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Month: September 2018

The Challenge of a Peaker’s present.

The Challenge of a Peaker’s present.

There’s a mountaintop that I’m dreaming of
If you need me you know where I’ll be…
Shotgun/George Ezra

I have this funny feeling in my stomach, for today our adventure starts. Me and my love start to hike the West Highland Way (WHW). It’s that feeling when you’re going to do something you’ve never ever done before. Like on your first day of a new job, or a match and you have to deliver. I know it’s kind of an exiting healthy feeling, but still it paralyzes me a little bit. I’m not capable of doing anything else besides thinking of what lies ahead of me, and if it will all go right. I’m pretty sure that when the first day is over, it all will be better. I know the drill: I have experienced it, have seen it, have done it, and I know what it will be like for my Achilles tendon.

We left Glasgow by the Great Western Road. For those of you who never have been to Glasgow, the street lives up to its name…it’s a long road! It took quite some time before we actually saw the mountains, but once we did I was impressed. Of course I was impressed, remember me, the girl from 13 feet below sea level!!
We didn’t have a clear view initially. It looked like all the tops were covered under blankets. Almost as if they didn’t want to reveal their beauty on this very first day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our first leg, I had the urge to stop every single moment I saw a mountain in front of me, a stream alongside the road or a strong stream running down the mountains. Excuse me for using this example, I mean no harm with it but I almost felt like a chinese tourist taking pictures of almost everything and forgetting to enjoy what I saw and felt when you I looked around.

I realized that I could never catch in a picture what my eyes saw, my heart felt and my brain registered. You have to see, feel, breath it in for yourself. But I did not only stop to make pictures. While hiking I was very busy with looking where I was hiking. My eyes were focused on the path constantly. I focused on every step I took, so afraid I would slip and cause my Achilles tendon a lot of harm or worse not be able to hike any further. There was not a single track that was smooth; they were rocky, muddy, slippery and sometimes we had to hike through the water. Luckily for me I had a very good scout who guided me. My love walked just a few meters in front of me and was directing me all the way…a little to the left, a little to the right, step on these stepping stones etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The WHW led us through the mountains, over the moor and through the forest. There was not a single time I wasn’t surprised by the views. One morning I even thought there must have been goblins painting the forest green at night. It was almost like a fairytale. The grass looked like a green carpet and on it were all these beautiful fly argarics.

One of our B&B’s was Beinglas Farm, at Inverarnan. At this farm we saw all kind of hikers. We met the hikers who had those large backpacks with everything in and on it, hikers who had their luggage delivered to the next B&B, and hikers who hiked not the whole WHW but just a few legs of it. I had a lot of respect for the first group and it occured to me that there were a lot of young people doing this. Me and my love were of the luxury type. We walked with a backpack and in it only what was needed for the day. Our luggage was delivered every day at the next B&B.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was at this first B&B that the words Sam wrote in the foreward to There’s Always the Mountains (by Cameron McNeish), came to my mind. Something about “those people”, foolish, dangerous and not well-prepared. Everyone around us looked so prepared that it made me a little bit nervous, wondering if we were prepared enough for this adventure. But I figured so far so good and let it go.Although the WHW is a very popular track to hike, there were not many times we had a lot of people in front or behind us on the same leg. Mostly when we started in the morning we kept bumping into the same people, but as we went along there were large parts where it seemed like there were only the two of us. But every time you had the feeling being all alone at this piece of heaven on earth, there was always somebody else around the corner.
We met a lot of other hikers but also local people. There was always time for a little chat, a conversation or just a hello. For instance we met a man from Warwick, a little place near Birmingham. He had hiked the WHW as recommended, from south to north but was now hiking it from north to south. He couldn’t get enough of it.

We met an old man in his Jeep. He was looking after his sheep as they had been moved to a different piece of land. He was very interested in where we came from and when he heard we came from the Netherlands, he started telling us that the land we stood on once belonged to a Dutch man (a surgeon from Friesland) and was given back to the Forestry Commission Scotland after he and his wife died without leaving any children behind.

After hiking for seven days I suddenly realized that the challenge I set for myself 8 months ago was almost done. The last leg had a magical element. With every step I took, I knew that I was going to complete my challenge. Hiking without pain, I never thought I would be able to do so and now I had almost completed it. I made it to Fort William without pain and was so proud of myself. Tears were running down my face as I saw the sign telling me that I made it to the orignal end of the WHW.

 

The challenge of a Peaker’s Present was done!

Next time I tell you all about My Challenge yet to come.

