891-892: Plitvice Lakes – Slap & Bog

 891-892 – Friday 10th & Saturday 11th November 2017:  Plitvice Lakes – WOW!

We arrived at the Plitvice National park at 1100 hrs and talked to the info office – not terribly helpful… best she could do was sell us a map with suggestions for Kuna 20!  90 Kuna (Euro9) each for a 2 day pass is good value.  Armed with our map, we set off – not sure what to expect – good as it happened.  Really good.  Well, around each corner – we had a slap. No! It wasn’t a boxing match – “Slap” is Croatian for waterfall.  Now then – if you say to a Croatian lady – “Bog – how’s your slap?” – you won’t get a handbag in your face – you’ve just said “Good morning – how’s your waterfall?”  We had the most ‘slapping’ day for years – the waterfalls are amazing – just incredible – the photos are a selection of 150+ taken over 2 days – small wonder it’s one of the very top attractions in the country!  5 hours walking on Day 1- with loads of photo stops and a picnic lunch – small wonder we averaged 3km per hour. 

We are staying overnight in the car park – motorhomes have stayed here – but only out of season….very quiet and dark – which meant excellent stars.  Another amazing walk to look forward to – tomorrow – with more slaps!!!  A slaphappy time, indeed.

After Oscar’s Diary blog yesterday, he’s been invited to join the Iceland cricket team – they have ambitions – to join the K-Nations championship. He is thinking about it – but we reckon he will continue to play “silly mid wicket” and “slip” for Wales. He’s also quite adroit at ’sledging’ – those non-Wisdeners, ask Stephen Jater…..  

 

Day 2 in the big ‘slapper’ house…..let’s forget the Big Brother connection – is it still on tv?  With Kavina McDoll?  Shall I avoid any more ‘slap’ puns?  maybe…. Anyway, more of the same as we started our walk at 10:00 this time – we walked some of the same paths and new ones too – the earlier light was different.  But – what more can we say about this Park? Phenomenal…  

Walk finished – and back to Jez – motored to that lovely free aire at Otoacac…. Van cleaning from head to toe – relaxing – and Ireland beat South Africa by a record score – 38-3 – wow!  Last pun, I promise – what did Thomas Crapper invent?  The ’slappercrappercracker’, of course…with firecrappers or crackers.  

Oscar’s tail is down – Australia beat Wales – sorry, Bronwen and Kay.     

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Our initial views of the lakes and we already thought the entry fee good value.

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As well as a road train between, there are small electric boats.  Cleverly, they do not duplicate routes, but you still need to be able to walk a bit to get around.

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Oscar camouflaged with his prize stick amongst the Beech leaves.

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Lots of ancient trees.

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Some in the water.

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And some with most unusual mushrooms growing out of them.

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Adoring and waiting on my every command …. NOT.  Just looking for food!

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The water just pours over and through … everywhere.

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For a dog that does not like water, Oscar was most uncomfortable on the open parts of the boardwalk … water both side and sometimes gushing underneath.  He stayed very close to my heels.

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Some of the pools were so still and calm compared the the falls.

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The Karst limestone rock has been eroded to form caves.

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Our overnight illegal parking spot – in the Lakes carpark … no chance in the season as paying and with staff on duty.

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The Big Slap!

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Receiving a big slap!

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My suggested route took us up lots of nearly impassable broken steps by the Big Waterfall, and I commented to J about how old they must be.  This hand hewn out tunnel was at the top.

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We came from across there.

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With the sun shinning, the water colour had more WOW factor.

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More water streaming over, out and through. 

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Poor Oscar; thought he’d done with boardwalks and water gushing under.

795-797: Making the Most of our Dutch Museum Card

795 – Tuesday 1st August 2017: Edam and Vollendam

At 0930 hrs, we moved Jez to a free car park in Vollendam, as our free parking at the cheese and clog place likes the car park clear to attract the coaches and we oblige.  Os-car-trailer deployed – some barking resumed – horrendous crowds in Volendam and everything too expensive…there were ferryboat to Markham which we’d not cared for either – but quite pretty in a non-natural, catch the tourist kind of way.  We cycled to Edam which we did like – are we fussy? Yes.  And on our cheeses, not particularly!  Amazing merchant’s house with floating floor to compensate for the rises and falls of the water table. …  Our Dutch Museum card is saving us shed loads of Euros already. 

