Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 6: A Beautiful Day for Cussing!

Karolina starts the morning with all of her "onion layers"
on--including her headnet to keep the midges at bay.
Sept 13: Our first stop of the day--not even a half hour after we started walking--was in Inveroran. We had camped on the hill overlooking the town, but we stopped to fill up with water from a spigot behind a hotel and got our passports stamped. Inside the hotel, we could tell the place was filled with other hikers. Lots of people with packs and a look behind the front desk had a dozen or so sack lunches named and numbered for their guests.

I knew that sack lunches were available for purchase at many establishments, but it didn't really strike me as odd or weird until I saw them behind the counter there. I imagined the owner of the hotel sending off their guest. "You be careful now. And don't forget your lunch!" Perhaps with a quick pinch on the cheek or patting their head like a mother talking to their young child.

It never even occurred to us to buy a pre-made lunch. Karolina and I shopped for food at grocery stores or, occasionally, stopped in town at a restaurant where we ate the food at the establishment where we ordered it. Sack lunches? I was a little curious what, exactly, was in those sack lunches, but I didn't ask.

The Scottish fog started burning off early in the morning and opened up into some of the most spectacular scenery of the trail to date. Giant mountains towering thousands of feet high surrounded us as the trail followed largely flat valleys between them. The only blot to the views was the hazy atmosphere. While visibility was good--I'd guess it was at least 10 to 15 miles--it could have been a lot better without the haze.

As the fog burned off, Karolina would remove another "onion layer" of clothing. Most of the time, this wasn't particularly interesting, but one of the layers long underwear under her pants and required taking off her pants to remove the long underwear. Being the gentleman that I am, I turned my back so she could remove the pants without my watching and instead looked back on the trail from whence we came. And seconds later, I saw another hiker turn the corner in the distance walking to us.

"There's a hiker coming," I warned Karolina.

And she didn't believe me! She thought I was "pulling her leg" (an expression I did teach her previously), trying to be funny by making her think a hiker was coming just as her pants were down.

"No, really!" I said, with slightly more urgency in my voice. "There really is someone coming!"

She finally looked and sure enough, there was a hiker coming. I shifted over a bit using my body to hide hers, and she was saying it wasn't that big of deal in any case. She did have underwear on, after all, but it did sound like she hurried her shorts back on a bit quicker than she might have otherwise done.

She was once again fully dressed before the hiker arrived and I'm not even sure the hiker realized what had happened. He hiked by us saying nothing more than "hello" and we continued the hike.

"I can't believe you didn't believe me when I told you there was a hiker coming!" I said.

"But it's you!" she retorted.

"Hmm... yeah, good point." It did sound like something I would have said just to pull her leg.

Karolina and I stopped at the Inveroran Hotel for water and to get our passports stamped.

The trail today was positively packed with people! When we stopped for a snack break, probably two dozen people passed us during the half hour break. They were everywhere! I'm sure they'd been everywhere all this time, but since Karolina and I were camping between towns, we were largely "out of sync" with the "herds" of people leaving towns. Most people stayed in towns. Even other campers would stay at established campsites in towns which always puzzled me. You could camp in solitude and quiet for free on your own, or set up a tarp in a field with a bunch of other people. Not for us, no thanks. But it meant that the vast majority of people were staying in towns, which meant they all left those towns at more-or-less the same time each morning in large herds of people.

Although Karolina and I hadn't camped in town last night, we had set up camp less than a half hour walk into town and wound up leaving that town along with all of the hikers who had stayed in it.

So comparatively speaking, the trail seemed especially busy with people today. The fact that it was a Saturday, a weekend, probably added to the numbers as well.

Karolina tries on a new hat she found on the side of the trail but ultimately decided not to keep it!

At one snack break, we were talking about languages, and Karolina told a story about a boss she once had: "He walked up to me and told me that he knew one word in Polish: F***!!!!"

And let me tell you, Karolina practically shouted that last word--which took me a little by surprise since the lead-up to it was in a completely normal tone. I started giggling because, unbeknownst to her, several hikers had been coming up behind her. Without a doubt, they had to have heard the explicative--but not the story that went with it. Oops!

But I wanted to clarify... "Did he actually say it like that? Practically shouting?"

"Yes!" (Except, of course the f*** was whatever the Polish version of the word was--obviously, Karolina translated it into English for my benefit.) I couldn't imagine what the hikers who walked by where thinking, but they didn't stop to chat. Or even wave at us as they passed. *shrug*

I could just imagine the scene and it made me laugh. I'm not sure if that would have broken any laws where it happened, but surely it had to be inappropriate to be shouting known bad words in a foreign language. On the upside, Karolina was probably the only person in the room who would have known what it meant.

