An GearasdanIf you've read some of my recent travels, you'll know that I am currently car-less. This hasn't really been a major problem so far, but eventually I could put it off no longer, and had to resort to something called a 'bus' to get to town. Once there I walked 9 miles in the pee-ing rain, before being tortured for a second time in one day. And guess what, it was pretty much a wasted trip as I didn't manage to get anything that I wanted. Looks like I'll have to go to Oban next week...
A tin shed on wheelsIt's about 12 years since I regularly used one of these 'Bus' things, and I had kind of expected that they would have been imprived in the meantime. My abiding memories of bus travel are the old school buses, which for the most part were tin sheds on wheels, driven by a fair mixture of 'good blokes' and utter incompetents who needed directions to get round the route, ignored 'road closed ahead' signs and demolished bridges. Maybe one day I'll put a page together about some of those memories! Anyway, to get back to the point, I thought that things would have improved somewhat. How wrong could I have been?
Things started off well, the bus was on time and not far off empty. As I squeezed my way up the aisle, however, I knew that something was wrong. A quick count proved my initial thought - there were three seats on the left. Well, once sat down they were on the right, but you know what I mean. All of my previous experiences on buses and coaches had two seats either side of the central aisle. This provided narrow but comfortable seats, and an aisle accessible to most people. On this bus I was having to squeeze up the aisle, and as I sat down I discovered the second problem that 5-seats abreast caused - the seat was too narrow. Maybe the bus is designed as a school bus? It's certainly not designed for average adults, let alone some of the ... well let's just say that some people I have seen would need 2 seats.
So lets summarize so far, the bus was on time, but the aisle and seats are too narrow. Now lets add in the strange noises that this shed was making. Admitedly they weren't a patch on those of the return journey, but they weren't good. At least I had had the good sense to sit over the wheel, so I was only getting one bounce from the shopcking suspension!
Now for the journey. Top Gear viewers will understand if I say that this driver could beat Captain Slow hands down every time. On three occasions we pulled into a layby to let faster traffic crawl past. And on one of those occasions, one of the blokes was obviously so fed up with this lack of progress that he jumped ship and decided to walk. Unfortunately, he was rapidly proved wrong in his theory that he would be quicker, but I reckon that if he'd broken into a jog he could have easily beaten us. After nearly 40 tortuous minutes, we turned into the High Street and I too alighted, much to my spine's relief.
The FortJust in case you hadn't sussed it out yet, 'An Gearasdan' is Gaelic for 'The Fort'. With my current car-less position, I had gone to have a day out as well as to get some shopping, so I was intending to do some walking. Some of you will have seen the news and the tragic floods of Cumbria and SW Scotland, but the forecast the night before had said we would get no more than a few light showers. I had at least put my waterproof on... The plan was to either walk around Cow Hill or over to Banavie and back. With the recent rain I decided that Cow Hill was probably a little wet, so I went out through Inverlochy, along the banks of the very swollen River Lochy, then through Caol to Banavie, stopping here and there along the way as I combined unsuccesful business with this walk. From Banavie (where the heavens opened with no hope of shelter), I walked across the Blar Mhor to Lochybridge, then down the cycle track back to Inverlochy Castle. I then crossed to the A82 and headed back to town. It was 9 miles, 2 of which were in near torrential rain, and all with an icy wind, but at least it was exercise. It was one of those days where after a while you are so wet you stop caring and actually start to enjoy it in a perverse kind of way. At least my waterproof kept my top half dry though!
A different shedThe return journey was, thankfully, in a different shed on wheels, this one having proper seats which were almost comfortable. The driver also seemed to know where the accelerator pedal was from time to time, although to be fair to him I wouldn't fancy driving a bus down the A82 on a could, wet, dark night with busy traffic. At one point, the road was so badly flooded that the spray was raining down on the roof for several seconds, and no doubt on the other side of the road too - it was too dark to see. It's quite scary enough in a car.
The biggest gripe with this bus, however, was the noise. The wipers squeaked, squealed and scratched their way across the windscreen, while the engine roared behind me. At least I think it did, the noise from the front axle was pretty atrocious and almost drowned the engine out. One thing that couldn't be drowned out, however, was the washing machine at the back. I have no idea what the noise was, but it sounded just like a washing machine when it's trying to pump the water out of the drum (least I think that's what its doing then, I tend to be naughty and go out while the thing is running as it annoys me). Anyway, We got back more or less on time and in one piece, and so my torture was over. I'm just wondering how few times I will need to repeat the experience....