Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Traveling to Moffat - My Pilgramage to the Motherland
Notice - Post in Progress - Check back soon
First, let me apologize for the serious lack of in-depth posts that were a staple of the first half of my trip. Once I lost my computer's AC adapter, I fell too far behind on the blog to make it all up, and it was stressing me out so I decided to get away from it awhile and just enjoy my time abroad. However, I'm currently in Edinburgh, Scotland, and have a few last stories to tell before I head back home to the US. And before I leave, I'll be writing a long "last post" with the final thoughts on my trip, so be sure to check back soon.
Today, however, I'm here to talk about a small Scottish town, just south of Edinburgh, called Moffat. A tiny speck on the map, Moffat is visited today for its small-town charm, scenic trails, and homemade woolen products. However, I was there for a different reason. It's not a coincidence that my last name happens to be only two letters different from the name of the town; for it is from here that our name is derived. The town of Moffat was named after one of the original Scottish "Clans" - the Moffat Clan. They are heavily documented in Scottish literature, and have their own coat of arms, motto, and tartan (fabric pattern). And although we have not yet been able to trace our roots all the way back to descendents of the clan itself, the Moffat clan is almost certainly from where our variation of the name was derived. Thus, I decided to re-live my roots by making the 2-hour journey south of Edinburgh to the small rural town.
As I went to the bus station to plan my journey, I began to realize that there weren't many public transportation options offering service to Moffat. Moffat did not have a train station, and out of the many buses traveling out of Edinburgh, only one ever went to Moffat - McEwan's # 101. However, due to the small number of travelers, the bus stopped at Moffat only once per day, sometimes twice. Looking at this limited schedule, I soon realized that it wasn't possible for me to take a day trip to Moffat; that is, on no day of the week would the Moffat bus drop off in the morning, and then pick up at night. Since I had already paid for all of my nights in the hostel in Edinburgh, I didn't want to do an overnight trip to Moffat. Moffat didn't have a hostel, and accommodations for one night would probably cost about 40-50 pounds ($80-$100). Thus, at that point, I was seriously doubting the feasibility of this trip.
But as I stood there holding the schedule in the bus station, coming to the unfortunate realization that I would never see the town after which I was named, I had a revelation. I realized that I had just traveled for 60 days through 13 countries, covering probably more than 10,000 miles in the process. It's been more fun than I can ever describe, but at times (as any backpacker will tell you) it's been incredibly difficult. I've slept in train stations, gone days without showering, been lost or stranded hundreds of miles from anywhere, and have had absolutely zero money to my name at one point. But in the end, I always got myself where I was trying to go, no matter how far the destination or how ill-fated the journey. And here I was, in the last destination of my travels, and I was about to miss out on being the very first person in my family to visit the town after which we were named. "Surely, if I've made it this far," I say to myself, "I can make it to Moffat, Scotland." I walked to the counter and bought a round-trip ticket to Moffat, well-aware that I would be sleeping on the street for the night.
I had about two hours to kill before my bus left, so I quickly ran back to the hostel, showered, and prepared my day pack for the overnight journey. I threw on my North Face zip-off pants (which are amazing, as well as the only pair of long pants I have), a shirt, and my lightweight jacket. Sleeping in most of Europe, I would get hot at night, but Scotland was like a parallel universe. It's always cold (mid-60s during the day, low-50s at night) and on the verge of raining, so I wore the warmest things I had. Next, I ran to the grocery store to pick up dinner as well as some snacks to get me through the night, as I almost certainly wouldn't be sleeping much. I got some nutella and toast, which during my entire trip has been a staple of young travelers throughout Europe.
Back at the station, I boarded the bus and we set out around 9:30pm, me being only one of four passengers taking the trip. The driver was a madman, taking curves so fast that you had to keep one hand on the seat in front of you at all times to avoid an unexpected window to the face. After about two hours, however, we did make it to Moffat alive, and I stepped off the bus to see what was in store.
At first glance, Moffat was incredibly small, seeming to consist of nothing more than a main road that went straight through the town. It was quiet, dark, and the only people around seemed to be a few standing outside the hotel bar for a smoke. But I was finally here. And thus, my first objective was to walk to the edge of the small town and take a few pictures with the "Welcome to Moffat" sign. It was nearly midnight, but I got a few shots without waking anybody up.
After walking the entire length of the town twice (in about a half hour), I decided it was time to settle in somewhere. Just for kicks, I checked the price at the local Moffat Hotel. It it hadn't have been full for the night, it would have been 70 pounds ($140). Oh well... I walked around a bit more til I spied a cozy-looking bench right in front of Moffat Town Hall - an excellent place for me to spend the night, I surmised. Luckily, I had my ipod, computer (with about 3 hours battery), and four magazines that I'd bought in Scotland (after being in non-english-speaking countries for 7 weeks, english magazines are a beautiful thing). Those things kept me occupied most of the night.
At a few points in the night, I did have a few different visitors, including a group of local drunken teenagers, a porcupine, and even the police. Town hall was right next to the police station, so I had a feeling I would run into some soon enough. Luckily, the police were pretty cool - I told them I'd missed the last bus home and was just waiting until morning. I talked to them about twenty minutes, and they even tried to get me a free hotel room for the night. Unfortunately, everything was full (as I already knew), but I thanked them for their efforts nonetheless. They went on their way, and told me if I ran into any trouble to use the call box in front of the police station. Nice guys, I thought.
For the next 8 hours, time crept by incredibly slowly. Moffat was one of the quietest places I'd ever been to. There was absolutely nothing going on - no lights in windows, no people on the street, no nothing. I listened to music and read my magazines in the dim of the street light to pass the time. Once the sun did finally rise, the town slowly came back to life again. Tourists going out for coffee and locals out for groceries would pass me by at town hall. And then, after twelve hours in Moffat, the bus did finally turn the corner once again, and it was time to go back to Edinburgh. I'm