Saturday, March 29, 2008

Guess where I am?

I'm down at Loch Ness again this weekend, though perhaps the last one for a while as someone else is coming down from Inverness next weekend to be the relief. Anyway, it's not a bad wee hostel and good for a change.

Didn't go anywhere on my days off this week, as with being up and down between hostels I felt I could use some time staying in one place. Just took it easy reading a book, doing some cooking, went out with a fella a couple of times, and caught up on sleep.

I think I met some of the "we're not Canadian" Quebecker types the other day. I heard them speaking in French, and asked them in French if they were French, to which they replied "Non, Quebecois". To that I replied "Oh, je suis canadienne aussi!" to be met by silence. One of them later said "Ontario?" to me, but that was about it.

On the other hand, a woman who was actually from France mistook me for French when I informed her about how to get to the kitchen, since I could hear her mumbling to herself in French, wondering where it was.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New posts

Posts on Skye trip are up. Sorry some of them are kind of choppy; I've been writing them on rushed time. Might get to edit them up a bit later. There's photos (more than what's in the post) in the usual spot on my web albums.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The roundabouts are coming?

Just looking through the PEI news, and I've seen two suggestions that there should be roundabouts on the Island (when they started being called that back home, I don't know, I've always heard them called rotaries).

There's a letter to the editor in The Guardian suggesting that a roundabout could have made a recent fatal accident much less serious if not avoided it at all, because people are forced to slow down for roundabouts.

Then there's a comment added to an article in The Guardian about some hour-of-darkness-for-the-environment scheme that Charlottetown's going to do. The comment suggests that to help avoid energy waste we should replace intersections with traffic lights with roundabouts because then cars aren't idling creating pollution and lights aren't running consuming energy.

Besides the fact that I think Island drivers are going to have a hard time dealing with roundabouts as they can't merge and the like (I remember the two-lane Hillsborough Bridge, and I remember all the fuss in the news when two side-by-side left turning lanes were installed at the Southport bridge intersection), my problem with roundabouts is that they slow traffic down. You're motoring along on the highway, and then because there's a road junction everyone has to slow down, not just the people who want to leave the highway.

I heard tell on a visit home of a rotary up Summerside way; I believe it was proving to be a little difficult for big trucks to negotiate. I've never driven through it, so I've never driven through a rotary on the Island. I don't really expect to be finding them there any time soon.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

There will be posts

Well, I'm at the Loch Ness hostel tonight, working reception and reading through the Inverness Press and Journal while I wait for arrivals and turn away people who haven't booked (most places are full this weekend). The north of Scotland may have more people than PEI, but that doesn't stop its newspaper from having characteristic small-town/rural stories. Like the news brief about how the shops were busy yesterday as people prepared for the Easter holiday, and that some readers reported not being able to find parking spaces at the Morrisons supermarket. I just love those sorts of stories.

On the more bizarre side is the article entitled "White witch curses latest Nessie hunt". Unfortunately, the online version doesn't have the picture of the witch, a long-yellow-haired fellow in a burgundy bath robe on the loch shore.

There was snow overnight in Inverness, and some small hailstones fell here at Alltsigh briefly while I was carrying a mop bucket from one building to the other. The forecast called for "wintry showers" today (I think we'd call that "flurries" at home) and predicts heavy snow overnight.

The point of this post was to tell you that there will be some more posts soon. I spent last weekend here at Loch Ness, then went back to Inverness to work for three days there. Then I hired a car Wednesday afternoon, drove to Loch Ness to visit Tina overnight, then drove to Skye on Thursday morning and ran the roads around there that day and Friday morning, staying in Broadford overnight. I returned the hire car Friday afternoon, spent a night in my own bed, then it was down here again this morning to relieve Tina. So I've pictures to upload and tales to tell, but what with the Easter holiday and my jet-setting lifestyle, I've not gotten to the library to put up pictures. I might get some up tomorrow if Tina lets me use her laptop. Anyway, when I do post I will probably archive post them to the day I'm writing about, but I'll let you know.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Skye Trip Day Three

Here's a map of the day's travels.

