Isle of Mull: A Dawn Delight

Rise and not shine. We got up before dawn with a plan to shoot morning colors in the sky. I couldn’t wait because I knew we’d see something special. I was bundled up in my coat with several layers underneath and my Wellington boots. This would be my first time wearing them and I was excited about the possibilities.

As we headed down the road, I could see the large loch on the right and rolling hills on the left. At one point I saw a waterfall on the left and hoped we’d be able to go there. Strangely enough, the highlight was not the loch or the waterfall or the sun. In fact, the sun was hiding behind mountains, only setting free a few rays to show it was there. So instead the highlight for me was the Highland cows we saw grazing. I’ve never seen a more stylish and mellow animal as these. I call them stylish because of their hair/fur. Their eyes were hidden at times as they grazed and curiously watched the paparazzi snapping photos everywhere.

I watched them, too. They may have looked calm and mellow, but you can never be too sure, especially if you’re a chicken like me. Look at those horns. Can you imagine the damage they could do to a person? In any case, I got as close as I could without invading their space though someone suggested I get down to eye level. I would suggest that that someone keep his/her suggestions to him/herself. I mean, this was serious progress for me. I don’t normally get up close and personal with animals of any kind.

Moving on, we headed to another location farther down. Snow capped mountains and sparkles on the water.  That was the scene of our next stop. I got out, teeth chattering and eyes watering. It was beautiful. But, it needed to get closer to the water to really get some nice shots. I started walking and heard my toes breaking into many pieces. I’m guessing they were frozen. Just a little. Or a lot. Not only that, but there was a great deal do seaweed, slippery seaweed lining the entire way down. Under that, slippery rocks. I took a few steps and decided to cut my losses and turn around. The possibilities played out in my head and they all ended with me hitting the ground, landing on my back while looking up at a magnificent sky and unable to reach my camera to take a shot of it. I pictured the headlines: Photography Fail: Crazy American Falls While Attempting to Take Photos in Scotland. So going back to the van seemed to be a more dignified choice.

At least I saw the cows, right?

Scotland: On to Mull

It was still Saturday, January 17, and I was still enjoying the journey. I continued to snap photos. Some bad and some really bad. I blame it on the fact that I was in a moving vehicle that made many twists and turns. What else can I say? Would anyone expect me to admit that I simply took bad photos? Never! Except when I do.

I alternated between my phone and my tablet, using whichever one I thought would get me the better picture. So I took this one with my iPad. It may not have turned out exactly as I would have liked, but it I do believe it at least allows you a picture into my journey.

Snow on Trees

What’s nicer than the warm sun shining over snow covered mountains and trees? I imagined what it would taste like since I haven’t eaten snow since childhood. Well, maybe it wasn’t that long ago, but I am not going to get into that. There are a few secrets a woman should keep.

Before I knew it, we reached Oban. There a large ferry awaited. Initially, we were worried that we might miss the 4 o’clock ferry, but actually made it there early, a whole hour early. Whew! I was so glad because the idea of waiting until 10 at night didn’t sit well with me or any of us for that matter.

We finally boarded the ferry and found a place to sit. I looked out at the pier and around. The ferry wasn’t very crowded. I’m always happier in a smaller group/crowd, so I didn’t mind.

The ferry ride was supposed to be 45 minutes, so I had the chance to take a look outside from the uppermost level. Of course I wanted to take pictures though I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to stand the chill up on deck. Not surprisingly, I didn’t stay very long. As soon as I was outside my eyes were watering, my nose running. They were probably in shock as was I. I took a few shots with my camera but quickly made my way back inside. Turning into a block of ice before reaching our destination just didn’t seem appropriate.

We all had a cup of tea as I wonderd if I could put some hot tea in my gloves, hat, shoes, everything. My brother warned me. Oh well. I’m sure the next time I travel to colder lands I’ll be better prepared. Not to worry though, I was at least prepared to experience Scotland in a way that no one I know has.

So here I am in Mull, a place that is everything but dull.

Scotland: Will Stop for Photos

Here I am in Scotland in the chilly month of January. Chilly of course is an understatement. I worried about my ability to live in the cold since I’ve been in “warm” Saudi Arabia. And at the same time I really wanted to experience a proper winter.

So, early in the morning, which wasn’t that early since sunrise is just before nine, we set out. I was excited to see frost. Can you imagine? I was even more excited to see that we’re in the middle of winter and the frost I saw sat neatly on green grass. If I didn’t know any better I would’ve thought it was a first frost. Of course I knew that wasn’t possible since temperatures had been circling around the drain for quite some time long before I got here. And the forecast? Snow!!! Oh how I’ve wanted to see snow. We were on the road traveling from Brechin and making our way to Oban where we’d catch a ferry to Mull Island.

As cold as the road was, I was nice and comfortable in the heated seats. I had great conversations with my hostess along the way. It was nice that she also enjoys seeing snow. We saw snow along the way and I snapped horrible photos as the car moved on. But then we reached a loch which was absolutely stunning and warranted a short stop. What can you take away from this? Scotland is so much more than simply the “land of castles.”

