The best years of my life were definitely between 1996 and 2001 in Scotland. I was a young lad from Portugal who went to Scotland to study at the University of Aberdeen. At the beginning, it was very difficult to leave my life in Portugal behind and move to a completely different country. Coming from the Mediterranean South, it was also not easy to cope with the cold and the wind of the Granite City, from the long summer days to the short dark winter days, but fortunately, like a chameleon, I can quickly adapt to any environment.
My first motorbike ride was also in Scotland. In 1996, I started riding a Piaggio Vespa model Cosa 125cc and in 1998 I upgraded to a Honda CB250cc Super Dream. Yes, I rode it every day in the cold, the snow, the wind and rain. Just like Frank Sinatra´s Song New York, if you can make it in Aberdeen you can make it anywhere!
During those years, I went on field trips around Scotland, exploring the countryside of such a beautiful country. One summer I made it to Thurso with the University Surfing Academy and had my first surfing experience on a rocky beach – it was really scary. While we were in Thurso, there was an International Sheep Shearing Competition going on and the local pubs were full of people from Australia, New Zealand, United States… it looked like a International beer convention! What a crazy night… I just remember waking up on Thurso beach covered in a large plastic bag beside the rest of the surfing team, cold and with a hangover from hell. There were many great stories from Scotland in those years and as I said in the beginning, those were the best days of my youth.
I began to miss those days and decided to embark on a comeback tour. I grabbed my Time Machine, the BMW GS Twin 800cc, and started from Porto, Portugal and travelled up through Spain, crossing the Pyrenees mountain range, across the west of France up to Calais. I took the Euro tunnel to Folkestone and then to London where I stayed a couple of days. I then made my way to Scotland where I visited a friend in Edinburgh and I was lucky to see Edinburgh Festival fireworks concert at the Castle with the spectacular waterfall of fireworks which cascaded over the castle walls. It was a magical night and after 16 years I felt like I had finally found my way home. I continued the trip up the East coast of Scotland straight to Aberdeen for a really intense and emotional day. I rode every street of Aberdeen just to remember all the places. It was a great feeling but I had to keep on moving. I followed the coast to Inverness, then up to Wick and to John O´Groats where the Land Ends, riding alongside the sun setting over the North Sea – it was spectacular. The next morning, I arrived at Gyll´s Bay and caught the Pentalina Ferry to St. Margaret´s Hope in Orkney Islands where I travelled round the island visiting Skara Brae, Bay of Birsay, the standing stones, the Maeshowe Chambered Cairn at Brough of Birsay, the Orkney Brewery and had the opportunity to visit some old friends at Kirkwall. On returning to the mainland I travelled through Sutherland County and started the beautiful west coast. The stunning beach of Bettyhill, Lochan Leacach, Skerray, Lochan Sleiteil, Skullomie Bay, Tongue, Loch Hope, Loch Eriboll, Loch Borralie, Durness Beach, Scourie, Ullapool, Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt, Knockan Crag coastline, Beinn Eighe to Skye & Lochalsh, and reached the waterfalls at Isle of Skye. Ended up camping at Sligachan where the strong winds broke my tent and what a crazy night it was. I woke up the next morning with everything wet, the cold tent on my face and midges flying around inside, what a nightmare! Had a large brunch that day to give me strength to continue the trip. That day I passed on by Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, South Loch Ness and Fort Augustus back to Edinburgh. I have ridden through 30 countries already but crossing Scotland by motorbike was always on my dreams and what an amazing ride it was. This expedition will always be in my memory.
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João Sousa | www.joaoaroundtheworld.com