09 July 2014

Papay, Day Eight

Yesterday was a bit of a recharge and relax day. A little bit about Papay: the full name is Papa Westray, but the locals call it Papay. What is interesting to me is that all the place names, of both the islands and the towns on the islands, came from the Vikings. And though they have been slightly corrupted over time to fit the English language, when the locals speak its Old Norse/Norn that you hear. Papay was named because there was a monastery on the island when the Viking arrived, so the "ay" is a corruption of the Norse "√ły" meaning island, and Papa meaning "Papes" or those who follow the pope. So island of the Papes. And Westray is "west island". 
In the morning I visited the community shop - for such small stores, they are extremely well stocked. I picked up some things for dinner and had to get some Cadbury chocolate (for Chrissy, not for me!) Then since it was sunny at the moment, I decided to walk along the shore and head for an Iron Age fort and medival church ruins. 

The beach was rocky, with rock ledges exactly like the beach near me on Westray. What is really neat was that you could see some fossils on the stones...I think this must be some kind of ocean plant:
I kept an eye out for fish fossils, but didn't see any. Along the beach were the remains of an old mill, which still had the grinding stone in it, and an abandoned farm house. 
The fort and church were located on a man-made peninsula stretching out into a loch. 
Everywhere I've gone on this island, I've been the only person! Its interesting because the hostel is full, but I never see anyone else out and about. Same as on Westray, if I'm walking along the road the locals always wave, but on the paths through the fields there is no one. Back at the hostel, the fog rolled in. I was hoping it would dissipate as the afternoon went on, but it didn't. I wasn't going to a let a little fog change my plans, so I still went on my walk to a different beach. 
It wasn't too bad; on Westray I was told about fog so thick you couldn't see in front of you, and this time I kept to roads instead of wandering off through the paths. Down at the Old Pier a boat was pulling up and unloading what looked like lobster pots. Then I reached the beach:
It would be a perfect place to sit out on a sunny day! Further along, the air was filled with artic terns, who weren't too happy to see me:
So I headed back to the hostel. 

Today the weather looks good all day long, which is perfect for my last full day on the island! 

08 July 2014

Westray and a bit of Papay, Day Seven

My last day on Westray started off wonderfully [writing that makes it sound like it didn't end well, it did!] - while finishing breakfast, my roommate came in to tell me she spotted some seals down on the  beach! So I went down and there they were; they are gray seals, and most were sunning themselves on the beach, but a few were playing in the water. 
Graham picked me up in the morning and we headed down to Rapness to wait for the others on the tour, who were just coming over for the day on the ferry. The sun was shining and the water was all sparkly:
This was the same ferry that I rode over to Westray, so of course I had to take a picture of it, the Earl Sigurd:
You would not believe the number of cars that they make fit on the boat, they wedge them in every which way, and luckily they are much smaller than US cars (for the most part, the farm equipment does take up some space!). The other people who came on the tour were from the UK with one woman from New Zealand; its interesting that I've only met two other Americans out here, with the majority of tourists being from England. They were all so friendly, and Graham introduced me to the group as a whole - let me just say that everyone over here loves my name! 

For our first stop of the day, Graham drove all the way out to Noup Head, which was where I would've ended up had I kept walking the other day, so I'm glad I didn't! 
I was wrong in my population count the other day; there are actually 642 people living on Westray, which is an increase from the low of 500 fifteen years ago, and it is increasing every year. And Graham knew everyone on the island...see this is Gordon:
Gordon is getting crab, and he phones Graham if there is anything interesting in the water. Its rare, but once he had a basking shark following his boat, and sometimes there will be a whale. 

There are thousands of birds nesting here, and he thought there might still be a puffin or two. 
Everyone else had brought binoculars, except for me, but that was fine because I got to see puffins up close the night before! They spotted two on a ledge and were quite happy. I was able to see these black and white birds, guillemots:
They are all lined up like that guarding a chick. Great skuas patrol, snatching chicks off the cliff, so these guys line up to protect it and try to act like they are just hanging out. My favorite bird that we spotted was the artic tern - they are pretty (but Mom, you need to put fish out to attrack these birds!):
Next we went to the Noltland Links, an archaelogical dig that is still ongoing, to excavate a 5000 Neolithic Village. Unfortunately it too is extemely close to the water now, and they made the decision to just excavate, not restore. So what that means is that they dig, find a rock, draw it, number it, photograph it, then remove it, and keep digging. I guess the feeling is that the site will be lost to the ocean, so better to fully dig it out than to try to preserve it. There was one archaeologist, Sean, there, everyone else is on holiday. He was working at sifting the dirt/sand:
The most exciting thing for the archaeologists is the midden. Midden is basically trash. What seems to have happened was that the original village kept getting covered in sand, and so the villagers would build some new houses a little further inland, and then throw all their trash over the old village. So there are animal bones, broken pieces of pottery, shells, just anything that was trashed, all layering the original village. One of the woman in our group bent down and picked up a skaill knife, which was just laying in the path; these were flat, sharpened stones, used to clean off skins! It was just laying out in the open, which was so neat to see a "find" in person. 
I was glad to have seen Skara Brae first, because seeing that (mostly) intact village helped me better to  picture what this one would've looked like. 
Then it was time for lunch, which was included in the price of the tour, at Graham's wife's cafe. It was lasgna and homemade rolls, with carrot soup and apple pie. I sat with a group who were all travelling on to Shetland and we had a really nice talk. Then we went over to the most northern point on the island, to see a natural arch:
On our way to the next stopping point, Graham looked across and noticed that the afternoon flight was about to leave from Papay, so we quickly drove to a point where we could watch. Its the shortest commercial flight in the world, and you can even get a certificate saying you've flown it! Its two minutes between the airport on Papay and the airport on Westray:
I'm pretty sure you don't have to go through TSA security in that terminal! The land beyond the water is Papay, where I am right now!

