JULY 7th, 2007 [Saturday]
We left the Isle of Skye after dinner. We actually had no plans on where to spend the night today. We briefly toyed with the idea of driving all the way to John O’Groats, the supposedly most northern tip of the entire Britain island and an extremely popular spot for sunrise watching.
But then we got a bit high (tipsy) from the alcoholic haggis dinner and spent precious time dancing the alcohol off at the car park, so it was like 8 PM when we actually left the island. John O’Groats was supposed to be an 8 hours’ drive away.
So we drove and drove and drove. It was night and dark, so no photos. About 3 hours into the drive, our fuel tank indicators began to blink. This was when we realized we made another cock up. You see, petrol in the Isle of Skye was more expensive compared to mainland Scotland, so when we left the island with half a tank of gas, we thought we could just refuel at any petrol station that we drove past. Except we forgot that we were in Scotland and not Malaysia. Here, most petrol stations close by evenings, much like every other shops. Especially in little towns. None of the petrol stations that we drove pass were open.
We were expecting to slow drive our way to Inverness, one of the main cities of Scotland, where we hoped to get better luck with locating a 24-hours petrol station. Except that when our fuel indicator started to blink, by estimation we were still about 60 kilometers away from Inverness, and usually when the indicator blinks it means you still have 40 kilometers worth of fuel left.
It was one of the most edgy nights I have ever spent on the road. It was not like we were going to be in any life threatening danger, but the idea of being stranded in the middle of nowhere with a car out of fuel was really really stressful.
JULY 8th, 2007 [Sunday]
Fortunately, in the end, nothing bad happened, and we managed to creep our way into the city and immediately found a petrol station that was open.
Phew… I can’t be sure, but I reckon if we went for another few kilometers, we would really be in trouble.
Anyway, so… after this stressful episode, we decided that we were in no shape to continue to John O’Groats. It was another 4 hours away, and we were already past midnight. And we were all really tired and sleepy.
What we did next is another of those budget traveler thing. We found a Tesco that was open for 24 hours. We bought a few coffees and sandwiches there, and then all 15 of us used their toilets to brush our teeth, wash our faces and freshen up a bit.
And then it was time to bring out the map and come up with plan B spontaneously. You see, the reason people (we) want to go to John O’Groats is mainly because of the sunrise view by the sea. So maybe we should explore if we can find another place that is by the sea and facing the same direction. And I thought I found such a place.
So, Lossiemouth it is!
We arrived close to 2 AM (I think), and we got lucky. We found a public car park just by the seaside. And there was a public toilet right next to the car park. Perfect!
We did some research prior to coming on this road trip. You know, during summer in England, sunrise is typically 5 AM-ish. But in the northern regions of Scotland, it could be as early as 4 AM. So we thought we could get a bit of sleep and wake up to catch the sunrise. Yes, this was the night where we ALL slept in the car.
I did wake up at 4 AM. I really did! I think… I’m not sure about the other 2 cars, but I was the only one who woke up in my car. And I saw the most spectacular sight ever!
It was beginning to get less dark. But it was raining and all I could was see rain drops splashing on the windscreen. It was also super foggy, fat hopes to catch the sunrise. I couldn’t even see the beach! How amazing was that?
So… I went back to sleep…
I finally woke up properly around 7 AM, and most of us did at about the same time too. So I did a quick headcount check and confirmed that a grand total of 4 persons actually did wake up at 4 AM to attempt and fail to see some sunrise.
So… no sunrise. By the way, this was what we were facing. I think this is a nice spot to view a sunrise, if the weather had been nice.
If you want to, just use your imagination to place a rising sun in the backdrop.
There are two ways to look at things. We could be negative and think: Damn! We missed sunrise! This sucks!… or we could be positive and think: Wow! Thank goodness we didn’t drive that extra 4 hours to John O’Groats! It would most likely be raining too over there. Imagine all those hassle and end up seeing rain instead of sunrise!
The thing is, because we did not make that 4 hours drive, we saved ourselves 4 hours of drive back. We spent that extra time utilizing the public toilet to get a semblance of a shower and had a nice D.I.Y breakfast by the sea.
And then I discovered that there is a castle nearby which we could visit with our Explorer Pass. So we drove to the nearby town, Elgin, to get to this place called the Spynie Palace.
It seemed pretty impressive, based on these description boards. And I was impressed with how rustic this palace was, it seemed very old and looked like it could turn into ruins any time soon.
So we entered through the door, climbed some stairs,
And finally made it to the top to see…
What the… Oh, f*ck! No! Come on, man! What the heck is this?!
I thought this palace looked rustic and will potentially be falling into ruins soon. Well… the inside is hollow with only bits of stones and walls left. This isn’t going to be in ruins soon, this is already in ruins!
It was such a big let down, especially after all those descriptions at the entrance. And, we entered for free because we had the Explorer Pass, but if you didn’t have this pass, they were charging £3.50 per entry. Under normal circumstances, £3.50 is a cheap price to pay to visit a castle/palace. But, £3.50 to see… this? I don’t know about you, but I think it was a bloody rip-off!
So… let’s see. No sunrise, visiting a palace that felt more like a sham. I guess this has got to be the most depressing post that I am going to write about Scotland. Damn!
No worries, my next post would be a much happier one. Promise…
[to be continued]