Storming the Islands

Seen from the air

Today was an adventure unparalleled so far. The event I looked forward to didn’t happen due to the unpredictable Orkney Island weather. But the day was an unexpected adventure anyway.

I got a taxi early in the morning from Stromness, to board a plane at the Kirkwell Airport, about one hour away by car. The plane from there goes to the Island of Westray and then on to Papa Westray.

The flight from Westray to Papa Westray is the flight I looked forward to as it is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the shortest booked flight. From Westray it takes under two minutes to land in Papa Westray.

Ready to fly to Papa Westrayfrom the airon the Island of Papa Westlay"Watch her and see what she does"A typical view in Stromness IslandStromnessStromness

Two minutes! And it was fogged in! I would have received a certificate for taking the shortest booked flight in the world. Didn’t happen.

We waited for over an hour for the fog to rise, and as I sat watching the blue of the ocean water and the green in front of the airport, peaking through the fog, it began to look promising. There was one other passenger with the same goal, as mine.

The plane holds eight passengers and we took off with seven toward Westray, where the pilot said it was clearing up, but “we’ll see what it looks like when we get there,” he told us.

At Westray we dropped off two passengers and picked up two other passengers, but we sat in the airplane waiting for the pilot inside the building making calls for the decision, of should we go to Papa Westlay, or should we not go?

A few minutes later the pilot said, “looks like Papa Westray is still fogged in so we’ll go to Sanday,”  another Orkney Island.

Then after picking up and dropping passengers, the decision was to head to the Stromsay Island, where two people got off  and two on, then we headed back to where we started…Kirkwell, where we dropped off all passengers except two.

It was around noon by then, and we had been flying all over the Islands, so I was a bit hungry and ordered a bowl of carrot and parsnip soup. “It will take about five minutes,” the lady at the snack bar said.

“Oh, that’s okay, looks like I’m in no hurry.”

Then the other passenger with Papa Weslay and the shortest book flight adventure, on his mind, came to me and said, “We’re going to leave right away.”

“Oh no, I just ordered soup.”

When it was brought to me it was blazing hot and I had to slurp it fast, and I did my best, because we were boarding again. Gosh, I don’t even know what carrot and parsnip soup tastes like, I downed it so fast.

We headed up to the North Ronaldsay Island and dropped everyone off, but picked up two people.

“Well looks like we’ll make it to Papa Westray after all,” the pilot announced with relief.

Well, sure we landed at Papa Westray Island where I’ll be for about six days, but the shortest flight? Maybe I’ll try that going back. Or maybe I’ll book a ferry, or maybe I’ll be happy for the adventure I had.

The pilot was a former bush pilot and I had guessed that right. He powered up the engine as he turned from the taxi way to the runway.

This morning I left three days of bliss at the 45 John Street B&B in Stromness. Kay and Neill Sinclair are excellent hosts. Kay presents breakfast as  work of art, with home made bread, jams and jellies all from her garden.

“I don’t waste anything, I use it all.” She said, pointing out the little pots of home made    goodness, including various examples on how to put rhubarb to use.

The B&B was spotless clean and the bedrooms and community rooms looked as though they had just been refurbished. Not so, the Sinclairs just keep up with what needs to be done.

Sinclair is a name my brother Jack and I knew from old Doc Sinclair who lived across the street from us in the Barnum neighborhood of Denver. He’d get mad at the neighbor kids when a ball would land in his yard. Other than that, his strangeness was tolerated. His wife, Jean was an accomplished painter. I still have one of her paintings, and Jack remarked about it when he saw it hanging on my wall.

While in Stromness, I took a bus around historical sites in the countryside.

I saw the Neolithic village Skara Brae in Sandwick, one of Orkneys most remarkable monuments in Europe.

So Flintstones, eat your heart out.  The rock homes and village are just the way it was left 5,000 years ago, the village made of stone, with stone furniture sits near a farm and an  ocean inlet.

It sits quietly surrounded by cows, mostly Angus grazing, sea gulls squawking, little motor boat motors taking fishermen out to sea, and I can’t help but wonder what the people all those centuries ago ever thought what the future would look like.

They were intelligent human beings and that is evident in what they accomplished with primitive means.

After I saw Skara Brae, we drove past the excavation, whereby a photographer from National Geographic was on the site taking photos that will be in the magazine next year. The lovely lady, Kay, who runs the 45 John Street B&B told me and the other folks visiting at breakfast, how her father is one of the volunteer excavators. She said the experts think there is a large structure on the Ness of Brodgar site, as the walls are thick, and they have found artifacts and continue to carefully expose whatever lies beneath the surface.

Next on the trip, we saw the incredible Ring of Brodgar, stones, that are posted deep inside the ground. Some are tall and some are short, but they line up in a perfect circle. It’s not known what motivated the folks all those centuries ago to build such a site, and the muscle and brain it must have taken to accomplish putting the stones deep into the ground in such a formation, leaves you breathless with wonder.  This site is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This venture is just one of the many Orkney Island sites you can see and still not see it all.

On the way to Stromness to get to the B&B a few days ago, the ferry traveled near the Old Man of Hoy, a natural stone that rises from the land right next to the sea; that was the beginning of the wonders of the Orkney Islands.

The Stromness Island, as is all the islands, are steeped in history, and the stone houses in Stomness where people live today, are said to be reminiscent of old Norwegian villages, as the building face the harbor with crooked slate and cobble stone streets. Pedestrians must move to the side of the buildings so cars can drive through.

Big yachts and cruise ships come into the harbor in Stromness, and fishing vessels, as well.



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