More from the Hebrides and Highlands

After our lovely rest day with a fresh fish dinner (fish van came to the campsite to sell the freshly caught fish) we headed to the so-called Butt of Lewis. Lots of fun instead of frustration when also the third ATM (after trying two the day before) did not cooperate in raising our cash flow and two closed cafes. The weather was warm and nice, but in the distance a huge grey wall seemed to come towards us from the north. Around 5 km before we reached the butt, we stopped in a cafe for soup / more fish to wait for the cloud to go away. But, alas it turned out to be the local ‘har’, the sea mist, that can stay around for a while when it is there. Even approaching it, temperatures dropped by a felt 10 degrees, oooh, into the wet and cold. But of course we, or mainly I maybe, wanted to reach the most northern point of Lewis. Nature at the top of the island was spectacular, giant rocks, violet flowers, lots of sea gulls and wind and the sea slashing against the rocks. Good to see and experience this. We headed back, and again 5km further south the weather seemed to change completely. And we had seen a newly created campsite on our way, to which we went back to. A site with two pods and luxury kitchen shed with some grass for pitching tents. Informative chat with other campers and cyclists about the road conditions from Ullapool to Inverness and a hint to check out nice places around Inverness. In the morning the har had crossed most of northern Lewis and we woke up to it and took our tents down in it. I noticed how the damp and cold really got to me, it felt like a taste of how travelling on the Hebrides could also have been and I was the more grateful for our stable and warm weather we experienced for most of the time.

Our thoughts were already wandering to the next part of the cycle trip on mainland Scotland and I monitored the weather forcast which said there would be lots of rain on mainland and none on the islands, which was enough reason to spend two nights on a campsite near Stornoway and enjoy two lazy town and campsite days. Good food available in Stornoway too and an exhibition opening with artist talk in the local cultural center. While in Stornoway, I read online that the mother of Donald Trump was born on the Hebrides and left when she was 18 with quite a few other young women from the islands after a very sad accident. After the first world war lots of local men had already been lost and then in early 1919 a boat with 200 men on their way home to the islands was lost in a storm and all died. As a consequence young women from the islands emigrated to Canada and the US to start a family. No sign of Donald Trump being a grandson of the islands though …

Then finally leaving the islands which made me feel sad. However, we had a sunny ferry crossing, about 2,5 hours from Stornoway to Ullapool and arrived to a spacious campsite close to the ferry terminal. In the evening I took a walk through the small town of Ullapool and felt enchanted, a place I would like to come back to. And indeed the rain had cleared when we arrived and even the sometimes (as we were told) busy road was ok to cycle on a Sunday. Even low clouds cleared before we came through. After reaching the highest point of the day it was only downhill. The cycling uphill had felt easy with all the training from the Hebrides, and we could hardly believe the long descend and enjoyed it all the more.

We had thought of cycling around Lochnesss, but the next day I felt my knees hurting slightly and also feeling called by Findhorn where I knew all the time, the cycle trip would stop at least for the time being. So we cycled up a mild hill to Cannich, a taste of the highlands with the valleys and hills in the distance and lots of midges in the woods. On the second day in Cannich the midges became a real challenge for me. The day before I had found a place in myself, I thought, were I did not mind them around and eating me. But this time I wanted to run …

Then two more days of cycling to Findhorn. I found cycling on the big streets around Inverness challenging, wishing myself back to the empty roads of the Hebrides. But arriving in Findhorn was nice. I showed Don around the community site and the dunes and beach and we had a meal in a pub in Findhorn village.

And then, today a week ago, Don left to go back to Birmingham. We had a marvellous time together, all our days together seemed to be blessed. Thank you. And more trips are being planned.

In Findhorn I am helping to prepare a retreat that will start in a few days. Good and insightful times spent with old and new friends, reading, understanding more about the Findhorn community. And somehow the birds are coming more into my focus. I would like to be able to communicate with them. For the moment I am taking more time to watch them, enjoy seeing them having fun bathing in the bird bath in the little garden of the house where I am staying at the moment. There is a portal to another world when I allow myself to ‘be’ with the birds. Don mentioned a few times how birds have been around and doing the same things forever and people and places have changed around that. I find that interesting.

