Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Irishman's Point Nightmare

Excerpt from my favorite book about Scotland (mine!), Gimme the Song O' the Pipes! 
The boys keep making sounds about my clotted cream belly again, after my gorge on chocolates last night. My host fills the jar every day--why, why? Today is my walk around Irishman’s Point in Broadford. It sounds like a simple, interesting walk along the Broadford Bay coast. Fooh and Angus say they are ready for an adventure...little do we know...
   We happily tread past the hostel, which has a prime location looking out over the bay. Fooh is impressed that I recognize the oystercatchers, with their bills even longer than their long legs which end in big chicken feet. Photo-taking of blackish, brackish seaweed turns on my artistic soul, then over a stile, around the point, along the edge of the water—when all goes haywire.
69.  Irishman's Point.

  It is a mucking mess, if I may say so. The rocks and basalt are slippery, so it is too difficult and no fun to walk close to the edge of the water. Up a bit is the deep sloshy, grassy muck. I become discouraged and decide to head up the hill and along a fence. The view is magnificent, with the isles of Crowlin far off in the distance, and closer up, Pabay and Longay. The going is just as tough here and I plan to move right up over the hill to the road on the far side of the conifers. No messing around.
  Uh-huh. Right.
  The fence is un-crossable here, so we follow it around the corner and keep climbing. I have to go pee, but decide to wait, then it gets worse, because I have to go poo. Oh dear. This happens to me every time I go into a bookstore. But why here? Okay, so it could be readily taken care of, except there is nowhere to step except on my bit of patchy grass. So my task is to squat in my own bed, so to speak, find bits of dried leafy vegetation to use and move on, hoping the troops aren’t close behind me—I can hear them now...oh yuck, what the...?
  Up a ways there is no trekking onward, too much vegetation, so I climb the fence and double-over to move under bushes—Fooh and Angus in my hood yelp occasionally when a twig snaps in their faces. As I creep along, hunched and slipping and sliding, I feel like Hyacinth in a comic sketch, but it gets worse. I am now looking across a vast stretch of clear-cutting on the hill. To the left, way up and over, is a long forest-like stand of fir trees. As I begin stepping into the mess of stumps and piled branches, it becomes immensely—I say immensely because my mind has just exploded with the realization—immensely obvious that this is going to be a nightmare. With each step is the possibility of dropping down into several feet of water and rotting, stinking-of-sewage vegetation. I am going to royally get paid back for my soiling in my bed antics. Fooh keeps saying we could or should go back the way we came, but the optimist in me says this can’t last forever and I hate to go back to the muck. After about an hour, I pause to take a self portrait of my plight, in case I never get out. They will have a last- moments-of-my-life illumination to give to my daughter Woo.
70I'm smiling because
Fooh and Angus have toppled over and are on my right 
in the muck, but first things first...
I pause for the camera, hanging on and standing on a root...

  I choose a path, climb over stumps and realize that it is safest to try to follow the line of the tree roots. One path after another--guessing games of this way or that leading to the hill over there, or perhaps a road up there, end only in disappointment and frustration. I discover various trails made by tractors and follow up and down, and they lead to nowhere. Each step is tentative and I barely move five feet per minute. When finally we reach the line of trees at the top and think okay, we can go through the forest to the road, it only gets more treacherous. That is not a viable solution.
  I decide to move along the edge of the forest and by this time, I can barely move without falling into a bog or one leg dropping down into a hole under the delicate, rotting branches. Now, the terrain gets more lumpish and trenchy. Streams are moving under everything and I climb down and then up. This all strikes me as ludicrous, because I can’t be far away from anything.
  But I see no one—just rolling brown trenches and steep water-filled ravines and stumps and clumps of high grass--this Angus suggests I concentrate my weight on, which turns out to be my saving grace. Then my feet turn every which way, my ankles twist, my new fleece pants and shoes are filled with smelly water, mud and crap. On I stumble, wanting to cry, but why? What good will it do? It becomes almost impossible to move in any direction.
  After hours of this, I see some buildings. It turns out to be the company that is cutting these trees. Now the final hour—of acres of bog, six-foot piles of Christmas tree branches with no bottom, and all intermingled with—oh, la, what a surprise—berry vines! Acres of berry vines—wrapped around, trailing through, tangled in all of the above. I have fallen from grace with the gods and have been plunged into a dark hellhole. So close and yet, so far, far from any place I would choose to be rather than here. Angus wants to shout out for help, but I am too mortified. How embarrassing and how could I betray my country by revealing my stupidity to these Scots?
  No, I bumble on, tumble down; scratched, grabbed at by every nasty prickly bit of berry vine. My legs and hands bleed, each step catches me, digs at me, I pull and pull and pull the vines away and each step is another imprisonment. I can actually hear the men shouting to each other over there but they ignore me. For this I am grateful—once they heard my American dialect, I’d be a laughing stock. I practice my London dialect, thinking if they do notice me, I can convince them I’m an idiot from the south.
  By the time I break free and find my way through a junkyard of planks that want to flip and tip each time I tentatively put my foot on them, and climb over the fence, it has been four and a half hours since we left the water’s edge. When I step onto the blacktop of the road across the street from the Highland Free Press, I feel I have never been so happy to walk with a road under my feet and the boys cheer me on. I am exhausted.

  At Caberfeidh, I leave my boots on the porch, toss the guys onto the bed and walk straight into the shower, clothes and all. Afterwards, somehow refreshed, I take a walk to the Co-op to replace the candies in my room. By the time I get ready for bed, I have eaten half of the chocolates and am sick of myself. My last fading thought before sleep is, ‘Spare me from pigging out tomorrow.’

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