Friday, 12 October 2012

Shetland Ponies.

Shetland Ponies.

I woke dreaming of tiny little horses running about everywhere. Yes they do come from here, those lovely, cute little fellas (and girls). The boat was slowing into the port and the announcer kindly gave us time to get packed up and ready to disembark. The day was sunny in the main, a few clouds hanging so I kept my waterproofs on just in case. Lucky then for me as it began raining the minute I left the Lerwick terminal building....

I walked straight to the hostal as I knew I would not be able to carry on walking just yet. A few days might help, but the budget would be strained even at a very reasonable £17 per night. The Islesburgh Hostal, in case you didn't know, (me either) was voted the best Hostal in the world last year.....Wow... What an achievement.!!!

It certainly does seem to be right up there in the ranks of five star accommodations. And I have been in some amazing ones on the Camino de Santiago. The place has the best stocked facility kitchen I have seen in a very long time. I was not surprised then to have a hot shower and a very restful two days here, meeting many tourists. The staff were super friendly and helpful and bent over backwards to help in any way. Thanks firstly to Ross and Irvine for their kindness and support, and the much needed first aid supplies...
I met a woman from Hoy island in Orkney, who was knitting as she ate and read in the canteen. Amy who I thought was about 25/28 years old said that she was knitting socks for her 14 year old daughter. I nearly spat my tea out... She was actually 36 and had 3 kids. I asked her if I could ask a few odd questions as I wanted to know something about the knitting thing. She happily answered all my queries. But was a little reticent to let me have a go on her socks. I backed off, realising that maybe it is a sacred art here. Seriously though, I wanted to know why, and what motivation was there for a young woman to knit, especially in our modern age of manufacture. My grandma (god bless her) was the last woman I had seen knitting anything, back in the 70's. Amy's answer was simple and one I understood. She loved it. She loved the feel of the wools the textures of the finished garments and the fun of creating something out of natural products. It was therapeutic and cathartic and it didn't matter that it made little financial sense to make clothes, she just loved to knit. She even works in a wool shop back in the Orkneys, and was here mainly on a fact finding expedition with another lady Vera. She had a skirt that had large pockets, seemingly to be able to carry the knitting wherever she goes, ball in one and sock and needles in the other. I wonder how often it catches her out whilst sitting down?
Amy is now my knitting Guru and has opened my eyes to a world where clothes are made with love and not just material.
I also met a guy from London, Mike who was here on a kind of small pilgrimage too. We talked at length about so many things and it was a luxury for me to be able to share so many of the things that I had experienced in my life, by way of illustrating the points I felt I wanted to share with him. He seemed to lack a focus at this moment and I knew from many experiences of my own where that left you. I too, received at those times a pick me up from the Universe, often in the help from another human being and their stories. And so I passed mine forward to him. He seemed fascinated and thankful for the new way of looking at things, which is very often any of us need. A new viewpoint. A refreshed way of seeing the things before us. By way of great kindness he fed me as we chatted and I was recipient of many new illuminations besides.

I went out for a brief walk around the town and rested a while in the Queens Hotel where I met some of the local people. Tony, a man from elsewhere but who had lived here for about 30 years was the first to offer some banter. He worked abroad mostly, and I guessed it was one of those types of jobs that he couldn't talk about too much. He made a gesture towards me before he left that touched me deeply, it will help enormously. Stewart the barman bought me a nice stiff whiskey too, as I could tell he was paying attention to my conversation with Tony and then Martin. Martin a local man with love woes, was doing what most of us might in such circumstances, though it is often the least best thing to do on balance.
Back at the Hostal I got into conversations with Vicky and Christian from Brisbane, Australia. They were here for a few more days before heading off to Scotland to tour the north and west coasts. We spoke quite a lot over the 2 days I stayed at the hostal, and I learned much about Britain from their perspectives also. After all we used to own Australia too, when Britain was a world empire.
Then after a few days resting it was time to think about walking again. I couldn't afford to stay any longer but my feet weren't quite out of trouble. I journeyed to the south of the island on the bus and got off opposite the Sumburgh Airport, where all the national flights come in to. I went over to the Sumburgh Hotel and asked if I could have tea. They kindly accommodated me despite me not being in residence here, and also looked after my bag when I went out to begin my walk to and from the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. I was thankful for not having to carry it for a brief time, and I would collect it later. Part of me wanted the luxury of staying at such a lovely spot in comfort. But to be honest the tent has done me proud so far and now I would get the chance to see what had happened to it after having been tumble
I met a woman in the car park as I set off to the lighthouse, who asked me if I was looking for a bird too. She clearly was not a Twitcher herself, but had apparently seen many here over the past few days. I told her that I was indeed looking for a rare bird, one that had many unique and special qualities. One that could take me and my daft humour and laugh even if things I said weren't very funny, and one that I could spend the rest of my life with..... I hope that she got the joke...
I don't really see women as

Any way she was here on business and had reports to write. She made a comment about never having time for such wonders as going off walking whilst she visited some lovely places in the line of her work. I simply supplied the answer. (Kind of me eh?)Why not just come for a walk for an hour or two and see what you are missing by being so busy. In her eyes there was a brief glimmer of the thrill of a new adventure, but then that was suppressed by the weight of work ties and she declined the offer. Never mind, at least the seed was sown for another days harvest.
The walk was bracing but I made it out to the end of the island and admired the sheer cliffs for a time before doing a short video of the beginning of the walk northwards and other associated features... hope they make you all laugh...

I walked along the top of the cliffs to the east side on my return and then back to the hotel for a bite to eat and a warm drink. Strangely enough, again no-one seemed in the least bit curious as to ask me anything about my bag and the walk ahead, even when I had thrown a few loose statements into the conversation. Maybe they have just zoned out, having seen so many people passing by here. It was an hotel after all and they do cater for all and sundry being so close to the only big airport for miles.
I managed to get myself a place in the dunes to camp. Low enough to avoid some of the winds and yet close enough to be on the airport runway apron...

