The story goes that when I was a little girl, I would pull my baby-brother out of the buggy and would sit in it myself. Walking just was not my thing.
Why walk when there is a car, a buggy or a metro, hey these things were invented for a reason.
Going hiking for me is like going camping, so to say, it is just not my thing!
Every year I make a list of 100 things I would like to do. That is a list of new things and/or repeating things I have already done and want to do again. This year it ranged from hugging a tree to going swimming in the sea (which is a super challenge for me, which I will tell you about another time) and what was on the list too: The Scottish Highlands
Don’t know what happened there, but I feel drawn to them, pulled and they have been on my list for a few years.
In April it all became real, as I stepped onto the platform at Waverley Station in Edinburgh, these beautiful mountains came closer and I felt them in the air around me.
Just before I left for the UK, my friend Heleen, gave me a T-shirt: She is super creative and uses airline expressions on über-organic items. She really thinks it all through and best of all, these shirts are beautiful, soft and lovely to wear.
The shirt she gave me stated: “Doors may be opened”
Heleen said: “Jenn, go explore on your walkabout, be brave and do things you have not done before. You never know, doors may be opened… ”
So while driving from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye, passing the Lochs, crossing Mountain ranges of the Highlands, seeing the barren landscapes, breathing the fresh air, it became evident that now was the time.
I stopped to buy myself some hiking-booties, the ugliest in the shop for sure, or do they actually come in pretty I wonder?
Quiraing a mountain-ish ridge all the way up in the north of the Isle of Skye.
After a fabulous breakfast at a lovely B&B, I asked the host and she was adamant, that it was a beautiful place and that there was so much to discover on that mountain. “the views are stunning – the weather is great today – you should go! But don’t park at the carpark, there are so many tourists, but stop at the cemetery and just walk up the hill from there, you will find the path easily!” “And this gentleman wants to go too, maybe you two should go together!” Ehm okay…
So there I was, next to the cemetery, tying the pink laces of my new ugly walking booties, zipping up the fleece-jacket, which I bought with the booties, dressing my lucky scarf around my neck and getting another woolen mantle out of the car. Steve had a backpack, so I popped my water bottle in there and my handbag in the boot (as it would be very odd, I realized, to bring my handbag, which I normally carry everywhere)
The Isle of Skye does not have the woodlands I know from home, but more shrubs and everything is covered in a green glow of grassland. Absolute beauty especially when the rays of sunlight hit the greens, it almost glows.
I left the pavement and the car behind to step onto that green glowing grassland, little rolling hills, with the Quiraing towering above it. Something was doing somersaults in my stomach and it was a slightly nauseating mix of exciting anticipation and urge to run back to the car and hide.
Whispering to myself: “Jenn, remember Heleens words: ‘Doors may be opened’”
And as I felt the soft fabric of her T-shirt on my skin, I took a deep breath of the crispy fresh air and took a step and another step and another and another and let myself fall in a rhythm of breathing, stepping, walking, following, trusting and then the noticing I was actually enjoying myself.
The hill got steeper, now I was using my hands too, selecting where I was putting my feet, as Steve told me not to step on the rubble and loose stones, to avoid gliding. Okay… gliding is a nice word for slipping and falling on your ass or something else and then waking up at the bottom of the mountain with loads of scratches on my face, if I am lucky… okay okay… stop thinking about the worst case scenarios Jenn… not helping!!…. Focus on what you can control … putting one foot in front of the other… keep up the rhythm.
