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Gothic Scotland & A Trio's Early Return From Ben Nevis On 31st December
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ben Nevis & a guideline to getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. Oh, yes, and a guide to get unstuck.
This one’s about an incomplete drive.
A Story For You
We’ve all taken a detour from work and randomly googled places that we’d love to visit one day, often falling into a trance, fantasizing about being there and living an alternate life, free from worries, deadlines, work, and a merciless boss. Is this false representation? Have I generalized? God… is it only me? I’m not a maladaptive daydreamer, that’s for sure. Because I’ve had the privilege to be on trips I’ve envisaged.
Edinburgh is one place that will unquestionably appear when you search for the best places to visit in the United Kingdom. Here’s the evidence:
‘Why 44? What an odd number?’ Solving the riddle for you - 44 is the country code of UK. On with the story. Damn, I deviate a lot.
Having traveled a long a distance, we arrived in Edinburgh on the 30th of December. And I fell in love with the amazing city that boasted stunning views and a vibrant atmosphere. I’ve always been a silent admirer of gothic architecture and Edinburgh just reinforced my admiration for the culture.
We took a day to catch our breaths and rented a car soon after, for our voyage to Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. At the time, the petition to place Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi statue on the highest peak of Ben Nevis hadn’t been made yet. It started out as an April Fool’s joke but eventually garnered 20,000 signatures! Regardless, we wouldn’t have minded finding an ode to Star Wars on the peak. We were too engrossed in planning our road trip to care about anything. We even planned provisional stops near the Loch Ness River to catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster.
The first sighting of a monster in the Loch Ness area was recorded in 565AD. Saint Columba, an Irish monk, was traveling through Scotland when he came across a group of people burying a man near the River Ness. When he asked what had happened they claimed the man had tried to cross the river and was attacked by a monstrous water beast. Curious, Columba asked one of his followers to try swimming across the river. A monster approached him but Columba stepped forwards and, making the sign of the cross, said “Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.” The monster fled before him!
So we’re on the road the next day and it’s all smooth sailing. No drama, just three friends having a good ol’ trip, cruising through the Scottish countryside, on our way to Ben Nevis. And just as we were beginning to feel comfortable on Scottish roads, we lost control of the steering and veered off course. We heard a loud pop as the car came to a screeching halt. We looked at each other in bewilderment and angst, made sure we were okay and got out of the car to inspect the damage.
A ruptured tyre awaited our arrival, forming the shape of a wicked smile, as we drooped our shoulders in disappointment. We popped the trunk and gawped at the spare tyre. Our first challenge was locating it, which we had accomplished with ease. Our second challenge was to replace it. And none of us knew how to do that. It was a rental, and a pretty expensive one so the hesitation just piled on the lack of knowledge.
The oldest child syndrome kicked in and I took lead in a situation that we really hadn’t foreseen. I tried calling the car rental to arrange for a new vehicle or to send someone to replace the tyre but I couldn’t get a hold of reception. We trodded downhill in hopes of catching hold of the signal that eluded us. It reminded me of the golden age of Pokemon Go! I’d often find people stuck in between bushes trying to catch ‘em all and I used to laugh at the immaturity. We eventually found reception, in between two lush green bushes (karma man).
We called the company and they tracked our location via the GPS in our car, promising help within the next hour. The Scotland trip wasn’t really going according to plan so far. We didn’t care about no Loch Ness Monster anymore, we just wanted to reach our hotel at the top of Ben Nevis and unwind. Nevertheless, the car rental’s assurance put us at ease.
The first hour passed in anticipation, the second in frustration and the third in anxiety. Darkness had descended and after great difficulty once again, we found reception and made another call. The response was the same and so was the wait time. Finally, a truck arrived to pick the car up but no arrangements were made for the return of the passengers, i.e. us!
The driver gauged the predicament we were in, scoffed at the rental company and allowed us to sit beside him as we drove back to the city. Crammed between four people, I had a plethora of emotions. I was enraged, cold, hungry, exhausted and disappointed. It was supposed to be relaxing and here we were; a trio congested in a truck, going back to square one.
We’ve got no problems with you laughing at our misery if it means that you’ll subscribe! Go ahead, it’s just an email.
Even though my friends fell into a slumber only light could awaken, I was alert, making sure the driver had company (I had always been taught that it was rude to sleep next to the driver). We eventually got to chatting. He was a school dropout with a lot of siblings to support and he drove the very truck we were in, to do that. It surprised me to see citizens of first-world nations going through such a problem.
He spoke passionately about owning a transportation company one day and that he was saving up for the same. He had skipped a family meal on New Year’s Eve, which happened to be tradition at his house, to report for duty immediately. He was getting paid extra to work on his off day which is why he obliged. We went on to talk about everything that crossed our minds during the trip back. It was like therapy - two strangers, who would probably never meet again in their lifetime, sharing stories that they might not have even shared with the people closest to them.
We were dropped off in the city around midnight. We wished the kind man a Happy New Year and booked the nearest hotel for the night.
We never went back to Ben Nevis. We never got the opportunity to. According to my friends, the trip was a bust. But they were asleep during a conversation that was probably more humbling and enlightening than our trip would’ve been had we reached Ben Nevis.
It’s not really a story with any kind of ending or prominent learning but it’s meaningful nonetheless.
I’d like to leave you guys with something - my summary of ‘Do Nots’ when visiting the beautiful country of Scotland:
DO NOT think about stepping out of your hotel without an umbrella or something to cover yourself with. It can rain any second!
DO NOT rent a car if you’re not aware of the road norms of the country. It’s scenic in Scotland and you’ll not be able to enjoy the view if you’re struggling to maintain driving etiquettes.
DO NOT place an order without verifying the ingredients (they’re really fancy when it comes names of dishes but something might just turn out to be a blue cheese sandwich).
DO NOT rely solely on your debit/credit card. Some local stores haven’t been bothered with technology yet (maybe take some gold and silver with you).
I’m sorry, I only have Do Nots. But here’s the Dos part of it!
A Story From You
Sometimes, we meet people we instantly have a connection with. And more often than not, it’s in a land far away from home.
Have you ever met someone you’ve poured your heart out to in the very first meeting?