A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: weary_feet

46: On Your Marks... Get Set... Go!!

semi-overcast 16 °C

Got going at a nice civilised time this morning and paid for it because the brekky area in the hostel was packed! After a small but tasty brekky I started on my chores for getting ready to Middle East.

I spent the morning shopping near to the hostel to find toiletries etc that I thought could be a little difficult to purchase in the Middle East and the usual post office run to get rid of more excess junk back to Oz (I missed a few things when I put the post in yesterday). Easy peasy.. I knew I had two days to get all of my chores done so I wasn’t too stressed about a time limit. Headed downtown to finish off my checklist and also to see the travel agent.

- First stop- Picadilly Circus to find a guide book to the Middle East.. Check
- Second stop- Hunt in a couple of clothing stores for another t-shirt and a pair of long but cool slacks.. ½ tick
- Third stop- Travel Agent in Oxford St to confirm accom etc for Middle East.. Check and disaster

Got into the travel agent and started going thru my paperwork and worked out that I had majorly stuffed up (again.. it’s the third time on this trip) and was actually flying out to Istanbul tomorrow and not the day after as I had always thought.. So all I could think of was holy crap how the hell am I going to finish my jobs and get to Les Miserables in under four hours??? I mean Aaaaaahhhhhh.

So after a lightening visit to my travel agent (lucky there wasn’t much to do) I ran across the street to Esprit which fortunately had a shirt on special that did the trick. Ditched the pants.. I mean I have enough anyhow I just thought it might be nice in Cairo to have more than one pair of light weight pants. And virtually ran back to the tube to get back to the hostel to get my washing and packing finished.

Believe it or not I managed to get my laundry into the dryer and got my bag mostly packed before the four hour deadline was up for Les Mis.. Headed back to Piccadilly and spent my evening watching a most enjoyable show! The theatre for Les Mis is this old quaint (and quite small) theatre with a gorgeous chandelier hanging from the roof. I had paid for good tickets and they were worth every penny as I had a great view of the stage and the cast. Bit of a sad story but I won’t ruin it for all of you who haven’t seen it. Rounded out my very late night by finishing my packing (by the light of the toilet because everyone was asleep) and crawled into bed after midnight.. 6am wake up in the morning to make it to Heathrow in time for my flight so here’s hoping I can get 40 winks on the plane!

Here endeth Weary’s Brittanic Ramble, for all avid Weary fans, stay tuned for Chapter 7 (and the last for 2011) An Appetite for Arabia!

Posted by weary_feet 08:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

45: Single Malt Deliciousness

rain 6 °C

Last day in Scotland today (and last ‘holiday’ day in the UK) and I spent it driving from Loch Ness to Aberdeen.

The drive took me about 4hrs (you can do it quicker but I stopped a couple of times) and I went via the Whisky trail through Speyside. I would like to tell everyone that I stopped at every distillery and tasted some of the single malt goodness but reality is that when you are driving by yourself and catching a plane that arvo you just can’t! The whisky trail is in the Cairmgorn National Park (the same park as Balmoral) and if anything the park looked even more lovely than it did a couple of weeks ago when I drove through. The extra couple of weeks meant that the leaves on the trees have turned that tad darker and browner. The mountains are a welter of rusty brown’s and deep reds.. Really, really gorgeous! I could have spent days driving through but only had a couple of hours!

Stopped off in Duff Town (whisky capital of Scotland) to post more junk home to Oz.. As usual 40mins later (and 60 pounds lighter) I left the post office frustrated and grumpy. I’ve worked out it is a pre-requisite to be an old pain in the arse to work for any type of post office in the world (any Aussie post office workers reading this apologies but your counterparts overseas have no patience with sending Int Mail)!! Today’s lady was half deaf (and wasn’t wearing any sort of hearing aid!!) and was super flustered at having to do parcels to International.. Couldn’t work the eftpos machine and generally f-ed up the whole process. I’ll be impressed if my parcels make it because by the end she had stopped talking to me!!!

