Friday, September 08, 2017

The Gatliff hostel, Howmore, Outer Hebrides

The Outer Hebrides is a chain of hundreds of islands where only a handful are inhabited. The population if there is any is sparse and so are the visitors. The few people who has discovered these islands are a special group, they come once and return every year or whenever they get a chance. The services in these parts are very basic. It used to be difficult getting around here if you don't have a car or a bicycle. It is easier today but not by much. Some places are so small that they cannot support a tiny store or cafe. These things are miles away. I was very unprepared during my trip here in July this year. But that was the charm of the whole trip, everything was serendipitous, especially that day when I was dropped off by the bus on the main spine road, my intention was the hostel in Howmore. Coming from Los Angeles, we had everything, I expected a little store where I could at least get some food. The bus driver pointed out a new white building and told me that was where I should be walking to. My spirits were high, at least its a brand new building, I thought. After 20 minutes of hauling my luggage on the road, I came to that gleaming white building only to find out, it was a church and that the hostel was a dilapidated building in front of it. My spirits sand. Oh no, I thought, this place looks like it suck. It wasn't like I could walk out of there. I will catch the bus the same time the next day when it comes up this way again. I was alone, dumped my luggage in one of the rooms, and started to explore. There were bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen but no food and no where to buy food. I had a bar of chocolate which I could eat half for lunch and the other half for dinner. I thought to myself, I'm going to be alright for one day. I took my camera and went out to photograph the Machair, after all that was why I was there for. When I returned to the hostel, someone else had arrived. It was Steve who cycled there from Berneray, another island. We introduced ourselves and I told him I had no food. He found somme dried pasta left from another visitor. I cooked that and there was an opened can of tomatoes in the fridge, I mixed it in and that was my lunch and dinner that day. Steve had his own food. He was a funny guy and hails from the Isle of Skye and he started to tell me stories of his adventures in the Outer Hebrides to which he has been coming for years. He told me of the great group who frequents the other Gatliff hostel in Berneray, where I'll be heading in 2 days. He told me someone stole his bike on one of his visits which is almost a very rare occurrence. Then we were joined by another cyclist, Alan Jones from Coventry. The three of us spent the next few hours chatting. It was very windy that night, the winds were howling and the door to my room was rattling away. I had to put a plastic bag to tighten the seal to stop the rattling. I left the next day even as the winds continue to blow but Steve and Alan stayed because it was just too windy to cycle. The same bus that dropped me off the day before picked me up and dropped me off at my next stop, just a few miles up the road, to a B&B, a much more comfortable place where I was fed a great breakfast!

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