So I'm a terrible person and I stopped updating this - unfortunately it's hard enough to find time to write let alone to find time to get everything onto advrider. Buuut I'm gonna try to catch up now, starting with where I was in Edinburgh 2 months ago.
Problem is that sometimes it's not really a motorcycle trip anymore, just backpacking without trains. So if you don't like it, ignore it or flame me or something. Anyway, onwards:
The last sentence I wrote was that things were looking up… perhaps I should’ve touched wood or something?
Resuming from where we were up to in Windermere, I rose early in the morning, loaded up the bike and got going. Fortunately I’ve now got a way more efficient packing scheme whereby stuff that doesn’t need to leave the bike – tools, camping gear etc – stays in the panniers, and the stuff I need in a hostel goes in the backpack strapped over the pillion seat. Unfortunately this meant that all my clothes were exposed to rain, but it was a sunny day so I was sure it’d be fine. The day would take me to Vindolanda, a fort on Hadrian’s Wall that is a current archeological dig and has been so since the 1930s, and will take another hundred years to completely excavate. The dig site is self-sustaining – they charge admission for people to come and see what they’ve dug up so far, and this money goes to fund them digging up more of it. Climbing up the replica tower they built and looking out into Scotland, it felt a lot like Game of Thrones… Roman soldiers would arrive here from across Europe and spend 15 years looking out into the Scottish wilderness, not really knowing what was out there or whether an attack would come.
Winter is coming...
Having crossed Hadrian’s wall, I crossed the proper Scottish border. Pretty much immediately the sun disappeared and the rain clouds rolled in… and it started to spit. Seeing how cars coming from the other direction were soaked, I figured it was a good idea to stop and put on my rain gear. Needless to say, it didn’t rain again for the entire rest of the ride, although I did cleverly put my sunglasses on the ground, thinking “I’ll remember to pick these up”. When I did remember it was two days later and I was in Edinburgh. Sigh.
Rain rain go away
Around 20km from Edinburgh I really started questioning George the GPS – 20km away from my hostel in the middle of the city and there were still farm fields whizzing by me. But it turns out the city really is that small – I’m in proper Europe now. The hostel I’d booked into (Bus Station Backpackers) turned out to be great – basically one level of a house turned into a cosy backpacker hostel, with the bedrooms turned into dorms and the living room/kitchen as a common room. Certainly the best hostel out of the handful I’ve stayed at so far. In fact, I liked it so much that I ended up staying for 3 weeks…
If you're wondering what this photo's of... it's *adventure*
I’m not going to go into too many details as to how I managed to do it, but the facts are as such – I was walking down a slippery slope, fell over backwards, dislocated my left kneecap in the process and although I could hobble immediately afterwards, by the time I woke up the next day I found that my knee was the size of a kid’s soccer ball and I couldn’t bear any weight on it at all. So somehow I got out of my top bunk, hopped to the kitchen and asked Steve the hostel owner if there was a hospital nearby. After Steve very kindly called me a cab, I was X-rayed, examined and told that I should rest it and come back in a week. A week later I was told I probably wouldn’t need an operation and given some physio exercises. A week after that, having seen the swelling in my knee not reduce at all I went back again and was told I probably would need an operation but the swelling would go down. Half a week after that my knee finally bent enough to just get my toes onto the gear lever on my bike, and I was ready to go.
I don't drag knees, I drag *crutches*
I actually really enjoyed my time in Edinburgh – most of the time I’d hang out in the common room with whoever was working, meeting all the various travellers from around the world who arrived. By some stroke of luck I’d managed to get stuck in a great hostel – I reckon next time I hurt my knee in Australia I might just fly to Edinburgh so I can recover there instead of hanging around by myself at home. Steve had spent a lot of his life travelling around the world with nothing more than a couple of pounds and his puppeteering skills, then opened a hostel in Derry (Northern Ireland) while the troubles were still going, and now left most of the hostel duties to his wife while he made a steady income through horse racing. Obviously he had some pretty good stories… learned a bit about horse racing too. Andrea also worked at the hostel – she was from Hungary and had spent most of her adult life moving around different countries working in different jobs for 6 months to a year at a time, wanted to open a restaurant one day, and never stopped smiling or being nice to people no matter how angry she had a right to be. I think her sunny disposition and delicious goulash really helped me get through the frustration of being stuck in the same room all day.
Andrea, Robert (the Bruce), Sebastian, and I
The guests were great too – I’d considered telling the stories of a few of the more significant ones, but it’d take a year. It was really interesting staying for a long time and seeing generations come and go – one night everyone would know each other and settle into a dynamic, then the next night half of them would leave and be replaced with a new group, which would form a whole new dynamic with the people who remained from the previous night. It was sort of like watching a sitcom or something, where old characters leave and new characters come. When people left it was originally sad, but eventually I began to settle down and trust in the odd inevitability that for every awesome person that left, another person, just as awesome but entirely different, would come along and replace them.
Another generation - best friends for a night
If anything, the nearly-three-weeks I spent in Edinburgh were too comfortable. A month previously I’d been sitting on my arse reading reddit, drinking tea and watching TV all day and decided to go on an adventure to escape all that mundane-ness. Now I found myself, once again, sitting around, reading reddit, drinking tea and watching TV, but on the other side of the world. I began to feel the same sort of fear I did before I left home – how could I just ride around the world by myself? What if I got lonely? Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay here? Ridiculous – it was definitely time to go… but every day I’d go out to my bike and find that my knee just didn’t bend quite enough to ride. I think the catalyst for it finally bending enough was Andrea going on holiday – once I didn’t have her delicious cooking to eat, my body finally got its act together on the whole healing thing. When I did finally leave I think I felt even more emotion than I did when I was leaving home in Sydney… after all, this time I wasn’t even coming back.
On the Road Again
And so, finally I strapped my crutches to the back of the bike, returned them to the hospital and set out for Inverness. God help me, I’ll do this Europe trip even if I have to limp the entire length of the continent.