Our Amsterdam campsite was full to the ‘gunnels and pitches are very cosy – you need to be friendly with neighbours… nice German families on both sides.  BBQ and Zzzzs.

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Now the whole family imbibes Advocaat at Christmas … so when I saw a bottle in Lidl, I had to buy one.  Not the same as Warniks, that we get a home … so I read the label.  It may be 14%, but it is to be consumed with ice cream or used in cakes …. so I did … lovely with ice-cream 🙂  And only 14% – but still allowed on one of our dry days!

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Pretty Edam.

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Long beards was obviously a one time fashion statement … J’s comes off long before this.

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I’m in the floating cellar.  There are few still in existence in the Netherlands, but this is the only one open to the public.  To be expected, it moves as you move.  

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Short beds as people slept sitting up on pillows … they thought lying down too close to death.

795 – Wednesday 2nd August:  Amsterdam 1 – Walking Tour, 3 Churches and the Royal Palace

Our O-barkingK9 took us to the ferry “Across the Mersey” (Jerry and the Pacemakers 1962 – thought you oldies would know that one – Amelia, you’re too young!).   Across the ij river;  Amstel is further over – the Amstel beer is excellent – reminds me of ‘Hashing’ days in Amman – the “Hash House Harriers” – the worldwide drinking club with a running problem…

We did a walking tour with one other – an Italian girl, currently on an internship in Amsterdam – she was missing the art and splendour of Italy and of course, the food.  having spend 6 months in Italy, we could empathise.  Our guide was Leonard (History student) and he was full of fun anecdotes…  but a little disjointed in his delivery and a little short on depth.

The Red Light District was – hmmmm – interesting!   I tried to avert my gaze (partially successfully) from the ladies in the windows wearing ‘funderwear’ – but the industry is safe and well regulated – and no pimps!  The average time spent inside – for ‘business’ is 7-12 minutes!!!  It takes me that long to unfurl my umbrella (not speaking from experience!).  In holy Catholic Ireland in the ‘60s, we thought a condom was a salt and pepper ’thingy’…  Or was it a ‘fonduement, fun-damentally, lamentably or scandulously… we move on.  

The Museum Card again saved us money – the Neue Kerk, Oude Kerk, Royal Palace and the Attic Catholic Church… The post-Reformation liberal Dutch allowed catholics to practice their religion only in private homes – hence the ‘Attic Chapel’.  King Henry VIII would not have approved… 

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Can tell we are entering the red light district.  Wearing of comdoms is obligatory.

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Pavement art, but not much of a caress!

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Narrow tall buildings as land was expensive … a single flight of stairs is economical … a double flight indicated wealth.  The other main symbol of wealth were Tulip Bulbs – imported and traded at great expense until the market collapsed

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must’ve been difficult buying furniture for this window wide one!

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Former house name signs, until Napoleon decreed that all houses had to have numbers and street names.  Napoleon also forced people to adopt an official family name.  Many went for a word to describe with job, such as Farmer, but some reluctantly chose silly names such as NakedatBirth, which have endured until today!

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Wonder if his name is NakedatBirth … he did not drum up much custom … wonder if the unauthentic Calvin Kleins had anything to do with it?

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We went into the Beguinnes complex (Ghent had three such complexes), where single women and widows lived together and did good, mostly nursing, works.  In one of the chapels was this relic – the vomit of bread from a dying man that had not burned overnight when cleared up by one of the Beguines and thrown on the fire.

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The Royal Palace was formerly the Town Hall.  When Napoleon stuck his brother on the throne, Louis cast about for a suitable palace and had the rooms converted quickly into the palace.  The Empire furniture is the largest collection outside France.

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And the chandeliers were stunning.

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The Old Church was mostly used to bless ships and over 10,000 bodies are buried underneath.  Another Napoleon edict was to bury bodies outside the church.  Stunning organ.

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Slightly surreal art – gold blankets are often used to to shroud refuges after a sea crossing and they protect the tomb stones.

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Our Lord in the Attic.  Catholicism was officially banned but since 40% of the population were catholic, the authorities ignored what the eye can’t see.  Churches in houses were created, along with a confessional and accommodation for the Priest. Here the church spans three houses, the floor and roof raters cut away and iron rods inserted to pull it all together.  

796 – Thursday 3rd August:  Amsterdam Art Museums

K:  I’m taking over the text from here, as J is busy upstairs … stripping … wall paper … we are very behind with our blogging as we’ve had no time!  More anon.