Then it was on to Quoygrew, a Viking site, where there was a fish processing plant in the year 900. And then it was a house, a barn, and was in continuous use til the 1400s, with a house further up on the site until 1937. 
Very last stop of the day was at Noltland Castle, and I'm so glad I explored there earlier in the week because it was raining by the time we got there and we only had a short time there before it was time for all of us to catch our ferries. 

The ferry ride over to Papay was only 20 minutes, where I was met at the pier by Morag, one of the 70 residents of the island, and she drove me to the community run hostel. After settling in, I went for a walk, from one side of the island to the other - a distance of one mile! And it is only 4 miles long. Sitting next to the Knap of Howar, an Iron Age broch, I watched the sun set again. It was so beautiful and peaceful:
Today I'm visiting the community shop and the craft shop, and then I'm going to just wander around a section of the island that we won't visit on the tour tomorrow. The sun is still shining at the moment, though clouds are forecast for later today. 

07 July 2014

Westray, Day Six

Another gorgeous day on Westray! And there were puffins! The view outside my window in the morning:
I slept in and then spent the morning walking along the beach. At 11:30 I joined Teenie and her son on the drive to church, where we met her husband and her daughter. I was surprised at how full the church was; Teenie explained that in the summer its a joint service with both the Baptist and Church of Scotland attending, so around 100 people. They take turns leading the service, and this week was the Baptist church, and Teenie and her husband Michael were the music leaders, with Michael leading the prayers. It was such a lovely service, and quite different than a Catholic Mass. First, an opening prayer, then two songs, then a prayer time when you were asked to pray for specific things and then giving silent prayer time, two more songs, then two young women who had started a company called Go go Olive spoke. Its based in Zimbabwe, and teaches local women how to knit and create stuffed animals, which are now sold in shops around the world [one older woman told me afterwards that she heard Prince George had one!], then one final song, and it was time for tea and cakes. It was something special to be in a church where every single person was singing. And the social hour afterwards was really nice; a few people came up and started talking to me, and later Michael introduced me to his mother and a few other ladies, who immediately patted a chair and invited me to sit down and talk with them. I'm really glad I went. 

Afterwards, I went down the beach again since it was low tide, and found a lot of seaglass and these enormous shells! I'm hoping they make it home in one piece. Then Teenie drove me to the start of the West Westray Walk, which is six miles long, and then it would be four miles back to the village but there was one point where you could just walk four miles and then two back to the village, whatever I decided I could call and a get a ride back if it was too much. I happily thought when I set out that I'd walk the full six miles to the lighthouse....
The walk started out before the cliffs, just walked along the shoreline. At times the path went through a fenced in field, and then you had to climb over one of these:
Eventually the cliffs began and that is when I could see my final destination...that teeny dot over on the left, Noup Head Light:
Now if the path had stayed like this:
I would've walked the whole way. But...when they say cliff walk, they mean cliff walk, as in the edge of the cliff is two feet from the path, and at one time you crossed this plank and there was a rope, which I assume you were supposed to hold onto in case you fell. Looking back at where I've been:
When I wasn't comtemplating jumping the barbed wire fence into the sheep fields, it was a pretty walk, with lots of birds around and interesting flowers. These guys look like gulls but they are fulmers:
I never saw another person while I was on my walk, and when I noticed a footpath up ahead that would take you to the road to walk back to the village, I decided to forego the lighthouse and more cliffs and cut back to the village. Of course what do I see when I'm turning onto the footpath? This sign...which had it been back where I started might've been helpful:
So all in all it was a little over six miles walked, and it took over four hours, but I did stop and sit down and take a bunch of picures along the way. I definitely burned off that Cadbury Creme Egg I had in the afternoon! 

Back at the hostel it was time to make dinner, and I have to say it was delicious! At the shop, I had bought some penne pasta, a few tomatoes, and this garlic bread. In the kitchen were olive oil, salt, and a seasoning thing, and I have to say the pasta came out really good even not having sauce! And the garlic bread...Pillsbury needs to step it up, this was so yummy. It was in a roll out can, and came with a garlic spread that you put on before putting it in the oven - they cooked up so flakey and good. Of course there were far too many, so I shared with these nice women I had come over on the ferry with. 

