21 July 2013

Day 30 - Harris

I'm slowly catching up on the past few days - there was no wifi and my SIM card couldn't pick up a signal in Harris, which was kinda nice to not be connected but at the same time all my bus timetables and maps and things I had saved links to on the iPad, and they were useless without internet!

In the morning I was served a delicious breakfast by Arabella and David, the owners of Tetherstones - french toast and bacon! and I was told it was very American of me to have it with bacon. I met a very nice couple, Barbara and Marcum, who were also staying over and it felt so much like a home and not a hotel atmosphere. Part of what is making the Scotland portion of my trip so wonderful is its people. Everyone I have met has been so nice and helpful and friendly. The previous day, I left and went on the walk to the chapel, and when I came back I had a little nap before dinner, and then went out to the cafe for dinner. When I got back, Arabella had been standing outside my door about to knock - she told me she had been worried when the mist rolled in that I was okay and not lost on the machair! Very nice and caring!  David asked what I was planning on doing while there, and I mentioned that I really wanted to get over to see the Callanish Stones, which look a million times cooler than Stonehenge, and you can walk around them and touch them! But...I wasn't thinking when I was booking the trip, and I had thought about visiting them on Sunday when I'd be in Lewis, because it was closer, except there is no bus service on Sundays. David went and printed off bus timetables that could get me to Callanish the next day, plus timetables for Harris and another one for how to get to my next B&B in Ness when I left. He also suggested hitch hiking, saying it was extremely safe on the islands and I'd be fine...but I decided not to try for Callanish and just enjoy Harris.  And then he also pulled out a few maps and showed me some walks that I could take nearby to beaches. 

After looking at all my options, I decided to do a walk that crossed over a lot of sand to a beach. This is a picture I took later in the day when the tide was in, I would've crossed over on the left side:

To get there, I'd have to hop a fence. Now there are no laws against trespassing in Scotland - you can walk anywhere. But after looking at the fence, and looking at the sand which looked a bit damp, and seeing that the bus had just pulled in, I made a super last minute decision to hop on the bus to get to the beach. And that is where I met Angus. I know I wrote earlier how much fun it is visiting libraries and archives with fellow librarians, because we all geek out over the same things...it's the same when traveling. I had planned on enjoying peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings, and that all changed and it was delightful when you can share an experience with a friend. 

About the people being so nice - as I boarded the bus, I told the driver I wanted to go to Scarista beach, which was the beach I would've gotten to after crossing the sands. He told me that no, I didn't want to go to that beach, and he'd drop me off at a better beach! So of course he knows best, and it was a good choice. Angus and I had been chatting and he decided to get off at the same place. The driver stopped at a place where we could first walk to a single standing stone, and then have another walk down to the beach. So I did get to see a standing stone after all! Although it was by itself, it was still impressive:
We spent some time there, just enjoying the views:
Then we decided instead of heading straight to the beach, to get some lunch first...which turned into a bit of a walk to actually find the nearest cafe! More evidence of nice people - we stopped and asked someone when we finally got to Seilebost and didn't see anywhere to eat, and instead of just giving us directions, she took the time to ask where we were from, what we were doing, and told us what she was doing on the island - you don't get that in London or Boston! Some views from our walk:
It was a cute cafe/art gallery, where I got some homemade focaccia bread since I was still full from breakfast! Then we began the walk back to the gorgeous beach one picture up - and we thought it would be easiest to just walk along the shoreline rather than hop back up on the road...it was a bit rocky:
And the beach we ended up finding was not the original beach we were aiming for, but it was completely secluded and private and just perfect (even if it was littered with the bleached white bodies of dead crabs!):
The water was so crystal clear and this beach was almost like a bay, with a island blocking the full ocean from reaching it, so the water near the shore was warm and it was surprisingly shallow. Angus decided to go walk out to the island:
And then he got dive bombed by some birds, so that didn't work out! The terns will swoop so close to you if you get near their nests - Arabella had warned me about a nest on the walk to the chapel, so as soon as I saw the birds I scooted inland for a bit because I do not want to experience the movie The Birds. I was perfectly content to just wade around the shore and look at little fish and tadpoles swimming around:
We spent a few hours at the beach, reading, chatting, laying in the sun. When we decided to pull out the bus timetable, we discovered that the last bus of the day was a "maybe" as in it would only come by if people who got on when it started had requested it to go so far. The one neat thing was there were no actual bus stops - you just stood by the road and flagged it down when it came by. After waiting for a bit, Angus decided we'd try to hitch hike - and it worked so quickly - first car that came by only had room for one, so we skipped it and the very next one stopped too. It turned out to be one of the owners of the cafe where I had dinner the previous night and where we were heading for dinner again! He was super nice and the only possibly scary thing about the whole experience was whizzing around on single track roads at 50 mph whilst sitting in a baby seat. 

Its funny how people follow the lead of the someone else - we asked to sit outside for dinner, and people who were already eating inside moved outside too! It was way too nice of a day to stay indoors. After a yummy pizza dinner, we wandered down the road to Croft 36 - a self-serve food stand, run on the honor system. 
The previous day there were chocolate cupcakes, and I was hoping they would be back again...but since we got there around 9pm most everything was gone except some scones and some whole fish...so it is definitely a popular place. Luckily, as I am a Cadbury-aholic I had brought from Edinburgh a few different candy bars which made a yummy dessert, or pudding as they say here. 

We went to the beach and watched the sun set and the moon come out:
And we saw a seal in the water! At least I'm going to pretend it was a seal - it was a black speck that was bobbing up and down and then would dive under the water to come back up a little ways away...so it seems seal-like, but maybe it was a sea bird or something. I was hoping maybe to see some stars, because they would just be amazing in a place with absolutely no light interference. Except that at midnight there was still a twilight glow from the sun, so you really couldn't see anything even though the sky was pretty clear. I did take a picture but its really dark so I won't post it. 

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