Witches and killing monks

It’s hot today. Abnormally hot. But that’s just bettering the cause. The terrace is completely filled with customers and they keep on coming. My bar is of a higher stature compared to all the other bars here and I sure like to let people know. But Jesus, look at that: long beard, sweaty, shirtless and a crappy bike with a giant backpack attached to it. Imagine this would walk into your bar. It would scare the other customers away, wouldn’t it? Damn, he is moving towards me! “Heya, could you fill up my waterbottle please?” Pfff….Eh, no. “What? Why not?” Because I can’t. And you need a shirt to be in here. Luckily he is going away. Before you know it, I’m giving out free water to all the vagabonds. Not in my bar!

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Well, screw you than! But I really need water for what I’m going to do. I will bike four of the most beautiful passes in Lake District. The Lake District is the wettest natural park with England’s highest mountains. Since I’m owning a bike, I have the opportunity to take on roads with an ascent of 30%. I have four days to accomplish this. It isn’t easy doing this with a 20 kilo torpedo attached to my carrier. Biking 7 kilometers uphill while it’s 25 degrees. The first pass is beautiful, but unfortunately one of my SD-cards gets damaged, ending up in loosing almost all of the pictures I shot the last 17 days. This doesn’t really make me enjoy this pass, but I decided not to mope around. On the contrary, I’m going to make more and even better pictures than I shot before. And the way to go is biking all the passes! 

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It’s heavy, but when I finally reach the peek and watch the shadows play their game over the green and brown hills, I feel like a wet fish in the water. I’m watching the black asphalt, which I’ve conquered with all of my strength, moving upward on top of the hill. While I’m looking back, I feel the slope crawling back in my legs. Looking the other way, I’m seeing a far stretched valley with new colors, shapes and again the black asphalt. This time it is going to be pure pleasure, feeling it with high speed, underneath the wheels of my orange friend. 

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In this beautiful setting many mysterious constructions are to be found. Stonecircles. Stonehenge is not the only one, but the biggest. While I’m biking through the hills, my eye is caught by a little sign: “Castlerigg stone circle”. The stones are even named: Long Meg and her daughters. According to the local stories these were witches turned to stone, who were cursed by the warlock Michael Scot (no, not the actor from The Office US). Rumor has it that the stones are impossible to count, but if you walk the circle twice, while counting the stones and end up with exact the same amount both times, the curse will be broken. The witches will be freed and this will lead to years of bad luck. Seeing that the stones are still standing there, it seems no one ever succeeded.

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The surroundings are starting to get more rugged, the mountains are getting higher and the landscape more far stretched, I’m almost in Scotland and as soon as I cross the border I’ll be confronted with a new country.

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I immediately feel at home. A country that isn’t very populated, where they speak with a rolling ‘R’ and people adjust to nature. The constant wind is being defied by thick coats and the humidity by rubber boats and rain clothing. I feel quite at home here and that is apparent from my behavior. You act differently in each and every group. You act different at your grandparents than with your friends or with your colleagues. When you have been alone for a while, you are isolated from external influences and you are 100% yourself. That’s why people who live in the midst of nowhere are a tad peculiar, in my opinion. As soon as I take the white earplugs out of my ears and hear the local sounds, I notice I start talking to myself increasingly. It also occurs a lot I call out to the surroundings what they look like: “HILLY!!”. “FAR STRETCHED!!”. “MOUNTAIN!!”. Always good fun for the farmer standing in his field, watching a bearded and shouting Dutchman biking past him. 

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Scotland isn’t lacking in myths and legends. And how could things be any different in a country that almost consists solely of nature and the tongue of the locals is as rugged as the mountains and the autumn storms.

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While trying to heat my oatmeal in the wind, I see a little carriage coming my way. It turned out to be an eight wheeler and in this eight wheeler was Helen. An agile farmer searching for some lost sheep, that are walking somewhere in the hills. Her handshake is like it should be from a sheep farmer. Asking her if she knows some myths or legends, she started telling me a story.

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Monks used to guard the drawbridge at the mighty Tweed river. If the monks didn’t like the person who wanted to cross, or thought the person paid to little, he would be thrown into the river without a second thought. They often didn’t live to tell the story. This also happened to a beautiful young lady and her white horse. But her ghost is still present. Helen lives near the river and had an Italian working at her farm. He was working next to the river when he saw a giant white horse wading through the river. And this is impossible because the river was so deep and wild, that no horse could keep standing….He went back to Helen and told the story. “He was white as a sheet and looked like he had seen a ghost”, Helen told me. She believes strongly in this kind of stories. “Don’t you?” she asked me with disbelief.

Soon Henk will come from Rotterdam, with his longboard “Annie” to travel through Scotland for seven days, searching the most beautiful sceneries and the best stories. Who knows we will encounter stories that make me believe there is more than meets the eye. 

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