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Fern Leaves

Following the Sky Blue Trail of Kintyre Kindness

Updated: Feb 12

~ 12 Months of Travel Kindness ~

January Scotland

January is a month of new beginnings. That’s what this month’s travel kindness story did for me after spraining my ankle on a long-distance hike; it created another beginning.

Hiking adventures

There is a magical place in Scotland called the Kintyre Peninsula. Here you will find the Kintyre Way trail. 100 miles of criss-crossing heaven taking you east to west and west to east, until you eventually make it either north or south. It’s not a difficult hike and can be enjoyed with thru-hiking or by staying in nearby villages to create smaller sections. While you walk back and forth following sky blue trail markers, you pass forests, lakes, rivers, beaches, hills, many sheep, and breath-taking coastlines in every direction. There are so many glorious nature moments here to discover, but what ended up making the biggest impression for me was pure travel kindness.

100 miles of exploring nature! I arrived in the town of Tarbert after taking a bus from Glasgow. It was a fantastic bus ride and the person sitting next to me became a friend for a few hours. I headed to a restaurant for a last meal, explored a castle, and unsuccessfully tried to convince a bunny to join me for the week of hiking adventures. I struggled with the first few miles of climbing uphill in the sun with a heavy bag, getting a bit lost, finding an angry ram, getting a soaker; the usual things. Making it to mile 5 felt like a victory, but perhaps that also made me less cautious. I came across a deer shortly after, and I LOVE deer. It was on the other side of a fence and I wanted to say hello, so off I go hopping over the fence with my bag on and I landed on my foot wrong. To make matters worse, the deer was not interested in chatting with me.

I kept walking and made it to about mile 10 before stopping for the night. There are so many adventures that happened in between, but I walked, limped, and dragged my poor foot and body for another 50 miles. When I got around the 65-mile mark, I was in pretty rough shape. I had just crossed a huge cow field and had run out of names for all the cows. I came to a beach and cute dog found me. Accompanying the dog was an older man named Steve. I can only imagine how I looked. Besides the sprained ankle, I had many cuts, bites, and blisters, a horrible head cold that I couldn’t shake, and it had been a while without a shower, decent sleep, or clean clothes. I was basically moving one foot in front of the other with willpower and not much more. This random fellow took it all in and said hello to the crazy hiker. He was staying in a caravan community around the corner and had been coming to that spot with his family for decades. It was a beautiful area with patches of sandy beaches and green hills with waves crashing on black rocks below. After we sussed each other out a bit, he invited me to charge my camera battery and have a cup of hot tea.

A common hiking fantasy is imagining someone popping out of the forest to say, ‘Would you like a nice cold pop or a hot cup o’ tea?' The rare moments when this actually occurs are cemented as extraordinary acts of humanity! After days of sleeping wild, drinking boiled lake water, freezing at night, feeling sick, and dealing with a sore foot and all the aches and bruises – you better believe that tea tasted damn good. Steve talked about his family often and especially his daughter, you could tell he loved her very much. I know he was thinking something like what if this was my daughter and that he would want someone to help her. It was getting late, the daughter had a separate room in the trailer, and so he asked if I wanted to stay the night. This meant suddenly having a real bed, running water, food, warmth, and a chance to heal. He even picked ticks off me, which is super gross but a heroic act of kindness. Steve drove me to a doctor the next day, who sent me to a hospital to get x-rays and medicine. Thankfully, it was only a sprain, and to my surprise I wasn’t charged for anything. I also received an amazing sticker that I treasure to this day.

I ended up staying in the caravan community for a few days to recover. During the daytime, I would walk to the cliffs or beach and write or just sit and watch the waves. Other times we would drive to nearby lookout points or into the closest city to do laundry and get groceries. At night we would make supper and sit around watching Scottish sitcoms and dramas with the puppy pal. It was a beautiful thing to make a friend and find a routine that felt comfortable after days of being uncomfortable. I was able to heal my foot a bit, get rid of the cold, catch up on sleep and water, take a hot shower, eat hearty food, and just overall patch myself up. When I said goodbye to Steve and this short trailer life on a beach, I was sent off with piles of food, odds and ends to help with hiking, a carved leather belt, and what I call my lucky hiking jacket; the warmest thing I suddenly owned and belonging to his daughter. The care, rest, and kindness made it feel like a new beginning for the rest of the hike. I finished the remaining 35 miles, but sadly lost Steve’s email address. I didn’t get to tell him that I finished the hike safely or that I eventually made it back to Canada. I didn’t get to fully express how much the kindness helped and meant. I continue to use it as an example for believing people are good, and I still have the lucky hiking jacket as a symbol of when a random stranger treated a stranger like a daughter.

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