Parking the bikes again, we crossed on the free ferry … a simple system where you walk to the front and then off the other end when it docks.  People, bikes and mopeds and we even saw a small car. Very efficient.

We caught the tram down to the museum quarter and took turns in the Van Gogh Museum.  It was very good at explaining Van Gogh’s influences and how his art developed, as well as including some of his peer’s work.  His brother funded Van Gogh and his brother’s widow then promoted Van Gogh’s work, as he had not been well known in his lifetime.  During our picnic lunch, I asked J if he had his museum card safe … oops we both turned our all his pockets.  Back in the Van Gogh Museum, J left his email address in case they found it.  So I only wandered into the Rijks Museum.  This again told the story of Dutch art, including more Van Gogh.  I saw Rembrandt’s The Night Watchman (not too keen), and some Vermeer (which I did like).  And some Delft, which seemed to be heavily influenced by Chinese design.

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The Rijks Meusum – very busy but more people seemed to be interested in having their pic taken on top of the large letters of I Heart Amsterdam.

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The Museum’s reference library – good to see it being used.

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In the evening we wandered back into town to watch a Gay Pride concert.  Most of the performers were notable for being drag artists rather than their singing skills, but there was a cracking 3 girl band who finally got the audience going a bit … we did not stay long after them.

797 – Friday 4th August:  Amsterdam – The Last Day

Amazing – James checked his email and the Van Gogh Museum had found his Museum card … we elected to take the bikes across the water and brave the Amsterdam city centre so we could get to pick up J’s card and then across to the Rembrandt House Museum.  Cycling was interesting … Oscar barking pretty much most of the time, trying to avoid other cyclists, pedestrians, trams and other vehicles.  Amazing we did not see, let alone participate in, any accidents, but they do travel quite slowly.  I managed to jam my wheel in a tram line and did a slow motion decent the the pavement … fortunately the Os-car is hinged to stay upright.  Just a minor scratch to my knee and more damage to my pride.

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Rembrandt used still life and a lot of artefacts to practice line drawing and then painting on.  He made his students also practice for years.

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At this time, artists had a palate of 12 colours, all from natural sources … the red and blues were very expensive.

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On my tour, I was lucky enough to watch a paint mixing demo – and have a go mixing on the big stone … the minerals were mixed with linseed oil and sometimes stored in pigs’ bladders.

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Part of the still life collection.

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View from the bench where we took turns – no hardship with this view.

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Gassan Diamonds was nearby, so again we took turns. The different carat, colour, clarity and cut were explained and we were shown some samples and stones set in rings … as we could handle them, I have my doubts that they were real.  The Gasson 121 cut has more cuts than the standard Brilliants … but knowing nothing about diamonds, lost on me …. I just liked the sparkle.

We then attempted to get into the top Amsterdam attraction – the Ann Frank House.  Whilst our Museum Card enabled us to queue jump in the other museums, no chance of it here.  On being told the queue was already over 2 hours, we cut our losses and cycled back to the ferry and the campsite.

We liked Amsterdam a lot and would happily come back and spend more time wandering the streets and some of the other museums, but not in the summer … far too busy!  

Our plans to explore a bit more of the Netherlands changed … we wanted some sun so we planned to head south.  My good friend Kerstin has just managed to evict some tenants, who had trashed the house … we offered our decorating services … so off to Engers, near Koblenz we shall go tomorrow.


Oscar’s Diary

Yes, it’s me, readers… how about a good old ‘whinge’ then…  Now my owners (bless their cotton sox) are quite ok – ‘gutenfolx’ in pigeon Dutch (another of my considerable lingua skills).  They bought this contraception – sorry (it’s that darn Led Right Mistrict) contraption – for me.  Did I ask them? No.  Did they consult me – No!  A fecking baby trailer, for ***** sake. Pardon my Dutch. They hooked it up to K’s bra – sorry, bike – and enticed me to go inside – with treats..  Ok, inside, they string me up by a harness and cycle off with me bouncing around trying to protect my ‘crown jewels’…  So, I bark – and get ignored!!!  

Back at home – shaken but not stirred – I have applied to join the French Foreign Legion – as a Welsh “Condomerie” – that’s a sort of ‘Colonel’ with sticky bits…  I can do the ‘Entente Condomriale’ with any little Klady… 

You haven’t heard the last of this ‘double Kentendre’, owners….

Dank U (Dutch, you see…)

Oscar

xx 


737-741: An Inspired Perspiration!

