“Hey, you hear that Henk? Cows!” I’m looking at the hill but can’t find the lonely bull. These cows make a very peculiar sound, but we are at the Scottish Highlands, so anything is possible. While we try to fight off the dark of the evening with a blazing fire, it suddenly occurs to me; those aren’t cows, but horny stags in heat!
In the dead of night I wake up with a scare. Nearby a deer roars loud, with the voice of a whiskey drinking pirate about to enter a ship. With a pounding heart I’m listening the stag’s antler scraping through the branches and soil. During mating season you better not come to close to any deer, and there we are, lying in our little tent. I close my eyes and think back of Edinburgh.
With Henk on his longboard “Annie” and me on “Wesley” we are a dynamic quartet. The first hills are coming closer as soon as we cross the big bridge at Edinburgh. I easily move up and down the hills, but Annie, and especially Henk, have some difficulties adapting. Luckily I have a backpack tied to the carrier which Henk can hold on to when we go downhill, making sure I can brake for the both of us. It will be a funny sight to the folks we pass by, Pat & Mat in Scotland.
The collaboration is going smoothly. Every now and then Henk holds on to the backpack and we speed up. Whenever I see a big downhill coming I bike in front, so Henk can hold on and I can brake for the both of us even though it is something to get used to. We are a good team and are rolling into Cairngorms natural reserve.
This is what we were looking forward to; far stretched landscapes, long roads through hills on which our wheels roll swiftly, and beautiful spots to set up our little green tents. And to top things off, a bright sun giving it a nice summer touch.
Because I’m not travelling alone anymore, but with someone who, sort to speak, is fresh from the office, reminds me of what I’m actually doing. It has almost become second nature to me to set up my tent every night on a random spot of choice, read some, write some or just stare out in the dark. Those are the simple moments that make life better. When all you need is a little fire, a cup of tea and a simple meal, you can really live a happy life. But we are so easily surrounded with material things to make life easier. And I also enjoy a good night of hanging on the couch and you need to do this sometimes. Just as much as you need to grab your things and get dirty to really appreciate the comfortable life you normally live. Because Henk stepped out of the ‘normal’ life and joined me in this situation, I just realized this. Within a couple of weeks I will be going back to The Netherlands and will be looking back on these moments. The spots where I put up my tent, the people I met and the sounds of the woods. The whistling wind through the creaking treetops, grinding wood. Crackling fire. Streaming creeks. Roaring stags. . .
Of course I made it far worse in my mind than it actually was. In my mind the roaring stag was out to get me. It didn’t matter I marked out my turf. There needs to be a fight with the bearded young guy.. In the real world the deer walks by, looks at the tent, roars blood and murder and moves along. After a night filled with deer roaring, a choir of pheasants and a screaming fox, it is time for Henk to go back home. I’m moving along alone. Through the rain, up north to end up at John ‘O Groats and pass Wesley on to another adventurer. I’m noticing the more north I go, the nights are longer and the first frost is slowly landing on top of the hills. I’m lying in my tent and just let the frost fall over me. This is probably not going to be the last morning I’m waking up in a tent that is equally frozen as my shoes.