Greetings from Findhorn.

Photos coming in a moment. If you read this without photos, please check back …

From the Hebrides

We have reached Lewis, the most northern island of the Outer Hebrides and are staying at a lovely small campsite with a good wifi connection. Time to write a post about the magical time on the Hebrides.

When we arrived on Barra 10 days ago, the weather had indeed turned wet and windy and the forcast was for storm. We found a little shop which offered support in finding accomodation and we were able to book two nights in a B&B place just a few km along the road over one hill. Glad to be indoors, the night was wet and the next day very wet and windy. But we wanted to venture out anyway and did a tour of Barra, once around the island, exhilarating with the wind sometimes in the back then in the face. Good to come to a dry place to take a warm shower and have some warm food.

On Monday we left Barra, it was still raining in the morning. A 40 minute ferry ride to South Uist, passing the first campsite, just stopping for a jacket potato and hot tea. And then the rain stopped and has not come back since then.

When we were already tired and really looking forward to a place to rest and stop for the night we met another cyclist who knew the area well and directed us to a beautiful beach where we could pitch our tents. The night was cold however and the wind had picked up strength in the morning and I felt a bit shaky, noticing that even in company I am not a fan of wild camping. Although I really enjoyed the evening away from everything, having dinner sitting on a wall of rocks with the view of the sea. So the next morning after a quick breakfast, and cycling only a few km up the road, we found a hostel and decided to stay there for the day and the night. Enough time to sooth my system, enjoy some time out of the wind and reading and writing and chatting to other travellers, cyclists, walkers, all different sorts and types. The Howmore hostel is part of a hostel organization maintaining three hostels on the Western Isles, situated in lovely thatched old houses, very well cared for, excellent facilities. Just what a wind scattered traveller needs. And I had set my heart already on stopping at one of the other hostels further north.

So, next morning off with the wind, the weather stabilizing more and more, moments of bliss, sitting on the bike, often not needing to pedal at all, up and down the rolling hills, enjoying the beautiful scenery and hardly able to believe our luck with wind direction and weather. Rolling through the rest of South Uist, then over the causeway to the next island Benbecula. Here we stopped for a coffee/tea in the airport cafe. Had an interesting chat with a mother who saw her son off to the mainland. He lives in Glasgow and has a three weeks on, three weeks off job as a fisherman on the island, however, is hoping to bring his family back to the island for good.

On, to the next island via another causeway. The causeways were mostly built with the support of EU money in the 90s, before there were only ferries connecting the islands. Now on North Uist, we had the option to either cycle along the East or the West coast. We chose the West coast, along the road a cafe just in time to strenghten ourselves with soup and roll.

These islands are a jewel in terms of beauty and energy and everything. I was wondering what to do with all this beauty inside of me and overflowing. My heart became really big and I wanted to embrace everything, the whole world.

And then we found this beautiful campsite near a bird sanctuary on the Western most edge of North Uist. Birds calling long into the evening and early in the morning, quite magical. Lovely breakfast in front of the tents in the sun and heading to the next island, Berneray, first along the northern coast of North Uist and then over another causeway to lovely most beautiful Berneray. Here the next hostel was waiting for us, views amazing, breath taking really and another sunny and not too windy evening. A walk along the long white beach and views of the ferry to Harris, which goes about 4 times a day.

I don’t know if I have ever been so happy and content for such a long time without interuption. Travelling with Don is very pleasent, often funny, full of kindness and common sense, wonderful really, amazingly easy to agree on where to stop or stay. And maybe this is possible because he lets me decide mostly, really I am a bit of a tour guide, I read the map and read the guide book, know about possible places to stay and eat. And he adds lots of relaxation with what he calls opportunist attitude, so I don’t go into too much planning and am happily living the opportunist life too and we have never gone hungry or without a good site for our tents. And anyway the weather has been most supportive.

