This afternoon we hope to be able to drive to the garage in Lossiemouth for the replacement of our gas evaporator so that we can run smoothly on gas again and no longer have to be afraid of (again) a leaky head gasket. It seems to be a pretty nice day and we spend the morning relaxing with Iain and Cathy on their 'smoking balcony' with a pot of coffee and tea.
Then we head for Inverness, first look in Leaky's, a large second-hand bookshop in Church Street with a nice smelling lunchroom on the 1st floor. Then we drink a cup of coffee in the sun along the river Ness and after that we visit a few neighborhoods of the city where we have not been before. At Muirtown Locks, in the west of Inverness, we take a look at the locks in the Caledonian Canal that connects the North Sea with the south, but there are almost no boats today.
West of Inverness are still more roads where we have not been before and we come through a few beautiful new neighborhoods (including Leachkin) and over dead-end roads to steep hills with here and there some buildings from where we have a nice view of the city. To the west of Loch Ness lies an elongated plateau that rises steeply and runs from Inverness to Drumnadrochit. An area where you do not come easily, but still worth a visit.
In the south of the town we visit the Ness Islands, in a large park just outside the center and an oasis of peace. There are sports fields, a swimming pool and many hiking trails. In Bught Park is the Floral Hall, a small subtropical garden with palms and cacti.It is now 3 o'clock and we call the garage. Unfortunately, the transport company has been there with the replacement part on Saturday but then the garage was closed. Now it is only delivered Tuesday afternoon ... That means waiting even longer. To drive back to the hotel already would be a waste of the day. To the east of Loch Ness there are still a few things that we want to see and roads that we have not driven yet, so we'll just go there.
At Aldourie we have often seen and photographed a castle from afar, but it is difficult to get closer. This time we take the time and park the car somewhere and walk along the road to a place where we have a better view on this private property. Originally a 16th century tower house but in the 19th century converted into a Victorian country house with many turrets. Unfortunately we can not come close without trespassing.
On the east side of Loch Ness there are a few villages, but mostly many roads through inhospitable terrain. There are some pine trees, many heaths and of course there are a few beautiful lochs, such as Loch Duntelchaig where we see a few lonely fishermen who probably hunt for pike. You can only fish from the shore, boats are forbidden on this lake.
Of course we also encounter the necessary land animals, especially sheep and cows. Mother cow wants to leave the road to let us through, but the young can not take the udder away and after a while we drive very carefully on, around the pair of them. In the Netherlands, the emergency services would probably close the road and make a lot of fuss about it; but here it is just natural, part of daily life. We like that!
According to the sign we also have to watch out for squirrels, but we don't get to see them. However, we see lots of pheasant jumping up and down the road, not a few but dozens at a time. We come across a lot more animals than cars and we do not mind that at all.
In the end, according to our map, there is still one road that we have not yet driven, and there we see this warning sign. Fortunately, we do not have a caravan behind our car but if we are 7 hairpin bends further on the extremely narrow road (7 curves that are a few meters behind each other and where the car just can make the bend without hitting the high verge of the road) we look at each other and ask ourselves whether this was such a good idea ...Well, it was Teije's idea because he wants to drive all those roads in Scotland, but it probably wasn't very good for the engine. The first few kilometers there are no passing places and turning is impossible. Fortunately we do not meet anyone and 10 kilometers later we are back on the 'normal' road again. We have not come across 1 car and that is just as well. It was a challenging road not only with those curves but also full of deep holes.
From this road we have a nice view on Loch Ness and see in the distance Urquhart Bay with Urquhart castle. Although the car has not yet been repaired, we have yet again seen some beautiful, unknown parts of Scotland.By half past 8 we are back at the hotel and we spend the evening in the pub in the good and especially very nice company of Rachel and John and also Iain and Cathy. No annoying customers this time and also Tony, the super-talented Scot is back again. We also get a very large plate of food served, but it is delicious. We are sad that the car is not finished yet, but the country and the company.
Tuesday 05 September 2006, waiting for the car to be fixedWe got problems with the car a week ago, but today it will finally be repaired! We drive a bit towards the east, waiting for a phone call from the garage. It's raining all day and quite a lot. So this is what many foreigners think about the Scottish weather!? Always rain ... For us it is really only the very first day in all those years that it continues to rain all day. We first drive to the garage but they didn' receive the replacement part yet. So we sit in the car for a while to read a book but after an hour we get bored and decide to drive a short distance in the neighborhood.
First to a castle in the neighborhood, Duffus Castle. With an umbrella we walk through the collapsed remains of this 14th century castle built on the remains of a former castle owned by a Flemish soldier. Many castles in Scotland are built on the remnants of former castles or places where, for centuries, there were previously Pictish forts or even older fortifications, some 2,000 years ago. Apparently people do not learn much from the history; why build an 'eternally persistent' castle in a place where you know that the previous castle has perished ...
We have driven through this area several times in recent days and every time there were many jet planes in the air. There are two RAF flight bases here and they are extremely active. One is in mourning because this week a helicopter with 14 people from the RAF Lossiemouth in Afghanistan has crashed. On their website they present themselves as well integrated in Scottish society and that may be true but all we see, hear and notice are areas locked with barbed wire, continually noisy aircraft in the air because they fly far too low and the idea among the inhabitants of the area that war is apparently important for peace to preserve...
Fortunately this website is about our travels and not about our idea about what is good for the world, we would probably make a mess of it. Yet, in a very small corner of our thoughts, we think that peace has more to do with mutual respect than fighting. Occasionally fighting can be very necessary, but often it involves only small groups of active opponents. In the worldwide battle with terrorism, almost all of Islam is scapegoated in the West and that is something that we are very disappointed about. But it's time to think about our own small problems again ...At 5 o'clock we drive to the garage, but no, the part has still not arrived. We have been waiting for a week and are getting a little impatient. We should have just called the Dutch roadside assistance, we think a bit late now, then we would have had the replacement part within 2 days and probably also cheaper. The garage owner does his best and calls again with transport company. And yes, the transport car with the car parts has broken down and now stands in a residential area in Elgin.
We get the address and drive there and while a mechanic is busy repairing the car the driver tries to find our stuff. More people have come up with the same idea and we are in a row. Although we were there first, we are the last to leave because our package is nowhere to be found. We already felt it coming, it will probably be our bad luck again! But fortunately, eventually our package is found and we drive back to Lossiemouth where the owner of the garage is busy until 7 o'clock to replace our gas evaporator. Even better luck: it stops raining!We have had so much bad luck this year with the car that we do not find it strange when our exhaust starts to make strange sounds when we drive back to Beauly. Fortunately, we can forget all that car trouble again when we are among our friends and acquaintances in the pub and we decide to stay here for an extra day to get rid of the car stress a bit. Cathy and Rachel are happy and that makes us happy also. It is nice to be in a place where you are so welcome.
Back in the Netherlands we checked it at the ANWB, our international road assistence company and we could indeed better have used their services. Then we would in any case have been helped faster or had a replacement car. Now we paid over € 400 for a part that could have been shipped a lot cheaper from the Netherlands ... A good lesson for the next time.