The stunning beauty of Scotland.


And who wouldn’t want to stop for this? It’s awe inspiring. I was so excited and secretly wished we could stay longer. But we had a ferry to catch. Any delays would mean catching a late night ferry. The drive itself was enough, not that I was the one driving. But add to that a person with jetlag and try imagining a longer wait well into the night. I certainly didn’t want that.

And so we pressed on. We stopped a little longer for a restroom break and lunch on the run. But it wasn’t what you might expect. Charlotte, my hostess, had made delicious sandwiches. We had crisps as snack along with cake and hot tea. While we were having lunch, I noticed these little birdies. Apparently they are common in Scotland, but for me it was the first time seeing them. I haven’t gotten a picture yet as they mock me and fly away.

We got back on the road. I marveled at the sun glistening the snow draped trees. It was a dream come true. And I’m not even frozen yet. But I am quickly approaching.

Mid Year Holiday: To Scotland (Part 2)

Traveler’s log: I made it to Istanbul in one piece. And as I left the plane, I could feel the cold air. I wondered if I’d be able to survive the winter temperatures which are quite extreme compared to the fake winters in KSA. I wouldn’t have to worry for a little while, so I decided to simply look for a place to sit. And it was not going to be easy. I know Istanbul is a large international destination but I had never seen the airport that crowded. People all colors of the rainbow, speaking all kinds of languages were scattered everywhere. It’s a lovely thing to see.

I had some time to kill so I went to the restroom and then changed some money. I got Turkish liras as well as British pounds. I intend to spend the liras on my way back. I checked the board to see if there was a gate number. There wasn’t. So I went to buy some juice and paid the man with both currencies because I wasn’t paying attention. He pointed it out to me and I quickly tried to pay him in the correct currency but he said it was okay. That was nice.

I went again to check the board and finally a gate number, 302, appeared. I made the trek to the other side so that I could just sit and wait for boarding time. I sat outside a little shop and was later asked if I wanted to drink something because “These seats are for customers.” Blah blah blah. Really? I didn’t have the energy so I thought it was a good time to go to the restroom. I thought it would be better to go before boarding. To my dismay, when I came out I found the gate number had been changed to 502. That’s right. It was in the opposite direction. In fact it was where I started. I ran like the dickens because it was close to boarding time. And wouldn’t you know it, I got there all out of breath as they announce the gate number was now 311. It took everything in me not to scream. Actually, there was nothing left in me to muster up the energy it would take to scream. So, that was that.

I did manage to get there and then had to be interrogated about why I was going to the UK. Because I want to, people! As if that wasn’t enough, anyone carrying electronic devices had to take them out for inspection. And just my luck, I had three, my phone, iPad and laptop. I’m glad my goofy laptop didn’t decide to not work and cause me any other “fun.” I got on the bus and simply wished it would be quick because I was getting cold.

I got to my seat and I was unfortunately in the middle. Next to the window was a man who looked almost exactly like my sister in law’s brother. I was tempted to say something, but I figured he was probably not excited about being next to me, lol. And then the person on the other side of me came. Also a man. It was weird being “sandwiched” in that way. I kept telling myself it was only three hours. It turns out it was 4. Yay!

We reached Edinburgh and I went through immigration/customs fairly quickly which was nice. I made a quick trip to the ladies room and headed out, looking for a sign with my name on it. And there they were. We headed out and it was snowing. It was C-O-L-D cold. I was nevertheless excited about seeing the snow. I was so excited that I moved my face veil so that I could stick my tongue out in hopes of catching snowflakes.

I was there! In Scotland! And so the adventures began.

Mid Year Holiday: To Scotland (Part 1)

This semester reminded me a lot of the “Song that Never Ends” except it had been more like a never ending nightmare. It did, however, end and I know that my colleagues and I could not be happier. Many people traveled to their countries or other destinations. And that’s what I’m doing as well. This time, I’m headed to Scotland via Istanbul.

I reached the airport a little after 4am. There busses outside bringing and taking people for umrah. What I love about traveling from this part of the world is the fact there are things you may witness that simply don’t happen everywhere else. For example, there was a couple sitting on the floor with all their stuff by the check-in counter. So why didn’t they check in? Instead they sat there having breakfast, in the middle of the floor. After I checked in, I saw a little girl scolding her brother because he was trying to take some juice that wasn’t free. And then there was one of my personal favorites, going through security. Where else can you go in the world where the security ladies are too lazy to get up from their seats to check you? Instead you must go to them. 👍

And so began the waiting game for a lady who had been awake since 2:30.

