Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Travel Essay Contest -- Entry 7

I Must Be Off! is having its first annual Travel Essay Contest. Each entry will appear at first without byline or bio. These will be added at the end of the contest. As you enjoy these travel essays from around the world, please feel free to comment; but if you offer criticism, remember to be positive. These writers are my guests.

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Isle of Arran; an El Dorado
by Chukwuma Okonkwo

Travel is exploratory. It is a means of finding a way in the world. Travel has provided me with opportunities and challenges. I view my travel experience in adventures. Of all the places I have traveled to around the globe, Isle of Arran stands out of the rest like a beacon in the middle of a deep sea. I have always liked the Scottish mindset. Arguably, people of Scotland are the most accommodating and laid-back I’ve seen.

Isle of Arran, also nicknamed Scotland in miniature, is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde. Since the 6th century it has been besieged by tourists who come for religious and (or) non religious activities. It is a marvelous haven for geologists. Its impressive and intrusive igneous landscapes and seascapes are cynosures to the geologists, who flock the wonder island to catch the panoramic view of its awe-inspiring God’s work of art exhibited in bravura. To attest to its historical precedence, Keith Montgomery has pictured it as one of the most famous places in the study of geology. I like the way the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream makes a grand division of the Isle into highland and lowland in which both create a calm oceanic climate for the Isle. I usually visit the Isle of Arran in June which happens to synchronize perfectly with the folk festival.

The first time I heard about the folk festival, the desire came like a nonthreatening Scottish virus that enters the bloodstream and never leaves. In 2012, my friends and I visited the Isle of Arran. We lodged at the Kildon Hotel. Its beautiful position by the sea made it the best choice for us. The rooms were crystal steaming and soigné with vitality beds that stoke up the romantic mood. The nicely prepared pub grub, great music from local musicians that were quite often at our beck and call and good banter were all icing on the cake. I just fell in love with the sea view. At least once every day a wave arrives with such momentum that is enough to knock you over. I loved the way it soothingly washed up and down.

Upon our arrival, the warm welcome greetings we received in both adverts and official signs were out-of-the-world. At first I felt like I just arrived in paradise. I looked around to catch some glimpse of the scenery as much as I could, and then my eyes caught a theme on a pseudo-billboard that read ‘you are welcome to our paradise.’ I couldn’t help it but to generously accept that statement given the fantabulous attractions my eyes had seen. I was somewhat re-assured that even in paradise there are lots of funs going on there. After all it was in paradise that our first parents had the best good time ever- they loafed around the Garden of Eden in pure spirits, and ate whatever they could grab for free before they devoured the forbidden fruit that sentenced them to perpetual hardship which we inherited.

It took us some time to adjust to a routine of doing totally nothing. As graduate students of economics, we were used to a regimented life of intense academic study that sometimes we passed night at the library trying to tear down calculus. I was the last to get settled, as in get my stuffs unpacked. I dread packing and unpacking. This is why I always forget my stuffs where ever I visit. My unpacking was just to get the smart wears and items I needed for each outing and leave others in my traveling bag. By the time I made use of virtually everything I went to the Isle with I had unpacked everything, and then I retrieved my stuffs according to the need for each item.

With all the avalanche of juicy offers for distraction I wasn’t distracted from enjoying the scenery to the fullest. There were incredibly varieties of breathtaking vista that kept my heart happy and my face smiling all day. For example, taking a long walk at the beaches of Kilmory, watching the sun rise in Sannox Bay, watching seals in Kildonan, and seeing the panoramic view from Sliddery, Pirnmill, and Catacol over to Kintyre and Ireland were rewarding experience. The beauty on the spot of Arran from the Cock of Arran in the North to Pladda in the South, and from Drumadoon Point in the West to Holy Isle in the East was extremely priceless. I was amazed at the sight of Goat Fell , Arran’s highest Mountain, which I was told was about 874m, 2866 ft, from where I took a panorama up to Argyll and the Highlands, over Ayrshire. In less than five hours we toured around the Isle and had inexpungible lifetime experience.

I am very selective about what I eat. But having enormous choice offers for all tastes to choose from was like a cream on the cake. Isle of Arran is famous for its first class cheeses and preserves. Starting the day with a hearty buffet breakfast preceded by heartwarming appetizers, then enjoying a nourishing lunch, and ending the day with dining out in many glamorous restaurants and cafes, and going on pub-crawl will always be evergreen in my hippocampus. Amazingly, most of the restaurants sourced local producers and that for me was ace in the hole. Arguably, The Ormidale in Brodick for me was the best pub. Virtually on every night they played great music in their colossal conservatoire. Their grand homemade soup and ale would make you visit twice. Rose Street was perfect for pub-crawl.

The Isle of Arran is more than a seaside festival destination. It is an El Dorado. If you love geology, horticulture, painting, nature photographing, riding, pony-trekking, bird watching, brisk walking, climbing, hiking and biking, sailing, kayaking, boating, diving, fishing, angling and paragliding, the bravura vividness of the parks, gardens, mountains , hills, and the great outdoors, will definitely hold you captive.

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Chukwuma Okonkwo is a trained economist at Sussex University and a development enthusiast. His works on fiction, non-fiction and poetry have appeared on various online news magazines, including the African Street Writers' monthly publication. He maintains a personal blog at www.brutusgarley.blogspot.com, where he writes on spectrum of issues.


RESULTS OF THE CONTEST ANNOUNCED ON JULY 20!