I woke to find a small capacity aircraft only metres away, coming in to land. So close in fact that I could have thrown a tennis ball through the cockpit window, and read the label on the pilots name badge. Captain John Taylor.....(joke)
The beach on the other side was amazing and sandy and clean waters lapping at the fringes as I packed up and walked along it. A few bird watchers were out catching glimpses of the rare North American bird that had got its sat nav mixed up...
After leaving the airport I went off the main road and up through a tiny village that had a shop, getting some food supplies, yeah...

Then I found a sign saying Quendale beach this way in the middle of nowhere. I was sure I hadn't been there, so followed into a field track, and the rain was still coming down heavily as I got onto the beach. But to be honest I was amazed at the quality of the sand, the clarity of the sea and the way that the seals followed me along the beach. If it hadn't been for the cold, I could easily have been in the Seychelles, I swear it was almost paradise on earth.

I found an old mill that was converted to a visitor centre, like a small museum. I found no-one at the office/shop but heard voices from the belly of the mill. I followed my way down, despite the fee for entry, and made myself known to the two gentlemen working at something below. We got chatting and they shared with me a lot of new informations about the area and culture. They were making a new gate for somewhere on the site, as the old one was too far gone to paint any more. They were just about to stop for their break and invited me to a cup of tea, with them upstairs in the small cafe/office/shop.
I made them laugh, saying that as I had looked through the windows earlier, I had thought a French girl was working here. A body-less bust was on the table wearing a Shetland wool knitted beret.
They gave me more tea and biscuits too and wouldn't hear of it when I offered to pay something. Geordie Black and Geordie Lesley the two gentlemen gave me much to be grateful for. They have been the first actual islanders to invite me to a hospitality like this. It is never about the actual gift, but so much more about the reason, the motive behind it. The two men filled me with great enthusiasm to go on, and many tips about what to see and do, despite the poor weather outside. Apparently Geordie is a local form of George, not an indication that they are from Tyneside.

I walked around the Spiggie Loch and then found the pub at the village the other side, in scouseburgh. (Pronounced Scuss-borough I am reliably assured, not like the Liverpudlians nickname)
It had been a short day for mileage, but it had felt like a marathon as my feet reminded me they were not quite healed. I needed hot food and a warm drink, all of which I got inside the Spiggie Hotel. Again the welcome was one I felt usual at accommodations such as these, nothing keen about asking me what I was doing or why. A man from Edinburgh, Cliff, bought me a drink and we chatted like old friends for a time. He was not staying here but going to catch a flight off the island tomorrow to Fair Isle to see the bird and nature reserve. Apparently the island is owned and funded for the National Trust.???
I forgot his name and so asked again.
What do you call a man with a lighthouse on his head,” he replied,
Cliff,” I said. I wont forget now, shall I?
I found a nook to park my tent away from the howling winds that had gotten up during the day, behind a small quarried hill. The views were amazing in the morning, over the bay below out towards the west and Foula.

The next day I walked into Bigton. It had a little cosy shop and was full of everything I could ever need right now. Except that rare bird I mentioned...

The staff were friendly, and helped me by keeping my bag, so that I could walk out to the famous St. Ninians Island. They told me all about what to see and do there, and all about the Tombolo. I went off looking for the cake and raffle stalls but sadly found neither. Only some long stretch of sand with a beach at either side, reaching out to the island. St Ninians is worth a look, I assure you. The beaches were gorgeous despite the threat of rain. Two different colours of water approaching the sand from either side, and a clarity to be able to see the sea bed for quite a long way out.

As I approached the sandy beach, guess who I bumped into. Yes, the Australians Vicky and Christian, who is a giant of a man, at 6'8''. I made a comment about how they kept popping up wherever I go. I thought that they had come here the day, after they had asked me directions to the place. Anyway it was great to see them and see that they had been like me, litter picking. They said that the plastic can kill the turtles, and so had collected it, not that the beach was particularly covered in it. Later I also brought some and put it in the bins. Then I met more people who had been at the hostal, and we briefly exchanged a chat.

The island has an old chapel ruins, and apparently not so long ago, treasure had been found here in the grounds of the chapel. I found that where the rabbits had been excavating that they bring up new artefacts. I too found treasure here. Calm down, don't start thinking about buying a metal detector and setting off to raid the place....

I am sure though it is an arrow head from a stone age arrow. I later gave it to the woman who runs the shop, for her kids to take into school.

Then I made my way out of Bigton which is actually a very littleton (town), past Ireland (not Eire, the one in the Atlantic) and up hill all the way to the main road where I found the most amazing bus shelter seating I have ever seen... See pics.

I rested here for a nap, and why not indeed? It would have been rude not to. Then I began the climb and descent into the small village of Sandwick, hoping for more new and exciting adventure. Two men digging a ditch Paddy and Murphy, were laying new water mains pipe I believe, were the first people I met. They told me that the social club was the only place here to get a drink and warmth. I walked to the sea and then back to the club later, for it opened at 5.30pm.

I found it easily and wondered what type of people I would meet here. The barmaid signed me in, and a man joked that there was a £35 joining fee, to be paid
Apart from this one comment, sadly no-one was keen to engage with the stranger amongst them. They mostly stood with their faces towards the bar and all but ignored me. So I got busy typing and hoped that they might warm up a little. Nothing else happened so I set out into the cold night to find a shady spot for my tent. Still at least I had been warm for a couple of hours. I found refuge in the local play park, behind a wall and fence and on the side of a B.M.X race track, but beggars can't be choosers, they say.

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