I awake fully clothed, sans shoes, face down on a mattress of calico stuffed with porridge, my drool-patch soaking in nicely to combine with the drool-patches of a thousand backpackers before me. In a foolishly improvident move I attempt to lift my head — the action sends my body back to the porridgy embrace of the well-worn mattress, whilst simultaneously dipping my raw brain into a nearby lava-pool. My own heart-beat, pulsing traitor, ticks out the eternity of my agony in a syncopated thumping in my temples — ba-BUH, ba-BUH, ow-OW, ow-OUCH.
I’m never drinking again.
Such was the first night of the Haggis bus tour — purportedly three nights of fresh air, awesome mountains and clean living in the Scottish highlands. Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Aberdeen … all with a bus load of strangers and two Aussie friends, both from the old Uni daze/days; one a wild-eyed mountain man, exploring Europe on the company dime with a guitar strapped to his skinny back, the other a talkative australitaliano technorati who turned down an offer to be Google’s new CEO so he could spend more quality time with his share-house full of nurses, nannies and strippers (and who can blame him?).
In reality it was three nights solid binging, with many hours a day dedicated to sobering up enough for the next evening’s revelries. Everyone fell asleep on the bus at least once; everyone told themselves to take it easy next time at least once; nobody took their own advice. I certainly didn’t.
The adventure commenced with a leisurely – and early – walk down to the Haggis office. We boarded our bright yellow starship and sat waiting, alone and disconnected, for take-off. Now Haggis employ, as most bus tours do, a driver and a guide. Sometimes these are the same person, but because we had quite a few people we got Colin and