|(Photo: Ruins of Ardvreck Castle)|
When someone stops and tells you to hop in, it's like making a new friend. All the nervousness vanishes and you're reminded that, like before, you're going to be just fine.
|(Photo: The girls from Belgium exploring the ruins.)|
They would be able to get me 20 miles closer to my destination, Durness, Scotland. Along the way, we stopped to explore the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, built in the latter half of the 15th century, and the nearby Calda House, built in 1726 for the wife of Kenneth MacKenzie, who didn’t care for the austerity of the castle. Aesthetics aside, I’d probably feel the same way after learning about the violence, murder, executions, and sieges that had taken place at the castle.
|(Photo: Ruins of Ardvreck Castle and Calda House in the background)|
After telling him where I was going and why, he warned me of biting midges and the September and October weather.
|(Photo: Ruins of Calda House)|
“Ahh, but the Scottish Highlands are not like other mountains. You may not get a lot of snow or freezing temperatures, but it’s a wet cold. The rain and bogs will chill you to the bone and it could go days before you get enough sunlight to dry your clothes.”
I didn't really want to hear that. I prefer living in delusion. He dropped me off before heading to a nearby harbor for work. It was sunny and warm today at least. The next hitch took a bit longer, but not long at all.
“Where you headed?” a woman said from the passenger seat.
“Perfect, we’re going to Durness.” She got out to open the trunk for my pack.
|(Photo: Loch a' Chairn Bhain)|
“In the military you go out with everything you need in a pack, but you have other people there to back you up if you need anything. I'm not sure what that would be like.”
“After a few days there’s this feeling you get from being alone in the wilderness,” she said. “It’s very calming and peaceful.”
“I know that calming feeling,” I said. “It’s like someone just switched off a staticy radio station that you didn’t notice until it was gone.”
|(Photo: The Northern Highlands of Scotland)|
I really liked this couple. We had a lot in common to talk about on the way, backpacking experiences with Mairi and pinched sciatic nerve pains that Pete related to. We also talked about things I didn’t know much about, like the Scottish Kiss, also known as headbutting.
|(Photo: Sango Sands Beach in Durness, Scotland)|
“Oh I’ve never hurt you,” she said.
“I noticed you didn’t say, 'Oh I’ve never headbutted you,'” I said.
“Ah, it's just affection,” she said.
When they dropped me off, Pete pulled a twenty-pound note from Mairi’s purse. “We want to contribute to your adventure,” he said.
|(Photo: The Best Hot Chocolate)|
Thank you Pete and Mairi! With trying to keep my budget to $10 per day, your donation covered the cost of a lot of new memories to come.