On the way out of the Highlands we decided to detour to Long Loch to visit the abandoned missile testing ground. It served us well again. As the Highland Gods demand sacrifices they also bestow gifts of experience. Loch Long was a spur of the moment long shot we decided to explore first time around and it paid off with a concrete pier over the water, the orange remains of the rusted frame that once covered it still visible; burnt out walls, struts covered with mussels. A structure like we hadn’t seen before. That time we expected nothing and this time we expected nothing. In a sense, it was a detour for Ben to see a sick exploration site, dissimilar to the others we’d checked out together.
Me and Yuri walked along to the end of the pier while Ben took a slower look around taking photos. When we turned around we saw that someone had approached him and as we came closer we heard their conversation.
‘So you boys have come all the way from England, aye?’
‘Yeah,’ said Ben.
‘Where you been?’
‘All the way up. All through the Highlands and that. All the way to the top.’
‘No! We haven’t even done that,’ and the stranger called to his friend. ‘These lads have been all the way North. They been road tripping through the Highlands.’
His friend, carrying a bag and a fishing rod, popped round the corner, ‘Oh aye?’
‘Aye,’ said the guy.
‘We haven’t even done that.’
The guy who first introduced himself to Ben was the more talkative of the two. He was Scott and his friend was Connor. Together they were an intriguing double; Scott, the extrovert, curious about people, very enthusiastic, a story-teller and then Connor, quiet, laidback, not in the least intense, but a funny presence. Scott asked us, ‘So, you boys just been driving around, wild camping and that?’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Couple of campsites but mostly just wherever we end up.’
‘That’s great, aye. That’s great.’
‘What you driving?’
‘Nissan Micra,’ Yuri said.
They burst out laughing. So did we.
‘Around these hills,’ asked Scott, ‘cramped up in a Nissan Micra?’
‘You fight over who rides shotgun all the time?’
‘It’s ok. We’ve all pretty well found our place. Each seat has its perks,’ I told them.
‘So what, just the three of you—no parents or anything?’ Scott asked.
‘Nice. You boys bring a bit of green?’
That there, amongst a certain people, in a certain generation—amongst these people, and during this generation—is the ultimate ice breaker. Now both parties, previously strangers, have their suspicions about the others confirmed. At least marginally. Now the jam can begin. And maybe that seems strange, but really, in that exchange a lot is transmitted. In answering yes some of your character is revealed; you are most probably anti-authority, certainly you have a unique will and won’t be cowed from a thing simply because of its legality. In this way it shows independence of thought. Beyond that a bunch of other guesses can reasonably be surmised.
I grinned. ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘Of course.’
Scott smiled too, ‘What you got?’
‘Just some cheese.’
‘Aye, that’s nice. I’ve just got some bog standard stuff. It doesn’t smell like much but it gets the job done.’
‘That’s all you need.’
‘Aye. Well, why don’t you stay while we fish. We got music—what music do you boys like? Bob Marley?—got this boombox here,’ he motioned to a fat, battery powered speaker with his foot, ‘We’ll have a smoke, have a chat.’
And so we smoked our last joint while Scott and Connor smoked their’s. We watched Connor cast a line and a minute later reel in five mackerel. I’d never seen anything like it. He cast again and almost without fail, 30 seconds or a minute later he’d pull in another few.
Scott talked about the bears that once lived in the woods around here, talked about what it must have been like in Scotland when Robert the Bruce was alive, how plentiful the fish must have been here, the abundance of wildlife and the true state of wilderness. He talked about life in Glasgow, where he said, ‘See, thing about Scotland is, you walk out your door and there’s a pretty good chance some cunt’s gonna stab ya.’
He described the fake gangstas and the real ones, about how every so often someone goes missing—they’ve been blagging too much, hyping themselves up too much, driving around in the tinted window four by fours, wandering around with the big chains. They end up somewhere out in the Highlands in a shallow grave. Barely a two hour drive. Convenience.
‘What about the real gangstas?’
‘They’re probably driving around in a Nissan Micra.’
Jump cut to a blue Nissan Micra bouncing through Portree, three skinny guys bumping Tupac inside loud enough to shake you in your seat.
Asked about Scottish independence he said, ‘Ach, I don’t know. I don’t know about that sort of thing. I don’t know what Scotland would do on its own though.’
‘Aye. We got the oil at least,’ said Connor.
‘True,’ I said. ‘But it’s the English that financed all the equipment and shit. And you know how we get about oil. We ain’t gonna let you keep all that. You might have an invasion going down before long.’
They asked us what made us go on this trip. ‘People,’ I said. ‘Mostly we just wanted to be away from people.’
‘What, like, pals back home, family?’ asked Scott.
‘Nah, nah. I mean, not specific people. People as a whole. Civilisation.’
‘Ah,’ he said. Now he understood. ‘The dream. We’re the same really. Keep a low profile back home, stay lowkey, avoid all the cunts, then come out here to recharge whenever we can. How old are you boys?’
We told them.
‘Aye, same as us really. It’s funny how you meet the same types of people as you all around.’
That was the most striking thing. In this way it was heart warming. It was as if we’d bumped into our Glaswegian counterparts. Their philosophy on life was very similar, how they spent their leisure time, their desire for peace, to avoid the chaos and the nonsense, their preference for marijuana, their love of nature and the land.
We left having met two people who we shared a strange connection with for a while. Surreal, almost. We didn’t shake hands. They’d caught such an abundance of mackerel they were throwing them back and consequently had fish-slimed fingers. We fist bumped and went on our way. As we left Loch Long we beeped the horn a few times in honour of our meeting and departure. What are the chances of meeting those people? Honestly, I don’t know if it is the Highland Gods or if it’s the Gods of the Road, but whatever the case, they pull the strings together and tune serendipity as well as misfortune.