Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Walking Papa Stour.

Walking Papa Stour.

When I managed to get down from the dizzy heights of the cliffs over the top of the arch, I found a spot where the stream had once been an old mill of a fashion. The people had obviously needed the power of the down coming stream to help with the production of some product, but I am not sure if it was corn, as it seems unlikely to have been grown here.

I fancied leaving my mark on the island, a message to the islanders that had not received me with any genuine interest or kindness, or even a little of their time to chat. Well I guess they must be desperately busy here, all 8 of them. On the beach here I made a friend. Well actually, I made a friend. Gary is a product of my over-active imagination, my developing skill at performance art (Thank you Chris Mollon) and art in general, and my desire to add someone with a welcoming smile to the Island. 

Gary is looking out to sea and contemplating a release from this tomb, but can't swim very well, so may be stuck here for a while. He's a real character, so look out for him if ever you are on Papa Stour....

I walked along the rest of the western coast and found a few bays where the grey seals had given birth to pups. On one at least five could be seen basking in the freezing cold wind, down on the pebbled beach. Those clever seals had chosen remote beaches, with sheer side, that were not accessible to anybody or anything other than what would enter via the ocean. I admired their sense of security for their young, and the way in which they hung around to guard them as they passed their first few days of life. 

I carried on along the coastline until I entered the Hamna Voe, which is an inlet with a few crofts on its banks and the only place where I saw signs of any boats that are sea worthy. There was also a lot of Plantiecrubs too, with cabbages growing out of the harsh winds from the Atlantic ocean. Here there is also an old folk tale that is supposed to have happened, once upon a time.

Apparently one day a large ship had moored off of the island and no-one came ashore to trade or anything. The islanders were concerned as to what this might mean. Then after about 3 days a young boy was washed ashore having been able to escape the vessel and swim for his life to the island. He was English and told the people of Papa Stour that he had been kidnapped and taken aboard some time ago. He also told them that the sailors were planning to come ashore and rob the island of any of its resources and take some of the more desirable (women) assets for their pleasure. The islanders were terrified as they were simple peaceful folk, and had no way to fight off well armed raiders. So they went to the Witch who lived in Hamna Voe Croft. (You see in some places witches were revered and not burned at the stake as heretics and evil doers) She said that the islanders should go and lash down their boats and any stock that was stored as she was going to do something nasty to the boat at anchor.

When they were all ready she began to climb a set of stairs in the Voe at the old mill, and as she did so and climbed higher, with every step the winds velocity rose and the ship at anchor was shipwrecked on the Skerries. When she climbed back down the wind abated and although many men had surely drowned at sea, they were happy for their safety once more. They no-doubt had a field day collecting all the wreckage from the ship too, which was more than likely carrying brandy and other sought after produce.

Once I had passed the Voe croft, I noticed a few otters in the waters, below me darting about catching a fish supper. Three otters were chasing one another round and they seemed to follow me as I walked along the shoreline to the opposite banks. I made my way to the end of the island and saw how close that I had been when at Melby head only yesterday. Along this shore a huge yellow diamond shaped board advertised the cable that brought power ashore here for the small island of people. Something else that was missing from the island as well as the people was trees. Most of the islands here are not able to support the growth of trees for many reasons. Maybe the salty brine that blows across the landscape when the wind gets up, killing off saplings. Maybe the soil is not deep enough or ripe for growth because of its similarity to volcanic magma dating back millions of years. Or maybe the lack of atmosphere here from the inhabitants.

I visited the Kirk (church) and then avoided happening to pop in to the part of the island close to the Maidens stack, where certain people sequestered themselves away from the interaction with other humans. And besides I had been walking all day, up hill and down dale. I visited the rejuvenated Norse site that had recently been worked on by the tradesmen using old Norse traditional tools and methods of construction. I have no idea what it is in truth as it stands empty and doesn't resemble much of a building, despite the sign boards advertising it completion. A definite waste of money and resources if you ask me, for who will see it and know what it does. 

The one good use of the local funding was definitely the welcome/waiting room at the port, where I had had a good nights sleep and again this evening. The facility meant that I didn't have to sleep in the outdoors with the strong winds whipping at me all night. And besides I was the only person on the island who didn't have another place to sleep, so it wasn't as if I would put anybody out or be a nuisance. I was sparing with the heater and only put it on briefly to take the chill out of the room on my return.

Surprisingly there was a note left on a bit of paper towel, on my bag from Andy and Sabina. It invited me to lunch, 12.15 for 12.30. A pity then that I got back in at well after 4.15pm. Still they had made an effort after all, even though it had come after I had set out to see the island at 10.00am. I returned the message to apologise for not having waited longer for the invite and miss out on seeing the wonders of the Island instead.