So, due to my camera batteries dying and having forgotten to bring my spares, the only photos I have from the second day of travelling on Skye are on my phone, and at the moment I can't get those off it on to a computer. So the internet will have to provide photos, hopefully from people with better cameras than I who visited the places on the better-weather days!

I left Broadford in the morning, and on the drive up the island I saw on the Cuillin that there had been snow on the tops overnight, and also that there was no cloud covering the very top for the first time that I recall.

On the drive, I noticed some sheep warning signs, which I'm pretty sure were not on that road last summer. They looked pretty shiny-new red and white, so I'm wondering if they are a new initiative. Again, they were on a road where there isn't really the risk of sheep running on to it, because it's a busy road so people keep their sheep fenced off of it.

I passed through Portree and then up the east coast of the Trotternish peninsula, on a road that I haven't been down since I cycled it almost 6 years ago on my first visit to Skye. I passed the Old Man of Storr, but didn't stop to walk up to it as I did that walk on the aforementioned cycling trip.

I did stop quickly to see Kilt Rock, since it involved just standing in the car park to look at it. It was so windy at that time that a nearby waterfall was blowing upward in gusts and I dashed around it several times to the amusement of a couple who were staying inside their car.

Then at Staffin, I took the road to the Quiraing, and got out of the car to do a walk on a side more sheltered from the wind. It's an amazing location; the landscape is a bit weird and surreal.

I followed that road along to Uig and nipped up to the Faery Glen for a short walk and to eat my lunch.

After that I did the return trip, although I did alter my route to go along the single track road on the south side of Loch Ness for a change of scenery.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Skye Trip Day Two

Here's a map of my trip this day.

I had stopped overnight at Loch Ness with Tina, and I left the hostel at about 9am in the morning. I drove down to Invernmoriston where I took the road toward Kyle of Lochalsh. It first passed by Loch Cluanie, which is held back on one end by a big dam.

The road then passes through Glen Shiel. It's absolutely stunning, though pictures don't convey it so well due to the mistiness. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road!

Once on to Skye, stopped in Kyleakin when the weather was back to absolutlely miserable. Had a look at the old closed up hostel, popped into the shop for a snack and then drove on up the island.
Passing through Broadford got stopped by roadworks. Had a convoy van to lead you through, something I've not seen before. I sang/hummed "Convoy" to myself whilst waiting for the cars ahead of me to move.
Drove down single track road to Elgol to get a nice view of the Cuillin. Single track roads are my kind of driving; you have to be courteous or you will run into someone. One car has to pull into a passing place to allow another to go by. It's just the logistics of the situation. And then you give a little wave to each other when you pass. There are the mad folks who want to drive super fast and try to run you off the road, that happens even on the main roads (there seems to be more of those people over here than in Canada), but they're fortunately not the majority.
I might have gone for a walk on the beach at Elgol another day, but the wind was so strong I had trouble standing in one place just to take photos without being blown off balance.

After coming back up from Elgol, I drove up the west of Skye toward Dunvegan.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Skye Trip Day One: Hitting the road

I picked up the hire car after finishing work. I booked an automatic because I figured it would be good to take things step-by-step and get used to driving on the opposite side before having to get used to a manual transmission. I booked the smallest car possible (i.e. the cheapest) but was told when I picked it up that I was being given a larger car due to availability. They gave me a Peugot 407, about an average-size car to me, similar in size to Chevy's like the Corsica and the Malibu or the Pontiac GrandAm (I'm just naming cars I've driven around that size).

Driving on the wrong side of the road isn't the biggest problem for me, it's sitting on the wrong side of the car. I've realized that when it comes to driving, I've developped my spatial sense on my right side, because that's where the rest of the car always have been, and on my left side I've not had to develop the distance judging quite so well. It probably doesn't help that my right eye is my better one. Anyway, it's made me paranoid about the whereabouts of the left-hand side of the car.

