Handa Island

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August 1st 1980
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 58.1474, -5.24238

At breakfast this morning, Ann and I sat with a family from Chester. We discussed the differences between Britain and California. They had toured California and thought that Britain had more varied terrain. Really? We asked. Did you see the low desert sand dunes? The high desert valleys? The temperate rain forest? The scrubland? The high peaks? The glaciers? The rolling farmland? No - they had drive up Highway 5 from LA to SFO. Seen nothing else.

The day was so clear and beautiful when we left. Driving was stop and go for two reasons. First, even though we were driving on a major highway, it was a one-lane road. Whenever we passed another car, one of us had to pull into a passing place and wait. Each time that happened, the driver that sped on would wave at the other who would acknowledge the former. Pas must have had a tired hand.

The second reason was that the scenery was so super-gorgeous! We would have to stop every five minutes or so to snap a photo. But it was worth it.

Anyway, we stopped for lunch in Tongue. Afterwards, we bought a sheepskin rug. The only other full and complete stop we made was to snack on peaches at a crick.

About 16.30h, we stopped to visit Handa Island. The boat we took was a small eight-seater powerboat. It took about 15 minutes to reach the island. Handa is a Bird Sanctuary. The walk around the island was supposed to take 3-4 hours. But we finished shortly under 2 hours. We decided to walk the mile to the Great Stack where the majority of the birds are, stopping briefly at Puffin Bay.

It was incredible. We saw very few birds on the way up, but Puffin Bay was hoarded with sea gulls. Babies were stuffed into every possible niche. And the cliffs! Even the birds seemed scared to go near the edge.

We went on to Great Stack. If it thought Puffin Bay was crowded with gulls, the Stack was even more so. Two babies were crowded into every niche. And the Noise! The Grinch would have jumped off those magnificent cliffs without pause. But I didn't mind, and neither did the birds.

We had one hour left at this point. Mum and Ann decided to retrace our steps on the return. Pas and I wanted to go all around the island. But we had to hurry. We made one stop: the Highest Point. I stood on the survey marker, feeling superior. Returning to the boat, it began to rain but soon stopped.

At just 19.00h, Pas and I reached the beach but no boat. One soon appeared, and we all four climbed in, reaching the opposite shore by 19.35h.

Soon, we were inside a restaurant. Mum and Ann and I wanted the Fresh Crab Salad. They were out, so we had pot shrimp on toast.

We left Tarbet and had about ½ hour of driving to reach the ferry on time, which would save us 1.5 hours of driving. It stopped running at 21.00h, so we had to hurry. Here's what happened:

Obstacle 1: we stopped to take a photo. This took 3 minutes.
Obstacle 2: we were caught behind a biker who insisted on using the centre of the road. He stopped us to ask the ferry to wait for him. Or something.
Obstacle 3: two sheep ran down the road ahead of the car and refused to deviate. They were finally led off by another.
Obstacle 4: we almost ran head on into another car and had to wait while they backed into a parking place.
Obstacle 5: the ferry off to a different dock about a minute ere we reached the pier. Someone said it would come back ... and it did. Twenty minutes late.

But we made it. So did the biker.

The crossing itself was quick. We hurried to a telephone to call our B&B place to make sure they would honor our reservations. But then we realized we didn't have directions to the place. We drove all around looking for No. 37 Stratham and were told that Stratham was a town about three miles from Lochinver. We found it, and tea was waiting for us. Lovely.


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