The next day we and a few more cyclist who stayed at the hostel, took the 10.25 ferry to Harris, the hills looming in the not so far distance. We pedaled just another 15 or so km on Harris until we found a beautifully situated campsite on the West Coast. Day after day the weather and the places we stayed at just became more beautiful. This one was stunning and we decided to stay for two nights. Thus we had time to cycle back to the standing stone of Harris the next day. Restful and meditative time near the stone and a lazy afternoon spent reading near the tent, soaking up all the good energy from and through the ground.

Well timed rest as on the next day we cycled through and over the hills, first into Tarbert, where although it was Sunday and nearly every shop and eating place is closed for Sunday observance, we found good food in the Hebriden Hotel close to the Tarbert ferry terminal. With our water bottles well filled we tackled the Harris hills, sun was getting really hot, up to 26 degrees, cycling in shorts and top. Challenging ascents and exhilarating descents. Then a bit of a long stretch of road with further small hills until we found an acceptable half wild camping site near an inn where we enjoyed another meal. None of our emergency oat soup needed after all. The next day even hotter and nearly no wind, so the midges where coming out. I guess there is no sunny and warm Scotland experience without midges. Still in a bit of disbelieve about the weather and the heat, this summer will be talked about for a long time 🙂

Yesterday we finally reached the Callanish standing stones, the place to visit and one of the most important prehistoric sites in all of the UK. Impressive, however also full of visitors. Wondering if there will be an opportunity to go back at a less busy time to connect to the stones more deeply. I feel already changed by just having been there. A different mood somehow since then. The mood might also have to do with this part of the trip ending fairly soon. Tomorrow we are planning to cycle up to the northern tip of Lewis, the butt of Lewis, and then the next day it is really down to Stornoway to take the ferry back to the mainland to Ullapool.

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Cycling in the UK and Scotland

10 days ago I embarked on my long and often talked about trip to Scotland. I started in Berlin, myself and my bicycle on the train to Rotterdam, then some 30km of cycling to the ferry port, Hoek van Holland and the overnight ferry to Harwich. Looking out on the sea from the ferry I was filled with feelings of joy and freedom.

The next morning in Harwich it rained and I decided to take the train to Cambridge. My first stop was Birmingham where I would meet Don, a cycling traveller I had met on a campsite in NZ. We had stayed in contact via email and around last Christmas decided to cycle the Outer Hebrides together.

From Cambridge I cycled west to a campsite in St. Neots. I had imagined to cycle for a few days towards Birmingham, however, studying the map in more detail, I did not find any good campsites on the map and encountered a feeling of intense lonelyness during my first night in St. Neots. I really could not feel any enjoyment in travelling by myself anymore, felt lost and a bit disoriented. I stayed another night on the same campsite to find my inner bearings again, but no relieve. Then I decided to call Don and check if I could come a few days earlier then planned. Yes, I could, so I started off the next day to cycle around 50 km to the next big town, Milton Keynes to take the train from there to Birmingham. On the way I got amazingly lost and it started raining so hard I could not use my phone anymore to find out where I was and where to go to. People I talked to sent me into weird directions. Inner lostness mirrored by outer lostness. But in the end I arrived at the station, very wet and very cold and arrived ok in Birmingham. In Birmingham Don and I had a few days to get to know each other. My system relaxed and we actually enjoyed a few beautiful sunny days, I learnt all about cricket watching a game and we went on a day trip to Liverpool.

Yesterday we finally boarded the train to go to Oban. From here we will take the ferry this morning to go to Barra, an island in the South of the Outer Hebrides. Then the plan is to cycle North hopefully with the wind. The forcast is for wind and storm for the next two days and then some calmer weather. Feeling lots of respect for the wind and possible cold. And we already found out that even campsites are booking fast, we called a few campsite places last night and only found a place for our two tents on the third site.

