Skye and friends.
It’s a warm Friday morning for the last day in March. We are heading up to the mythical Isle of Skye. The morning started with a few problems renting the cars but by 10 AM we were outside Warrender Park Crescent and ready to get a move on. There were two cars, one with Tyler, D-Lu, and some new characters, Magnus and Daniel, two Danish friends of Tyler. In the other car were Meg, Mags, Leo, and yours truly. We had booked an Air B&B in a small town called Portree, but before we could get there we had to make the drive up. We planned the route out so that we could stop by Loch Ness, and then after that, we would drive straight to Skye.
After we set off the cars got separated almost instantly. As drove along the highway the land slowly transitioned into the highlands which will never cease to amaze. Eventually, we took our pit-stop at another small village which had a castle. The castle was out of view from the road, but we did stumble upon a cozy little path, inconspicuously behind a clothing store. The path led along a river with moss covered trees and rocks all along the way. The trail had a slight vertical incline and the river transitioned to sets of pools and cascading waterfalls. After continuing up a ways an ancient looking bridge crossed over the water. The dark stone of the bridge was covered in moss in such a way that made the bridge a natural part of the scenery. Like it had been there for just as long as the river and the mountain. Eventually, we decided it was time to turn around and continue on our journey north. It’s funny how on that works on road trips, some of the best experiences are just things you stumble upon when you pull over.
We met up with the other car at a small restaurant right at the bank of the Loch Ness. After a small lunch, we decided to something a little stupid. We decided to swim in Loch Ness. The rest of the boys and me stripped down to our underwear and ran into the freezing cold waters of the north. The winds had stirred up some strong waves in the loch and the shores were rocky and slippery. I took a few steps into the water and eventually through away my inhibitions and dove head-on into the water. Instantly the breath was sucked out of me and I had to come back up for air. All the guys around me were struggling with the cold as well, but at the same time, we were all having a ball. As dumb as it is the thrill of the cold was creating true bliss. After a very short jaunt, we unanimously decided to exit the waters. This, however, proved more of a challenge than we thought. The rocky bottoms created an uneven surface and the waves kept knocking us over. On top of this, the icy water had numbed our feet making it even harder to walk out. Eventually, however, we emerged from the freezing depths, victorious.
A few hours later we arrived, not without a few wrong turns, at our temporary house. A cozy little place with views of the mountains and only a few minutes walk from the sea. Portree is an old sea town that has in this modern era been converted into a vacation destination. Although this does take away a bit of the charm that must once have existed, Portree still calls upon historic visions of the old hardy fishing town.
Since we got in after dark we couldn’t explore Skye at all, but we were able to make spaghetti and play drinking games. Good times were had and friendships were strengthened, it was a good night. We woke up early in the morning and our first stop along the way was Neist Point. It had stellar views of the ends of the earth and I think photos are going to describe it a lot better than I could manage.
Next, we headed to the Fairy Pools. I consider the river itself a little underwhelming. Pictures from there can look very cool but there isn’t much special about the pools and falls compared to other areas I’ve seen around Scotland. But we would not be stopped, there was an imposing mountain, surrounded by gray clouds, with a savage crack down the center. It was calling to be climbed. We made it past the main path of the fairy pools and into a wet marshy area right underneath the slopes. Upon reaching the base we started working our way up to the crack and although the slope was a quite steep we found out that inside the split of the mountain water flowed down from above. We stood in appreciation for a minute and decided we would like to try and make it to the top. Not knowing if this would actually be possible and without any real gear, we decided to make a go of it anyways. Slowly we worked our way up, and as we climbed higher it looked like we might actually be able to reach the summit. One problem, however, was the quickly setting sun, we only had about 2ish hours of light and so we set a time to turn around for certain. The climb up was beautiful, with views of mountains and lochs all around. We did, unfortunately, reach our time limit before we could get all the way up which did leave me a bit unsatisfied, but we did get way higher than I ever actually thought we would. Even the views from the point we did reach were impressive, the river scaled down to a small stream, hills blending into each other forming purple hills in the distance, we could even see an unknown loch once we were high enough shyly showing in-between the expanse of high ridges.
That night no one had very much energy at all and so we went to bed pretty quickly. The next morning we got up pretty early, had a quick breakfast, and went out to probably the most famous spot in Skye, The Storr. It’s this scenic hill with some really crazy rock formations that bogle the mind. We concluded a really good weekend up there sitting underneath one of the largest standing rocks. I tried to take a polaroid of that but it ended up coming out over exposed. The moment was a good encapsulation of the whole weekend: friends, cool hiking, scenic views…Scotland.
I’m really happy with the friends I’ve made here. It’s crazy to think that from all over the world we all met in Edinburgh, mostly by chance, and these are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. It’s amazing that from so many different places we could bond so closely.
I feel like I’m not getting to the crux of the point. I’m having trouble expressing how awesome it feels to go to all these new and interesting places with new and interesting friends that were all born thousands of miles away from me. It doesn’t make sense that events could line up like this. In a way, it’s everything I expected from studying abroad, but it’s also so much more. So many of my views on life have been altered, and I feel like I have a lot better understanding of myself, the world, and the people around me.
I think Pascal puts it well:
When I consider the small span of my life absorbed in the eternity of all time, or the small part of space which I can touch or see engulfed by the infinite immensity of spaces that I know not and that know me not, I am frightened and astonished to see myself here instead of there … now instead of then.
But for now here is a good here and I can enjoy that.
This polaroid is on the way up to The Storr and the other is my failed attempt. Neither are that good, I think the color polaroids are actually much cooler.
Also, side note, I was just talking to James, discussing how I could properly bring the characters of this study abroad blog to life. When out of the blue he calmly states, “Hold on” reaches down to his shoe sitting on the floor, picks it up bringing to next to his head like a cell phone and says, “Hello.” So there’s that.