Walking in Scotland

Weekender

By THOMAS HUKAHU
THE first place you have visited outside of your locality, where the atmosphere or people are different, is special.
Memories of such experiences stay with you for years – and in some cases, may be forever.
And, I mean, the first overseas state that you have been to, the first country you have been to outside your region, as well as the first foreign state you have lived in for the longest time are such memorable experiences.
I have my own list of memories and have been sharing them with you in the past few weeks in this series of articles on walking.
For me, my first visit to a state or city that is situated in the temperate climatic region is in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow.
As someone whose love as a student was physical geography before turning my attention to the laws of the physical world, I have always been amazed by how people live in different climatic regions – as in the tropics, temperate regions, polar regions as well as the arid regions situated in the middle of the large continents around the world.
For one who has spent most of his life living and working in the tropics, it was quite an experience to have lived in a city in the United Kingdom for almost a month.
For me, it was the unforgettable experience of observing for the first time the days and nights of a summer in a temperate region. That is, observing for real the sun setting after 10pm and rising before 5am, something that I have only read in textbooks.
Well, Glasgow was the place that I observed all that for the first time.

What was I doing in Glasgow?
In late July in 2014, I was privileged to have been tasked then by the PNG Olympic Committee to accompany Team PNG to Glasgow as the press attaché and stand-in photographer for the Commonwealth Games staged there from July 23-Aug 3.
Actually, I was requested to be part of a two-person advance party to set up camp for the Team PNG contingent a week before they arrived for the Games. However, I had to convince my senior team manager that it was likely that my employer would not allow me for four weeks off due to a shortage of hands in our department in the newsroom.
If I had gone with that official, my sojourn in Scotland would be for a month.
So with the main contingent, we arrived in Brisbane and then connected with a flight to Dubai, then from there to Glasgow.
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, however Glasgow is more populous since it is the main shipping route for ships going from UK to America or Africa – and that goes back for hundreds of years. It was more like the industrial hub of the state.

First walk along a street in Glasgow
As soon as we arrived in Glasgow during the day on that July and got settled, I had a few important tasks to do.
Those included fixing up news stories for the media outlets back home, for journalists who were eager to know how the team was adjusting before the Games commenced. I also checked on emails sent by officials back in Papua New Guinea.
I sat at a table and started typing stuff using the laptop handed to me by the senior management team officials.
I worked there for hours typing stuff, sorting out photos I had taken as well as preparing a newsletter for the contingent – an initiative suggested by the management team to keep our officials and athletes informed on bits of information or the important events that were to take place.
I was still at my table working when people went for dinner at 6pm or later.
When I was done and satisfied that I had checked everything off my to-do list for the day, it was a little after 9pm.
However, when I looked outside of the window of the room where our office was set, the day looked as if it was only 3pm. The sun was still high above the western horizon.
We were advised by the senior members of the team (those who have been to those parts of the world) prior to getting here, not to tell the time by looking at the sun but going by the clock.
When I exited our office to go for a stroll, after informing the other officials there, I marvelled at how bright it still was outside at 9pm.
The Games Village was built beside a top part of River Clyde, bordered by Dalmarnock Road, which ran northwest to southeast.
My plan was to visit a shop (a Tesco shop) outside of the Games Village to buy a few SD cards for my digital camera and possibly a notebook too.
It was interesting walking through the Games Village and seeing athletes and officials from different countries in their national colours walking to the dining hall or returning from training sessions, not to mention Clydesiders (the Glasgow volunteers) in their grey-red-white uniforms busy with their tasks in serving the participants of the games.
As I exited the village and walked along Dalmarnock Road, I still could not believe that the sun was still up there in the western sky.
I noticed also that the air was starting to get a little chilly too.
When I returned after picking up stuff at the Tesco shop, I observed that the sun was just beginning to set, at about 10pm.
During the next three weeks, I had some very interesting experiences in my walking about different venues in my job to gather news and take photos of our athletes.
However, space would not allow me to share all those experiences here.
I will just mention that some men wore kilts while serving athletes and officials attending the games in different locations, as at the mini post office in the Games Village.
On one particular day, I met Danny Neo, a young Glaswegian guitarist who was stationed beside the village’s dining hall to entertain passers-by.
Neo took the time to speak to me and informed me that he made his living busking in different parts of Glasgow. He even played a song especially to entertain me, and that added to the memories of that city too.

Walking in Edinburgh
A couple of days before we flew out of Glasgow, after most of the events were over, I was privileged to travel up north by car to Edinburgh, the capital, and seeing what it was like there.
I travelled with two other senior managers and one of our stars in the Games, weightlifter Dika Toua who won gold in the 53kg women’s category in the 2014 Games.
(The other weightlifter, golden boy Steven Kari also won his gold in the men’s 94kg category, and in doing so they created history for PNG in scooping up two golds in one edition of the Commonwealth Games.)
Toua was to travel to China for another event from Glasgow and needed to sort out her visa at an Edinburgh office.
The ride up to Edinburgh took just over an hour, the distance being about 75km. It was awesome travelling up the main highway and seeing what the Scottish countryside looked like – in some places, you could see grassy rolling hills where flocks of sheep or horses roamed and at times you could see tall wind turbines which were used to generate electricity for the houses there.
After sorting out Toua’s visa, we went to the famous Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately, due to time factor, we did not enter the castle but visited the shops there to pick up souvenirs.
The cobbled street that ran up towards the entrance of the castle was a wonder.
It made you think of the photos or drawings of the old days in those parts of the world where the streets were not paved with asphalt but whole stones or bricks.
The main street there was packed with tourists from different nations. I could hear people speaking Italian and Spanish.
I guess, if we stayed longer, we would have heard many different national tongues spoken by the tourists who were either making their way into the castle or picking up souvenirs from the shops there.

The firsts in Glasgow
There is a lot of interesting history in Scotland too but that is not the objective of this article.
I just jot down one for you.
I met two local women handing out gospel tracts beside the Celtic Park before the opening ceremony. They gave me two of those leaflets.
One of the tracts was about Eric Liddell, the 1924 Olympic gold medallist, who refused to run on a Sunday in his favourite 100m because as an adherent of the Church of Scotland, he believed that sports on Sunday was a taboo.
Liddell did the 400m later on a weekday and won gold as well breaking the Olympic and world records with a time of 47.6s.
Liddell’s life was recounted in Chariots of Fire, the 1981 feature film.
There was William Wallace’s story too, but I will not go into that.
In 2014, the experiences in Glasgow were a first for me in some cases.
Firstly, it was my witnessing a summer in a city in a temperate region.
Secondly, I travelled on a train in the subway from Dalmarnock to the Glasgow Central Station and took a walk by the River Clyde towards SECC Precinct, another sporting venue.
Thirdly, another first was taking rides to different venues regularly on double-decker buses, as those seen in London.
The experiences in Scotland will indeed stay on with me for some time yet.

  •  Next week: Travelling by million-dollar views. Thomas Hukahu is a freelance writer.

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