But feeling adventurous and loving the feeling of being in Scotland again. The trainride from Glasgow to Oban yesterday along the Loughs was wonderful.

Bornholm in April

I returned to Bornholm for a week. When I spent nearly 6 weeks on this beautiful island in winter, I was told that April is particularly beautiful with spring coming through the defrosted ground and trees starting to bloom. And yes, nature was full of abundance. Anemones covering the forest floor and wild garlic growing everywhere. My first afternoon I spent in a magical valley, sitting still on a rock in the midst of anemones looking for an answer to my sudden exhaustion that had come over me after arriving. I prayed a round of my mala and received the answer, to get up and move intuitively and slowly to free my body of some inner tension or some blockage, maybe caused by long sitting on the train and on the ferry the day before. After my little movement session I felt refreshed and clear again.
My friends’ house felt as lovely as I remembered it, lots of work done in the garden and preparing for more.
On my second day, I tried a little bicycle trip, enjoying the wind in my back on the way to the shore and then also along the shore towards the South. I would have enjoyed being pushed a little more, but I stopped to check how it would feel to cycle back to my temporary home. The wind was fierce. I decided to start cycling back immediately, smiling at my illusion that I won’t have to face up to letting myself be carried along. I cycled myself into a bit of a struggle, starting to wonder if I would make it back, certainly not enjoying the ride so much anymore. And then I remembered my experiment with the wind in November on Amrum. Back there I started interacting with the wind and for a moment felt like being one with the wind. So I started singing to the wind, humming a very simple melody, maybe four notes. Somehow it felt as if the wind was opening towards me, cycling became less strenuous, I felt like being in relationship with the wind, not fighting against it anymore. I was still tired in the evening, but somehow happily tired, having learnt an important lesson I feel.

On another day I reconnected with a new friend I had made in winter and we went for a little tour to the North of Bornholm, walking along a valley to a waterfall where masses of wild garlic were growing, looking at rock paintings possibly many thousands of years old and venturing into a cave. Seeing the wild garlic inspired me to cycle to the same valley again the next day through foggy landscapes. I collected a few bundles of the wild garlic and processed it into pesto in the evening.

Another highlight were the times with my tree friend, a beech tree I had found in January and which was featured he on my blog before. One morning before breakfast was particularly beautiful. The tree’s first green started to come out on the very top were it’s twigs stretched towards the sun. Again I found deep peace and solace here. One evening, a little shaken by what had happened, I came to my tree and had the impulse to connect to the spirit of Bornholm staying close to the tree at the same time. I asked how to find peace inside and it felt like the island was offering herself to me completely. I received an image of myself as a giant body, a little bigger than the island and I was invited to lay down on the island, soak up all its vitality and wholesomeness while letting my feet and hands tangle into then water. This brought instant relaxation and peace to my body.

Then another beautiful bicycle trip, taking most of the day, including some resting in the sand in the South of Bornholm, watching the swans nearby. Inbetween deep and sometimes healing conversations with my friends, meditation, proof reading of a small booklet, getting a little more proficient in working with my new tablet, finding useful apps and finally putting use to an external keyboard, that I had bought months ago.
Amazed by the power of Bornholm again, the island seems to be able to take in whatever one brings, ready for transformation, and providing nurturing at the same time.

Most of this I wrote while being ferried over the Baltic Sea back to Germany, on a sunny and quiet crossing with few other travellers as the tourist season is yet to begin on Bornholm. Once I reached the habour of Sassnitz, I cycled into town, had some lunch and boarded the train to Kiel. A few very interesting conversations on the 5 hour train ride and reading in my lovely book. The book feels precious: ‘The Lady and The Monk by Pico Iyer. It is about his trip to Kyoto in the late 80s, beautifully describing the Japanese culture, funny intercultural encounters, his fascination with Zen, and Japanese poetry and it is about love. Reading it often makes me laugh out loud, even on the train, or feeling very touched. I would love to share a part which touched me in particular and which is about connecting Heaven and Earth. Here it is:

