Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 2: Karolinisms

I just wanted to use one of these telephone booths.
I didn't have anyone to call (or even how to make a call
with it), so I just used it as a prop for this photo instead!
Sept 9: After walking from Glasgow to Milngavie, Amanda and I spent a couple of more days playing tourist, then--late in the afternoon on the 8th--Karolina arrived in Glasgow and the three of us moved into a hotel room. When I made the hotel reservation, I wasn't sure how many people to make it for. Amanda had been trying to decide whether it was better to leave on the 8th or the morning of the 9th, and I wasn't sure if Karolina had made arrangements to stay at a hostel already or wanted to join us. So I made a reservation for two people, then Amanda decided to spend the extra night and Karolina said she hadn't made any arrangements for herself and joined us, and rather than fix the reservation, we just sneaked three people into our room. =)

Amanda left at an ungodly hour of the morning to catch her flight home. Karolina and I woke up at a more respectable hour, but we didn't linger since we needed to walk at least 15 miles that day, and we needed to do it in daylight so I could take photos. I wasn't really on a time crunch, except that I needed daylight for photos, but Karolina needed to average 16 miles per day to finish the trail in time to get back home to work.

So we checked out shortly after sunrise and walked over to Central Station where we got tickets for the train to Milngavie. The train was running a few minutes late, but otherwise the ride was uneventful.

I had already been to Milngavie and took photos of the town and monument, but it was all new to Karolina and she needed her own photos of the journey. She also stopped at the tourist office to pick up a passport and sign her name to the register there. We saw numerous other prospective hikers preparing to start their hikes as well. During my last visit, late in the day, I hadn't seen any other hikers, but as late as I was arriving in Milngavie, that was to be excepted. Now, early in the morning, there were half a dozen hikers preparing to start.

After the obligatory starting photos, we took our first steps on the West Highland Way.

The first couple of miles were mostly just getting away from civilization. The trail wasn't especially scenic or interesting on the way out of town, and huge numbers of dogs kept getting in our way. It seemed like half of Milgavie was out walking their dogs and none of them under control or on leashes. They were all friendly dogs, but barking and running in front of us kept getting on my nerves. I'd never seen so many dogs running lose before!

Once we got away from the city, though, the trail improved. A lot more quiet and peaceful.

Karolina peeks from behind the monument marking the start
of the West Highland Way. (You can also see a couple of other hikers
in the background, preparing for their own start.)

At one point, I stopped to take a photo and didn't think anything of it until I pivoted on my foot to turn around when my foot seemed to glide a little too easily on the ground. As if the surface between my foot and the ground had been oiled, except I was on a trail and there wasn't any oil around. I looked down and saw my foot in a huge cow paddy.

"Aww.... crap."

I stepped off the poop and tried wiping my foot against some grass cleaning it off. Karolina, of course, found this hilariously funny and told me that in Poland, stepping in poop with your left foot is "good luck."

Good luck? Yeah, I bet.... and if I stepped in it with my right foot, I'd become wealthy and famous. *shaking head* But all the same, I'd rather not step in poop with either foot. I was willing to take my chances! This would be the first of what I started calling Karolinisms--odd, Polish sayings and traditions. Or pretty much anything Karolina said that was funny, odd or amusing.

When we passed by a bunch of sheep, Karolina said that she wasn't going to talk to them. On our walk along the Camino, she tried to "moo" a cow and the thing tried to attack her! We never did figure out what she actually said to the cow, but she didn't want to offend any sheep. "And," she told me, "maybe they've been talking to the cows."

I nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, that does sound like something the sheep would do."

I, however, had no qualms about talking to the sheep and told them, "Baaa-aaa!"

Which is when I learned that Polish sheep have their own accent because Karolina told me they say, "Meeeeh!" and not "Baaa-aa!" like I was saying.

"Well," I told her, "these are Scottish sheep, and while they might have a different accent than American sheep, I'm pretty sure they speak the same sheep language as American sheep. I bet sheep have a totally different language in Poland, though, and that's why they sound so much different there."