In any case, the story led into another conversation about bad words in non-native languages. She knows that f*** is a bad word, but to her, it's just another English word. It doesn't sound like a bad word to her. Which I totally understand. I know more than a few Spanish bad words, but they don't really feel "bad" to me. They're just foreign words just like any other foreign word to my ears, and if nobody ever told me it was bad, I wouldn't have had any way of knowing they were.

So I asked about bad words in Polish, and Karolina told me one which had a pretty good R that required being rolled. "Yeah, I could never say that," I told Karolina. "I can't roll my R's to save my life."

Interestingly, though, she said that the more you rolled it, the more angry/annoyed/worse the word became. You get out your angers and frustrations with a really long R-roll.

Fascinating stuff! I think I tried to say it, and although I knew it was a "bad word," it still didn't sound like one.

We stopped for another break and a drink at the Kings House Hotel. We took out an outside seat at a picnic table since the weather was so pleasant. We filled up with water and drank our Cokes. Then we made a simmer ring for Karolina's soda can stove. I had already given her a simmer ring, but she managed to burn the edges of it off the night before, but simmer rings are easy to make and we both got a can of Coke to make them with. Karolina seemed fascinated to watch me tear up one of the cans and turn it into a simmer ring on the spot.

Late in the afternoon, the trail headed up one of the steepest, longest climbs of the entire trail--up the so-called Devils Staircase and to the highest point of the West Highland Way at 1,797 feet (548m) above sea level. Yes, I know... that doesn't sound particularly impressive, and it's not. I've done a heck of a lot more difficult hikes and higher! But this was, according to my guidebook, the very highest point of the entire West Highland Way. That has to count for something, right?

Even at the top, the mountains around us towered even higher. The views, however, were absolutely incredible. The haze gave the towering mountains a sort of spectral look that glowed in the sunset. We had made our miles for the day and after a quick consultation, we decided to set up camp right there at the very top of the pass and the highest point of the West Highland Way.

For the first time on the trail, I took out my iPod to listen to. I hadn't even realized I had my iPod when I flew out to Scotland, but I did. Unfortunately, it ran for about 10 minutes before I got the "low battery" message. More unfortunate, the wires I needed to recharge it were back in Seattle. I would not be recharging the iPod until I got home. Karolina and I talked about songs we liked and didn't like, but eventually I wandered off to pee.

Because sometimes, you just have to. And it's the kind of thing you'd rather do without an audience. Or in camp. =)

I walked off trail and towards a view of the Devils Staircase, which was absolutely spectacular, and after doing my business, I just stood on the mountainside watching the views and sunset, rocking out to my iPod, and generally feeling on top of the world. Life was good!

We were surrounded by gorgeous mountains today!
Stay hydrated! We called this Karolina's "Scotch bottle" because of the color, but it only held water!

The cairn was a bit off from the West Highland Way, which you can see snaking across the background in this photo. You can even see a small dot in the photo (near the left) that's a hiker on the West Highland Way.
Looks like Karolina made a new friend!

A caterpillar hiking the West Highland Way!

The views would have been even better if the air wasn't so darned hazy!

Karolina was rinsing her socks and when I tried to take a photo, she turned feral!

No, I don't know who these people are.

Karolina is so excited to be walking on a road (?!?!) she has to do a happy dance! =)

I'm not always the best of role models....

I stopped to make Karolina a new simmer ring for her stove.

Karolina asked me to take this photo and said I should caption it, "Guess which one is the flower and which one is Karolina." More interesting, though--if you look really closely, you'll notice Karolina's left eye is brown and her right eye is blue! It's really kind of freaky....

Karolina's following the switchbacks up the Devil's Staircase.

Even on the trail far away from towns, you can find signs about the upcoming vote for Scottish independence.
I approach the cairn at the highest point on the West Highland Way!

Camping at the highest point on the West Highland Way.


Andrea Palma said...

So you get compared to a log and Karolina is compared to a flower? Haha! And yes, so neat, I never saw anyone with one blue eye and one brown. Cats and horses yes, people no! That must be a sign of good luck or something!! Another beautiful adventure, and now I really want to go on a long hike somewhere breathtaking like that. It makes my heart soar just to think of being out and exploring like that.

Sue KuKu said...

Thank goodness it was a good day, complete with dancing and semi-nudity on the trail. From the caption, I thought it was a bad day that caused you to cuss a lot!

Unknown said...

Wow! Those mountains! I live near the blue ridge mountains, but mostly you see foothills leading up to the mountains. These just come right from the valley! So pretty =)

Really makes me want to get out and find some trails.

Karolina said...

How come the battery in your i-pod was running low and you still managed to spend such a long time listening to the i-pod? I remember the songs of the day were "On top of the world", "Beaile de gorilla", "500 miles" and "Into the wild" =).

Ryan said...

The iPod will typically last something like 10 hours between charges, but it'll tell me the battery is "low" when there's still about 2 hours charge left on it. So it was low... but not empty! After I turned it off for the night, I got about a half hour of use out of it several days later before it died completely.