Day 9 of UK Trip
July 13, 2009

The howling wind last night brought the rain as predicted.  And has it rained.  As I sit here now I can still hear the steady fall of rain onto the van.  I can also feeling the rocking from Helen moving around on the bed above me.  It has rained almost the whole day.  Michael asked this evening for how long it had been raining and I said the whole day.  I think was a slight exaggeration, it probably didn’t rain for about 5-10 minutes actually.  It is a pity it rained so much because I have no doubt the views would have been staggering if it had been a clear day.  As it was, the scenery during today’s drive was beautiful despite the rain.

We woke up at around 8am this morning.  Stephen and Helen slept the best it would seem.  Chloe complained that Michael kept rolling on top of her (as the van was at a slight downward angle) and Michael acknowledged that at one stage he kicked Chloe as well.  I had the irritating problem that the cushions on my bed are not joined together and so there is a crack between them and of course I rolled the whole night into the crack.  Unfortunately we got the van parked at the same angle again this evening so it will probably be a repeat performance.  What we need is an automatic levelling mechanism so that when you park the van it adjusts the suspension to ensure you are level.  Maybe I could patent that and retire with my millions.

After we had breakfast, we pulled the plug (literally – the only external connection we have) and headed further north.  The road follows Loch Ness northwards.  We went in to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre which details the photos, videos and scientific work done to try and find Nessie – the affectionate name given to the Loch Ness monster.  The number of photos makes you really wonder whether there isn’t something behind it.  Even the scientific explorations have been inconclusive but have found strange phenomenon which are still unexplained.  There was also a brief movie to watch about the monster including interviews with some of the people who have supposedly seen it.  Very interesting actually.

We then headed into Inverness which was previously the furthest north Helen and I had been in Scotland.  A quick stop at the shop to get more provisions (only a small fridge) and then on our way northwards again.  We headed up the East coast of Scotland to Wick.  We stopped briefly for lunch at one of the small coastal villages and ate lunch looking over the sea.  We stayed inside the van as it was quite cold as well as rainy.  We did spot 1 lifer there (birds for those of you who haven’t read our previous travelogues).  We have extended our birding habit to the UK and found it quite easy to bird here because there are usually only 1 or 2 of a particular type of bird.  For instance, there is only 1 type of Swallow so when you have identified it as a swallow (which is quite easy) then you know you have seen the only type as there are no other options.  So far we have seen 31 birds in total.  I thought we could get to 100 for the trip but that depends whether the weather improves over the next few days.  It is quite hard to see birds in this weather though we did see 4 lifers today in total.

We continued to head north until we got to John ‘O Groats which many people think is the furthest point north on the UK mainland but it is not actually.  Dunnet’s Head is actually the furthest north.  We didn’t even get out at John ‘O Groats but rather headed to Dunnet where we knew there was a campsite.  On the way we passed Gill’s Bay which is where we can get a ferry to the Orkney Islands.  We booked in for tomorrow for the 9:30am ferry and that is what we will do, weather permitting.  It is only a 15 minute drive back from the camp site at Dunnet to the ferry but we need to be there 45 minutes before departure.

We checked into the campsite at around 4:30pm and then went up to Dunnet’s Head which is about 5 miles away on a single track road.  When we got there only Helen and I got out as it was cold and raining but we were rewarded by seeing a Great Skua (another lifer).  Stephen was slightly annoyed because Helen and I saw about 4 lifers today which he did not see because he was reading his book and not looking out of the window.  We headed back to the camp site and have been there ever since.  We had pork sausages with barbecue sauce, rice, fried mushrooms and cucumber and tomato for supper tonight.  Again a nice meal with limited equipment.  The only problem now is that the whole van smells of pork sausage.  You don’t notice it until you go out of the van.

The fact that you will be reading this report shows you that we still have cellphone reception though it is quite a slow connection.  Not sure about tomorrow though so don’t be surprised if you don’t get to read the travelogue tomorrow.

Good night from the rainsoaked Temples.

Ps. Sorry about the late posting but I could not get connection due to the fact that there was a military procedure happening during which they were testing out a signal blocker. Stephen

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