My flight was supposed to leave at 6:40. And maybe it did. All I wanted to do was sit down and get some sleep. We started boarding around 6:15 and before we entered we were asked to wait. Why? Well, they were still cleaning the plane. So I stood there, second in line, and waited. While I was waiting, a young lady was running down. And this wasn’t just any type of running. It was like a child racing his/her friend to the swings. And the strange laugh completed the whole experience. However, I was a wee bit worried that she’d run right into me and knock me on the floor. Luckily she put on the brakes and stopped in time. She then asked me in Arabic what was going on. I don’t know why I didn’t reply in Arabic, but I didn’t. She misunderstood, or perhaps she didn’t understand at all, but still managed to get the idea. And so we waited until finally we were allowed to board.

I walked to my seat and sat down. It’s by an exit which I don’t normally like. But what could I do? Nothing. I just sat and watched all the people coming. I listened as people seemingly cursed other people for not moving fast enough. I also prayed that no one would be sitting next to me. My prayers were answered and I didn’t have to worry about being bothered. Unfortunately, I was still bothered. As nice as the fight attendants were, they repeatedly bumped my head. Every few seconds I heard, “Sorry.” Well so was I. How many bumps to the head should a person take during the day?

But then the flight became a little more interesting when one of the flight attendants asked me if I could speak Arabic. I reluctantly said yes. Apparently there was a sick passenger they couldn’t understand. They wanted to help her so I walked back with him to speak to her. When I saw the woman I was worried. Fortunately, another passenger was able to help which meant I wouldn’t have to embarrass myself. These people were from Tunisia or Algeria or somewhere over there and let’s face it, I don’t understand a lot of what they say.

Thai Adventures: The Monkeys

I have been away for a long long time. And it’s mostly due to laziness. I’m not proud of that, but it IS the truth. However, I decided to get myself back into writing as I do actually enjoy it. You know, when I have the energy. So here goes, a tale from a trip I took almost one year ago today. Give or take a few days.

One of the greatest things about being in Saudi Arabia is the opportunity to travel to places I wouldn’t likely go to if I were back home. Well, last year during one of our breaks which was right about this time last year, I traveled with a friend/colleague to Thailand. It was a grueling trip from Yanbu to Jeddah to Muscat to Bangkok to Koh Lanta, one of the islands in southern Thailand. I think. My friend scuba dives and had plans to take advantage of the opportunity while I intended to visit national parks and chase wildlife. One morning, I took a “taxi” to a national park which was about 30-45 minutes from our resort. It was a bumpy ride, but what other options did I have? Oh, I guess I could have rented a motorbike and gotten lost or ended up in the trees somewhere. Since I wasn’t up for that, the taxi would have to do.

When I got to the park, I think I must have been one of the first people to arrive. I got out, and walked toward the trail which was quite long. I got to the first few steps and thought that I didn’t have the energy or the courage to do it. It looked a little creepy and the stairs were of varying height which forced me to use my tripod as a walking stick. I went back down and decided I couldn’t do it. I’m usually a chicken and that day was no different. So, I went and sat down at a picnic table. and stared at the water. I was supposed to be there all day and I had been there all of 20 minutes.

And they mean it!
And they mean it!

I saw this sign as I again contemplated going through the trail. I wondered whether I’d actually see any monkeys. But I wasn’t that concerned. Not yet anyway. I got up and walked toward the beginning of the trail yet again and before I reached the steps, I saw several monkeys run across. But I pressed on. I climbed and climbed stopping from time to time to catch my breath. I was out of shape and as far as I was concerned, I was climbing Mt Everest. I stopped a few times to take pictures being the “photographer” I am. I tried getting pictures of those monkeys as well. I continued on and I got to one point and saw a fallen tree. I didn’t really see myself climbing over it, so I thought that I should just turn back. And let’s face it, I was chicken. I kept thinking about the fact that I was walking this trail all alone and if I screamed no one would hear me.

I turned back and saw more monkeys running around and jumping from tree to tree. I stopped again, my heart pounding, to get some not so great shots of them. As I was shooting, I felt something on my leg and started freaking out. I screamed and hit at my leg. “Oh my God! There’s a monkey on my leg,” I screamed. But further examination would reveal otherwise. I moved again and thankfully realized that the “monkey” on my leg was my tripod :D. I laughed at myself and thanked God no one was around to see me making a fool of myself. And this was all I needed to convince me that turning to go back was the right idea. I finally made it back out of the danger zone and sat at the same picnic table I started at before. There was a couple sitting nearby. Perhaps they were preparing to hike the trail I was too afraid to complete. As I sat, recounting my “encounter,” the lady calmly told me there was a monkey behind me. Good God! That was all I needed. I had to pretend to be calm and simply move and grab my little bag since monkeys are known to grab bags. They have no shame. I moved and we watched as she came to the table and grabbed something she thought was “something.” What a shame! It was only trash. So she left. Whew! I really didn’t want to be on the news that day. I pictured it in my head, “Crazy tourist gets into altercation with monkey.”

Needless to say, I was done for. I couldn’t wait for my taxi which was supposed to come at the end of the day. I extra to go back to the comfort of the hotel and my seaside view.

My advice to anyone planning to visit the islands of Thailand, “Watch out for monkeys!”

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