So after cooling off (literally as the temp hit a high of 6 degrees today) I continued my beautiful drive the last 30 mins into Aberdeen where I dropped off my rental car and did the usual hectic process at the airport. Three and a half hours later I was checking into my London digs this time opposite King’s Cross station at the St Pancras Youth Hostel.. It is nicer than most 3 star hotels in town (definitely better than my hotel I stayed in on the bank’s of Loch Ness!!) and is only costing me 19 pounds.. that’s what I call a bargain!!!!

Posted by weary_feet 08:54 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

44: Nessie!

semi-overcast 13 °C

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I woke up early this morning but spent my morning watching some sport on tv. F1 was on first thing followed by Wallabies vs All Blacks in the Semi Final of the World Cup. I was lucky at brekky that there was a kiwi also watching the game so we had a great breakfast sledging each other! Unfortunately the Aussies lost (but in all fairness played so poorly they didn’t deserve to win anyhow!)

After my very enjoyable breakfast I went downstairs and took an hour long boat trip on Loch Ness hunting the monster! As it turned out I did more photo shooting of the Loch and its surrounds than I did Nessie spotting but I did go inside now and again to the cabin to take a look at the sonar readings…. You never know when she might pop up! It’s actually a partly sunny day today (although quite windy) so it was really nice to be out on the Loch in a boat (even if I still had my scarf and gloves on!). The highlight of the Loch trip was stopping at the base of Urqhart Castle and just soaking up the view. Ruined castle on a promontory with a dark green mountain behind and blue water in front, just gorgeous!

At the conclusion of my boat trip I took to the car and drove around to see Urqhart Castle. It has been in ruins since the Jacobite revolution in the 1700s. The promontory has been home to rulers since well before the introduction of Christianity. It is thought that Saint Columba himself travelled to Urqhart to save a Pictish Chieftan who was dying (he was unable to save him but this is the first story relating to Urqhart). The castle was owned and conquered by many of the Highland Clans until it was eventually blown up by the owners during the Jacobite revolution. Today the ruins are just beautiful. Especially on a sunny day like to day, you can really appreciate the green grass with the sandstone and the blue of the Loch in the background. Really gorgeous. (I think I’m starting to appreciate the sunshine more and more!)

I rounded out my day by visiting the Loch Ness Monster centre on the banks of Loch Ness. Yep I had to get my monster fix! The centre’s set up is interesting. Basically, the owners have tried to collect quite a bit of information from many different sources and present them to try and give you a balanced (I would say biased though) view of whether the monster is real or not. I was surprised to discover that the whole Loch has been charted using sonar, to the point where the Loch was ‘swept’ by tens of boats at the same time to ensure that there couldn’t be any anomalies in the data. From a scientific point of view there is no case for a monster…… From an eye witness point of view, it exists….. For those of you reading this blog, come to the centre and make up your own mind I won’t try to sway you either way. Regardless of whether Nessie exists or not, Loch Ness is a natural wonder and well worth a visit.

Posted by weary_feet 08:41 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

43: Waterfall Way

rain 12 °C

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Early start this morning to begin the long-ish drive back to the mainland and to Loch Ness. Not surprisingly, the weather was still not crash hot, in fact too poor for me to take any more photos of Eilean Doonan Castle, which was really disappointing because I really wanted to get a shot of the castle surrounded by water. It certainly was surrounded today… on all sides (including the roof!) I did stop at the castle and had my morning tea (another picnic on the back seat) hoping that the weather would clear enough for me to get a shot.. No cigar.

The drive back to the Loch was just as beautiful as coming in. I can only imagine what the area must look like on a bright sunny day! The thing that is so spectacular about the drive is that you drive along a couple of intersecting valleys. On all sides of the valleys are really high mountains that are quite sheer and are largely devoid of trees. Nearly every mountain has its own waterfall which today is spectacular because its raining and so the waterfalls are all going full tilt. The downside of a lot of rain is no pickies but fingers crossed I’ll be able to remember the scene anyhow! I really must say that the drive from Skye back to Loch Ness has to be one of the most picturesque drives you can do anywhere in the world.

I arrived at my hotel late in the afternoon (I’ve splashed out for my last two nights in Scotland and have decided to live it up in a flashy hotel) and really just crashed. I had a bite to eat and then lay down on my bed and caught up on some forty winks as well as reading some chapters in my book. I’ve got to say that when you keep travelling non stop you have to have a day now and again where you take a break and just rest. So although it doesn’t make for great reading this was the remainder of my day.