‘Increasingly, then, as I went on reading Singer, I began to see that the great project of this closet pantheist was, quite literally, to build a rainbow bridge between heaven and earth. Again and again, his robust tales turned around men who wished to renounce the world in favor of some unearthly, abstract love – a devotion to scholarship, or even God – and then, of a sudden, found themselves confronted with the presence of something less lofty that seemed to betray a higher source; again and again his people were divided, their eyes on the heavens and their hands on earth. And invariably, Singer resolved the issue by showing that the earthly love could be just the manifestation of heavenly love, that it revealed to us a radiance and a beauty that were otherwise concealed; that this was all we could know of heaven here on earth, and all we would need to know. “The more we know of a particular thing,” Spinoza had written, “the more we know of God.” ‘

Stone Circles in Cornwall

From my notes from a few days ago:

Yesterday I said good-bye to Cornwall and travelled on to Bath, a 6-hour train journey. Arriving here seems to have been a bit of a shock to my system.

I felt very happy and grounded and somehow cared for in Cornwall. The cared-for feeling was also mirrored in the connection to my airbnb host. We had a few interesting converstations in her kitchen which I could use to cook my meals and she was always ready to pick me up somewhere if the bus schedule was not cooperative with my walking schedule. Particularly after visiting the Boscaven-un stone circle I needed her. It was Sunday, the forcast had been for more snow, and I was ready for a day inside. But then when I woke up, the sun was shining from a blue sky, the ground was half frozen and I decided to walk to the stone circle, a 1,5 to 2 hour walk from the cabin. Beautiful scenary on the way, and I got lost only once and found my way again. On my map it looked like there was only one path to the circle which I took. It turned out to be the most muddy path I walked in Cornwall, some parts I could only walk because of the frost still in the earth, so I was not sinking in more than ankle deep into the mud. I was determined to get to the circle, climbed over fences to avoid deeper water holes and then there it was in the sunshine. It felt to me like a very powerful place, I walked around it three times, then asked if I could enter and did enter into the circle. Inside there was such a high vibration that it felt like a sound in the air, similar to the hissing or static that you can hear inside your head when in very deep meditation or when you put a shell to you ear. A very peaceful place. Standing in the middle I connected to each of the 19 stones one after the other (there might have been more stones when the circle was first built). I had a sense of different aspects or perspectives or frequencies coming from each stone as each stone is also different in size and shape, and all these perspectives coming together in peace, as a model for showing us that this is possible and letting us feel how strong such a wholesome place feels. I like the theory that some stone circles where built for that purpose, to create a perfectly balanced and aligned place for people to go to, to find balance if they had fallen out of it, and particularly spend time in such a circle during the changes of the wheel of the year, e.g. summer and winter solstice and equinoxes when our whole system needs to align to a new flow of energy to stay in balance.

While being in the circle some clouds appeared in the sky and the coldness got to me. I needed to keep moving and found a different path to the next street and on the street to the next little village where I was hoping to catch a bus. But somehow I had misread the bus schedule. When I could not reach my airbnb host on her telephone I started walking another 1,5 miles to a bigger village where I would be able to catch a bus later in the day. But then she called back and came to pick me up. What a relieve, as after the experience in the circle I did not feel like sitting in a pub by myself, waiting for a bus.

I told her about the stone circle and she became curious and wanted to experience it too. So on my last day I took her, or better she took me in her car to the circle again and to two other interesting places. And we completed our outing with a lunch in Sennen Cove an old fishing village at the coast which I had visited before on my coastal walk and loved.

When I was writing these notes I sat in a square beside the Bath Abbey, listening to a man playing piano with lots of people sitting on the benches around him, enjoying his music. I don’t feel so much in balance here. Listening to the music felt soothing, but inside I am highly activated. Curious how this all belongs together.