737 – Thursday 1st June 2017:  Aye Aye Skye

Collecting the emergency laundry, we turned the van into a mobile dryer.  Farewell briefly to M&S as we shall see them in about 2 weeks at a motorhome meet in Brin, near Inverness. 

We headed for Mallaig to catch the ferry to Armadale in Skye.  We could’ve taken the free bridge but it would have been a 3 hour detour instead of a 15 minute jaunt down the road.  Fortunately someone on the site had warned me that they had been turned away from the ferry as fully booked for that day, so I’d pre-booked our crossings to Harris too.  We arrived too early, so parked up and wandered into the small supermarket and a second hand book shop … always a lure.

On the ferry, which was similar to those in Norway, where you can stay in your vehicle, I was able to catch up a little on some shut eye … having not fallen into a fitful sleep until 4.00 the night before.  Poor Oscar had been ill numerous times and kept prowling trying to get comfortable.  Lucky James slept through it all!

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Leaving Mallaig.

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I had visited Skye a hundred years ago with a boyfriend.  British Rail had a February offer – for £10 you could travel anywhere.  Mark and I thought of the furthest place we could get to for a long weekend and trained overnight to Fort William and onto Skye.  All I remember was that we saw people camping … in snow.  

We stopped at Talisker Whisky Distillery … a small site with small parking.  Jez straddled the pavement whilst J went in and purchased the last two tickets for today at 3.45.  Having recently been to Bushmills Distillery (and J to Jamesons) in Ireland, we pretty much knew the process, but it was very interesting to taste the effect of peat smoke drying the barley.  The Talisker had a definite peaty pong and taste.  Good though, that production still takes place here and at full capacity.

Still being shattered, we parked up in a lay-by with another 4 vans and James cooked, washed up and walked Oscar.  I was in bed by 8.30!

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738 – Friday 2nd June:  Hairy Harris 

Our ferry to Tarbert on Harris was not due till 2.00, so we stopped off at Portree, the main Skye Town.  It is given over to tourism with craft and gift shops, but we managed to buy what we wanted … meat for the freezer, a capo (thingumybob for the guitar) and some surgical spirit to harden up …. J’s fingers!  This ferry was more like a small English Channel ferry … you could not stay in your vehicle, BUT there are dog friendly zones inside and on deck.  So Oscar got to come too.

A fellow motorhomer gave us some great advice about Harris and Lewis and told us about a great beach with overnight parking not far from where we headed … so a slight detour and yes the beach at Luskentyre is truly magnificent.

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Leaving Uig on Skye.

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View down to the firth where we are headed …

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… and we’re not the only ones.

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Luskentyre Beach stretched for miles and changed colour in the estuary as the tide ebbed.

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739 – Saturday 3rd June:  A Planning Day

K ran on the firm sand of the beach whilst J preferred the hilly tarmac road.  A slow start on such a beautiful environment … eventually we headed into Tarbert – the only TIC on Harris.  A really helpful lady … she told me where all the Harris Trust free / wild overnight parkings are (you are requested to donate £5 to the Trust), where all the campsites are and which have chemical toilet facilities.  She advised me to book campsites for emptying our black and grey waste as they only provide these facilities for resident motorhomers and not all campsites have black waste services.  With all the lovely spots she recommended, we have again come to the woeful conclusion that we are NOT going to be able to take it too easy and we will not see everything.  So we headed not too far to Tarbert to a viewpoint she recommended with views over the island of Scalpay and the ferry into Tarbert.  Room for one large motorhome … US, picnic tables, views and a bin :).

So a planning afternoon ensued and campsites booked … mobile and phone signal here as we were close to a mast.  Supper was partly Margaret inspired and partly a fellow blogger inspired, as both had slow cooked beef.  I tend to avoid beef as I find it chewy, but slow cooked it is so tender, so I pressure cooked a cheap topside joint … beats roasting which turns it to shoe leather – scummy with enough to last 3-4 meals.  

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Our bench and table – perfect for views and an Oscar kiss.

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The other direction and you can just make the arrival of 4.00 Calmac Uig – Skye ferry.

740 – Sunday 4th June:  The Sabbath in Hushinish 

We had been warned that everything closes on the Sabbath.  You are even requested not to hand out washing and children’ playgrounds have signs requesting that they are not used.  I’m not religious, but I do like the marking of the end and start of a week, although here may be a tad too restrictive.

