Buckie and back again

Last night, I returned from Aberdeenshire in the North of Scotland. Some of the Human Ecology students went this weekend on the invitation of one of our cohort, Gerry, for trekking about in the country (special thanks to the whole Aiken family for letting all six of us sleep about on your floors and beds).

First, there is a lot of open space in Scotland; it’s a country made for walking around. Second, it’s made for pleasant walking (unless it’s absolutely pealing rain and wind which, thankfully, this weekend it was not).

We arrived in Buckie, a small town that was formerly a fishing village (however, as the stocks have collapsed, it is no longer. The fishing harbour lies silted up and there are only remnants of the past economy). That’s not to say that the town itself is run down and depressing; they’ve moved on to other ways and means (I get the impression that Scots are fairly industrious in that regard). It was however—grey; every building was grey, the rocks were grey, the sky was grey, the grass was an amazing eye-piercing green. This was the farthest north I’ve ever been; I can’t imagine what it will be like in a couple months when the days are even shorter and greyer. I think this must be why Scots seem to be such good conversationalists; in the winter months there is little else to do (may also hint why they traditionally have large families).

We walked mostly along the coast; the coast looks just like what it looks like in books and films. Which means that I expected the English to try invading at any moment only to be repelled by hearty men and women in kilts—or just the quiet wind and mist to continue unmolested till the sun sat. (Note that I did not take my camera this time; it’s not that I’m tired of taking pictures, I’d just like to see some things without having to think every moment about the camera…but it’s a definite pack-along next time).

Then, the highlight, we went to spent the night at a Bothy (these are old stone houses in the wilderness that are now used as overnight shelters for hikers). We went to a wildlife preserve which, oddly and perversely was wired with lights and sound for “Between the Two Worlds” event. A three-hundred year old tree was rung with flashing white bulbs and speakers playing what can only be described as “faerie music.” It was quite disconcerting.

The bothty itself stood alone in a wide glen surrounded by heather and small bushes. And it was quiet. And dang cold. Fortunately, we had chicken and mushrooms and mince pie and scotch whisky! We built a fire in the fireplace and had conversation and eventually fell asleep with the fire dying down…then I woke up with food poisoning. What is this, my curse! What do I have to do? stop eating?

So we had to walk out (after I had vomited about four times); the guys wiring up the trees and heather were kind enough to give us a ride into the nearest town. I saw the country doctor (perfect image of Scottish doctor; wearing tweed, frumpy leather shoes…) He gave me a shot in the butt (which is sore today) to stop the nausea (and, since I’m in the UK and they have national health care, this didn’t cost a thing). Then, after a couple trains and taxis, I finally got home to my own warm bed. (Here I have to send good onto Gerry and Stephen who stepped me through the whole thing and helped my back.)

Next time I go anywhere, I will only eat in people’s homes or just eat vegetables. Will definitely go trekking again though; think it could be addictive here.