lawers (pronounced more like Laws, now real “er” sound at the end) summit. I got geared up and hopped in my rental car and drove to the car park. This trail was a bit less occupied than Ben Lomond. As I was driving to this trail though, I saw the sunshine and was willing it to follow me to the trail. And thankfully, I was blessed with a beautiful day!
The trail split at one point; one went easily and gently up the side of the hill, and the other went hard and switch-backed up towards the peak. Per my usual, I want to get to the top of things so I headed up the steeper trail. I’ve found that hiking up these hills can’t be a race. You get in a breathing and stepping rhythm so that you don’t get too winded and have to stop and rest. But I also like to walk fast and push myself. Anyway, I got up to an initial plateau where the wind was just howling. That was up there in elevation so it was getting a bit cold as well. So I put on my hat, gloves, and rain coat as a windbreaker.
I wasn’t at the top in the video below, but I felt pretty up there… 🙂
Continuing up, I saw a couple coming down from the peak. They asked if I was hiking on my own and said to “take care” and to be careful as it was super windy up there. Scottish folks are so friendly! I said that I would probably just hike up to where the snow started and then turn around. So I continued on up. Yes it was really windy but I had not reached the edge of my comfort zone yet. So I continued up a bit past where the snow started. At this point, I started looking for my sunglasses; I realized that I didn’t have them in my pack. Very disappointing because with it being a sunny day and now being in an area with a bit of snow, the amount of light being reflected off the snow is just brutal on the eyes. So, I just decided to squint really tightly; nothing else I could do.
I reached a point where the stairs on the pathway were covered with snow. But I was so close to the summit (a summit I could see as compared toa summit I couldn’t see on my hike yesterday) that I just didn’t want to turn around for a little snow on the ground. So, I decided to take a route just a little ways to the left of the trail where there was only small patches of snow on the grass, easily avoidable. With this alternate route, I made it up to what I call my summit, where I had reached the edge of my comfort zone or maybe had pushed slightly passed, and where I was comfortable stopping for a minute to take a couple of pictures and a video. Yes the wind was howling up there but I did not feel in danger of being blown down. It was a sunny and beautiful day at the peak of that “mountain.” Up there in the cold and the wind and the sun, on my own: those times make me feel so very alive and happy; I really, REALLY LOVE THE MOUNTAINS and being high in altitude. It makes me that much more anxious to go to the Himalayas and make the trek up to Everest Base Camp. I really, really can’t wait to do that. If anything would make me want to become a mountain climber and guide, that would do it.
Now this video was at the summit and the wind really did almost blow me over, but there wasn’t any danger of being blown off any cliffs…because there weren’t cliffs. Just grassy hillside. 🙂
But it was really cold and windy up there so I couldn’t stay too long without getting pretty cold. So I headed back down the hill. I met a woman waiting on the trail who was waiting for her husband (who I had passed on my way down) who was going up to the peak. We chatted for a few minutes. I wasn’t ready to head back to the car and so, where the trail had split, I hiked up that trail that went easily along the base of the hill. That was a nice post-hill hike. Along this path you can see, and sometimes only hear, water running beneath the alpine vegetation. It was really nice and quiet and the sound of flowing water is just incredibly relaxing.
I reached a point in the trail where when I looked back, I saw rain coming in the distance. So again, I had reached my the edge of my comfort zone and so paused to take a few pictures and then turned around to start the hustle back so that I wouldn’t get rained on.
I got back to the car right as the rain started to fall!!! Yay!!! Rainless, sunny day hike in the highlands in the books!!! Woohooo.
Back to the hostel, another “tramping cup meal” after a semi-chilly day of hiking. Yummy. After dinner, this guy in his 70s came over and started chatting. He was from a town near Manchester, England and had come up to the Highlands for a few days. He had spent the winter in Mexico and recently came back. He has traveled extensively. He loves Armenia and Georgia (the country) which were “the most stunning places” he’s been to. I said the people of Iran are extremely welcoming, and he thinks I would really enjoy visiting Uzbekistan. “Traveling in Kyrgyzstan was really hard work” because the winter was ending. It was really nice to chat with him.
I asked him how he feels about the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. He said that people in the UK moan about the system but that when it comes to it and a person is in need of real medical care, you can go to the hospital without fear and worry of losing a life’s savings to be taken care of. Anyone can go to the hospital. He had a friend visiting one time I think from the US and who ended up needing medical care. He went to the hospital for one thing and also found that he had a tick bite that required medication to prevent lyme disease. He left the hospital with the medication and without paying a thing. This guy told me that, if needed, the follow-up care for whatever you went to the hospital for is also “free” at the time of care. This system is covered through taxes.
The other topic we talked about was politics. Did you know that elections, from the call for an election to casting votes, lasts only three weeks. Doesn’t leave much time to spend millions and billions on campaigning and TV and radio ads. Makes you get down to business.
It was another rainy morning. I wanted to go hiking but it was just nasty out. So I decided it would be a day to just drive around and explore the area that way. A couple of people mentioned I should go see Fort William and so I headed up north. Now, apparently, I’ve been lying to you guys (unwittingly and without any intention of misleading) because I hadn’t driven too far when I passed a sign that said “Welcome to the Highlands.” Uhh…. I thought I was in the highlands! So, technically, I don’t think the last few days have been in the highlands. I was staying in Tyndrum which is between Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (to the south) and the real Highlands (to the north). My bad!!!
So leaving Tyndrum, I took A82 north. As you proceed north, the hills become more pronounced, more bare rock, more signs on the side of the road warning of the danger of falling rocks, etc. It was pretty foggy, the clouds were pretty low. I took some pictures and videos to show the area. Take a look!
Locks of Love at the waterfall.
I wanted to hike part of the Ben Nevis trail which is on the outskirts of Fort William. It had paused raining for a little while and so I figured I might hike a little ways. I parked and asked the attendant of the visitors center what the weather was supposed to do for the afternoon. I had hiked only a little ways when I saw the rain coming in the distance. So I basically turned around 5 minutes from the car park. I really wanted to hike further but for some reason I just did not feel like getting wet at all.
I wasn’t too smitten with Fort William and so decided not to stop but to just head back via a different route. So I took A82 into North Ballachulish and then got on A828 into Connel. Then, A85 east back to Tyndrum. It was a lovely drive and drove through some really picturesque Scottish towns.
The video snip below is a bit of me listening to some Scottish radio while stopped at a one-way-construction-stoplight on a quiet road waiting.
Back in Tyndrum, I picked up some spaghetti and sauce for dinner since I was running out of food that I initially bought in Edinburgh. I didn’t want to buy too much though because I would be flying home soon and didn’t want to throw any food away if possible.
Dinner done, I worked on my blog and then went to bed pretty early.