Die Deutsche Version findet ihr HIER (zusammen mit Teil 5).
Part 6, Fort William-Alltsaigh (Loch Ness)-Inverness-Elgin
July 15, 1973 (Sunday !!!)
We try to get away from Fort William in glorious sunshine. After a long, patient wait, and after me trying again to stop a police car, two guys from Glasgow take us to Spean Bridge. (I am short-sighted, but vain. That is why I have already tried to stop an ambulance, a garbage truck and other vehicles over the past few days, and Susi has begged me to please put on my glasses.) Their babbling is almost incomprehensible; Glaswegian is really terrible and only distantly related to English.
Spean Bridge seems like a hitchhiker’s paradise. In any case, the four already existing can hardly part with this place. Susi and I shoulder our luggage and move 50 meters further to a parking lot full of cars. But of course we forgot that it is Sunday. Nobody has room for us because everyone has their cars full of worthless junk. [Ahem]
So we wait for an hour, two hours, three hours (one hitchhiker couple gives up and takes the next bus), four hours. One of the rest of the hitchhikers comes over to us. He is Scottish from Glasgow and has school holidays. We stand with him for the fifth hour. I have a lively conversation with him, but only understand a fraction of what he is saying. He is very nice and kind. After every second word he says ’you know’. He tells us endless stories about some American, but unfortunately I don’t understand what it’s about. Maybe that it is about an American is already misunderstood. We only understand one thing: last night he slept outside, somewhere near a church, and it rained terribly. „I have to talk a terrible slang if you don’t understand me!“ he says sadly. His luggage consists of a fishing rod and a pouch that looks as good as empty after he takes a newspaper from it. „I’m trying to get to Skye to fish, you know!“ We wish him the best of luck. Of course he gets away before us, alone and with the mini-luggage he is carrying.
We have to put up with some gleeful looks and silly remarks from motorists who stop at Spean Bridge to eat, facing a soldier memorial. The very active make a pilgrimage the 50 meters from the parking lot to the memorial and let themselves be photographed there. One should also have a good view of Ben Nevis from there, but we can’t find out which of the many mountains it is. None of the people we ask, seem to know it.
We can see many, many tourist buses. Let us take a closer loot at two of them. In one of them the explanations are given in English and German. That catches our attention. And there they come, the tourists with their empty stare that they attach to two poor, desperate hitchhikers and only allow themselves to be distracted by the presence of the monument.
Then another bus, full of Scots: An elderly man explains to us that today is a bad day for hitchhiking, because it is Sunday, but that someone will pick us up and „good luck“. A young man with speech impairments stands next to me. He points to every newly arriving car, certain that it will stop and pick us up, bitterly disappointed that it isn’t happening.
In the end, an English couple takes us to Invergarry. On the road we see our angler from Glasgow, who is sticking his thumb out again.
In Invergarry we meet a real horde of hitchhikers, a French guy; 3 girls who have been here for 7 hours already; a couple and another boy. We flee the scene once again. We meet another couple on the country road. The girl’s name is Linda and she comes from Glasgow. Linda predicts a bus that will actually come. I can observe, why the Scottish matches are so powerfully built: you have to scratch them on the asphalt, not on the box! The weather is more beautiful than ever. But in spite of all that, we take the bus. Now it is enough with kicking our heals. For the first time we enjoy Scotland from the bus. We pass Fort Augustus, which looks very nice, and end up in the youth hostel in Invermoriston, which consists of a church, a shop, a hotel, a gas station that also functions as a post office and then the youth hostel called Alltsaigh. The latter is very nicely located, right on Loch Ness with a pebble beach. The water washes ashore close to the house. Unfortunately it is a ’simple’ class hostel, which means that there isn’t any hot water for showering.
But even worse: 75% of the hikers are Germans, and what kind of them! One huge group, five boys, 3 girls and a group leader couple. (That’s a really large group for a small youth hostel.) The group mum requisitions all the cookers with her potato pancakes, which get cold afterwards because nobody comes to eat them. She snatches cutlery from an Englishman with the words “everything private, everything private”.
Then there is a married couple with a child who is really naughty and impertinent and who irritates the other people. Next to us are two German boys, who do nothing but complain about anything and everything. Gosh, I’m shirty. [Who is complaining???] I withdraw to the Loch. There are another three Germans sitting there, a forever smooching couple and the girl’s friend. I am taking to the bushes. You can walk along the gravel strip along the Loch to the bridge. Later Susi and I lay down on the gravel in the sun and dream. In the evening the people from Bonn who we have already met in London arrive, and two more girls who have been to the Orkneys.
July 16, 1973 (Monday)
On Monday Susi and I hike to Invermoriston to go shopping again. On the way we meet an old man whom we saw the day before. He seems to be hiking through Scotland, only with a small bag as luggage. We first buy apple jelly and rolls, then take a look at the Royal Church of Scotland and then go to the hotel for tea. We order two sandwich packages (= 4 triangles) each. „You must be very hungry,“ comments the waitress. After this extensive meal, we decide to move a little. The first stop is on a bridge. And I don’t have my camera with me, what a bummer! A little further there is a cottage settlement for tourists. Let’s get away! Susi would like to visit the old Invermoriston cemetery. At the petrol station we ask for a path through the forest, because it is a very beautiful forest: two meters of steep rock above the road, spruce forest above. The gas station attendant speaks German, but there is no path. It’s a shame, because without a path, even a tiny one, I don’t know, it’s too easy to get lost in Scotland. [You don’t say …]
From the cottage settlement I see houses on the mountain. What a life: a lot of forest, a lot of mountains, a house, but no paths! Give me such a life!
