Back in Preston. Our trip through the Highlands was over too fast. The further south we drove the more depressing our journey became. This is a return to civilisation. Back to the monotony that accompanies 9-5 life. Back to the numbness. It almost flavours the air. Each exhalation has a little more sigh behind it, a little more dejection. Each step in this direction is less glorious. The geography mirrors our temporal experience of life. We drive away from the source of our memories. Suddenly those moments cease to be. For us they are just stories now and this all exists in the imagination alone. The one good thing about this is it gives experience the same quality as poetry, just as an end gives a thing the quality of a narrative. So this journey, at least from our subjective position, is both an adventure tale and a poem—a work of art. Through art the past is salvageable. That’s part of the reason it was important to document this.
There isn’t much remarkable about the Isle of Skye in my memory. My heart rests in the central Highlands and along the north-western coast. Still, there is plenty to be said. And it might be that part of problem was that by this point in the journey the weather had turned and we were getting hit with harsh and persistent rain and strong winds. Besides which we’d been going hard for nearly two weeks now, travelled crazy distance on foot and in the car, and we all felt a growing exhaustion.
One night sticks out in my mind. It was our second day on Skye; we planned to visit the Fairy Pools and refuel on the way, although we must have had at least a half tank. We weren’t really worried. The only station we past had cars queued up into the road though, so we didn’t bother with petrol and continued on our way.
After getting dinner, we figured we’d drive to the northernmost tip of the island. There we’d listen to Biophilia and smoke a joint. Checking the fuel gauge, we saw we were down to our last fifth. Definitely time to fill up. Following the Sat-Nav we went to the only 24 hour petrol station on the island. There was some concern that we might not make it at all. As we rolled toward the green neon beams of the place, the three of us kept our eyes on the fuel gauge. When we arrived there were cries of relief in the car.
‘Thank fuck, there it is!’
‘That was getting close.’
We were already talking about where we’d be heading once we’d filled up. A few more metres down the road, the car still spinning with relief, we came to the turn in for the station. Here we met traffic cones. It was closed.
Welcome to Sunday midnight on the Isle of Skye. As I said, it may look like civilisation, it may have plenty of pretentious restaurants, it may be dotted with convenience stores, you may even see advertising at the roadsides, but it is not civilisation. Ben and Yuri pleaded with the workers (who were, in fact, inside the petrol station) but to no avail. Even watching from the car I knew it wasn’t going well. I could see the man waving his hands before Ben had even spoken.
They got back in the car and I asked Yuri ‘Was this petrol station on the way to the camp site at least?’
‘The complete opposite direction,’ he replied.
Nobody spoke for a while. Eventually we decided to try our luck and make for the site, now a significant distance across the island. We drove and spoke little, each of us contemplating the various possibilities. Would we be close enough to push the car to the campsite? If not, how many miles might we end up from the campsite, and where? Whatever the case, we’d be stranded and this time, no cloud for company.
For half the drive, I watched the fuel dial creep ever closer to red until it was millimetres away. I asked if we would have a lot of downhill, maybe we could just roll it out?
No, mostly uphill.
And we seemed to be creeping slowly uphill for fifteen minutes.
Ten miles from the campsite I was thanking the car for having got us this far on so little. I expected no more. The dial was on empty but we were five miles away from the site and in the car we allowed ourselves hope.
‘We could make it. Maybe.’
‘I think we will.’
Sometimes false optimism is necessary. If we really considered the world in all its absurd and dangerous glory we wouldn’t get anything done. Could you even leave the house if you could truly visualise what it meant to be on a spinning rock hurtling around a nuclear reaction in space?
The God of Skye or the God of Nissan Micras came through for us. The gates of the campsite appeared and we made it inside. Somehow our little blue car even took us to a small petrol station about three miles down the road the next morning as well. This was a learning experience; you always get something of value from the Gods of the Road, in whichever of their various forms and guises they decide to take. This time we discovered that on Skye, get petrol—really something we should have learned when we were stranded in the cloud—and Micras roll on forever.
Thanks for reading,