And then...the highlight of the day...the puffins! Graham from Westraak Tours picked me up, and I was the only one so it was a private tour. We went down the coast to a stack (rock sticking out of the water) where he said the puffins fly in to roost overnight. They spend all day long in the ocean, catching fish, and only come onto land at night to sleep. Graham was full of knowledge; he explained that its like the puffins have an internal clock, they always start coming to land about 30 minutes before sunset and by 15 minutes after sunset, they are all in for the night. And they always arrive on Westray on April 15, every single year, even in leap years!

As we are walking out to the cliff head, I saw my first puffin!
He was just peeking out, so its hard to see his little head. And soon there were more:
Those guys were heading into their burrow for the night. Puffins either sleep in natural stone ledges, or they burrow into the ground in a hole that looks like a rabbit hole. This is the stack, and by the end of the night on the left was full of puffins in their little burrows. 
We sat down and spent about an hour just watching these guys:
They make a funny noise, gruuunnnn, like a groan, but mostly were quiet. They kept playing follow the leader, hopping around on the ledge:
I'm pretty sure they wanted to come home with me :) They are just adorable, and I'm soooo glad I got to see them and learn more about them. It was a perfect ending to the day. 

Today Graham is picking me up again for a full day tour of Westray, before dropping me off in the evening for the ferry to Papa Westray, or Papay as the locals call it. Right now the sun is shining, though there is rain the forecast...I hope it will hold out long enough to get most of the tour in!

06 July 2014

Westray, Day Five

Remind me never to read/write on a boat again! The last entry I wrote while on the ferry yesterday morning, and as soon as I finished it I felt sick...I can read in a car just fine, but apparently not on a boat! Luckily it was only a feeling and it went away once I put the iPad away. 

I left Kirkwall just in time...as we were leaving on the ferry, one cruise ship was already tendering passengers into town, while the other was just finished docking. The third hadn't yet arrived. 
Kirkwall is the main town on the Mainland, with 8000 people...these ships had a total of 7000 passengers plus over 1000 crew members. I can't imagine how crazy it was yesterday - many people I spoke with here on Westray were discussing it; I definitely do not think those cruise passengers will get the best experience. But because of this, Kirkwall has decided to no longer have an open port for next year, because currently they can only advise of who is in port and can't deny anyone. 
Last view of Kirkwall:
Westray is the third largest island in terms of population: 700 people. Where I'm staying, Pierowall Village, appears to be the most populous town. There are two little grocery stores, a post office window inside one of the stores, two gift shops, and a fish and chips place that is open 2 nights a week, and a cafe. No ATM! Luckily I thought that might be the case, and got a lot of cash before coming here. The hostel is on the outskirts of the village, here is a picture looking towards the village:
A local mini bus (which really is more like a van) met the ferry, and picked up passengers, dropping us off along the route. Teenie, one of the owners of the hostel I'm staying in, was ready to show us to our rooms even though it was only 9:15am, which I thought was very nice. After that, I decided to wander through the town, because the shops don't open until 10am. Along the way there is a medieval church, the ruins of St. Mary's:
Then it was time to wander through the shops, and pick up some groceries for dinner Sunday night and for breakfast. Westray is exactly like I hoped it would be: extremely friendly and welcoming. Walking back to the hostel with my purchases, an older woman stopped me to say hello and remark on the weather, which turned into talking for ten minutes. Everyone you walk past says "hiya" and cars driving by you will wave. And they don't do it because its polite, there is a real warmth to people here. 

There are definitely more cows and sheep than people, and for this guy, the grass was greener on the other side:
After getting lunch at the only cafe, I walked out to Noltland Castle, built in 1560. I haven't been to any Scottish castles, and it was quite different from the Welsh and English castles - it is constructed in a z-shape. 
It was really well intact, and it was free to explore and climb in and out of everywhere, which is my favorite type of castle!
After starting out overcast, the day turned into a gorgeous sunny day (and panoramic pics are the best way to show it!):
Being a tourist, its okay to be a bit eccentric, since people will just go "oh that's a tourist for you" so when I saw a swing set, I had to test it out:
Back at the hostel, I took a quick nap before dinner. Teenie had told us on arrival that we were lucky it was a Saturday night, because the local fish & chips shop is only open Wednesday and Saturday nights; the rest of the time its the fish processing plant. Dad would love this place: you choose what type of fish you want, and they fry it up for you. There were 8 different types last night; I got a beefburger :) [it makes so much more sense to call it a beefburger than a hamburger!]
I decided to take a walk to watch the sunset; it was about two miles one way, through fields, til I reached the Noltland links, which are rocky outcroppings. You can sort of see what they are like in this picture:
A bit further along I found a perfect sandy spot to sit and watch the sunset. I got there about 9:30pm and the sun was full set by 10:30pm:
Red sky at night, sailor's delight - and it is true so far, as this morning the sun is shining! 

The only plans for today are a puffin tour in the evening, and I'm going to church shortly. I asked Teenie if there was a church nearby, thinking if there was it would be Anglican...and apparently its Baptist! She offered to take me with her family, so in a little bit I'll be going there, and probably another long walk in the afternoon before the tour at night.