Study Abroad

Day 13: Hiking The Old Man of Storr & The Quiraing

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I have learned very quickly that hostels are not my favorite. Maybe it was just the bad memory of my corrupted 4Tb hard drive, but the Portree Youth Hostel is a place I will not dream about going back to. For someone who values time alone and quiet, living in a 4 bed (bunk beds) small space with one bathroom and questionable surroundings wasn’t exactly up my alley. The small town of Portree was quite quaint and a fisherman’s town at that. Almost every restaurant was a seafood restaurant boasting about their mussels and lobsters and oysters. I always wished I could like seafood, but I just don’t love it. Calamari, however, I love me some calamari with lemon.

Around the corner of the small town square was a line of restaurants in different pastel colors, and it was adorable. My friends and I immediately pulled out our phones and photographed the bay, with the boats bobbing near the beach and the colorful buildings standing happily beside the bay.

We left the hostel and ventured to our first hike of the day (I know. Two hikes in one day??? My poor legs are going to hate me). We drove for a bit in our LP Coach Hire bus and  pulled up to the beginning of the trail for the Old Man of Storr.

The old man of Storr is a vast rock formation …. We began the ascent up the hill (or was it a mountain?) and I busted out laughing. This was not an Emily thing to do. Hiking? At home I always came up with excuses to not go hiking with my family, primarily because I despise pesky bugs and possible broken ankles from uneven surfaces. The incline on this hill was the most intense ascent I had ever had because it was just so steep. We passed two gates to keep in the livestock, and eventually our group had dispersed. The slim and fit ones were up with my photography professor at the front, seamlessly making their way up the mountain. Some got tires and hung in the back, going up at a slower pace. Me? I hung out in the middle, making my own way up on a different trail. Another girl in the group was equally as tired as I was, so we took frequent stops, photographing the structures and catching our easily winded breaths. Finally, we got up to the top and ventured between the great rocks. One looked as if it were a thumb, most likely weathered from constant rain and wind erosion. The other, named the “old Man” stuck up high in the sky.

After about an hour we had made it to the top, taking frequent stops for photos along the way, or at least that’s what we told ourselves. It was honestly such an amazing sight. These rock formations were meters and meters high and hundreds of years old. The clearing was incredibly vast, filled with white specs I later figured to be sheep.

We took many photos and then began our descent as the clouds rolled in, beginning with slight rain. Even though I am not a big hiker, this was one of my favorite days just because of the amazing scenery of the Old Mann of Storr.

After our hike, we climbed into our bus to our next destination: The Quairing in the Isle of Skye. Now this place… was amazing. As an American, you never see these sights over in the states, or at least I have yet to feel as I did when gazing out over the route. After we jumped off our bus, we all gathered in post rain squishy grass, that was soft under my feet. I didn’t care, because I had invested in decent boots that could handle basically anything. After my professor started talking, we hear a big screech only to turn around to a small blue car, facedown in a ditch with its back raised off the ground. Dr. Foster immediately ran over to help almost as if it were his basic instinct (which shows you exactly the kind of genuine human he is) and then some of the other men in our group followed. Other civilians followed in their help, and began pushing the small blue car away from the ditch. Dr. Foster and another student jumped on top of the car in the back to even out the weight, and after a few seconds of man power and faith, the car screeched out of its ditch and was safely back on its own four wheels. As the vlogger I am, I got the whole thing on video in which you can find in an upcoming video on my YouTube channel when I get my life together and actually edit my content.

We started the hike out towards the edge of the Quiraing, and I soon found out that this hike was the biggest mental test for me on this entire trip. Let me explain; I haven’t ever had big problems with heights. I adore rollercoasters and plan on going skydiving and cliff jumping and the works, but this was pressing my limits. Shoot, even typing this, remembering how I felt that day is making my palms sweat from the height.

The dirt trail was probably about 16 inches in width and then just about 6 inches of grass before the edge drops off steeply. One trip and you could truly fall and that is what terrified me. I have never been paralyzed with fear, but if I did not have my friends with me, coaxing me along, I could have completely stopped along the trail, stricken with fear.

There was a portion of the trail, about one third of the way towards the outer edge of the cliffs when the trail goes into the mountain and is divided by a small waterfall. Now, Waterfall is a generous world because there were probably only a few milliliters of water flowing, but the rocks were wet and slippery, which made me all the more scared. I was so afraid of one misstep that I barely vlogged that hiking trip.

Finally, we made it to the cliffs on the trail, but I didn’t realize that this was only halfwas up the trail. The rest of it winded around the mountain and then up it steeply and this was where I drew the line. My professor tried to get me to follow with them (Camden was amongst that group trying to get me to continue) and told me to just focus on his green camera backpack, but I was too scared. I don’t typically draw the line with adventures, but I just had to for this one. Maybe I am being dramatic, but for someone who trips over their own feet almost hourly, this was too dangerous for me.

We turned and made our way back up the steep ridge and I was beginning to warm up to the fact that I was a few inches away from a cliff of doom. A part of me wished that I had continued with Dr. Foster and Camden (and later Sarah, who I found out had joined them up the mountain too) but my sweaty palms reassured me of the sound decision I had made for myself.

At the end of the trail, a small food truck waited on the cement, one car road. One, I think Russian, lady was managing the whole thing and offered soup or burgers, so I got a cheese burger. It tasted in the fast food family, but I was covered in dried sweat, dirt and heavy fatigue so I ceased to care. It tasted amazing.

We walked back to the bus where I fell asleep listening to Beyoncé (which was something I did quite frequently on this trip) only to wake up an hour later just then pulling out of the parking lot. I watched out the window as the green mountains rolled past my view. It was hard for me to imagine living a day to day life in such a beautiful place. I feel like I would take it for granted after a while, but after all, don’t we all take our blessed lives for granted?

After we got back to the hostel, we set down our heavy camera backpacks and headed for a real dinner. The small fishing town didn’t really have much to offers other than burgers, chips and the seafood works, so we stopped in a hotel restaurant and ate. I had my gazzillionth burger and chips (chips are French fries in Europe for all my American readers) and we went back to the hostel, attempting to mentally wrap our minds around the upcoming Ben Nevis hike coming up in two days.

I climbed into my top bunk and entered my nightly routine of uploading, editing and exporting some favorites and making sure my friends got their pictures off my camera. That is one of the biggest problems I have noticed between all of us students on this trip: If one of us takes a photo of another, we have to go through the process of exporting it to a jpeg and then sending it to them. Now, after sifting through hundreds of photos a day and editing, this is an annoying task and most of the time, pushed back in my head in a folder called “Things to do post trip”. Throughout the trip, I was saying how it would be a great idea if someone created a cloud account and we all dumped our photos of each other into it that way we could get photos of ourselves. This was a good idea however, I was trying my very best to avoid being the one to make this folder (bc it would take an hour) and actually, one of my new friends and fellow students, a sweet guy named Matt, took it upon himself to create a folder on Dropbox called “Scotland and Northern Ireland Paparazzi” with all of our names on folders inside of it, so if we have pictures of someone else, we can export them and give the images to them that way.

I really love the hikes, but the dreary weather and hostel life was something I needed to escape soon, particularly because I yearned for privacy and a moment alone. It was nice getting to know some of the other girls, but every bone in me wanted some time alone especially after my previous mental break down about my WD hard drive. Rip.



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