XXXX III: The Return to the Wallaby Island

This is a story of ten adventurers who voluntarily marooned themselves on an island full of giant hungry rats!

Was it because the mainland was infested with zombies? No!
Was it because of the possibilities of hidden treasures and unknown riches? No!
Was it because the weather on the island was destined to be way better than anywhere else in Scotland? That did happen but no!
It was to steal the souls of these marsupials, drink alcoholic beverages and eat yummy steaks far from those too lame to come along!

The trip was a success. I should probably start by introducing the word of the weekend, the insult ‘dickmaggot’, hand-invented by us, on the island, in a burst of inspiration and misunderstanding. Saturday was a day of dickmaggots: first the angry cabbie, then the car hire retards and eventually the boat grumbleguts that called the patrol on us. They made us go back to Balloch to get two additional life jackets but also gave us a good tip of how to get to the islands. We drove to a village called Aldochlay five minutes down the road where the marina is sheltered from winds by the islands. True, there was a huge fuck off island right in the way but we managed to cross it by foot and row the luggage around while making amazing time! Even with the delay we were all at the island and setting up camp at the original time.

Once the camp was set up we went for a stroll to the wilderness! We even successfully managed to steal a couple of wallaby souls and most importantly, we all saw them which turned out to be lucky as the next day none of us had any luck. It could have been the fact that the ground was dry and the deadwood made so much more noise than on our previous trip. We also had a party of ten noisemakers!

(Insert pic from Dave)

Either way, we did see them and we could return to camp where Dave fired up the “braais” and everyone pulled out their meat (even Benji managed to bring it along this time). The food was accompanied, and followed by drinks, campfire chat and a near skinny-dip in the icy loch. Contrary to popular belief, and to the weather dickmaggots, it didn’t rain at all! Not only there was not a drop of rain all weekend, but we also had way too much sun and I managed to sunburn my face on the way back.

In the morning we all went on another hike but as I said before with no wallaby success. We did see the white deer again though. And we finally made it to the other side of the island. Man but that squishy ground is hard to walk on! One would have thought I’d have sore muscles form all the rowing I did, but no! I had sore thighs!

We were even more organised on the way back and the trip took us no time at all. That’s when I learned that there is apparently a catch to parking in Aldochlay, even though parking spots seem to be hard to find. You might just find that your tires have been slashed overnight. Well it wasn’t the case this time! We went back to Luss for a quick coffee and desert before the drive back to Edinburgh, where it rained all Saturday, as we later learned! Win!

Moral of the story: Always row from Aldochlay, bring enough life jackets and a coffee pot for the morning. Oh and avoid dickmaggots!

A week of sins?

That’s right! Time to indulge in extreme computer gaming, extreme sports and extreme drinking marooned on an island!

Diablo III is now out and that pretty much takes care of the evenings as the monk Olvaid and the wizard Gwendii explore Sanctuary and fight evil while Benji and I drink ourselves silly on Diablo beer, which actually turned out very nicely. Just the right amount of spiciness though I would like to make the smell of chilli a bit less noticeable next time.

Speaking about fighting evil Slovakia is playing Canada in less than an hour in the IIHF World Championship. The line-up seems favourable for a repeat of our 2002 success, if we beat Canada now, and Sweden beats the Czechs we will have a chance to play them in the semis just like ten years ago and then meet the Russians in the finals, providing they win all of their games. Despite that happy coincidence I have learned not to get too excited about Slovakian ice hockey anymore, so we will see what we will see. Either way! GO SLOVAKIA!!!

And what is that about indulging in alcohol on an island? Yes, the third trip to the island of wallabies is underway! This time we are bringing a bunch of people and hopefully someone will remember those steaks in the fridge! You will be able to find the full report here first!

