There’s a funny thing that happens to me when a deadline looms. I panic. I resist. The joy of unstructured wandering vanishes and suddenly I have to schedule, make reservations, backtime. Plan. This is not the way the Escapees live. We are plan averse.
The end of our six month tourist visa is coming up and all kinds of decisions have to be made. Should we leave the UK and continue camping in Europe? If so, how long do we need to stay out of the UK before returning to explore Ireland, England and Wales? What do we need to do to our UK van to make it legal on European roads? And so on.
More important than where to go next is the question of what to do about Jack’s deteriorating knee. He’s hiked heroically all over Scotland but it’s clearly getting more and more painful. We know he needs a total knee replacement but where? And when?
The colder weather tipped the knee decision toward returning to tropical Penang and the same doctor and hospital as knee #1. And to do it now and spend the winter months in a warm place. That’s a win-win. The surgeon assured us he’s still available and gave us advice on lead time and recovery to aid in travel planning.
Once the decision was made to fly to Malaysia we suddenly have a deadline and a long to-do list. And where should we go in our remaining few weeks in Scotland?
We assumed early on we would wander the western islands at the same unstructured make-it-up-as-you-go-along pace we normally employ but now we need to prioritize and squeeze what we can into the time we have left. Skye, while beautiful, has the worst roads we’ve driven so far in the UK, and the weather has become particularly sodden and unpleasant. Even the obligatory hike to the Old Man of Storr got crossed off the list when it looked like the fog was in for a long stay. We just managed to get a quick long shot from the deeply rutted road.
We booked the ferry to Harris and Lewis and called it a day, then found a remote parkup that looked like Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, the Māori name for New Zealand. We even had a welcome committee of the ovine ilk.
The weather continued to be wet and gloomy and the crossing was bumpy. Our planned drive around the south end of Harris was nixed because of the driving rain and we found a safe place to park and wait out the weather. It took two days before the rain stopped and we carried on.