Orkney to Shetland

It’s 1pm on a Sunday and before me sits a sniff of Highland Park Scotch and a cup of instant coffee. I’m in a Kirkwall pub called ‘Auto Hoose’, frequented by Westray folk. The rowdies are warmed up and moving into 3rd gear but my gut is tender. I’ve been in these islands long enough, it’s time to move on:

Around 2pm Andrew shows up and we stretch out bus and ferry schedules over a map of Hoy and discuss a camping trip to the island. We go off for a wee bit of light bouldering by Scapa Bay.

By 5pm I’ve scratched the idea off: he’s going to paint the house and I’m rather keen on getting to Shetland before Thursday. Ferries from Orkney north run every other day and I’m not keen on going back the way I came.

10pm and I’m hauling my gear down to the ferry building:

12:30 am and I’m taking the batteries out of my flashlight to put in my digital camera so I can take pictures of the teathers they use to tie chairs to the floor: Because they have to. I don’t, but I will:

1am, eating salt & vinegar chips, drinking a beer and a coffee on the ferry from Kirwall to Lerwick. I spent last night in a garage and the night before in an alley: Right. But never mind that: I’ve got a knife and am cutting bread for a sandwich of sourdough, ham, Orkney cheese and tomato. If I’m hungry for it, desert is canned fruit. Is this a man who’s prepared? The lass sitting across from me looks bemused. Damn good coffee, LavAzza.

I caught some sleep between 4am and 6am, when the ship’s crew stood over my sleeping bag and told me they were going to open the cafeteria for breakfast, so I would probably want to get up. The family sleeping in the kid’s play room had a better idea, I guess.

8am on Monday morning I walk off the ferry in Lerwick, Shetland, with a Iceland-bound traveler from Chester, England. (Note: I met a fellow from Nottingham going in the same direction on the ferry from Thurso to Stromness:) It’s just after 11am and I’ve found my bearings, booked a place to stay the night, got some ideas for a wander and found the library for free internet.

Overnight ferries from Lerwick to Aberdeen run every day; that’s my vector south. But first a little Shetland wander. I’ll take it easy today and go for sleep early, in a warm, dry place. I figure it’ll be easier to appreciate dimly-lit cliffs wrapped mist if I don’t wake up cold and wet on the ground.

Old Norse lesson of the day: ‘MED LOGUM SKAL LAND BYGGJA.’ Found on the crest of the Shetland Islands Council, translated as ‘By law shall the land be built up’. From Chapter 70 of the Njal Saga. In the Saga, Njal was sitting as mediator between some rebellious norsemen and a powerful land owner. The norsemen argued that they were justified in trying to kill the land owner and take his land because the contract of sale was offensive and so, should not be honored. Njal dismisses their claim, stating ‘By law shall the land be built up, and by lawlessness, destroyed’.