Cat Sìth

I have been living in Scotland for almost six years now but it wasn’t until last Saturday’s visit to the newly reopened museum that I first heard of Cat Sìth! If you don’t feel like reading the Wikipedia article, they are mythological creatures of the Scottish highlands: fairies or, in other stories, witches that turn into black cats. Supposedly these legends were sparked by sightings of Kellas cats. The are black feline hybrids of a Scottish wildcat and a domestic cat. This immediately ignited a spark in my head and the lightbulb came on! We should go to the highlands, to Kellas where a specimen was shot probably on the day I was born (I know it was in January 1983) and try to find one! Also, we could examine the one they keep in Elgin museum. Not knowing much about tracking cats, we decided to do some research and that is how we ended up on the Scottish Wildcat Association website.
Turns out these monkeys are on the verge of extinction. The Scottish wildcat is only found in Scotland, usually in the highlands, and even though they provide quite a good tutorial on recognising them, there seems to be only about 400 in the wild, very hard to spot. Challenge accepted!
I have since been given a years membership as a present. The £25 goes towards the conservation initiative and we have ordered a DVD to learn a bit more about them. New goal in life: observe a Scottish wildcat in the wild!

We think that one of the problems is their name. Scottish wildcat just kind of sounds like a cat gone feral in Scotland if you’re not familiar with the topic. Something like Scottish Teacup Tiger or Scottish Pygmy Nightsaber might attract more interest? Any ideas? Post them below!

More posts likely this week: archive days tomorrow and Thursday and portfolio / job hunt has tentatively started!

Mum week…

My mum had visited again. This time she brought with her two ex-colleagues from my primary school, basically two of my teachers.

I didn’t let that intimidate me, and Benji and I took them on a trip in a motherfucking beast of a car, Ford Mondeo Titanium X, which turned out to be a piece of shit. Knowing next to bugger all about cars I wonder if this was related partially to the fact that it was a Diesel engine but just the size of the car was an annoyance. All I wanted was a 5-door 5-seater and I was going to get a VW Golf or similar but got upgraded yet again and had the honour of taking this car on its second ever rental (how’s that for pressure?)! It had only done a 100ish miles, it had no scratches and no key!!!

I decided that since the other two visitors hadn’t been anywhere in Scotland I wanted to take mum somewhere she hadn’t been either, for a change, and headed down the M8 straight for Linlithgow palace. This would have been a good move, providing Linlithgow was along the M8 and not the M9. The navigator, who shall not be named but his initials are Benjamin Rosman managed to correct his blunder and took us down a scenic, yet very tiny road across to Linlithgow. At this point I was still pretty freaked out about the car and it wasn’t pretty when we got up the hill to the palace, only to find the entrance blocked by a hearse and having to do a 28-point turn in the narrow sloping street. It also didn’t help that the car has bloody sensors front and back and the motherfuckers start beeping about a meter away from anything. Gah!
We eventually found a pay and display car park next door and spent about an hour and a half in Linlithgow palace, which was a good move as my mum loved it!!! It was a ruin but pretty big and we just wondered around and explored the rooms and towers while drinking coffee.

After Linlithgow we headed for Falkirk wheel, since it was kind of on the way, and found it not working. It was being maintained before the start of the season next week. We had some food though and took a walk up to the Union canal and took a few photos. This was the first wheel visit for Benji. Before we left I made sure I bullied him to yet another slide action. This one was easy as I went first and told him how slooooooooow it was.

After Falkirk we headed straight for St Andrews as we all know how unstable the daylight is at this time of year. I wanted to make it before it gets dark. This is how, finally, after five and a half years of living in Scotland, I finally saw St Andrews. It is a fairly small place and most of it is shopping streets which I’m not terribly interested in. We walked to the castle though, and from there to the ruins of the cathedral and the sun came out to make our photos nice and yellow.

After about an hour and a half I suggested we head off to see a bit of the costal road before it gets dark so we did. We drove to Crail first, and had a look around. We walked to the harbour and found public toilets! This was extremely lucky!

From Crail we drove to Anstruther in search for the best chippie in the country. It was dusky when we got there and we found the restaurant in the harbour. We sat in for dinner and by the time we were done it was completely dark outside. Everyone liked the food though, that was good!

The rest of the trip was marked by darkness, both night-wise and phone-wise. Both of our phones had died and we had to find out way in the tricky road system of the Kingdom of Fife. Somehow we found Kirkcaldy and that was where it all went wrong. Even though we followed the signs for the Forth Road Bridge very carefully they disappeared and we ended up Flying Dutchmaning it around town until eventually we stopped at a petrol station where a kindly BMW driver offered to lead us there. It must have been the first time the guy had a tail (even though I was hooning it as much as my unbalanced car allowed)!
We made it home safe and sound, with no scratches but a barbecued clutch instead (I call it the Linlithgow-Car-Park-Rubbish-Car-Not-Coping-With -Hills-Incident)! Revenge!!! Mwahahahahahaha!