On the way back we walk around the bushes on the right, then up the mountain to the left. We are sitting two meters above the street, and we get a little dizzy. I have the opportunity to observe that the Scottish flies are just as slow as the Swedish ones; that must be due to the humidity.
The German invasion awaits us again in the hostel. Susi and I are both a little melancholic. We decide to take the bus to Inverness the next day so that we can arrive early enough to drop off our luggage. At eleven o’clock two German girls come into our room, one from Berlin and one from Dortmund. The one from Berlin is really getting on my nerves, especially when she starts to explain to us how one hitchhikes. Good night! – Then comes the bug panic: I have two small black dots on my upper body that turn out to be solid, hard-armored insects (ticks). I probably caught them on the lumberjack meadow (right in the bushes) because they sit on my stomach (I’m not wearing an undershirt) and on my leg, exactly in the spot where my pants are torn.
July 17, 1973 (Tuesday)
The road to Inverness is beautiful. One meets many strange looking Scottish names, like for example Drumnadrochit. Inverness welcomes us with a gray haze and drizzle. My first impression is: old and tight and romantic; and that it is. Only the bridges over the river are new. Flower pots hang on every lamp post and at the gas stations. On the main road, traffic police fight with cars and swarms of pedestrians. The Castle looks relatively new. From there I shoot a nice picture onto some old houses. [Strangely enough, the sun must have shone at that moment, although I can’t remember it.] At the youth hostel we put our luggage in a storage room and try to discover Inverness. Unfortunately it is covered with tourists, we cannot find it. We go to the museum, where I see books with Gaelic ghost stories for the first time. Later I try to get the books in paperback, but outside the museum not even the author (Sorche Nic Leodhas) is known.
When we get back to the youth hostel at two o’clock, we catch our breath. The entire forecourt is overcrowded with young people, like at an open-air festival. Once again we flee the scene and decide to hitchhike on to Elgin, the next stop on our journey. Well, this gives us the opportunity to get to know Inverness in more detail and with the backpacks on our backs. At the first roundabout outside the city, at a gas station, we set ourselves up and, as a precaution, we go to the Ladies‘ again. I stand waiting at the exit, Susi is not back yet when a dark blue station wagon stops to pick us up. The best part: that philanthropist lives in Elgin!
We get into his adventure car, which is mainly loaded with newspapers and empty and full lemonade bottles. The driver turns out to be an expert in hitchhiking! When he was still young, he hitchhiked all over Europe and Australia, with no luggage except what he was carrying on his body and a small bag for soap and food. This seems to be a specifically Scottish way of traveling. He is the third of this kind we’ve met, first the Glasgow angler, then the old wanderer, and now he. He recommends that we eat only once a day, because that is better for the stomach. And then we have way too much luggage with us in his opinion: “You carry too much stuff around with you. You spoil your vacation. You’re killing yourselves! “ – He is very concerned about us and gives us other good advice: „Buy cheap and then THROW it away!“ – We also learn that as a girl you shouldn’t hitchhike in Italy, France and Australia, while it is safe everywhere else, especially in Scotland. „In Scotland it’s perfectly safe even for one girl alone.“ – He describes the area around London as dubious. „Too many tourists.“ – For him, however, the English are also tourists, at least on Scottish soil. “And I don’t pick up long-haired boys. The long-haired ones are drunkards! “ – We can’t convince him that there are decent long-haired guys too. When we drive into Elgin he shows us his house that he had built himself and then he even drives us to the youth hostel.
The Warden almost gets a heart attack when we say we want to stay two nights. „Nobody stays in Elgin more than one night!“ – Yes, we do. We have decided to go to the coast for one day because Susi longs for the sea. We’ll do that the next day, but first we get a shock. My tote bag is gone, and with it Susi’s camera and my new shoes from Inverness. Left in the car, that’s how it was. „Lucky the Mac showed us his house.“ – So we make our way to our benefactor and get the opportunity to look at New Elgin. We pass a horde of young construction workers who immediately start yelling: „Hello, girls, give me a smile, just a smile!“ – „Come here, I’m a very nice boy!“ – They still call when they can no longer see us.
Unfortunately, nobody is home when we arrive, although all doors are open. So we sit on the garden wall and wait patiently. After ten minutes he is already driving up with his son. „The Warden must know me, he showed you the way.“ – But not really; he showed us his house himself. The warden never saw him. But we don’t tell him that, why should we?
Then we go back, a bag richer and, out of relief, eat an apple first. „Birgit, if we pass there again now and all of a sudden have a bag!“ And right, loud laughter from the construction site. „You must be very hungry!“ – Somehow we always give the impression to Scots of being very hungry.
When we get back to the youth hostel, we first get something to eat. The Warden crouches in his glass cubby hole from morning to evening, playing his guitar. Four girls from some religious community and two others from a large family are also sleeping in our room. When they see us washing ourselves „scantily clad“, they have gabbing material for half the night. The other half is filled with conversations about boys. Obviously, they haven’t noticed that we understand English. They wash themselves in turtlenecks and change under their maxi nightgowns. Well, everyone in their own way.