Knowing all the visitor attractions would be closed, we headed for Hushinish Beach, which a few people had recommended.  We had been told that although the road was only 14 miles, it would take 45 minutes … I didn’t fancy facing too much oncoming traffic, despite the numerous passing places, so we set off at 8.45.  it was a little hairy in places as it was literally van width with the ground sloping away from the tarmac.  As I drove, I had to be mindful of the long wheel base and where the rear wheels would follow!  Our new Bradt Outer Hebrides (liking the Bradt format and have just ordered some used ones from eBay for our Autumn Balkans trip :)) guide book states ‘the road twists and turns simultaneously’ and ‘this feels like the road to nowhere, the kind you might expect to encounter at the bottom of Patagonia’.  Quite!

Along the route, we missed the old Norwegian Whaling station … will look out for the tower on the return.  Lord Leverhulme, Unilever money, invested heavily in Lewis and Harris.  He bought the old whaling station with ‘the well intentioned plans to create employment.  Although machinery was overhauled in 1923 and three new vessels purchased to catch whales in the Atlantic, the scheme haemorrhaged money.  This was due to Lord Leverhulme’s unusual business plan: he intended to produce oil but, turning his eye to the traditional smokers of the islands, mused on whether smoked whale meat and whale sausages could be exported to the interior of Africa.’  Wonder why this business concept failed!

We also passed what is claimed to be the world’s most remote tennis court!  And Amhuinnsuidhe Castle.  Built by the Earl of Dunmore in 1868 after several people commented on his modest dwelling at Rodel.  I wonder how he reacted to his son’s finance who claimed his house was smaller than her father’s stables!  I am really liking this guide book for these little snippets.

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Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, with Jezn’belle, who travel with us.  The road crosses right in front of the castle, now a hotel  Apparently, no locks on each room on a point of principle, and dinner is a 3 course set meal with all the residents on one long table.

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Another ‘where we are headed’ shot.

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A traffic jam en route!

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You don’t mess with those horns, so I took it mega slowly.

Breakfast on arrival and then we set off on a walk to beach described as one of the most beautiful and remote (another theme here), but along with several other walking parties, missed a turn and found another stunning beach.  Ho hum, it was a fair old clamber and slither up and down, with some cliff edges, but we only got one drenching.  On the return J had his inspired perspiration … had we any cream on board?  An Irish Coffee?  Oh yes!

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The island in the background is Scarp and was inhabited until 1971.  Whilst the water width is only 400 metres, it can be very rough and the island can be cut off for days.  A story goes (this great guide book again) that in ‘late December 1934 .. a woman pregnant with twins went into extended labour.  An 85 year-old midwife delivered the first of the babies but insisted the mother be ferried across high seas to the mainland to deliver the second twin.  She was driven to Tarbert and onto Stornoway.  She finally gave birth to the second twin two days later, on a different island, and in a different year’.

Another snippet about the island … ‘Gerhardt Zucher, a German rocket scientist, had persuaded the British government to fund a research project to deliver mail … to the island.  The plan was to attach mail to a rocket and launch it across the waters … in July 1934, a rocket stuffed with thousands of letter marked ‘Western Isles Rocket Post’ spectacularly failed to deliver, exploding at the first attempt … The British Government then deported him to Germany, deeming him a ‘threat to the income of the Post Office and security of the country.’  

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Look, what a big one!

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Well, are you gonna throw it or what?

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741 – Monday 5th June: The Bridge to Nowhere

We left Hersinuih – one of the best ‘wildings’ – do we know any other kind? No. Back on the ‘hairy’ road which didn’t seem so scary the second time – still took 45 minutes for 14 miles, though… on to Tolsta and the “Bridge to Nowhere” – Lord Leverhhulme built a bridge too far. But stout reinforced concrete in 1925 – maybe BS 5400 wasn’t around then – oh dear, work sneaking in – “out damn spot, at once”!   The museum was shut, so on to the Laxendale campsite – for some unexpected ‘fingerprince’ – more of that anon…  

 

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Are overnight pitch 🙂

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The traffic jam on the way out … a whole family, who would not move.  J got out and braving risked a goring by waving his arms about … not budging!  Only the horn finally induced a sedentary bovine move.

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All that remains of the whaling station … we spotted it on the return.

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The Lewis Moors dropping into the sea … prone to wind!

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The Bridge to Nowhere.

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The view from the Bridge.