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!

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This and That Three

Too many things to write and not enough order in my head to put anything together about any particular topic so this will just be a general update on everything.

Treasure hunts and birthdays are coming up. One very very soon, on April 2nd, and I will be severely lacking in minions as Benji is going to Stanford this week and is back on said day. Ugh. An important flatmate one on June 5th, it will also need a wine glass to go with it. And another one in a different country on June 1st. So if anyone has any useful treasure hunt tips, gimme gimme!

The adventure season has started and my head is filled with trips I want to go on and boats I want to make for the boating competition. Well, not of actual ideas for the boat. Unfortunately my head is non stop contemplating thinking about ideas but not actually thinking about them. Gah!
I’m also looking up tickets to random holiday destinations: Ireland in June, Israel/Jordan in June/July, Slovakia in, well, whenever there’s a reasonably priced ticket. I’m also going to Prague/Nymburk with the hockey team in June, so June is going to cost me… Now we need to shove in the infamous trip to the wallaby island one of the weekends…

You may wonder about Israel, especially if you’re name is Jelena (hi there!). I cracked an invite, as a +1, to a wedding on July 1st. This is scary because it will be crazy religious, as they do in Jerusalem, and all separate men and women shenanigans. Not only this will give me enough material to make fun of Benji and his background for the rest of my life, but it also gives me an opportunity to create numerous awkward situations by saying things like: “So why is it that you guys always have to have sex through a hole in the blanket, I mean, Benji really insists on doing it that way but I feel like I have to find a loophole while I’m here because I just find it plain silly!”
I am a bit freaked out by the fact that in this tropical climate I will have to be wearing a dress that covers knees, elbows and collarbones! On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to walking on the Dead Sea, and swimming with dolphins in the Red.

In other news, I got contacted by a husband of a third cousin once removed of mine (I think), thanks to my blog which I was convinced no one read (except the two regulars). Yay! There’s an opportunity to find out more about the Parnica folk! I really need to speak to mum soon. (Hint! Hint!)

And fortunately not much going on on the writing front so this section will be short and to the point! I dont have time!

Back with more next week!

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!

Sun City of sins…

22nd to 25th December 2011

Day 1:

We headed off to Sun City pretty late as I needed to catch up on sleep, which I had been deprived of for some 40 hours.

Just outside Joburg we stopped at the Cradle of Humankind for about an hour and did a tour of Sterkfontein Caves where some of the most famous preserved fossils of early humans have been found. Examples include Mrs. Ples and Little Foot, the latter is still there in a vault behind bars and barbed wire, waiting on a particular Wits professor to pay him one of his monthly visits.

As it turns out, these particular caves were not home to Australopithecus as I had originally thought, the unfortunate ancestors, but also other kinds of animals, fell in through natural holes and died, to be discovered later. Little Foots is the oldest complete skeleton, with all his teeth and everything.
Here is a picture of backwards evolution for you, starting with Homo Sapiens on the left, Australopithecus probably Africanus in the middle and ending with the Homo Benjibus Rosmaniformis on the right.

After the caves we pushed on for Sun City as we wanted to arrive before sunset. With one little stop at a roadside biltong hut for freshly cut biltong, so juicy Im gonna dieee!!!

We arrived at Sun City at about 18h, checked into the room 2411 at Cabanas and headed to our hotel restaurant for our first meal of the day (and possibly the last one of the stay) with the exception of juicy juicy biltong. It was buffet style with the hugest selection. I was pretty much full after starters… tasty avo salads, giant mussels, cheeses, olives, fish, meats,… the spinach was one of the best Ive ever had and the butternut… ooh the butternut! It could easily be the highlight of Helle’s vegetarian parties!
After dinner we took the long walk of digestion to the entertainment center and checked out the arcade and the bridge of time before turning back due to rain. While wondering the interior of the building, we had a few close encounters of the feline variety. We wondered back hoping to get a cocktail or two at the pool bar in our hotel but it was closed and all we managed to get was one out of one available cocktails at the restaurant… the Long Island ice tea.
It turns out most places close fairly early so we decided to opt for early nights and early mornings and that way it should all work out fine.

Signing off in order to comply with early night decision. Back tomorrow!

Day 2:

We managed to get up relatively early today and went and profited from our free breakfast.
Then we headed out to the Water World lake and checked out some loaded parasailers and some tiny monkeys, pigmy goats, angry orange eyed owls and parrots.

Afterwards we went to check out some horses and the cultural village where they introduced us to eight indigenous tribes of South Africa. There was a dance performance, the guy sang about my boobs and at the end and I am a bit worried I might have been married off under some tribal custom which is now official…

As we were still pretty full of the free breakfast, we decided to skip lunch and go straight to profiting from our free entry to the Valley of Waves. After a slow ride around in tubes, where I was addressed in Afrikaans by a little girl and subsequently saved her freaked out sister / friend from a certain drowning (this was cool because I heard Benji speak Afrikaans) we headed straight for the wave pool. After a bit of agitated sea came a phase of tidal waves.

Than came the slides! Two tube slides, open and closed and two body slides open and closed. In the middle, the temple of courage! Viper, the open tube slide, was my personal favourite I think.

The aqua joy had left us exhausted so we dined on pizza and then went to the Sun City Hotel Harlequin Casino in search for cocktails, before turning in early as we had a game drive booked for 5h30 the next day…

Day 3:

Day three will go down in history as the Game Drive day. This is because we did two of them. One in the morning, in a game drive vehicle with a ranger, for which I was the only one dressed appropriately. Everyone else rocked up in their flippy floppies and a sleeveless top, which they regretted as soon as we headed off, and even more when it started raining. The open top safari truck was a pretty windy place to be but Kitteh, like a hood Edinburgh girl was clothed in four layers of warm stuff, a hood against the wind wanting to go right through her ears and winter boots! Oh yeah! Even Benji was a shrunken shivering heap of hair wrapped in a blanket that he stole from the cars seat.

The second drive was in the afternoon. We drove to the park ourselves and spent some 5 hours in there, in our car, with a map and biltong but lacking drinks and pens! It was awesome… Altogether we saw three out of the Big Five (elephants, lions and two types of rhinos), hippos, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, wildebeest, kudu, impalas, springboks, steenboks, tsessebe, baboons, ostriches, maribou storks and lots of other birds.

In between the two trips we went back to the horse riding place and took Benjis riding virginity with a half an hour game park ride, but not before I made him go down a massive, but unfortunately very slow, slide.

And so the trip begins…

Paris Roissy, 21:51 local time
I’m setting at CDG airport checking out the huge fuckoff plane. It’s so freaking massive that I wonder how it stays up.

Also imagine being a birdie cruising around when this thing makes an appearance… Ouch!

I’m also starving. The small salad at Edinburgh airport that I got from my hockey mate Stepan who works in EAT was only meant to sustain me until the plane where I was hoping to get further alimentation. Unfortunately what they provided was biscuits. I was hungry again by the time I left the aircraft but guess what. This country runs on euros! The shitty little euros which are about to crash and burn and crumble any minute now. While I’m in possession of pounds stirling straight out of good conservative Britain and I am going to starve here anyway!
My stomach has been well upset since this morning, as a result of last nights hockey debaucheries and as much as I would like to savour plane alcohol, which is free and therefore has no calories or units, I’m afraid I will not be able to. I wish I’d thought of that last night.

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.