in the highlands

Having spent a few very comfortable days with my cousin I head to a national park. It’s already too cold to sleep outside this far north, but I’ve found out about these things called bothies: cabins that are very basic, but free to anybody who wants to stay. After some Googling I pick out one that is not too far from a road so I can reach it with one day of hitchhiking and walking. It’s already dark when I reach the place, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how well decked out it is: there’s a fire place, and an outside toilet and even some candles and flashlights.

I want to continue westwards, towards the Isle of Skye. There are some more bothies on the two or so day walk to another road, but I decide against it. It’s a  notorious route and I have little experience walking around these mountains, plus I’m alone. Instead I just hike around the bothy for the day and head out the next using a different path to get back to the road. I guess it’s a good thing I played it safe, because I manage to mess up even that option. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the map and after a few hours I end up with a river in front of me, so I have to take a detour, and I end up way behind schedule, not even managing to reach my destination of Fort William at the end of the day. Instead I find a hostel in Pitlochry.

I make more efficient progress the next day thanks to two friends with a canoe attached to the top of their van, and a man who spends his summer living in his van and renting a flat in winter. The people up here do seem more adventurous for whatever reason. My host in Fort William is a guy who grew up in East Germany who somehow ended up as a baker on an oil rig. Right now he’s got two weeks off and he kills his time hanging out in Cafe Nero on the main street. He’s also got another guest, an elderly American hippy who is on her way to join a commune in New Mexico now that her ten-year Indian visa has run out.