The Challenge of a Peaker’s Past

The Challenge of a Peaker’s Past

To me, she was
those final steps
the turn around the last bend,
the house
with a light on
and a fire lit
and a faint laugh in the distance of the warm wind
That she was
She was my always coming home
-Atticus-

It was December 2017 when I told you in my blog, Auld Lang Syne, the challenge I had set myself for 2018: walking the West Highland Way. I trusted these words to paper and to all of you who read my blog, but it still felt so unreal and so far away. But by letting every one know I had a challenge to complete, I made a promise…and a promise is a promise. From that day forward I realized there was no way back, and it became more and more real.

The challenge picked up momentum on my birthday in February, when I was given a book of the west Highland Way by my neighbours and dear friends, Marco and Anneke. Family, friends and colleagues started asking where we would go on our holiday, and as I told them what we were planning, it became more and more definite. To everybody who would listen, I told them firmly, “We are going to walk the west Highland Way [WHW].” Every time I said it, however, there was this little voice inside of me saying, “Can I do this? Isn’t it too ambitious?”

My doubts led me to remember my experiences before I was a Peaker. About five years ago I had a lot of trouble with my Achilles tendon. Walking was never without pain, and believe me I did so much to get healed. I even had my lower leg in a cast for three months. Do you know how much you still can do when only your lower leg is in a cast? I cycled all across the Island Ameland when my sister and brother were walking it. But that’s another story. At that time the doctor was not very happy with me doing all these things and not taking my rest.

At first my efforts to heal seemed to have worked, but after a couple of weeks the pain came back, and I was at my wit’s end. That’s when I met my dear friend Conny. She looks after the boys from the football club in my village, and she started by giving my Achilles tendon a massage every week. After a while I was able to walk long distances with hardly any pain. However, walking such a large distance as the WHW in Scotland was a totally different matter. As you all well know, here in my backyard, in my country, everything is flat and there are hardly any rough paths. So what seemed a real challenge in December started to freak me out. Was this going to be a dream come true or my worst nightmare?

Immediately after the plane landed on Glasgow Airport in August, I felt like I was coming home. I had this feeling on my very first time in 2009, and it grows stronger every time I visit Scotland. In 1964 Paul Simon wrote the song Homeward Bound and that song describes exactly my feelings for Scotland. Every time I visit Scotland I feel Homeward Bound.
The rough landscape, the mountains, the amazing spots, and the nature of this country impresses me over and over again. Maybe it’s because there’s no greater contrast then coming from 13 feet below sea level up to the mountains!

Before we started our walk, we stayed a couple of days in Glasgow to get used to walking up and down and to inhale the beauty of the city. Again it brought to mind my pre-Peaker trips there. Over 10 years I have seen the city change, and it’s still changing. I think they are trying hard to make it a sparkling vivid town, and they seem to be succeeding. Whereas Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a lot of ancient history, Glasglow becomes a capital with both history and modern culture side by side. I love it! That’s why I thought this would be a good start of our holiday.I showed my love all the beautiful spots in Glasgow. We went to Kelvingrove museum, the Botanic Gardens and the Cathedral, but also walked the Mural trail in the city of Glasgow. 
This walk shows you a lot of street murals on buildings and streets. They help to rejuvinate streets and revitalise buildings that are not the most beautiful anymore. It kind of brightens up the streets. They impress me. I always wonder how anyone could be so gifted to draw such a nice things. We walked up to Pollok house, just outside Glasgow. I had hoped that the famous picture by El Greco, the Lady In A Fur Wrap, was back in the house. Unfortunately luck was not on my side for the second time. She wasn’t there when I visited Pollock House last year. This means I have to visit the place for a third time. I don’t mind; it’s a place that’s so beautiful.

We ate with another Dutch Peaker and her husband at the Oran Mor. Such a nice place and to us a bit ironic. My love has a long and negative past with the church and eating in a place that once was a church is almost ironic. We also looked for lovely new restaurants to eat and drink. Glasgow has a lot of nice places to eat. If you go to Glasgow, one of the things you should definetly do is pay a visit to the Ox and Finch for a delicious meal. It is a nice little restaurant at Sauchiehall Street where they serve wonderful tapas and nice wines. The staff is very friendly, but make sure to make a reservation in advance for they are busy every night of the week. Our hotel was across the street, and every night we passed the restaurant there wasn’t a table free. We managed to eat there twice, however.

 


And so our first days in Glasgow came to an end. Though I was a returning visitor, this trip was different. This time I was a Dutch Peaker in Glasgow with a challenge ahead of me and a promise to fulfill. I enjoyed every single minute of the visit. Being in Glasgow confirms that home is not a place but a feeling. When it comes to Glasgow, for me it’s the place and the feeling!

The next blog about my trip will be: My challenge of a Peaker’s Present.