Journal Entry #12
July 4, 2005
My days in Scotland for the summer are limited now. I am looking forward to the warmer weather in California (even if I won't be in the hot southern portion of the state for a while). Just over two weeks ago, I took a taxi to Milngavie (not very far, about 10-15 minutes with long traffic lights) and began the West Highland Way. It was pouring down rain that morning and it wasn't a good sign. But I wasn't scared off - this time, I would complete the entire West Highland Way (instead of chicken out halfway like I did in 2001). The first day, I walked from Milngavie to Drymen. I left around 9:30am and arrived around 3pm. That first day was very exhausting and all I could think of was sleep once I got into my room at the B&B. The first day includes mostly farmland type views, with a lot of walking where a train track used to be (all gravel, which kills your feet). That day, I saw a curlew, heard a cuckoo (exactly like a clock!), and had warm weather after the initial rainy start. I was surrounded by other people on the trail.
The second day I walked from Drymen to 4 miles south of Rowardennan. The morning saw us hikers tackling the Conich Hill (spectacular views of Loch Lomond from the top), then stopping at a pub in Balmaha for lunch. After that, it was fairly easy walking alongside the loch up to my destination. I took a shuttle bus from my B&B area to the Rowardennan Hotel for dinner. I tried venison for the first time, in the form of a burger. It was pretty good. We all experienced midges that evening, waiting for the shuttle bus. That left us worried about the remaining days, as midges are highly annoying. The third day was the absolute worst. I walked just over 16 miles (maybe even 17) from my B&B to Inverarnan. The route took me past the remaining part of Loch Lomond, away from civilisation. I stopped at the Inversnaid Hotel for lunch, which was OK (overpriced). I was sad not to see any feral goats. The midges meant I couldn't stop for very long, so I got tired but kept going. My B&B that night (Rose Cottage) was the best! My room was meant for 2 people (as they all were the entire way - it seems B&Bs aren't meant for single travellers) and was very spacious and brightly decorated. I had my own bathroom, a nice little loveseat, a desk, and the most beautiful view of a waterfall from my window. Sadly, I got in late (around 7pm) and didn't have much time to sit and enjoy the room. The bed was very comfy. I went to the Drover's Inn for dinner - this is a famous pub/inn that is a 'must see' attraction. It was very old, with wooden floors that hadn't been kept up so well (kind of like the vet school's Cochno estate prior to renovation). Each table had at least one candle, and there was a huge coal fire going that kept it nice and warm (though it wasn't cold outside). There were good looking bar tenders wearing kilts! There was a good variety of food offered (I had lasagne but debated having the haggis because I like that) at reasonable prices. Scottish music played in the background (bagpipes and such). I really enjoyed the environment, and there were plenty of people around (walkers mostly) to make it feel somewhat homey. My food was very good. In fact, I ate too much.
The fourth day was a short day. I walked from Inverarnan to Tyndrum. The scenery was mostly farmland the first half of the day, and the route was easy. I took a side route to Crianlarich for lunch (adding an hour on to the day) - I found that the route went downhill to Crianlarich and I couldn't help but think of how much uphill I'd be doing on the way back to the main West Highland Way trail! I went as far as the train station, where I found a cute little 'tea room'. I'd like to go back there someday because they had some interesting posters and such for sale (and ice cream!). In Tyndrum, I stopped at the Green Welly Shop (famous somehow) and bought a new pair of trousers and a polyester shirt (I hadn't brought many clothes and they were getting really gross). My B&B that night was the worst - hard mattress, tiny room, and smelly room (like mildew or urine or something similar). The breakfast was fine, but it usually is in most places (considering...as I would prefer an American breakfast).