Walking in Cornwall

Nearly two weeks in Cornwall already, it looks like such a small area on the map and there is so much to discover. I have extended my stay for another week, also because I love my cabin so much. And all the beauty! The snow cleared quickly and made room for milder days often with long sunny stretches.

I have explored most of the coast while walking parts of the South West Coast Path from Penzance clockwise to 6 miles before St. Ives when the terrain became just too muddy and hilly for me. I liked the challenge to walk the Path, often very rocky and always close to the sea. The structure of a walking day suits me a lot: getting up fairly early, having a good breakfast and then head out, spend the day outside in beautiful scenary, picknick outside or in a cosy cafe or pub and then coming back happy and tired, eat some more, rest and sleep. In between there were a few rainy days which I enjoyed too, resting in my cabin which is now comfortably warm, reading, writing, connecting with my friends online.

Today is such a rainy day, I cooked a meal in the kitchen of my host and chatted with her and one of her friends. The friend grew up around here and told me about the most interesting stone circles to visit. Stone circles are coming more into my focus now after which felt like honouring this area by walking along the coast.

As you might know this was once the most important mining area in Europe. Mining (mostly tin, then copper and arsenic) started here around 2150 BC says wikipedia and the last mine closed in 1998, most mines however starting closing around 100 years ago when cheaper metals came in from other regions. The mining industry made this area a rich and thriving place for hundreds of years. However, today this is one of the poorest areas in the UK. I had mixed feelings when I walked along the ruins of the old mines and chimneys, there can be beauty in looking at the ruins with a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. And at the same time the Earth feels terribly pierced here, sometimes every few meters there is an old mining shaft. One has to keep well to the paths not to fall into one of those shafts. I read that some of the mining shafts had tunnels that went far out under the sea.

The most peculiar thing happened when I tried to connect to the spirit of Cornwall close to the area with the deserted mines. The voice of the spirit felt like it was choking, it seemed to come through in a very high pitched voice. Not that I exactly hear a voice, but when connecting, I could feel how my throat was thightening. At first I thought it had just a funny character with this special voice, then I was wondering if it is maybe not doing so well. Maybe with all the mining and digging and extracting the Earth here might suffer, or as most of the old shafts are now filled up with dirt the Earth cannot breathe? First I asked myself what this might have to do with me and then I asked a few women friends to tune into this together with me and we had a sense that there is not ever only the pain to be felt, it helps to look at it more from a more holistic or integral point of view, also to see the beauty or necessity (e.g. to extract metals). We all sensed that somehow any presumable suffering of the Earth is always connected to human suffering, in the sense that it is only mirroring the suffering of humans, our fates are deeply connected. We could also sense a strength wanting to come through from the Earth which needs each of us to let it come through us, in the case of Cornwall maybe making us aware of all the things that we don’t allow ourselves to express. This feels important and I will elaborate on this in later posts.

People kept mentioning ‘Poldark’ to me in conversations as if this was something everybody should know about. I was curious to find out, but as I don’t normally watch TV, I had to read up about it and actually found parts of this apparently very successful TV series on youtube and watched some of it online for a few days. On my walks I found myself wondering what will happen next in the film and being excited and worried together with the characters. I imagine this is the fun of following a TV series, to kind of feel with the people in the film. Maybe I am just too easily distracted as I noticed that this took me from being present with where I was walking and from my walking practice, so I stopped watching further episodes. However, I quite enjoyed it and it gave me a good idea of how life might have been here around 150 years ago.

Back then and still today one of the most well-known landmarks around here is Land’s End, the westernmost place of England. This is also where we can meet the energy lines again that I mentioned in my post on Glastonbury: Michael and Mary enter England here, very close to Land’s End. I think I detected them and sat down on a rock which I felt was close to the energy from one of those lines. Anyway I felt restored and happy when I moved on. Similar to the landscape near Glastonbury, the land around this area seems to be filled with some special light, everything is a bit more sparkling then in other places or I like to see it like that.