Day 11: To Inverness
8 September 2017
We got up early and ate some microwave veg before heading out into the sullen morning, hopping in a little red cab and talking with the driver about the changing weather. She said they haven't had a summer in four years, just rain nonstop. Not really a winter, either. We talked about the islands. She'd like to go, but she didn't want to take her son with the threat of storms like Harvey. We always seem to fear the rare occurrences.
At the bus stop, the board said our bus was a few hours later than our tickets said, so we went to the train station café to sit for a while. We got tea and coffee and sat down, but I had an off feeling, so I got up and went back out to the bus stances to check again. I went to the only bus out there and said, "you're not headed to Inverness, are you?"
"Aye, I am."
"Ah, shit, we saw the board and it said 1015; my girl's in the café."
"We're -------, not the city buses. Better be fast, we leave at 830."
I ran back and we left our drinks with just a sip from each, basically $8.
We ran back, along the way:
"You two are always in a hurry!"
"Hey, man, you're not going to Inverness, are you?"
"No, Glen Coe."
I got my bag under the bus and yelled back to him,
"See you in London!"
He ended up making much better of the days than we did, hiking Ban Nevis on a fairly clear day, and romping through streams and such up the Steall and clambering up the Pap.
We rode the busalong the Great Glen, eventually hugging the banks of Loch Ness, like wet slate in the low, shimmering light that fought through the grey clouds. It's no Loch Lomond, but it's much deeper anyway: that's how Nessy lived there for so long.
We got into Inverness and walked through town, then down the river and across a springy suspension pedestrian bridge to a park, then across to the botanic garden. The café there was lovely, and we had a little to eat and drink. Teysia set up and I set out into the glass houses. Really a wonderfully done botanic! The main building has stairs at either end up to a second level overlooking the rest, with a fountain in the middle and plants just gushing into the walkways. A real paradise. Then over to the desert room, sunken into its own valley, which felt right. At the top of the stairs there, I made way for an older man who greeted me and told me of a butterfly in the other room. I thanked him and carried on. The back gardens, outdoor, were compact, but very nice. Being so small, it's got to be intensely managed. I spoke with an older woman who figured that if she lived in Inverness, she'd be there all the time. Scots get free buses as seniors, so she can come when she pleases. As we talked, she let on that she felt a bit upset about things, saying how we'd rather take care of ourselves than others, essentially, and that if we would "take our hands out of our own pockets and help up the developing nations, rather than wave our finger at them for doing the same things we were once guilty of ourselves," we'd all be on a more equal footing.
I walked the back gardens and through the gate into gardens managed by those with developmental challenges. Once just an open lot, it's now a wonderful menagerie of border gardens, a hilltop forest trail, a veg garden, compost circulation, and a meadow with a huge circular design of wild beds, covered fruit area, and a wild little path raised up a bit and twisting all around. After worming my way through it, I was told by one of the gardeners that the kids especially liked that, and I told him I thought they probably fit a bit better than I did.
I went back and found my older friend near the café. We talked a bit about the place; he also said how no one cares about the it, "they don't vote, the gardens, so they don't get any attention. No profit to be had, you know it's all run by two full time staff - that's it." He was English, and said they get 30% off rail passes, which saves him "loads" of money. He likes riding trains. I can't recall his name, but we also got on to talking about political things, though it erred towards the mundanely philosophical. The everyday experience is all we have, after all, and to share in what he's gotten from his numerous days was nice, honestly. He said he liked to travel, and loved that now he only had himself to answer to, so he could go as he wished, though it wasn't as nice going home, as there wasn't anyone to go home to. He did say his daughter visited him every Saturday, and that they got on well, which made me quite happy. He said he ought to get to walking round the gardens, otherwise he'd "seize up," and left me with this and a handshake:
"Enjoy your trip."
"Don't worry, I will."
"Well, if you don't, you know who's fault it is?"
"That's it. The answer's in your hands, no one else's."
We picked up and headed out, catching a bus toward our AirBnB. Along the way, we stopped for the driver's break, which gave enough time for an older woman with slicked-back silver-blonde hair, in a leather jacket and stovepipe/cigarette pants, caryying a shopping bag with some long item in a case extending at least two feet out of it, along with a backpack, to start an odd conversation with the driver, seemingly attempting to bum a smoke even though he was vaping. She got on after he started the bus, rummaged through her bag, then got off saying she thought it was a different bus. A bit odd. Maybe she was trying to get a free ride.
After a high school out in a field, from which got on a lad in a black hoodie that said Compton in gothic font, with a fiery bandana on his head, we got off. We walked up the hill through Scottish suburbia to our destination. Helen greeted us at the door with Max, her collie who looked just like Bennie from when I was a small kid. Our room was cozy, as was her whole home. We settled for a little bit, then struck out to the grocery store. It was a nice walk with a nice view of the firth and the bridge, and the wild clouds in the distance, light striking the houses all on the hill. On our way up to the shop, that same leather-clad woman was on her way down. Odd yet again. We found the store next to a pizza shop, went in and got some things to eat. While waiting in line, another fellow waiting before us was obviously fiending, hopping around and twitching and glancing and all that. We went into the pizza shop, and while we were looking, the same fellow came in and started ordering, so we left, not wanting to have any interaction with him. Seemed like he only got a lollipop or something from the grocery. We went out and there were two guys who looked Turkish or something at the back of a car, one jumping on the bumper, testing the shocks or something. Odd. We took the higher route back, past a big house with a commanding view, then a small old farm house behind it, set back in a field, with an even better view, and more humble at that. We walked along the road up there, taking in the view, then on past an abandoned farm I so wanted to explore (with Nick, like we used to). We found our little back walk and got in the back garden gate to the conservatory and the room at Helen's. We made our food and ate and chatted a little, with Fleetwood Mac on, finding bed after a bit.