XXXX II: The Return of the Wallaby

So we have returned to XXXX!
After the last hurried wet day trip to Inchconnachan on Loch Lomond, Benji and I were crazy keen to go and have a closer look at the cute marsupials that roam the island. Our planned trip to Ireland fell through and that opened an opportunity for another trip out to the Bonnie Banks. So we hired a car for two days, prepared sandwiches, bought steaks, wine and diposable barbecues, packed up boats, tents, tarpaulin covers (yes, we were smarter this time), Benji’s brother Adam, spare clothes, gumboots and cameras and headed out to the wilderness…

It started well when we were upgraded to a Vauxhall Zafira, instead of the small car we paid for. The boot space turned out to be very handy as it looked like we were going for a week. The start on Saturday was slow and painful since we’d failed to pack the night before but we eventually made it to the island before nightfall. As usual, the rain started in Glasgow, and the Trossachs looked even bleaker. It was raining while we were preparing to launch, raining while we rowed, raining when we got there, raining while we were setting up the camp… in fact, it didn’t stop raining until about midnight. When the tarpaulin and the tents were up and we were cosy in dry, warm clothes with the bbq aflame, Fate struck us in the face with its mighty fist. The steaks! The steaks were left behind, all alone, in the deep dark compartments of the fridge. Yet far was it from us to be discouraged by this cruel twist of fortune. We grilled bread with cheese instead. For dessert, we grilled halloumi. Yum! We drank wine and beer and sang merry songs (ok, we didn’t sing, as far as I remember). As it now gets dark very early, and there wasn’t much to do once the wine was gone, we opted for an early night.

When I woke up at 3 am the moon was so bright it cast shadows and the sky was clear enough to see Orion. For a while. The morning was also dry and mostly clear. The coffee from the thermo-flask was still luke warm for me and Benji, piss warm for Adam.
We were finally ready to head into the depths of the island in search of marsupials. Our first critter sighting was enlightening and disappointing at the same time. When we peered over the ledge, on which we had originally spotted what we thought was an albino wallaby, into the valley where we’d been at the time, we found our situation had turned. Up from the hill, we were peering into the valley at the albino wallaby! Or should I say… the white deer! Maybe it was an albino deer. It was stark white while one of his friends was sand coloured and another wallaby coloured. We took but a blurry picture before they pranced away.

The first real wallaby sighting occurred not long afterwards.Two marsupials hopped up towards us from behind a hill and started feeding. When we didn’t move, they didn’t seem to notice us much. So we watched me wallabies feed, mate, for about an hour and a half. We stalked them sneakily and stole their souls on many occasions, as they were scratching their pouches, heads, arms and munching twigs. We got close enough to one to hear it chew before it got bored and hopped away. They were very cute up close. Like a hybrid of a bunny, a rat and an antelope… i.e. bunny-ratelopes. Here’s one:

When we hit a boggy area we decided to turn back and break our fast. We lit another fire, finished the food and packed up the tents. Because it was a clear and sunny day we decided to casually row around our island before heading back to Luss. The loch was perfectly still with no hint of the wind or waves from last time. When we were to the west of the island, that somehow seemed huge all of a sudden, we stopped taking pictures for reasons that will be clear very shortly. Here is the end of that story:




Needless to say, we had steaks for dinner!

Moral of the story: When rowing gets tough, the tough hitch a ride.

The Lords and Ladies of the Isles…

So we made it to the Isle of Mull and back… with the car in one piece, seaweed for my halloween costume, lots of photos, Benji’s newfound childhood and yet more things on our TO DO list…

We started off badly, but once we’d successfully located the hand break and the reverse gear things picked up a bit. The vibe was good from the start as the foreign visitors (my mum, her sister Mima, her cousin Eva and Eva’s husband Lubo) really liked the Vauxhall Zafira that I booked for the trip. A seven seater but supposedly they felt like they were on a bus. The “ideme” and “nejdeme”of an infamous slovakian advertisement clip were more than common.

