”What?? Rayna. I can’t understand you…
…I think you’re speaking with an accent.”
And so were the words of my best friend. Third bar in on the pub crawl and out comes the English accent. The dialect being a horrendous Frankenstein of everything south of Scotland.
When I left off, I had just arrived in the land of the sheep-takeover. Aka: Scotland. Here, I met up with my first CS host of the trip. If you have never heard about the site ”Couchsurfing”, look it up. Now.
It is basically travelers all around the world opening up their homes to other fellow travelers. Like-minds coming together and exploring cities.
And no, I have not yet run into any weirdos along the way.
It was great.
I met my new buddy at a cool pub down in Glasgow. Very Chicago rock n’ roll. He brought his motorcycle and spare helmet.
This is the one thing I was dying to do on my trip. Whether it was on the back of a bike or on my own, I was determined to go on a ride through the UK. And there is honestly no better place than Scotland and its Lochs.
So I hooked my board through the straps of my bag and out the door I bounded. A slight misjudgment in doorway width stopped me dead in my tracks. Then I made a quick note-to-self: Skateboard wider than door…Lane splitting out of the question.
We made our way through town and I was schooled on the immense differences in typical engine size (their bikes are insanely light), as well as the daunting steps required to get a license. I kept seeing cars and bikes alike with a giant ”L” attached to their license plate. Apparently, this is the sign for those with their learners permits.
A temporary scarlet letter of sorts.
Had an amazing couple of days touring Scotland, visiting the Lochs, and hanging in the attic. Even got to go and see the most bizarre gypsy ”Theme Park” you could imagine. Zoltar machine and everything.
Finding myself, yet again, getting depressed upon leaving each city…This time particularly so. Just have to keep reminding myself that the next adventure lies ahead.
So moving on.
Last year while traveling throughout Prague I had stumbled upon an amazing little hostel by the name of St. Chistophers. It was modern, it was bustling, it was rad. Come to find out there is actually a chain of these hostels around the world and one of them is actually in Edinburgh. ”Oh!” says my brain, ”I must stay there again!” So I did. And was immediately reminded of one of the best bits of advice I try to follow…
Never repeat the past expecting the same outcome.
Actually in general, I think you should go into situations with minimal expectations. But, as we all know, advice is sometimes easier said than done and I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed. It could have been moodiness from leaving the last city…it could have been the lack of people…it could have been the extreme awkwardness of sitting in a hostel room filled with Koreans that are all giggling and pointing at you.
I really think it’s the last one.
Now, the following story I am about to tell is true. It is in no way an exaggeration, embellishment, or fabrication of any form.
This is how it goes:
In my hostel room there is a shower. Much like the other showers in the UK there is a cord you must pull in order to turn the shower on. A small box attached the showerhead is the next step. Press the button and water comes. For just a moment, there is a slight chill of arctic freeze. Fairly typical, you tell yourself, no need to fret. This fleeting wake-up call is followed by a very low, yet distinct rumble behind the walls. My stomach? You may query. No, no my friend. That is merely the hand of Lucifer himself clawing at the pipes and calling forth his minions. You see, together they are working in preparation to heat your water to five bajillion degrees. Doing so in three…two…third degree burn.
However, if you are keen enough to recognize this air raid siren call, then you will know that there is actually seven-second window both before, as well as after, in which you may frantically lather and rinse. Apart from that you will be frozen to death…and then your frostbitten little body will quickly be taken out and thawed on the surface of the fucking sun.
Anyone who enters the shower does so a non-believer. I give it a good two minutes before the screaming begins though.
It’s pretty funny.
The other night I ran into a bartender who recognized me from the night before. A night in which I had no recollection of being in that bar. Apparently I told him I was Canadian. A choice which I find hilarious and proves that even though inebriated, I can still be fully cognizant of being a moron. Before I left for my trip, I had joked that if I happen to make an ass out of myself I’ll just tell people I’m Canadian…Didn’t think I seriously would though.
Subsequently following this drunken night I was sitting in my hostel and hit the road block, the plight of the traveler. Which route should I take? It’s a nice having the mindset that whichever route you chose will undoubtably be the right one, but sometimes you still pause for a moment and second guess yourself.
My options as I saw it were as follows:
A. Explore Edinburgh for another day with hostel friends and later hitch a ride with them down to Manchester
B. Head back towards Glasgow and spend the night with Scottish friends
C. Go towards Wales and find some castles
I chose option ”C” but before doing so, I had messaged another CSer. He then mentioned that he was headed to Snowdonia (Wales) to camp out and take pictures of the milky way.