Had some moments of confusion involving roundabouts in Inverness itself (I've mentioned the preponderance of roundabouts over here as compared to Canada before). Stopped at the supermarket and discovered the parking spaces are smaller; what is a small-medium sized car in Canada is on the larger size here. I can't imagine how the people with pick-up trucks over here park them. The car park spaces are also designated by a complete rectangle, there isn't one open side.

Then when getting out on the A82 heading down along Loch Ness, it was getting used to the narrowness of roads and the twistiness.

The key for the car is really cool; it folds away into the plastic bit, and there's a button that caused is to swing open again. It's immensely fun to play with as you carry the keys about.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sheep can eat pickles and die

This sign is posted along the road along Loch Ness's northern shore. Oddly enough, for the two miles after this sign, I saw no sheep, whereas I've seen them on every other rural walk I've ever taken in this country. I'm not sure where the sheep are meant to be - the loch is on one side of the road, and a forrested mountain is on the other side. There is a sign indicating falling rocks for 2 miles as well. I think the sheep must be at the top of the mountains, throwing the rocks.

The post title is a quote from Alysha. She likes neither sheep nor pickles and so combined them into one expression.

Friday, March 07, 2008

At Loch Ness Hostel

On Thursday, my hostel group was out for the day, so I headed out for a walk myself. I walked from Alltsigh (where the hostel is) southwest-ward, along the roadside, hoping to find a path up to the Great Glen Way footpath so that I wouldn't have to walk on the road. I didn't find one before arriving at Invermoriston (about 3 miles down the road), the village in Glen Moriston at the junction of the road from Inverness, the road to Fort William, and the road to Kyle of Lochalsh. The village consists of a shop/post office, a hotel with restaurant/bar, a craft shop (that didn't appear to be open yet), a coffee shop/tea room (opening in a week), a village hall, a school, and some houses.

I bought some chocolate at the shop to supplement my packed lunch, then walked in the direction of the waterfall. Along the way I stopped at Columba's Well, as it was marked - it's a not-so-spring-like (i.e. some still water surrounded by a hole in rock) spring that legend says was poisonous until St. Columba made a stop there in the late 500's and blessed it, giving the water curing properties. I guess if you're a Columba fan then it would be a highlight.

The waterfall was actually pretty neat - no Niagra, but quite fast moving water none-the-less. The bank above the river was high and dropped off sharply.

To go back to the hostel, I joined the Great Glen Way where it came out in Invermoriston. It took a seemly circuituitous route up a hill, but did provide a good view point before heading back down the hill, nearer to the road. I walked along, drinking an Irn-Bru to give me the strength to get up the hill (I'd lost my water bottle from my backpack when I'd take a bit of a fall into a hole along the riverbank), then had my lunch on the hill-top with my back turned to the rain blown by the wind. Later on, the sun broke through the clouds as the rain stopped.
I found a path down about a mile from the hostel (it had appeared to be a gated driveway from the road), and a map indicates there must be one closer to the hostel, so I shall endeavour to find that one next time (I think I'm back here in a week to cover another Rent-a-Hostel).

Finally, here's a few photos of the Loch Ness Hostel. It's a bit old, but it's got a great location right on the lochside.

Ok, so I'm getting server errors from Google when I try to upload today (from two seperate computers), so for the photos I was going to put up and more, please see my web album. It's disorganized at the moment, and shows my fascination with trees growing in unusual ways, but I'll fix it up and label it sometime soon. And add to this post with photos.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Heading to the Loch sans locks

That post title is terrible, really.

I'm going down to the Loch Ness hostel this week to cover a "Rent-a-Hostel". This is where a group pays to have an out-of-season hostel all to themselves. It's a few hundred pounds for the entire place, so if you have a group that will fill it (in the case of Loch Ness, about 38 beds), then it's a good deal.

Anyway, tomorrow several of us from the Inverness hostel are going down to tidy up the place, then I'll be going down again Wednesday and staying there overnight and Thursday night, coming back on Friday after cleaning the place up. So that'll be another hostel under my belt.

Not too much else new with me, other than I got my haircut. I had it lopped off to what you'd call a bob cut, I guess - not quite shoulder length and layered. I'm happy with it; it's made a nice change from the ol' long hair.