First Rule of Travel: Always Accept


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August 1st 2009
Published: October 6th 2009
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Durness BeachDurness BeachDurness Beach

Durness Beach, view from campsite
I have developed a fairly fun rule for travel: always accept.

Why not? I mean, within reason, but generally speaking, unlike in my home life, here if someone invites me to a pub or for dinner or on some kind of adventure, I say 'sure, why not?' And the result is that I've had wonderful times with all sorts of people that I'd normally have ruled out from the get-go.

Take Durness, for example. I went on a tour of a sea cave and on this tour was a girl who seemed particularly eager to befriend me. Turned out that we were camping at the same campground. She invited me to hang out with her after the tour. Sure, why not?

Leaving the boat, the somewhat odd man doing the tour, recognizing my new friend from an incident at the pub the previous night (she and her friend were denied food 10 minutes before the kitchen officially closed), invited her to to his place that night for a pork roast dinner.

This tour guide, Daniel (name changed to protect the innocent, as with all names used here), was a jolly happy-go-lucky sort of scruffy Scotsman, probably in his fifties. He has unkempt gray hair, a pot belly, red face and a great hearty laugh. He knew a lot about caves, caving, and geology. He spoke an accented but fairly good German and joked that he could translate the theme song from the Flintstones into German for the German speakers on the tour.

My friend, Beth, an innocent super-friendly but over-cautious 25 year-old from Brighton was cagey about his offer. 'Um... maybe. I need to ask my friend at the camp first. I'll text you this afternoon.'

He asked me 'do you like pork?' I said I did. 'Do you want to come to dinner too? We've had this excellent pork belly in the freezer and have been waiting for some girls to come over and help us cook it.'

Now, normally, this would be a totally sketchy situation that I'd have avoided like the plague at home. But here... I said, 'Sure, why not?' But I warned him that as a recovering vegetarian that I have no idea how to cook a pork belly.

The guide's friend, Michael, met us too and gave us directions to Daniel's house.

Beth was uneasy as we walked away. 'I don't know.... do you think it is safe?'

'Why not?' I said. 'I always accept these offers. You never know where they'll lead you. Besides, this is Scotland. What can possibly go wrong?'

And, with good fortune, Beth's friend Trish agreed. We decided to bring a 'pudding' as Daniel and Michael assured us that they had food and drinks under control. After a few moments of confusion on my part about why these two insisted dessert had to be pudding, I learned that Brits use the word 'pudding' as a generic term for dessert. Try explaining to someone what we North Americans mean by 'pudding' some time. It's not really easy.... 'like, I don't know... a cross between a custard and a mousse.... pudding... like... Jello pudding. Um... never mind.'

So we arrived with cake/pudding or 'pudd' at Daniel's town house at 6 o'clock. He greeted us warmly and led us to his kitchen where Michael was spicing the pork. It was to be a fully German-themed night. They'd found some Germans who told them how to cook the pork -- basted in beer and roasted. They poured us a fine German 'morning beer' or 'banana beer' -- a nice pale lager with a slight hint of banana-like flavour. It was very good.

Daniel had a well-traveled life and had spent many years working on an organic farm in a kabutz in Israel. He made us homemade hummus served as they do in Israel -- in a ring with a lake of olive oil in the middle, powdered with paprika.

He entertained us with stories of caving and diving around Scotland. Michael worked on an oil rig and had spent time in Newfoundland and Texas and would soon be sent to Australia. He joked about how Newfoundlanders, like the Irish, cannot properly pronounce the Scottish word 'shite'. '"Shoyte" they always say!" This cracked him up.

So us three women sat at the table and drank beer while the men cooked for us one of the most fantastic meat and potatoes ('tatties') meals I've ever had. Really. It was just an incredible meal.

Afterwards we all got drunk on German beer that they served from a small keg. Daniel pulled out the game Janga -- I had no idea Janga could be so fun. We almost split our sides laughing. Then he pulled out the game 'Memory' -- who knew a kid's game could prove to be such an awesome drinking game? We all laughed and laughed, screaming 'this one! THIS one! NO!!!!' At the end of the night, my guts and cheeks were sore from laughing so hard.

So there you go. A totally sketchy-sounding situation that turned out to be entirely harmless and one of the most hilariously fun nights of my recent memory. Accepting offers... all part of the fun and adventure of travel.

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