Posted by weary_feet 08:37 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

42: Over the sea to Skye

rain 14 °C

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Left the hostel right on 10am this morning with the rain unfortunately coming down again..  I had decided over brekky that with the rain coming down I would do a circuit of the island in my car and hope that at some point it would stop raining enough for me to get out and stretch my legs.

So my tour started with me heading north from Broadmeadow (where I’m staying) up passed Portree (the main town on the island) and towards the Qintang Mountains. I took a slight wrong turn in that instead of heading up the East Coast towards the Old Man Storr (outcropping of rocks that look like rock spires) I headed up the West Coast towards Uig. Uig is a tiny fishing town perched up on the mountains surrounding a bay. I would think very picturesque if the sun was shining. Even without the sun and a smidge of fine misty rain the little town was really pretty to look at. A bit chilly though, when I hopped out of the car at 7 deg!!!

I had borrowed a walking tour book from the hostel so knew that I wanted to find the road that lead over the top of the island towards the East Coast to enable me to stop and have a wander through the Qintang mountains. By now, the mist had really set in so by the time I found the walking trail for the Qintang the car was enveloped in light misty annoying rain! Smoko was the decision so I grabbed my trusty thermos and some bickies and had a picnic on the back seat of the car! Finally the mist reduced itself enough that I could get out and have a bit of walk, although after 20mins I decided I was already wet enough and decided to head back to the car to continue my journey and hope that the weather would clear. From the little I could see of the Qintang through the mist I would say they would be pretty spectacular. It looked like sheer rocky cliffs (quite a red/ brown colour) with some heather like vegetation. To be perfectly frank though, I couldn’t see a lot and certainly didn’t bother to get the camera out!

I made my way to the East coast to discover that some of the weather was starting to clear! The sun was shining on the nearby Rassay Islands and peaked its way through the clouds now and again on Skye. The drive down the East coast was much more pleasurable and far more picturesque (particularly because shafts of sunlight kept beaming their way through the clouds giving some pretty beautiful effects in the clouds). My next stop was to get out and see the Old Man Storr. By now the rain had cleared on the coast but it was still raining heavily in the mountains (so the Storr was covered in swirling mist). I decided to chance it and began the 2mile walk up the hill to see the rock formations. I didn’t make it all the way (because by the time I gotten half the way I couldn’t see the rock formations any more for the rain) but I did find a great spot half way up the mountain to stop and drink in the view of the Storr as well as the coastline. Honestly, the view from up the mountain was pretty amazing.. one of those views that you just know you’ll remember for ever. The Storr itself (and the other formations) were quite eerie looking with the continually swirling mist surrounding them. It was a case of ‘now you see them, now you don’t’. I’m really hoping that I managed to get at least one good shot of the pillars because they did look pretty amazing.

I rounded out my quick tour of northern Skye by having some lunch back down in Portree at this funky café that is run by an Aussie! (I swear you can’t go anywhere in the UK without finding at least 1!!) After my late lunch I decided to drive back to Broadmeadow via Dunvegan (south west of Uig but north west of Broadmeadow) to see if the West coast is as amazing as the East. Again the elements beat me… No sooner had I left Portree but the rain started again… this meant my tour down the West Coast was pretty challenging (both driving and site seeing—you can’t see much when its raining!) Probably the thing I did enjoy the most about this drive was the houses.. Each of the houses in this part (and in the north although I wasn’t paying as much attention) is one of those white washed houses with a steep pitched roof and the windows in the attic.. The two times (yep I counted) that the sun broke through the clouds on the western side the houses just lit up like little candles. Really beautiful on a backdrop of green grass and dark grey clouds! If only I could drive and shoot photos at the same time… someone needs to invent this for me (autopilot in the car so I can take photos and gawk out the window at the view)!

After such a long drive I decided to retire early to the hostel with a light supper before hitting the sack. Back to the mainland tomorrow and over to Loch Ness.

Posted by weary_feet 08:23 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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