The drive to Inverness was quite a pain; part of the road was a one lane single carriageway where I got stuck behind trucks and buses and that made the journey even longer. It was so exhaustingly boring that I just sped up and overtook all those slow vehicles once the road turned into a two lanes one. When I did that I thought I was conforming to the 115 km speed limit on the navigation system, a limit that I didn’t even reach for quite an hour, but I found out way later that I was actually doing 115 miles at the time!! You see, the car’s navigation system had the speed limit in kilometers while the speed dial of the car was in miles. I always wondered why the speed limit on the navigation system kept on blinking, now I know! Absurdly, I only apprehended where the confusion came from when I was driving my car back to the drop off point few days later!! Thank God I didn’t get a speeding ticket, it would have been a very expensive one!
Part of the pain of that drive was running out of gas. I had a little less than half a tank when I started and thought it would be enough to take me to Inverness or at least it will suffice till I find a gas station but I was wrong. I assumed that I will come across a gas station or a sign leading to one anyway since this is a motorway, so why the need to worry, right? Frankly, I didn’t! There were hardly any signs; the navigation couldn’t direct me to one, and I kind of freaked out once that red light in the dash board got turned on. I had to use the mobile GPS to guide me to the nearest gas station and thank God there was a signal on the road.
Though the fear of the car stopping suddenly on me for becoming dry didn’t materialize, I was still irritated when I reached the gas station that I directly asked for help to have the car fueled. Where I come from, we don’t do it by ourselves, there is always someone to do it for us and since I haven’t done that before and was too agitated to afford a slip up, I just asked for help. I sounded so clumsy and clueless that day especially that later on I stopped to ask for help on how to turn the lights and the defogging on! Why would they replace the light control arm with a button, huh?! I have no idea what got into me that day and my act might come as a shock to those who know me 😀
I eventually reach Inverness after such a wearing drive longing for a little rest and something to eat but as usual I couldn’t find a parking spot and kept on going around in circles having no idea what to do! And since driving in towns with the traffic and all made me nervous, I decided to not take a break but to continue driving to Loch Ness. The drive along Loch Ness was beautiful, you have the loch to your right, the forests to your left, and you just find your way amongst that setting. I was able to have some sun for an hour or something which was great but unfortunately it went all gray on me later!
There are a couple of view points along the loch where you can stop to admire the view or even to spend some time out on one of the available public benches. Besides the view points, I also had the chance to go on two walks around the area. The first was the Change House Walk which is a very short one that starts by the side of the loch then takes you into the forest. The walk offers highpoint views of the loch and you can also find a bench or two up there to sit on and take in the view. A short drive from the Change House Walk lies Farigaig with its forest trails that start at the information office parking. That was the second walk I did which turned out to be the creepiest thing I have ever done.
For starters, I was the only car in the parking, hence no one was doing that walk but me. It was raining already when I parked and got slightly heavier by the time I started the walk. For some reason I went for the longest trail out of the available 3 with almost no network and to top it off, I had around 3 hours before it gets entirely dark. What was I thinking?!! It was so quite up there that the sounds of birds/animals coming from the woods freaked me out; the trees were huge and covered in moss, their thickness made it even darker than what it already was in some areas. Part of the trail literally took me into the woods amid those massive trees, the entrance to that path was quite dark and it took me some courage to walk into it. I felt as if I’m walking into a dim tunnel with no idea of what lies ahead of me.
The trail marks were not that clear, the map was kind of useless, and I kept on walking forward following the dirt road assuring myself that I can always walk my way back to where I started if it gets worse. And though I was still freaked out a little, I kept on walking ahead as the stubborn person in me didn’t want to call it quits and only kept on going further. And so it was, I kept on moving forward till I reached a small pond at which the map started to finally make some sense, phew! A couple of steps later and I came across a sign that lead to the parking, hallelujah!! I couldn’t have been any happier with the sight of my parked red rental car which was still the only one in the parking!
I was advised to spend the night in Fort Augustus but I wasn’t able to find female dorms accommodation when I got there and had to search for an alternative location. Luckily I was able to find accommodation in a hostel on the west side of the loch not very far from where I was. That hostel was simply amazing, the location was perfect and the property has its own private access to the loch’s water’s edge; the only hostel in the area that has such a privilege I was told. The guy from the reception was really nice and very helpful, he offered me advice for the upcoming two days of my trip and for the next time I go to Wales and according to him, I may have been the first Egyptian to ever stay in the hostel, such a pleasure that was 🙂
I was famished by the time I was there considering the fact that I had nothing to eat since breakfast. I have no idea why I always end up skipping the food part of the day whenever I travel!! I didn’t even try haggis for God’s sake, who would be in the Highlands and wouldn’t have some haggis? Guilty as charged!! And as my hunger escalated, I kept on thinking that I should have stopped by that fish and chip place in Fort Augustus and had something to eat first before I head to the hostel. A little too late for regrets unfortunately and I only had the hostel’s canteen to extinguish my hunger that night.
Before I went to sleep that night, I got outside to the lakeside just to have a look at the loch when it’s completely dark and the presence of it was dominating! It was pitch black but I was still able to sense how huge the loch is. It was such a peaceful and quiet moment of clarity where I only had to humbly surrender to this tiny place I occupied in that frame of a scene I was in. It was a gentle reminder to how large the world is and how little space we occupy in it. But when you think of it, is it about how much space we occupy? Or is it what we do with that space that matters the most? A mere philosophical thought!
The only roommate I had for the night was a Canadian who was driving herself through the Highlands as well; we exchanged information and stories about what we did so far especially how confusing it was to be driving on the left. It seems I wasn’t the only one having problems in that regard which came out as quite a relief. And so, another day well spent was coming to an end making room for the big drive to Skye the following morning. Hurray!