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I wake with a sense that I am ready to return home.
It takes me a good two hours to slowly pack up my camp, stuff away my sleeping bag, dry out the tent and sort out my carry-on bag for the plane. I even take the time to have one final hot, high pressure shower I am going to miss the waterfall effect when I go home.
My plane does not leave until 6pm tonight, but I have a long 200 mile drive back to Inverness airport and there isnt a motorway in sight, it will take me a good portion of the day to traverse the Scottish countryside again, which I am looking forward to.
I do however have one final task to complete. My Nalgene still contains some of my dads ashes which I have planned to scatter today back where our adventure started on day one my Scorrybreac walk in Portree. And so with everything packed and in order, I set off in my trusty Punto to fulfil my last promise.
I wind out of Glenbrittle for the last time. I love this road. Every day I have driven this road into camp, its like driving home. It is joy and love. I pass the crystal clear rivers and streams, the gentle hills and of course, pass for the final time Sgurr Thlim, my most beloved crying mountain. I shall deeply miss it here.
Ten minutes later I turn left finally leaving the area behind and see two hitchhikers on the side of the road. A man and woman, looking dishevelled, with hiking equipment, and while part of me considers pulling over, there is just something about them I dont fully like. Not two minutes down the road I see another hitcher, a woman on her own, a backpack strapped not only to her back but front as well. Thumb out, she is still walking forward. I can tell though she is about my age and without really thinking too hard, I pull over, roll down the window and ask where shes trying to get to. She tells me, the Broadford road into Portree. I tell her I am headed that way and to hop in.
She squeezes herself and her bags into the car and thanks me for picking her up. She has a broad accent, French it turns out, and we happily chat away for a couple of minutes before she apologies, and then introduces herself as Sophie. She asks me where I am going and I explain Im headed to Inverness to the airport to which she almost squeals in delight. It turns out she is just headed to Portree figuring as the capital of Skye, she had a better chance of finding a lift to Inverness - she leaves from the airport tomorrow.
Well, when all is said and done, I offer her a lift all the way there with me. I am distinctly split in two minds about this, not because she isnt nice or a trustworthy sort, but because these are my last moments on Skye with my dad and now I feel slightly awkward having someone encroach on that. However, the more I think about it, I am going to consider this a fate. Once again, Sophie is exactly the sort of person my dad would have stopped and chatted to all day given the chance. This is just another adventure I could have told him about (once I listened to the lecture of personal safety and picking up hikers off the side of the road). The one thing I was sure to tell her is that she would just have to stop with me in Portree and wait while I went on my walk, which suited her fine.
And so off we travelled discussing the places she had been in the past two weeks travelling on the islands around Skye as well as hiking here, her job as an analyst working for a bike company and how she would like to train guide dogs for a living but in France working with animals is a laughable career (apparently).
Stopping in Portree Sophie heads to a local pub to use the internet and we agree to meet in the car park, where I drop her off, in one hour. Very trustingly she leaves all her bags in the car as I drive off with them around the corner to the start point for my walk. I guess I must just give the impression of being a very honest person!
I leave everything but my Nalgene in the car for my walk. I stride along the path with purpose, but feel uncomfortable with a time limit now hanging over my head. This was not how I imagined my last walk to be. The water is glittering like gold as I round the corner and am greeted by the full view of the bay. I pass a young couple who have thrown up the worlds smallest tent on one of the grassy outcrops overlooking the water, but see no-one else.
I quickstep over the stones, conscious of time and not realising how long this walk must have taken me previously. I also am beginning to develop an unease about my plan, Im not sure I feel right anymore leaving my dad here. The further I walk, the more I begin to understand the right and wrong feelings about places I have had this week. By the time I arrive at the grassy mid-air beach with the remnants of the graveyard, I have made my decision.
I walk through the gate I was too unsure to pass last time and out into the open grass plain. I walk up to the cluster of trees and shrubs where Donald had pointed out the grave headstone, and sure enough it is as he said. I can barely make out the inscription, though the words earthly master are apparent enough. I turn full circle and then look out to the water. I breathe deeply a few times and smile inside. This is still a wonderfully pretty place to be, and although I did promise to bring these ashes and leave them here on Skye, I am confident enough in myself not to be swayed by that promise alone. This is not the place for my dad, I dont have the same comfort here as with the others Ive found.
And with the thought of a return journey next year, and more time to explore other places he might like to rest, I clutch tightly to my dad and tell him we are going home together, but we will be back again.
I make it back to pick up Sophie on time and together we make a start for Inverness. We travel across open countryside and are packed in by mountains, we point out viewpoints to each other and tell stories of our hiking adventures and our hostel experiences. She talks of France and we compare the differences between our countries before giving our viewpoints on the Scottish referendum taking place tomorrow. I ask her about the countries she been to, pretty much all over the world, and encourage her to see New Zealand which she has yet to do. We both discuss our bemusement at what people living out here in the middle of nowhere must do for work and are equally happy to sit in silence as we drive.
Nearing 4pm I drop Sophie off in the centre of Inverness. She is staying tonight at a hostel before making her way to the airport in the morning. She thanks me for the ride and offers me some money for oil, as she put it. I declined and wished her a safe trip home.
After a brief trip for the car for a fill up and a wash (I seem to have collected a decent about of mud and tarmac on my travels), I make it on time for my plane and its connection for a rather uneventful journey home, with my mum waiting to collect me at the airport.
And so comes to a quiet close, my adventures with my dad on the Isle of Skye.