Journal Entry #20
It's finally all over! The school year, that is. Last week we took 3 class exams (not professional exams -- those are next year). Tuesday we had veterinary biomolecular sciences. Topics included during this exam: 1. Digestion and nutrition 2. Cell signaling and 3. Endocrinology. I chose to write essays about: 1. Calcium/iron and the calcium homeostasis hormones and 2. Cortisol/glucocorticoids, its functions and receptors. There were 20 multiple choice questions. I already know my grade (mark) for this exam! Isn't that cool? It's the "quickest" that we've had exams graded the entire year. I did better on this exam than the previous 2, so I'm making good progress.
Thursday we were examined on physiology. It was the most dreaded of the exams because: 1. If you choose the wrong answer, you get negative points and 2. You do not get a choice of essay topics and 3. The multiple choice and true/false questions are worded trickily! I still do not have my grade for this exam. You never know how you did because of the negative points. The topics covered this term: thermoregulation, fluid balance, blood, renal physiology, and endocrine physiology.
Friday was the last exam: anatomy. This term we covered the pelvic limb (dog, cat, horse, ox, sheep) and histology of muscle, cartilage, and bone. The written exam was in the morning and the practical part was in the afternoon. I felt the exam was quite fair and even easy, and I wrote an essay about the stifle joint of the dog. The practical was not so bad either. I must wait until Friday the 7th to find out my grade (mark).
More recently, Rebecca and I embarked on a "great journey" -- the West Highland Way. We loaded up our rucksacks with 30+ pounds of stuff and started the Way around 9am on Saturday morning (June 1st). We took the bus to Milngavie (the trailhead). The first day we made great time, putting in around 14 miles to get to the backpacker campsite in Garadhban Forest. The campsite was MIDGY! Midges are like tiny gnats, only they bite! The bites aren't as bad as mosquito bites, but leave you looking like you have the measles or chicken pox. Imagine having a swarm of tiny bugs attacking you -- it's horrible! Then, around 3 or 4 in the morning it started to rain...downpour is more like it. The tent leaked and our stuff got wet. Miserable. We hit the trail around 8:20am that morning, with our pack covers and rain gear on.
The second day brought "Conic Hill" first off. This is a huge hill (typical of the Highlands) where you climb 500 feet within 1 mile and descend the same amount within another mile. It was grueling but the view at the top was almost worth it. At the top there were plenty of ewes and lambs (very cute!) and a fantastic view of Loch Lomond. After descending, we hiked through a forest to a tiny town called Balmaha. There, we visited the "visitor centre", using the toilets and public phone (to phone home). At that point we were tired and wet from our Conic Hill experience. We also met another American, a guy from Florida, who was doing the WHW.
The trail took off from the main road and we had to climb maybe 40-50 feet upwards and around to get to the Loch side. The remainder of the day, the trail was either Loch Lomond side (one point it was almost literally in the water, LOL) or on a road near the Loch. At points it went more into a forested area. There were many "ups and downs" throughout the day. You mostly saw beaches where people had recreational boats and wave runners, etc. There were also 2-3 places offering campsites for RVs and car campers. Around 3:30 or 4pm it began to rain. Downpour, really. It did not stop until the next morning around 10am!
We passed a tiny town called Rowardennan and camped on the shore of Loch Lomond about 2-3 miles north of there. We used the tarp to act like a roof to block most water from reaching the tent. But the tent still leaked some. Even worse were the million midges that entered through the side vents (for some odd reason, the netting on the vents is large enough to permit midges to enter, but the mesh on the door is tiny enough to block their entry). I was bitten on the face constantly and remember wiping them off with my hands. Once it was light out, I could actually see them flying around me and I tried to kill them...but there were too many. We eventually got up around 7:30am and packed everything up. It was miserable and wet. My socks were wet, even the outside of my sleeping bag. But Rebecca's sleeping bag was worse.
