Monday, January 07, 2008

Hogmanay and Down to Cairngorm Park

It's January 7th already! Time's flying by - I've been in Inverness over a month already, and it's already a week into 2008. I've had to write '09 on the backs of SYHA membership cards that I've sold in the last week (they last a year), and that's even weirder.

I last updated here on the 30th, so since then has been Hogmanay. I took some German fellows who were staying at the hostel out that night (they'd been very nice to me by feeding me several times in the course of the week before that) for a few hours. They took some photos on their camera phone that are on their blog - it's written in German, but you can see the photos, including a scary one of me at the start. "Sylvester" is German for New Year's Eve - never knew that the cat was named for that.

On my days off this week I went and worked at another hostel. Rob, of Uig and Aberdeen fame, is managing Cairngorm Lodge, and has been the only full-time staff member there since just before New Year's (he had a part-time cleaner). So that he could have a day off to go about his own business, I went down to fill in for him for a day-and-a-half.

Le hostel Cairngorm Lodge (Loch Morlich):

The hostel from another angle:
I took the train south to Aviemore Wednesday evening, just a 30-minute trip. Then, owing to there being no buses after 5pm, I took a taxi the 7 miles to Glenmore, where the youth hostel is. It's in a nice location, and looks like a huge house - apparently it was an old shooting lodge before its youth hostel days. There's a conservatory off of the dining hall that lets you see the mountains (when the clouds aren't blocking them), and I liked sitting in it to look at the surroundings. The hostel has 78 beds, and attracts the outdoor types for hiking, climbing, and skiing, given its proximity to Cairn Gorm mountain. It was reasonably busy with groups of climbers while I was there. It's also right near Loch Morlich, and in the midst of a forest park of Scotch pine.

I hung out with Rob on Wednesday night and got orientated to the hostel. Starting 7am Thursday morning I was on duty since Rob was away. It had snowed overnight, so there was several inches of wet snow on the ground - the first time that I've walked through snow in this country. I spent a lot of time on the phone listening to messages about the road to Cairngorm Mountain being shut due to the plow needing to clear the road (a feat that took hours). Due to white out conditions later in the day the mountain was evacuated. Sections of the A9 highway through the region were also closed down due to the weather in the evening, causing a delay in the arrival of some of my guests. It was quite gusty around the hostel, and with the temperature going up the car park was getting a big slippy so I had to due some salt spreading and path clearing.

The slippy lane:Snowman made by one of the guests (English fellow):
The weather cleared up Friday, and was a few degrees above freezing by midday, but in the morning the car park was like a skating rink. Some guests were worried about driving up the lane, complaining that it was really slippery. To me, it didn't seem too bad - hard to walk on, but in a car you have better traction what with tire treads and weighing a lot more. I think a lot of it had to due with cars not having all-season tires as standard over, plus people aren't accustomed to driving on snow and ice.

I could really see how quickly the weather in the moutains can change - I watched masses of clouds move across the hills, obscuring them from my view (and annoying me as I wanted to take some pictures). Then within 15 minutes the hill-tops were cloud free and the sun was beating down on them. Rob was back around 2pm Friday, so after that I just rested, went for a bit of a walk, hung out and played pool, cards, and watched TV. It was a lot of work for a couple of days, but I had fun overall - just being in a different place, cleaning a different layout added enough of an element of interest to keep me going. The guests were all quite good, although some of the climbers had that clique-ishness about them where they were only interersted in talking shop to people who hiked, and one girl just walked away from me when I told her that I didn't get to go hiking often because I was generally busy with work.

I'll probably head down to the region again so I can do some walks in the forest and the hills, especially since it's so close. There's also reindeer nearby which would be neat to see in real life, since I've been looking at them on my money all my life without knowing it - I only realized while looking it up the other day that caribou is just a word for wild reindeer. I always thought that it was elk and caribou that were the same, but there you go. I suppose if I'm going to make a point of viewing things from Canadian coins, then in addition to a reindeer, I still need to see the Bluenose, a loon, and a polar bear (I've seen the maple leaves and a beaver). Oh, and the Queen.

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