“The vast, black darkness, as vast as the ocean, as long and limitless, this everything. There are a few lights far out on the horizon, but looking down there was only water. Then, up in the sky, hundreds of stars dashed like freckles across the sky, that wicked onyx sky that gave darkness a whole new meaning.
‘Aren’t we little?’ She thought.
‘Yes. Yes, you are.’ The stars said.
There are only two things to distinguish in this blackness – the white water below my feet that comes with the static, comforting crashing of waves, and the twinkling stars in the sky, whispering – dream, darling.”
Urban, strange, industrial and red Manchester disappears on the horizon, like the sun sinking down below at dusk. The asphalt motorway keeps climbing, slowly and steady. Passed Rochdale and there’s a sign. We have just climbed the summit of the highest motorway in the UK (372 metres high) and still the hills and the mountains tower above us. We see them, close and in the distance. There, a long line of twinned mountains with snow caps. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it in real life. Mountains are mystery, but snow-capped mountains are a new kind of mystery, something beyond the ethereal. They’re the kind that’s different from the different from the rest. For some strange reason, they seem so close. We wonder aloud if they’re the mountains in the Lakes. About half an hour later, they are gone, even from the view in the rear view mirror.
We make a stop in Kendall. We never take direct routes, always the longest tourist and scenic route. We wander the streets for a couple of hours, glad to be stretching our legs, hopping in and out of shops as if we’re on the hop-on-hop-off bus we’ve seen so many times in London. We keep talking about our brief love affair with Manchester and how we’re looking forward to seeing Scotland. It is different here, further north. Having spent so much down exploring the south coast, we are used to the roads running through the hearts of little towns or villages. 80 miles per hour, 60 miles per hour, 30 miles – welcome to… Later that afternoon, back on the road, the sigh ‘SCOTLAND’ just passed and it’s incredible; the vast lands and fields that roll out in every direction we look. There is hardly time to look at the hills yonder when they are so close – rolling out underneath the car and under my face – pressed against the car window, the window rolled down to let the cool, winter-touched air in. It’s a slow motion rollercoaster ride and we are engulfed in the might of Mother Nature, with its grand display of out-of-this-world creativity and majesty, the slow turns, the fast turns, man’s created road going around the hill, over the hill, the other way around the hill. It’s almost as if the concrete slab underneath the spinning wheels are not made for transportation, or for travelling, but for wonderment. We can only imagine what it must be like to tread the earth itself, to be part of it more than we are now, to use our own legs to climb that hill, to stand upon it and watch the world as if living in a snow globe.
Dusk has gotten hold of our daylight, creeping in. Tucked between the mountains, their rolling slopes and the valley’s we drive through and darkness is settling in quickly. It’s easy to keep track of the turns we take as we drive in and out of stale blue shadows and golden rays of last daylight. The hills are dark on one side, painted in a saturated yellow on the other and we pass through them as the sun sinks lower and lower. The roads that run out in front of us like dazed antelopes take us up and over, around and turning, snake-like curves, become more and more unpredictable now that darkness takes over. It’s almost as if we’ve been granted the sunset and then a minute or two of twilight and then someone turned off the lights and it’s pitch dark and we’re driving the madness roads that have been laid out like a ten-year old’s doodles. We reach our hotel under an inky night with bright, dazzling stars up high, far high – too far to reach, and yet so close, like a taunt. Looking out into the darkness, it’s the kind of darkness that eludes distance. There is no such thing as distance and this darkness, only tenebrosity. This is where the whole world stops. Tomorrow, with the golden sun and the watercolour dawn, that’s when we go back.
It’s as dark as the night on the ferry, with nothing to sea but the white foam far below my feet and the twinkle of the stars high in the night.