Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Backpacking in Scotland

EDIT: The published version of this post has a plethora of break tags that I didn't put in there. Scroll down for the post and if you know how to get rid of them let me know. I've exhausted my scanty HTML skills.

Still fighting this crud I got last week. Light-headed and headachy, coughing fits last night, fatigued, lovely stuff. (ooh! I think my ear just drained!) I'm on a 24-hour SIQ chit, which means I go to the clinic tomorrow to get another one (*sigh*). This did not preclude me from standing my duty day yesterday or getting some work done today. Nor will it mean I won't be working tomorrow, so I don't honestly know what the point is.

Therefore, I blog.

During our Scotland port visit in October, I was lucky enough to be able to take a couple days leave and visit my best friend Egon. Egon and I have known each other for 15 years and he's currently married to a lovely British woman and living the dream in London as a struggling writer. Well, he doesn't stuggle too much, as his wife is paid in British pounds.

Frigates nested
When I left the ship, it seemed like the first time in months I had been free. I walked down the brow in the early morning while everyone else was getting ready to go to conferences and straight out the nearest gate of Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland (about 20 yards from the brow). As I hiked down the road to the Garelochead train station, I got this picture of my ship, USS HALYBURTON, nested between USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (outboard) and the Turkish FFG GOKSU (inboard - formerly USS ESTOCIN).

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMy view of Garelochead. It's a little town at the head of the loch (go figure). The train station was up on the hilltop overlooking the town and the base.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingPhotobucket - Video and Image HostingThere's Egon, standing in front of beautiful downtown Oban after we got off the train. Oban is the largest town in the western highlands and known for its whiskey distillery, among other things. We tried to get on a tour, but we missed the last one by 20 minutes. The whole area surrounding the distillery smelled like a smoky single malt. Luckily there was a cafe across the street where we could enjoy that, plus all the bars in town were well-stocked with Oban. I highly recommend it if you're a scotch drinker. Or if you'd like to be.

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Egon, having done this sort of thing a bit more than I have, found us a great hostel overlooking the waterfront and sitting on top of a pub. Perfect!

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Interestingly, many of the pubs in town (and presumably the rest of the U.K. prohibit football colors from being worn inside. This is to prevent the inevitable bloody and literal violence that ensues when football fans of opposing teams converge on the same location. I was worried about that when I walked into one wearing the hat you see here. The fellow who drove the ship's poop truck gave it to me in exchange for buying him two ship' ball caps. Luckily, it turns out that this is a 2003 Rugby ball cap. I don't know if rugby fans are similarly violent, but I wore the hat anyway. Here, we're hiking to an abandoned castle.

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There wasn't a walkway, but it's not as though the traffic was so bad we had to walk on this rock ledge. We just did. The castle is in the background. I have some pictures, but not readily available. We had to hike up a muddy, rocky slope to get there. There are so many old castles in Scotland and England, that I guess not all them qualify as historic or worthy of being preseved of sending tours through.

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Just a neat picture of the harbor entrance.

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This shot was taken from the top of what became a running gag for the entire next day, a former sea cliff. Egon and I, being best friends, naturally come up with in-jokes that no one else would get unless they were there. ("When I think about you, I touch myself! *CLICK*") When sea levels were higher, the area you see here was underwater and most of Scotland's low-lying coastline was underwater. Now it's low areas surrounded by steep cliffs shaped by water and glacier erosion. I know, I know that still doesn't explain it. It was funny at the time, I guess you had to be there.

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The view out of our third-story hostel window before heading to the Isle of Mull for the day. Not as great a picture as I thought it would be, but there was a terrific view of the harbor and nearby islands (part of the Inner Hebrides). Of note, our room was a four-bed (two bun-beds) dorm-sytle room. We checked in early and went out for a few drinks and some dinner, then came back and met our roommates - two 20-year-old American college girls studying abroad in London. Unique for me and a little awkward for two 30-year-old married guys, for a moment, anyway. We all got along just fine and there wasn't a bit of impropriety. In fact, we hardly spoke, all they seemed to want to do was sleep. They did end up on the ferry to the Isle of Mull with us the next day and we ran into them a couple of times throughout the day.

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On Mull, we did a walking tour of the castles there. Rather, our intent was to tour multiple castles, but they were a lot farther apart than we thought. The only castle we physically toured was Torosay. The one you see here, I shot from the ferry on the way to Mull. It's called Duart Castle and it's much older and across the swamp from Torosay

We hiked toward Duart Castle after touring Torosay and realized that it was a lot farther than we thought It also started raining off and on. But it was a pleasant walk through the sheep pastures and provided Egon and I more opportunity to catch up and espouse heady thoughts at one another. ("Boy are there a lot of sheep," and "Hey, do you think we can hitch a ride on that helicopter?") We also got to see a rainbow and were in a perfect position to photograph the castle through it.Castle Duart

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To save ourselves some walking between the ferry terminal in Craignure and Castle Torosay, we rode the miniature railroad, which is, not surpsingly, really small. Not small enough to be uncomfortable, just small enough to be novel and make you thankful that the ride was short. Apparently, there are a lot of weird train-related hobbies in Britain. I'd heard of trainspotting, but not touring the country to ride tiny trains. BloZep, any insight?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI'd like to point out here that Egon is around six feet tall and I folded myself into the same train car with him. And our backpacks.

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Egon and I parted ways on the train back to Faslane. I got underway the next day for Neptune Warrior and had to deal with this. Just for frame of reference, this is a picture out of the port bridge wing door of my ship in 30-foot seas.

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Yes, it was beautiful Scottish weather the whole time. Hope you enjoyed the pictures, I know I enjoyed the visit.

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Anonymous Anonymous bloody well said...

Thanks for the photos, bud. Reminders of a fantastic weekend. And a truly amazing sea cliff.


21 December, 2006 14:40  

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