At least Gary had made me feel as if there was some reason to have come and to have met the people from the islands.

I bedded down as soon as I had eaten, I wanted to be up early, and make my final additions to the account and get packed for the return journey to the mainland. I still never got to see the Northern lights as the clouds covered everything. 

Up and about bright and early, and packed away as the boat approached from across the bay. I went down to meet it on to the berth and all of a sudden there were many people appearing to collect things or re-board the ferry with me. I said hello and apologised for missing lunch to Andy, and he said little as he hurried to get onto the boat with Jane. Sabina glanced in my direction but didn't seem to acknowledge me as I waved to her.

On the boat though I was welcomed by the crew, and we set sail almost immediately. During the crossing I had two options. To ignore the other passengers, or to take the bull by the horns and ask what I came here to find out. So I got Andy to open up a bit and he did eventually give me some insight into their life and reasons for being here. Jane on the other hand seemed to have decided that asking me daft questions was the order of the day. Had I turned off the heaters, as I shouldn't really have been using the room to stay in. It is for the islanders not tourists to use as a hotel apparently. I admitted her tone was very welcoming and Christian like and she took umbrage with me, for some reason. What did she think I would logically do, when here was an empty room, with little chance of my interfering with anyone else's use of it, and gales and storms raging during the night??

I shook the dust from my feet and alighted the ferry, and they got into their car and left without offering me a lift to the next point of my journey. Secretly I thanked them for teaching me a valuable lesson. Don't expect any kindness from people who go round spouting their faith, I am much more likely to receive some from those that just do and don't profess anything at all, like the boat crew who paid my fare both ways.

And as I walked along the road a few miles a man passing did stop and offer me a ride to Bixer. John (a taxi driver) was collecting Steven from the boat and he kindly gave me the lift I was so looking forward to. Unfortunately the roads here are very windy and narrow and barren, so the short distance to the next town and shop would have taken forever. It was a lovely gift from the universe too.

So, if people from London are called Londoners. People from Glasgow are Glaswegians and from Liverpool, Liverpudlians, what are the people from this village called..??????
Yes very unfortunate isn't it..???

I stocked up on supplies, as I had no idea what or when I would get more. Three miles away in Aith there was actually another shop, but then at least I had been prepared. I found that the village here had a wonderful sports leisure facility, money spent for the local people, but it wasn't very busy. It had free and great internet and a coffee machine, so I spent a good while catching up with uploading the blog and adding the pictures which takes ages.

I met a guy called Adam who wanted to chat and asked me many things. We got on very well and I am sure we shared a few new ways of looking at things with one another. He gave me a tour of the facility and showed me all I ever wanted to know about leisure centre life. The facilities for Shetland folk are excellent, and not expensive, like the buses and ferry fares. That said I haven't paid for a ferry in a very long time thanks to the continued kindness of the many staff who have seen to it that they help me on my journey. 

I set out to get to Voe, or at least a nice spot out of the wind, and settle down for the night. After a few miles a car pulled up alongside me and a nice elderly gentleman offered top take me to Voe, as the darkness was upon us now. He said that eh regularly traveled the road himself walking or cycling and he knew it to be a nasty stretch to do, especially in the dark. Admittedly it was my own fault for having sat so long typing in Aith, but it was kind of Logan to drop me at the pub next to the Bod. A Bod is a camping facility and a building all in one. Sort of like an un-manned hostal. Logan took me all the way there and shared many interesting stories with me as we travelled. He was originally from the Islands but had moved away for over 40 years, before returning last year from Liverpool. I thanked Logan for his thoughtfulness and said my farewells.

The Bod was £10 and though I couldn't really justify it I took it so as to be able to rest properly and get a hot shower. The place is amazing and homely, with a log burning stove in one room, so I chose that and got the fire ablaze.

As I was settling in a young man from Prague knocked at the Bod door. I let him in and we got chatting sitting in front of the roaring fire. We popped briefly over to the pub for a drink as he also wanted to use the telephone. When we returned it was to a warm room, and we made ourselves some supper and carried on talking like old friends for a long time. He also was travelling after having been working on some herring fishing boats locally. He planned to see more of the islands before heading off to Norway. Karel was a very interesting young man. Looking for a truth but also full of good and helpful suggestions about how to deal with certain moods I had been trying to understand this past week. Eventually we settled down and let the wash of the ocean outside our windows send us to sleep on our comfy bunks, in the warmth of a heated room.

No comments:

Post a Comment