The logic was unassailable, but that didn't stop Karolina from trying to teach the Scottish sheep a little from the Polish sheep language. So I went down the trail telling the sheep, "Baaaa!" while Karolina went down the trail telling them, "Meeeeh!"

The sheep, I have little doubt, were pleased to see us leave. =)

I have little doubt that the sheep were glad to see us leave!

We didn't see many other hikers on the trail until we stopped to take our first break, and it seemed like a dozen other hikers passed us within a few minutes. Since almost everyone has hiking in the same direction, we could be walking just a few minutes away from others and not even know it. At least until they stopped for breaks and we caught up, or we stopped for a break and they caught up.

When we stopped, Karolina took off her shoes to let her feet breathe, then I caught her sniffing her shoe. She looked up, noticing me noticing her sniffing her shoe and commented something about, "you must be good friends with yourself when you hike."

I laughed--indeed, you must! I couldn't disagree with that, and I promptly forgot to ask what she was sniffing for. I could have offered to let her sniff my shoe--it might be more interesting after the "good luck" I had had stepping in cow poop--but I let the matter go. I wrote down the new Karolinism in my journal so I wouldn't forget it.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived in the small town of Drymen (pronounced "drimmen") which, according to my guidebook, had the last decent grocery store for over 30 miles. We'd have to stock up with food here.

Karolina watches our gear while I go into Spar to do some shopping.
We also stopped at the library where we got the second stamp for our passports and, since we were there, I asked to get on the Internet briefly to let Amanda know of our progress. We'd seen her earlier that morning, of course, but now we were ON the trail!

While I was emailing, Karolina asked the librarian about haggis. She was intrigued to try it and wanted to know more about it and where to buy it, whether it was really as bad as she heard and what other local foods should she try.

The librarian said that haggis wasn't so bad--not exactly a ringing endorsement--but was okay. More than anything, she seemed surprised that it had such a bad reputation. Another patron of the library overhead of the conversation and snorted with obvious disgust.

"It's terrible!" he told her.

"I wouldn't say that," the librarian insisted.

And I found that eavesdropping on this conversation was far more interesting than sending an email to Amanda. I fired off the email and kept listening in about the merits of haggis.

And then someone suggested she should try some whiskey--another Scottish delicacy, I guess you could say.

"Yeah," I said, "it helps the haggis go down! Or at least helps you forget how bad it was...."

Maybe that explains whiskey's popularity in Scotland. Maybe.... But I told Karolina that I think she should have scotch, because she was in Scotland, not Whiskland!

The conversation eventually wound down and Karolina and I left the library to do some grocery shopping at Spar.

We took turns shopping. She did her shopping first while I sat outside reading a book and watching her gear, then when she finished, I went in and did my own shopping while she watched our gear.

Fortified for the next couple of days, we picked up our packs and continued our hike. The trail headed into a forest with signs warning about logging trucks (or "timber lorries," in Scottish) and not to play on the "timber stacks." The trees were nice, but they did get in the way of views. The best views were were the land had been clear cut (or "clear-felled" as my guidebook liked to say).

After an hour or two, we came out to a clearing with spectacular views overlooking a distant Loch Lomond. We probably still had an hour before sunset, but the view was breathtaking and arguably the nicest of the entire trail so far and I stopped dead in my tracks.

"Karolina," I said. "You want to camp here?"

Karolina sets up her tent for the night.

She was concerned about getting enough miles in. My guidebook had a bad habit of listing how long it takes to walk from point A to point B, but fails completely to state the distance between said points so I couldn't get a highly precise measure of the distance we traveled. I estimated that we had covered between 14 to 16 miles, so we were right in the ballpark of the 15 miles we had been shooting for. Maybe a little short, but not by much, and we had no idea if we'd have such a wonderful place to camp further up the trail. Not to mention that sunset couldn't have been more than an hour away anyhow.

She agreed it was a fine place to camp and that's where we set up. I emptied my pack in search of my groundsheet and couldn't find it. Argh! I had no groundsheet?! What the heck was I going to sleep on? It didn't look like it would rain and rain wasn't in the forecast, so for the time being, I laid out my tarp and used it as a groundsheet instead. I didn't really want to use the tarp for this purpose--it needed to be waterproof and I didn't want anything on the ground poking holes in it, but I found a grassy, soft spot that seemed the least likely to poke holes and set up camp on it. I wasn't sure what I'd do on a night it would rain and I actually needed my tarp over my head rather than under it.

