We already pushed back our Orkney ferry reservation once, and in retrospect probably should have again. As time grows short and we look at the map, we see how much we’ve missed in Shetland. It’s a small place, you’re thinking, but our mode of travel isn’t really touring in the traditional sense. We just like to be in a place, listen to the sounds, feel the rhythms of the days. If we don’t do anything special in a particular place it’s ok. It’s enough to observe the play of light on the hills, the behavior of the wildlife, the routines of the locals, and the bustling activity of holiday makers. We’ve slowed down quite a bit in our dotage, but our enjoyment of new places hasn’t waned in the least. Traveling in our home gives us the luxury of stopping to appreciate a place for as long as we like.
After the challenging hike in Muckle Roe we needed to recuperate. We drove south again toward Burra and Minn Beach.
Dedicated viewers of the BBC TV series “Shetland” will recognize Minn Beach as a dramatic location at the end of season 7.
This is an unusual tombolo because one side of it is rocky, the other sandy. I walked to the other end on legs still wobbly from Muckle Roe and thought with the color and clarity of the water it could be anywhere across the tropical Pacific Ocean….
….until you see the ubiquitous thistles and feel the 50°F/10°C air temperature.
We found ourselves near the churchyard where a ninth century Pictish stone was found in 1877. The original is in a museum in Edinburgh but this replica fascinated us. The style of the art is unique and we’re convinced the figures at the bottom were the inspiration for the Spy vs. Spy characters in Mad Magazine.
In a change from the many homebake honesty boxes we found a very well stocked free library on the road.
We spent a few days at a small marina where we could empty the tanks that needed emptying and fill the ones that needed filling. The boats were local workboats and one afternoon I watched a little drama in the harbor. A man was working on his boat while his dog sat on the dock. Every few minutes the boatman called to the dog, but the dog remained stubbornly glued to the dock.
I could see in the dog’s eyes he was never going to get on that boat. Eventually the man gave up with a shrug and walked the dog back along the length of the dock to his truck.
It was about this time I thought I’d take a walk and as I passed the truck the fisherman motored up to the pier and tied up.
The dog was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, shamefaced. “He’s a wimp and he knows it,” says Jack.
I called out to the fisherman, “You’ve lost your crew!”
“Aw, he hates the boat,” he called back. “He never wants to come aboard.” At least I think that’s what he said. The Shetland accent is challenging.
He told me he was just prepping for the next day when he’d collect his catch and haul it off to market. He’d only be out for a short time and he assured me the dog will be fine waiting in the car. Most of the work will be done in the morning and when I asked what time he said, “Seven-thirty, maybe eight.”
“Oh,” I said, assuming all fishermen went out at dawn. “Not so early.”
He laughed. “I’m retired.” It sure looked like work to me.
The next morning as I drank my coffee I watched him sort, weigh, and pack crate after crate of fish. When he drove the boat around to the pier to load the truck I walked over for a chat. He told me about the fishing grounds and the new regulations from Brexit and how he catches the fish. I got maybe half of what he said, the Shetland accent being what it is.
He showed me his catch, and told me it was a good amount. I was happy to hear that, because so many areas of the world have suffered from overfishing.
While I was pestering the fisherman, Jack was watching the other side of the dock where a half dozen carloads of kayakers had shown up the night before and were now preparing to launch.
Kayaking is very popular here, and we’re amazed at all the specialty clothing and gear involved in outfitting and transporting a modern sea kayak. These are very different from our beloved rotomolded sit-upon kayaks on Escape Velocity that we could just untie from the lifelines and drop over the side deck to launch. It took well over an hour for this crowd to get ready, and even after the kayaks were in the water they were in and out of the boats several times making adjustments.
All that scurrying and tweaking was worth it as we watched them glide out the channel toward the sea leaving barely a ripple behind.
With the fishermen gone, and the kayakers gone, it was just the two of us again, enjoying another beautiful Shetland day. How will we be able to tear ourselves away?