Monday, 8 October 2012

Getting away from it all.

Getting away from it all.

I awoke to the sound of someone walking close to the tent, doing some chores I presumed. It was the camp site owner doing her toilet block checks. I had put my tent close by as I figured it would be a better option then walking a long way, and the lights form the block had helped me to erect the tent last night. I went over and paid my site fee and got my key for the toilet block hoping for my reward soon. The owner told me that if I was hoping to cross from here to the Orkneys today or soon in fact that I should speak to the lady in the office across the street about the times. He had spoken with her earlier and she had said that the last ferry would have to go out early to collect her tourists as the weather was turning sour and she had her doubts about any further crossings at all this season.

Sure enough Sheila the lady from the John O' Groats ferry company said this was true. They would stop on Sunday anyway, but that was likely not to happen now, as the weather front coming was turning the crossing into a dangerous if not rough sailing. If I could be ready in an hour and a half I could catch the ferry to Burwick. I set off to do just that. I also got speaking with one of the young ladies that I had bumped into last night walking along the road here. Nick, was keen to chat and I said that I had to shower and get packed for the crossing so we arranged to meet for a coffee in the cafe across the path, close to the harbour. To be honest my phone battery was dead and I had no idea what time it was but hurried none the less. A chance to share a coffee with an attractive woman spurred me on. Whether the pain, the shower or the need to pack everything had prolonged me but I missed the chance to have this time with Nick. I apologised profusely, it is not like me to be late for a date, and she said that it wasn't a problem, though there was no time to share the real story with her and learn what she was doing here as a boating pilot for a small recreational company. Her season also had come to an end and she was returning to see friends in Scotland. I suggested she come and walk with me if she wasn't busy, but she had a lovely fluffy companion Pedro to add to her baggage for travelling. Some other time I suggested if she was a keen walker.

As I was about to get on the ferry, low and behold I heard the cacophony of car horns blaring in the car park behind me. Richard Graham had finally arrived, from Wick and was hauling a huge banner along with his wife Carol, into the last few meters of the road. I rushed over to shake his hand and congratulate him on the end of his immense physical challenge over the past few months. He seemed finally surprised to see me once he realised who it was shaking his hand. I admit it was great to see the look of surprise on his face, as he figured what I had done. I had to make my excuses as the ferry was leaving any minute so shot off to catch the last ferry to Burwick, south of the Orkney Islands.

I was on a real high now, and caught the ferry just as it began to rain. I got soaked in the last minutes of the walk and when I got on board, it stopped almost immediately. Typical...

But I was on my way to the Orkneys and to my surprise I was the only person except crew on the ferry. I felt like royalty must, having it all to myself.

The lads made me feel very welcome and as luck would have it they asked for no ticket nor money. They had been expecting me, and I realised that Sheila had done me proud and given me a free passage across. So thank you so much to them all at The John O' Groats Ferry. 


When I got to the other side I had planned to walk all the way to Kirkwall. I discovered that it was 21 miles and not one less and as I had not a chance to get any supplies in the moments before I rushed onto the boat, I couldn't determine with any accuracy when or how I could make it without. The lads on the boat told me to speak to the coach driver that had just arrived with their tourist on. I hurried along the pier and caught the driver as he was readying to leave. Stewart of Maynes coaches happily allowed me aboard as a favour and took me the whole way into the heart of Kirkwall. He had to park for the day anyway so set me down right where I could find all the services and pointed me in the direction of Pickaquoy camp sitebehind the Pickaquoy center. I learned a lot about the islands from Stewart and the possibilities of where to stay and who to see and everything I could imagine. It seems that the people here are rather organised with things, as many of them have several occupations depending on the season. This was his last bus driving assignment for a while, and he now moved on to a farming job for example. I admired the resourcefulness of people like this, much like myself and my ability to turn my hand to anything.

I found the camp site and the facilities were incredible. It was not my first desire but to be honest I cannot forget the old budget just because my feet are killing me due to my own physical idiocy. I can tell you, it was not at all the best nights sleep I have ever had, but I was away with the help of a tot of brandy to sooth my tired limbs and relax my nerves.

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