My response? ”Whhaaa?? Awesome! I wanna come too!”
I’m sure that this could have easily been the start of some award-winning thriller but it didn’t go that way. You never know what you’re gonna get when you take chances…But chances are, you’re going to have one fucking epic journey.
He picked me up from the train station and after making a short pitstop in a small seaside town, we headed off further into Whales in search of Snowdonia.
Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Headlamp? Check. Double-check.
We stopped off at the bottom of the mountain to take some pictures of the Milky Way straight above the lake. It was beautiful. I sat in awe and watched shooting stars dart about in the sky just as clear as day.
Once we got started on the actual trek to the site it was a good few hours walk wherein we noticed a dark cloud had completely covered the sky and in turn completely shattered my heart. A mission was then set to climb high enough to get above the clouds. And that mission failed miserably.
We changed direction and furthered our descent into the black hole.
The next morning I swore I was waking up in Middle Earth. Miles and miles of mountains, marshlands, and sporadic ruins. It was amazing. I pointed out the tip of one of the mountains and suggested we climb to it.
Fast-forward a good four plus hours later and we are standing at the base of a mountain. Me, covered in sludge and bruises from sliding down cliffs, and him with his equally wet gear. Together we looked back behind us and agreed that someone would have to be an idiot to want to climb down that mountain.
Guilty as charged.
Hindsight is a bitch.
On the way back to Winslow we made a pitstop at an abandoned slate quarry. It was nearly nightfall and the rain was just beginning to pick up. ”Grab your headlamp” he said. No questions asked, I followed through the quarry and over the ”Keep Out’‘ fences. This place was straight out of a movie. It was tons and tons of slate, ruins, and caves. It was a damn goldmine of exploring.
Eyes wide open I followed my new buddy around the unstable bits of rock until we reached the bottom of a sheer cliff face. ”Now. To the untrained eye, this looks like a dead-end right?” he says moving slowly against the wall.
”But it’s not.”
Right at the base of the giant slate cliff was actually a small opening. ”We’re going down there. Whatever you do, do NOT touch that rock.”
This rock he was referring to was quite literally a kick away from closing up the entire hole and bringing down a good part of this mountainside. So yes, I was definitely steering my fat ass as far away from that rock as possible (which left me a good half centimeter or so?).
After lowering down into the hole you realize that it is actually a tunnel. A tunnel which leads into the heart of the largest, most amazing bit of land I have see. I was told that throughout the quarry there are in fact miles and miles of tunnels, caves, rooms, etc. An area which they refer to as ”Snakes and Ladders”. Someday I’ll be back to explore and I can’t wait.
Last night I went out to a rad bar in Liverpool called the Swan. Someone at my hostel had referred to it as a ”gothic” bar…That guy was an idiot. It’s more akin to Liverpool’s own version of the Rainbow Room. Which, funny enough, nearly everyone there knew of and had heard lore of Lemmy and Ron Jeremy mulling about..Those two will be haunting the Rainbow even after death. Anyways, great bar, met some great people, wandered over to the bar that they worked at, had countless drinks..Most memorable of which was one that was lit on fire. It is a bit hazy but to my recollection there was samubca in a martini glass….A bar key over the top of the glass…Four glasses stacked on top of the martini glass…Absinthe is lit on fire and poured down the glasses into the sambuca while you drink it with a straw.
You can never go wrong with drunk people playing with fire. Just saying.
The night ended sometime near sunrise and I was again, sad to be moving on.
Right now I’m on the train right down to Bath. I’ve heard too many things about it to not go. Plus I have a feeling the next few nights following that are going to be a bit crazy. There will be a few nights in London followed by my Croatian friends birthday in Cork on Saturday.
Gonna be good. Schnitzel time.
They call the trunk of a car the boot. That made for some confusing instructions.
Don’t call it a bathroom. Its a toilet. ”There’s no bath in there!”
Tire is spelt Tyre.
Every city greets me with, ”Why the hell are you visiting this town?”
Every city gets back, ”Because I’ve never been.”
There are no outlets in the bathrooms…Very inconvenient.
I would just like to say that I’d like to see the statistics on the number of yearly fatalities due to electric-shock in the bathroom.. Because it cannot possibly be high enough that an entire fucking country has to deny themselves of electrical possibilities in the loo.
That is all.