The fifth day I walked from Tyndrum to Inveroran, passing Bridge of Orchy (I ate my sandwich sitting on a bench at the train station - somewhere to sit is all I needed). It rained some that day, miserable because it was too warm to put on more layers of clothing (and you needed some protection from the water). Plus, there were tons of midges. My room at the Inveroran hotel was very nice with two skylights. But one skylight window was open when I entered the room. I shut it quickly but there were tons of midges in the room! Literally millions. I noticed them more and more throughout the night. I put midge lotion on prior to going to bed and I slept terribly because I didn't want to let the midges eat me. The food at the Inveroran Hotel was excellent, and the service was great as well.
The sixth day was my favourite day. Though I walked 20 miles, it was very scenic and not too hard-going. I experienced pain in my right knee during the first half of the day though, so I concentrated and worried over that for quite a while. I hiked from Inveroran to Kinlochleven. The first half was through moor land (I think the "Rannoch Moor") - very desolate almost, and with beautiful views of mountains. Then you crossed a main highway, and walked a bit to find Kingshouse Hotel. Since I had packed my lunch, I couldn't eat inside (you can only eat if you purchase from them). The pub in there was too crowded and smoky anyways. I sat on a rock near a stream and had my lunch instead, enjoying the views of the mountains (this was actually one of my favourite areas). I passed some highland cows on my walk to the Devil's Staircase (most dreaded part of the WHW, it's definitely over-rated!). The Devil's Staircase brought me high upon a ridge and I could see all kinds of mountains all around. It was beautiful. The rest of the way was a very slow descent down to Kinlochleven, which is a cute town in a valley where the river Leven flows (it flows into Loch Leven). I stayed at a very nice B&B and ate at the Tail Race Inn (where I had to pick up my bag anyways).
The seventh and final day of the West Highland Way was not bad at all. It took me first up, out of the valley that Kinlochleven sits in, and into another valley of farmland. There were spectacular views the entire way. It was afternoon when I finally emerged from the valley and entered forest land, where forestry work could be seen (logging) in some spots. Eventually I saw Ben Nevis (highest peak in Britain) and finally I was descending down to Fort William, the final destination! I was very happy to finish, but at the same time kind of sad. I stayed at a cute hostel type place right near town centre, with good views of the sea loch. The next day I took the train out around noon (arriving in Glasgow around 4pm).
After the West Highland Way, I began hospital care here at the vet school's small animal hospital. I am still in the midst of this 'rotation' (if you can call it that: everyone does it, but it's outside the true school year). I am in a group of 8 students. We split it in half so that we can work 24 hours on, 24 hours off. For example, I just worked from 9am Sunday until 9am this morning (Monday) with 3 other students (Liz, Euan, and Andy). Our main responsibility is to do treatments on all hospitalised patients from 4:30pm until 8am treatments are done in the morning. If there are patients in ICU, we must have one student there at all times (thus decreasing the number of people able to do treatments in the 'wards'). We usually have treatments at 6pm, 8pm, 10pm, 12am, 2am, 4am, 6am, and 8am. Sometimes a couple 9pm treatments are thrown in, or some other odd ones. We care for a lot of spinal cord surgery patients who need pain medications throughout the night, and cruciate surgery cases that are similar (but more mobile). We must also do physical therapy. As the night wears on, we get more and more tired. It's definitely an exhausting time! We can sleep in the student flats (really messy places with beds, small kitchens, a TV and a bathroom) upstairs...but usually we only get 2-3 hours of sleep per night (and not very good quality sleep). During the daytime, we can rotate through anaesthesia/surgery, ICU, and the wards (lending a hand to the nurses). I've enjoyed doing things (vs. just watching as in most EMS placements) like placing IV catheters, intubating, attempting to take jugular samples (I'm terrible at this, despite years of practice), monitoring anaesthesia, giving injections, and taking care of ICU patients. The majority of this rotation though, is stuff I've already done hundreds of times as a vet tech in the US (even placing IV catheters and doing jugular sticks).
I have three more 24 hour shifts for hospital care (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday). Then I will have a couple days to recover and prepare for my flight to the US (which is on July 12th). I can't wait!
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