Read the beginning of this story.
I will not account for the trip day by day because it will be repetitive, but I will point out some highlights. To begin with, I was, as mentioned earlier, a bit anxious about sharing a room with a stranger, but I decided to be positive and proactive, so the moment my roommate Shelley and I stepped into the room, I offered to make tea, and while we had tea, we chatted and told each other about what we did when we didn't go on walking tours. Shelley's luggage got lost at her connecting airport, which is always a good conversation starter. It turned out she was a retired lawyer with specialism in children's rights so we even had some common point of interest. She was from Arizona and had lived in Canada. At dinner that night we all introduced ourselves more properly: a couple from Oxford (non-academic), a father and a pregnant daughter from Denver, a lady from Texas, another from the UK. All nice, all eager and experienced travellers. This was what I had hoped for: people my age or older (except the pregnant daughter) who go on walking holidays and can afford relatively expensive trips are the kind of people I can deal with. There are certain unwritten rules for such travel, for instance, rotating seats in the van. When someone's luggage is lost everyone supports and shares whatever can be shared. And it was an interesting and diverse bunch of people so there were no problems finding subjects to talk about. Shelley had brought her flute! She and I got along well: we conversed a bit, then opened our iPads and let each other be; we had no arguments about who would shower first, and we didn't mind seeing each other walk about the room in pyjamas. If I ever travel again, I would prefer a single room, but I now know that I can share with a stranger if necessary. I think it helped that four of us were elderly single ladies, and three other people were also at the same stage in life. Everybody hinted at high blood pressure, and nobody was concerned about other people farting.
Some days, or portions of days, were warm enough to wear three layers of clothes rather than six. So you had to carry stuff for all occasions. On walks like this, you always come to a point, some time in the afternoon, especially if you are wet and walking uphill for ages, when you start asking yourself why you are doing this, voluntarily and at high cost. When you no longer are able to appreciate anything around you and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. There isn't much else you can do, because you cannot lie down on wet ground and have a tantrum, and you are also pressed for time because you need to catch the last ferry. Then suddenly it goes over, and life is great again. For me at that time, worrying about where to put my foot meant I had no time worrying about other things, which was exactly what I needed. And it was good to know, as we compared notes during evening meals, that everybody was dead tired – in a good way.
Even in a really tiny area – Orkney has a population of 22,000 – there is a competition between the capital, Kirkwall, and the next largest city, Stromness, that boasts of being more cultural. My Orcadian friend is born in Stromness so when we met in Kirkwall she immediately drove me
to Stromness because it was more interesting. It had a book store that carried local children's authors. I bought a few. And suddenly Farewell to Stromness made sense.
Travel home turned out to be a nightmare, but I won't tell you about it.