All the pilgrims stayed up a bit late Thursday night, and we appeared for Friday breakfast like a groggy group of sleep-walkers seeking caffeine injections. Bed linens had to be stripped and brought to the reception area, and luggage brought out to the bus. We lugged and loaded, made a take-away lunch, met for a sleepy morning prayer and took our seats in the bus.
Our only planned stop for the day before reaching Edinburgh was a hike in The Trossachs, a mountainous area between Glasgow and Edinburgh. John brought us safely to a parking spot at a trailhead in the park, and pilgrims prepared for a wet-weather hike.
A few decided early on to retreat to the cafe located one mile down the bike path that paralleled a brook. The cafe had toilets and a camp store, offering a welcome place to warm up and dry out. Strolling along the paved bike path at a leisurely pace, pilgrims were able to appreciate the sounds of the brook and falling rain and breathe in the fresh air. Apparently the common toad has to compete with cars in its rush from hills to water when it breeds in the spring, and an effort to raise awareness of the toad's plight appears on a signpost:
The majority of pilgrims hiked into the heights of the hills, encountering beautiful vistas when the clouds lifted. But as the pilgrims ascended, they entered the cloud cover, and the temperatures dropped, so they reluctantly agreed that it was safer to turn around before reaching the summit.
All the hikers were happy to return to the bus, and we soon set off to pick up the rest of the group who were returning from the cafe along the trail. John took us all into the closest town for a cup of soup to accompany our bag lunches, and we ordered hot chocolates, coffees and teas to further warm ourselves.
John pointed the van in the direction of Edinburgh, and soon enough the countryside gave way to the suburbs of the city, and quickly, we found ourselves right smack dab in the center, pulling up to the Edinburgh Central Hostel. Again we unloaded the luggage, trotted into the reception area, and received room keys for our last place of accommodation. Being so close to dinner time, the pilgrims opted to get settled and enjoy access to WiFi at the hostel before heading to the Indian restaurant for dinner.
John went in advance to the restaurant to choose a selection of appetizers and main dishes for the pilgrims to experience the richness and tastiness of Indian cuisine at Khushi's, a fixture in Edinburgh since 1947. Everyone found something to like, and tasted new flavors not before experienced. The pilgrims were open to stretching their palates as they ate papadum, relishes, and 3 different appetizers and 3 different main courses. We all agreed it was delicious. And some of it was HOT!
The group left the restaurant to buy ice cream at the Tesco just down the street from Khushi's. The ice cream soothed any burning leftover from the highly spiced dishes. We headed back to the hostel for a round of Junk, Joy and Jesus, and evening prayer. There was much joy to be found in the hiking and fellowship of the meal. Wet jeans engendered a little "junk". Jesus was with us, particularly when we supported each other. The pilgrims retired to our rooms for an 11pm lights out, happy to be in a place of dryness, warmth, and comfort, and thankful to be well-fed.