This photo of my recent trip to Gruinard “beach” in Scotland with my husband really made me laugh:
Not that I necessarily find the dead bunny in the foreground funny, *giggle* *cough* but it reminded me of something that happened on my very first trip to Scotland, back in 2002.
Thinking that this would be my first and last trip to Scotland (i.e., not knowing that I would marry a local), I booked myself on a whistle-stop bus tour of the Highlands with Haggis Adventures. A single woman looking for safe adventure, I took the three day Skye High tour which included a stop at the Wallace Monument, Glencoe, Eilean Donnan castle, Skye, Loch Ness, and Culloden. The tour guide and bus driver, Fergus, was a typical red-headed, R-rolling, English-hating Scot who continually extolled the virtues of everything Scottish: Scotland as a nation could do no wrong; as a people, they were smarter, stronger and kinder than any other; the food was better; the land itself- from dirt to mountain- was vastly superior to any found anywhere else in the universe; the air was cleaner; the views were vaster; the forests were woodier; the water? This was Fergus’ favorite. The water was only rivaled by angel’s tears in purity and magical healing properties.
Time and again we piled out at a different “loch” and “burn” and told to fill our water bottles with the phenomenal dew of the north. “The inherrrent purrrifying prrroperrrties of peat make this the cleanest naturrral waterrr in the worrrrrrrld,” Fergus would gush. Even though peat makes water brown. “Brrrown waterrr means it’s good waterrr!” Fergus would thunder. In my country, brown water means it needs boiling. But never mind. When in Caledonia, do as the Caledonians do: drink brown water. We dutifully filled our flasks as we journeyed through the highlands, stopping at every trickle and leak like some kind of prehistoric pub crawl.
On our last stop at one of Fergus’ favorite watering holes, the man had us virtually abseiling down the side of a cliff to the bottom a huge canyon. This was the site of a great waterfall. The sheep clinging to the rock face looked at us in desperation, hoping that their flares had been spotted and that we were the rescue team. Sorry, sheep, you’re on your own. At the bottom sat a beautiful clear cold pool of water and a small stream which flowed to the shore. People oohed and aahed. We obediently began the ritual of filling out bottles. As we did so, Fergus again regaled us with stories of the now otherworldly healing properties of Scottish water. It clears the complexion! It clears the bowels! It makes the stupid smart! It makes the boring interesting! It makes the ugly beautiful!
Suddenly I somebody said, “Um… is that a HEAD?” There, bobbing in the water just upstream, was the rotting skull of a sheep. The grey bulging eyes hung out of the sockets. Small bits of flesh and wool drifted towards us downstream. OH MY GOD, people screamed as they spat out their water. “And there’s the rest of the body,” I someone else said. At the edge of the pool, a few metres from where the severed head had come to rest, lay the sodden rotting carcass of a sheep that had met an untimely end at the bottom of the gorge.
And all I can think now is, I wish I had my blogger brain at the time because the sheep’s entrails and Fergus’ ruddy face set against the backdrop of a majestic waterfall would have made a great photo. I’ll never miss that chance again. And thankfully, Fergus never made us sip from another stream.