In an odd twist of symmetry, I did discover my iPod hidden away in my pack. I thought I had lost it a couple of weeks earlier when I went backpacking to an airplane crash site in the Olympics Mountains with Amanda. I searched my pack thoroughly--twice!--and couldn't find the iPod and figured it must have fallen out of a pocket and was lost for all time. So I lost my groundsheet (which I didn't know was lost), but I found my iPod (which I thought had been lost).

Karolina joked that she had stolen my groundsheet because she was Polish and the Polish have a reputation for being thieves. It wasn't a stereotype I had been familiar with, but I guess in Europe, at least, it's a common stereotype of anyone from Poland. It would become an ongoing joke between us--the thieving little Polish girl. She'd probably steal the shoes right off my feet if I took a nap on the trail. Can't turn my back on her for a second.... =)

It wasn't long before the infamous midges started flitting around and biting. I had heard about midges, but wasn't entirely sure exactly what they were based on the descriptions I had read. Something like mosquitoes, but smaller? They sounded horrible....

I would have called them no-see-ums, but they weren't as annoying as I had expected. September, allegedly, they aren't so bad anyhow, but I could put on a long shirt, long pants and a headnet and they didn't bother me at all. They were too small to bite through my layers of clothes (mosquitoes can sometimes do that!), and they didn't buzz around (Bzzz! Bzzz!) with that annoying sound like mosquitoes do. All-in-all, they didn't really bother me much. I just put on the headnet and forgot about them. Karolina, without the headnet, was bothered a bit more, but after eating dinner, she just went into her tent to escape them.

In the settling darkness, she asked to hear a couple of my poems so I told her the Ballad of Blasphemous Bill and Casey at the Bat before we faded off to sleep.

The West Highland Way is marked with these wooden posts printed with a symbol of a thistle (the Scottish national emblem) in a hexagon. At turns by intersections, it will also have a yellow arrow pointing in the direction of the turn.

Another Karolinism: Whenever Karolina wanted to take off a layer of clothes to stay cool, she'd call it taking off an "onion layer." Here, she stopped at this bench to take off another onion layer.

This memorial reads: Here burned the Craigallian Fire. During the depression of the 1930s, it was a beacon of companionship and hope for young, unemployed people who came from Glasgow and Clydebank seeking adventure in Scotland's wild places. Their pioneering spirit helped to make the Scottish countryside free for all to roam.

Karolina was about to walk around this gate when I told her: "Stop! Pretend like you're climbing over the gate, as if you didn't realize that you could simply walk around it." So that's what she did. =) She didn't really climb over the gate, though. As soon as I took this photo, she walked around it like she was originally going to.

During a snack break, this little bugger landed on my leg. It's HUGE!

Devil water!

This cow must have had a really bad itch on her neck because she kept scratching it against this rock like crazy!

For those of you inclined to imbibe, the distillery has tours available every hour! Karolina and I passed by without stopping in order to make our 15 miles for the day. Given our relatively late start since we had to take the train into Milngavie, we didn't feel like we had a lot of time NOT to be hiking once we started.

The Beech Tree Inn had this wonderful sign written with a Scottish accent! =)

It's an ice cream honesty box! Ice cream! Ice cream!

Oh, God! Not the poisonous monkeys! Anything but the poisonous monkeys!
Ice cream isn't worth it if I have to battle poisonous monkeys for it!

Sunset, with Loch Lomond that body of water on the left.


Sharon Madson said...

Did you meet any poisonous monkeys? LOL

Sharon Madson said...

I hope you didn't meet any poisonous monkeys! LOL

vicki said...

So if you checked out shortly after sunrise (which is an ungodly hour in my book!) what is the actual ungodly hour that Amanda had to leave?

Ryan said...

No, no poisonous monkeys! And the ungodly hour that Amanda left was probably around 5:00. Maybe a little before that?