Luke in the Loch

        Cascading waterfalls, mountains into the clouds: breathtaking sights became routine to the point of borderline mundane by afternoon. Drive half an hour, stop, see a mountain, drive half an hour… going on 2 days gets a little old.
        Then came Loch Ness. Now, I knew we were going there and had been getting more bored as the day went on, so I had a plan. As I told many people while trying to convince them of the merits of jumping into 43-degree F water my way, it’s one thing to say you swam in Loch Ness. It’s an entirely better story if you swam in Loch Ness… naked. My mind was decided: I’d swim free Willy with Nessie.
        We arrived to a very cold-looking lake around 5:00. Part of our tour entailed watching a proud man in full traditional garb explain his highland heritage, bragging about highlanders’ ferocious fighting style as he bashed “Braveheart” and made menacing swings of his weapons towards the crowd. As he explained different ways highlanders killed redcoats between smiling for photos, I wondered what his ancestors would think: is he a shame to their proud, independent tradition as he panders to tourists, or is he preserving their heritage after decades of bans on kilts and bagpipes?
        After dinner came a cruise on Loch Ness. The ship’s captain was a wiry guy who claimed to have been a marine researcher “before they turned against me,” they being the scientific community at large. “They” all apparently follow some other scientist who thinks Loch Ness holds giant sturgeons, while our boat captain / bar worker / marine researcher insists that the sonar evidence he’s collected proves there are 18 large mammals in the Loch with “some type of water jet technology.” Fortunately for me, I asked him where to jump in: apparently I have to run in because the steep temperature change of jumping can knock you out! Mike and I talked to the captain for wahile as we waited for friends to don bathing suits after the cruise, bouncing questions about his methods and evidence off him. His answers made sense, so he’s at least not a stupid nutter (Scottish word I’m importing; sounds cool with the “r” rolling). To wrap up our conversation, I asked him if he’d like to join us for our little swim. “No thanks: I have a bottle of whisky I’m going to swim in.”
        Handed over my camera, removed all but my underwear and shoes, encouraged watching senior citizens to join me for a dip, jumped up and down to keep warm as I waited for friends to prepare, and I did it: off the beach and into Loch Ness. It was definitely extremely cold, but not as freezing as I’d imagined 43-degree water would be mike hadn’t followed the captain’s advice of wearing shoes, so he tiptoed and ouched his way in over the sharp rocks. After going out far enough to submerge myself, I ran my cold butt back onto the beach.
        Cold but exhilarated, we high-fived each other and egged on those who had only watched to run in for themselves. To compensate for having failed to skinny dip, to encourage others who were running to go for full submersion, and because it’s a while different story to say you swam in Loch Ness twice, I did it again: into the water, all the way under, and pulling a Baywatch out. A seminude walk the few blocks back to my hostel received a really wide-mouthed gape from an old lady and a brown-toothed grin from the captain: he’d gone to the hostel bar for his scotch swim! A long, hot, well-earned shower and falling asleep not 5 minutes into “Rob Roy” wrapped up a day in which I derived tremendous pleasure from jumping into cold water.

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