Yep - It's true!!!! Karen saw a penguin today! In Scotland! In a river, no less. There it was, standing in all of it's Great Cormorant splendor! hahahahaha, never mind that penguins don't live in this hemisphere. It's was awesome. She made me turn around and go look at it myself. It looked like a heavy heron. It was neat, but penguin?!?!?!
Apart from this massive excitement in the car, it was a pretty chill day. We left the Urr Lodge this morning after sleeping in, and attempted to locate a laundrette in nearby Castle Douglas after some quick shopping at Tesco for food and laundry soap. We FINALLY found the place, and it was drop-off only, no self service. BOO! Anyway, we got on the road and took the scenic route instead of the motorway. If was a nice, but very foggy ride toward Glasgow. Suddenly, outside of Kilmarnock, the sun began poking through in the distance. By the town we passed through Kilmarnock, the fields around us were awash in light, rich green fields lit up for the first time in days. I think we have literally seen sunlight for two short periods the entire time we've been here. It was great, really made us realize we had missed the sun.
By the time we reached Glasgow a short while later, the sun had disappeared, replaced by a misty fog, thicker than any fog I've ever experienced at 1:00 in the afternoon, and heavier than it had been thus far on the trip. It was really thick, visibility was down to maybe 100 yards, at best. Passing through Glasgow was pretty easy, we sort of just looped around the west side of the city, and then headed toward Loch Lomond. This area was a large park region, as well as a popular tourist destination. There were a bunch of fancy looking hotels, as well as a bunch of signs indicating mountain hiking and mountain biking were popular here. Looks like a great area to visit in the summer.
As we approached the Loch itself, we were pretty well floored. The "major" road here was extremely twisty; it seemed to take about an hour to drive the 17 miles on the map. It was curvy with good reason though, it followed right along next to the lake, tracing the bank, and shadowing the mountains. Magnificent! We stopped at a small gift shop that was near a very interesting power station. Water is stored in a mountain top lake and when more electricity is needed valves in these pipes leading to the generator at the base of the mountain are opened to power turbines. Very cool! We saw cars in the parking lot from the Netherlands and Romania! Steering wheel was on the correct side and everything.
As we headed toward Oban, our destination for the night, we were following a faster but still curvy road. The landscape opened up some and we were in a wide valley. The mountains still rose up around us. There was a juvenile braided river running in the valley, and it was quite nice. This is the river that Karen spotted her penguin in! Classic!
As we approached Oban, we began seeing signs of a fishing industry and larger bodies of water. Oban lies on the Firth of Lorn which in turn joins the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently, there is good seafood in the area. We rolled into Oban, literally rounding a corner above the town, looking out over the wharf and houses faces the waterfront. Very picturesque. We drove through the town, excited to see a small but busy stretch of shops, food stores, coffee shops, restaurants and pubs. After looping through town and finding the check-in for Backpacker's Plus (www.backpackersplus.com), we parked and headed inside. A quick phone call to the manager and we then hung out in the rec room until she arrived. A huge bonus, they do laundry! £2.50 a load, and the loads are big. They were able to do all of our laundry in one load, so we gave then the bottle of laundry gel we bought this morning. We had no need for it any more.
We got checked in, dropped our bags in the room, and took a walk around town. We did some window and real shopping, and then decided to eat out tonight instead of cooking. We found a weird Curry/Fish/Pizza/Kebab joint that actually looked good. Karen got Rogan Josh Curry and rice, and it was AWESOME. Probably the best Indian-style food since we got here, in my opinion. I got a veggie pizza that was GREAT, even if it had corn on it. I also got tikka potatoes that were very tasty. The two definitely hit the spot, and the price was quite decent.
Oh, while we were in the restaurant, the news was on, and the weather lady actually said that Northern England and Scotland were due for an "Outbreak of drizzle." Really? Outbreak? That implies something bad, not drizzle. Weirdos. I'm really concerned for these people, if they get real weather, they are going to be in for a real shock. It is LITERALLY 40 degrees right now and was probably close to 50 at some point today.
We are currently chilling out in our room, uploaded photos, and watching some TV. We've got to go get our clothes in a little while, and I think we may hit up the Irish pub down the street for a bit as well.
Tomorrow, LOCH NESS!!!!!!
More pictures from today: http://s290.photobucket.com/albums/ll256/sandalscout/GB%202010-2011/Dec%2029-Castle%20Douglas%20to%20Oban/?start=all