We reached the ridge where the footpath was, close to the rough cliff towering high up into the blue sky. Well footpath, I was secretly hoping for concrete or bitumen or something, but nothing the like… it was an uneven, earthy path with big and small stones in it and even a stream to cross… ehm Jenn focus, while I watched the pink laced booties following it around another corner. Cliffs on one side and a steep drop on the other…
We stopped and sat down to have a sip of water, Steve told me about his free-climbing hobby and stories about other hiking trails he had taken… I just sat there being silent, while my inner Jenn was having a rant: “Are you nuts, why on earth have you set out on this trail, and with an experienced hiker AND free-climber, you have no right to be on this mountain!” I took another deep breath of the crisp cold air and told myself: “Yes you do have a right to be here, living life is all about enjoying and see where the trail leads you and you are very lucky that you have an experienced climber with you, as having a buddy like him, you can go even further out of my comfort zone, so get up and get into the rhythm, trust Steve and for Peep sake trust yourself woman, lets make this the best out of your comfort zone and see how much you can learn and enjoy it while it lasts!”
What I haven’t told you that where we were sitting was at the end of a sheep path, on top of an overhanging cliff, with a 200m drop behind me and me battling the upcoming feeling of a fear of heights. And breathe…
“So you ready?” “Born ready!” was my immediate answer. “Now that is a good answer! There is a place here called the table, it is apparently quiet a scramble to get up there, but worth the view! You up for that?” Quiet a scramble?? You English live life in understatements….
A wee bit later I was looking at a steep incline, with my pink booties back on that now safe earth trodden path. I saw a few grass pollens sticking out, the black cliffs leaning ominously over it all and a raven pair circling in the air. While Steve was studying his map, he mumbled: “I think it is up here, but I can’t see the path anywhere, well let’s take the short cut up here then!” Like for real man?! My eyes must have been the size of plates in complete disbelief… which he luckily did not see, as he set out on to the steep incline of grassy bushels… as he was ten steps ahead, I tentatively put my booty on a grass bushel too and followed him onto the incline. “Hey it is quiet easy when you follow the bushels!” ehm okay… so that is what I did… follow the bushels, one at a time and getting back into that rhythm.
As I nearly bumped into Steve, leaning casually against the cliff, I saw the joy on his face and turned around on that last grass bushel… oh my the view… wow absolutely breathtaking. The glowing green grass, the rugged peaks and then the smooth and soft mirror like ocean just behind that and the breathtaking Highland Peaks, almost dark blue in the very far distance. A few slithers of mist and scattered clouds across the blue sky, a breeze of salty air, crispy fresh, my heart beating fast and loud and I notice the short intervals of my heavy breathing. “You are city lass, aren’t ya?!” “Yup! But oh I love this!”
With ‘this’, I meant the view… the hiking was, well I was just getting acquainted to.
The next part was even steeper and across black rubble and loose stones. He pointed at the rocks I could put my booties on safely and how to use my hands and put my fingers in goves in the surrounding rocks to give me that extra hold. “Trust your legs, they will hold you, hold you arms straight and use them as leverage”
And up we went. Standing still to breathe for a moment I noticed that my one foot was about at the height of the knee of my other leg. “Ah this I know well, that is when I feel most comfortable when skiing!” and a flush of excitement and joy hit me. Oh this is actually fun, just different from what I have known until now.
Yes we did make it to the table in the Quiraing.
Yes the view was absolutely stunning.
Yes the Quiraign mountain range is breathtaking.
Yes the weather stayed perfect during the hike.
Yes I made it back down to the car in one piece without scratches and new scars.
Yes Steve had a little heights-fear moment on the way down, as I was perfectly fine “skiing down” in pink laced booties down another steep hill to get to the earthy trodden path.
Yes I am proud of that and all of the above.
Yes doors may be opened when you trust.
Yes, just keep breathing while you’re in the middle of it.
Thank you Steve for this amazing experience and the trust you oozed, so I could join you on this adventure. Well he did not know he was hiking with a newbie until we got back to the car. His reaction was priceless: “Ah well done then lass!”
Thank you “Top 100 list” to make me go to the Highlands and trust you to go on this hike.
Life is an amazing hike, when you open up to the possibilities it presents you with. Choose, and even choose something you normally would not do, then get into that rhythm, keep breathing and enjoy the ride, well hike in this case, as there are many more to come. I got a real good taste for it now.
With pink walking boots, lots of love for you,
PS: Which hiking-trail did you enjoy most, that should be on my list?