The weather that Metoffice threatened us with didn’t take long to make an appearance; when we got to Doune castle (Winterfell) at was already raining unscottish rain and as my shoes are easy to get soaked through, I had my first chance to test out the new gumboots… best buy ever! Stylish, comfortable, swell, they keep out the water and they keep in the smell!!!
We didn’t go inside the castle but the ticket lady was saying how amazing it was to see the great hall all done up for the filming of A Game of Thrones.
In Killin it was pissing down so I went straight into the tourist shop and got myself a poncho. We had lunch at the old inn and then went to the MacNab island, which was pretty but very very wet. Thank fuck for gumboots!

We decided the next stop was going to be our destination in Tralee bay. Fortunately, the day before we managed to book ourselves a six berth caravan unit in a caravan park by Oban.
The rain had stopped by the time we got there and the Slovakians were pretty blown away by the place. Located on a beach, the trailer won them over with a huge living space and smartly arranged rooms. Also, it was probably a lot better than what they imagined when I said we were staying in a caravan, mwahaha! For £25 per head it was by far the cheapest thing we could get and the ratio of price / comfort / privacy (yes, a triple ratio, geek!) was more than favorable and made me an accommodation guru in an instant.

Having a few hours of daylight left we decided to go check out the nearby town of Oban, which neither of us had ever been to. There we discovered a pretty little fishing town with a waterfront promenade, a crazy colosseum-like structure called McCaig’s Tower and rightfully nicknamed McCaig’s Folly, lots of ducks to spit on and lots of old ladies to disapprove of us doing so, and a Tesco supermarket with the most shocking car park in the world.
When we got back to Tralee bay with provisions of beer and whisky, we still had a little while to go and check out the little beach before it got dark. On the way there, we ran into a playground with a foofy slide where Benji finally had the opportunity to discover the joys of childhood other than candy and video games. I have pictorial evidence of this!
We spend the rest of the evening drinking whisky and leffes, chilling and talking in our caravan, yo!

The next day started off easier from the driving point of view, as we headed off early on Sunday morning. It was drizzling and the hills were wrapped in clouds. After we crossed on the Corran ferry, the mist started to lift and reveal beautiful countryside. We took some toursity breaks on the drive to the next ferry crossing which ended up being a huge mistake. When the road changed into a single track with passing places, we realised we might not make it in time for the ferry departure. It was hard to speed up on that road as one could run into oncoming traffic behind any odd hill and if the road happened to be straight, there were weasels promptly crossing the road to make the task more impossible. As we neared the terminal the traffic off the ferry slowed us a little bit more and we arrived to the slipway when the goddamned ferry was about 2 meters off the shore! Next crossing in two hours time!

A friendly lady from the refreshments stall gave us advice on how to spend the time and sent us up the old Drumnin road which supposedly goes all the way to Mull underwater. (Which we considered as an alternative way of getting there, with 0 excess and all, our liability reduction waiver never listed underwater driving not being covered.) We drove along the coast with a pretty view of Mull that had evaded us, but the sky was blue and cloudless by that point and everyone’s mood was improving. We found the wishing stone that the lady had mentioned and we made wishes before climbing through the hole, the way it’s meant to be done!

We finally crossed over to Mull and decided to take the low road, as Benji has not been down there with his parents. The plan was to see what happens and we ran into a sign for Duart castle, so we spontaneously went for it. It was a pretty location for a castle, with an underwater wreck of HMS Swan nearby. In the boggy area under the castle I managed to get my gay shoes wet. The only time I didn’t wear gumboots on an outing and this was what happened, dammit! It was nice and sunny otherwise.

Since we’d missed the “Last eating place for the next 27 miles” sign in Craignure, we pushed ahead and tried to look for a restaurant, to no avail. The hills were beautiful but when we finally got to the loch (about 26 miles from Craignure) we had to turn back to the wish of the majority (or more like people that expressed the wish, as there might have been four of us wanting to push on). That has left the isle of Iona and its famous abbey on our TO DO list.
Craignure Inn had amazing food though. I was hesitating for a long time but eventually decided to go for fish stew which was exceptionally yummy!