At that moment I decided to try and go back to Glasgow. I knew I could not carry on much further because I felt very weak and miserable. I couldn't stand another night of hell and the miles were killing my feet. We looked at the map and decided that there was no way to get back to Glasgow from Rowardennan. This forced me to walk 13 miles to the nearest town with a bus stop or train station. I thought I was going to die, but the day actually went quite well. The sun came out and the rain stopped. It was mostly cloudy, but at least there was no rain. We planned to hike to a bothy (a stone house for backpackers) and check it out. Then we would go on to find a ferry to Ardlui, a town across the Loch with a train station. If the ferry was too expensive we could always go back and stay in the bothy.
The trail was beautiful the 3rd and last day. At first it was forest with multiple waterfalls above Loch Lomond. Then it was lower in elevation in a midgy forest. That was miserable because if you stopped you were eaten! We tried using a DEET insect repellent, but that did not work. Luckily, we reached a resort-type place called Inversnaid around lunchtime and there were few midges. There were some huge waterfalls there as well and a beautiful view of the Loch and a town across it. We ate lunch on the shore of Loch Lomond and the sun came out for us. The trail after that was rocky and muddy. It wound up and down and all around (haha) near the shore of Loch Lomond. We even saw "Rob Roy's Cave". Then we encountered some goats, which greatly surprised us (we never heard of goats in Scotland, hehe). They were black with long slightly curved horns. They also had beards and there were even some kids. We took some pictures of them. Finally, we ended the rocky-muddy forest walk at a nice sandy beach. We sat and looked at the map again and ate some GORP. Then we hiked across sheep grazing land and noticed a dead lamb. We hiked next to a little stream and into another field. We soon saw the bothy. There were some creepy guys sitting outside it, as if to say "don't stay here". Rebecca and I agreed that we would certainly not stay there with weirdoes like that.
Soon we found the spot to catch the ferry to Ardlui. It was 3 pounds each to ride the ferry across the Loch. It was around 5pm when the "ferry" came and got us and about 5 other hikers. Most of the others were staying at the Ardlui hotel. We found the train station and saw that the next train left at 7:48pm. We had several hours to waste. Rebecca and I decided to make dinner right there at the train station (which was only a shelter for rain). We brought out the stove and boiled some water for the only dehydrated meal we had ever bought. It was not that tasty and was very grainy (chicken korma flavour). Finally, the train arrived and we rode it for 1.5 hours to get to Glasgow Queen Street Station. There we caught a taxi ride home to Wolfson Hall. Rebecca did not feel too well at that point and thought it was our dinner. However, I never did get sick and she was sick all last night and today. Luckily, she seems to be recovering.
I slept in today. When my alarm went off I noticed how painful and stiff my body was. Even now it is difficult to rise and walk. I haven't done much today. It's very boring here and one can tell that a lot of people are already gone for the year, even though only the first year vet students are done that I know of. Now I have several days (until Monday) to pack and enjoy my free time. There's not much to do though. I've done the usual e-mail and forum message-reading, but it's not as fun as it used to be when I procrastinated. I even started up a computer game ("Blade Runner"), but that's just a way to pass the time. The food here is the usual: horrible. Tonight I had fried sliced potatoes and corn with yogurt for dessert. I'm trying to skip breakfast because it's just not worth it (cereal and yogurt) -- besides, I have all the leftover food from the backpacking trip.
Monday I will begin a 5-day week of work at Cochno Farm, doing dairy work. This is part of my Extramural Studies (EMS). I hope to be able to find 2 weeks of dairy work at home this summer to finish the dairy requirement. I also will do 2 weeks of equine work at home (at my old university). This Saturday we have the "End of year hall blast" here at Wolfson. It consists of a BBQ, bar, and other fun events. It's something to look forward to at least. I also need to do inventory on the rental house this weekend. Then I can move in next weekend just prior to flying home -- hurray!! It's been a wonderful year and I have learned so much from my experience here in Glasgow. I know next year will be much tougher, but I am better prepared after this year. I hear that 20 new Americans will be coming next year. I will be interested to meet any and see how they adapt to this culture. It sure was not easy for most of us in my class (2006).
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