After that we pressed on! We took an earlier ferry back and made it just in time for the small Corran one this time. That way, we managed to see Glencoe before it got completely dark. The drive back started to be tiring somewhere along the Bonnie (but windie) Banks of Loch Lomond and after we hit the motorway a few gay signposts and missed turns didn’t help, but we saw some real life police action on Erskine Bridge, where a suicidal fellow on the phone was standing on the edge. Eventually we made it back safe and sound and before the hour of ghosts to the open arms of Claivid and Hellipp.

From the Bonnie Banks to XXXX…

This post tells the story of yet another epic adventure of the Marchmont Road crew of fierce pirates. Only seven days smarter than last week, we avoided the mistake no. 1 and hired a car for this trip, which ended up being an amazing idea.

Due to the parties of the night before, we were low on pancakes (we had none) but high on… well, that’s another story and not one for public consumption so I will just say high on hope, morale, energy and suchlike. Very excited about the trip but as it turned out later, not incredibly optimistic about sighting wallabies.

On yeah, wallabies! How did we come on to that? High indeed you might think…
However, the trip I had planned was all to do with wallabies. Several years ago, I came across an article that kind of mentioned wallabies having been introduced to an island of Loch Lomond in the 1920’s. I found this piece of information useful so I stored it securely in the clean and tidy drawers of my brain. But now that we have the boats, it was ripe and ready to be unleashed upon the world.

We took our hire car to Luss, a little village on the west bank of Loch Lomond, and there we found a conveniently designed river (yes, Tiffanie, this one is for you). By the time our boats were inflated and ready to go, we were pretty wet, shoe and sock and pants wise. Placing our buttocks in the wet boats did the rest. The trip took about an hour each way, both against the wind and waves (thanks Metoffice, you mofo!) but we eventually made it to Inchconnachan, the island of the wallabies.

We left our boats on the local “beach” and relying on the trustworthiness of the locals we headed out to the jungle that was the island. The autumn colours were beautiful and the ground was soft and squishy (and unfortunately wet). After about ten minutes, we no longer cared about not stepping in the omnipresent puddles. We roamed around for about 15 minutes when we decided to dig into our freshly prepared sandwiches from the night before. Not two minutes later, our first sighting occurred. It was a white wallaby, possibly an albino. Helle and I saw it in the distance, watching us from the top of the hill, but only for a second before it hopped away, its white ears flapping in the wind as it moved away at the speed of light. We followed it. I guess that sighting was a little unfortunate as afterwards most of us were looking out for huge motherfucking white things that move. We saw none. Eventually, Philipp, who has been to the Last Continent and was expecting tiny brown thingees spotted a huge grey wallaby and we all had a good look. We took some pictures too but they came out kind of blurry in the darkness of the jungle.
We decided to head for the boats and not five minutes later I was walking past a cluster of trees, where Hellipp walked only a few seconds before, when a wallaby hopped out of the cluster and fled, leaving me with the image of its huge feet and its tail in my head. Then I might have seen it again in the distance, or it might have been another one. Those goddamned marsupials were probably all around us but invisible until they moved.

Happy about the sightings we headed for the boats. To our great relief they were still there and we could commence our voyage back to the mainland, soaked and freezing. Helle had her first go at rowing, but further from the island the waves and the wind were not suited for a beginner rower. It was hard work rowing to the shore; we scared some birds, almost knocked an island into the water, tried and failed to defy the current of the river that brought us in and angered a swan (Helle did anyway). While the boys took the charge of the boats, Helle and I went to get the car and just missed the last heavy rainfall that Metoffice kept secret from us.

The ride back was crazy rainy but by that point Hellipp were comfortably naked under the blankets in the back seat and even though we were still wet, at least we were warm. We made it to Edinburgh ok and still managed to check out the piles of rubble left from the demolition of the Sighthill blocks of flats that detoured us on the way home from the car hire place that morning.

All-in-all an epic day of adventuring. My neck is crazy sore!

Moral of the story: Always take waterproofs and a change of clothing even if it is sunny and beautiful, Metoffice is just messing with you. Mistake no. 2.

Highlight: The motherfucking wallaby!!!