The difference alcohol, drinking games, clothing, water, monsters and superstitions can make on eight strangers is unbelievable. It turns them into friends in a period of 12 hours and involves seeing a little bit too much of each other in the process.

How each of us got to this moment was irrelevant. Why we stood on the top of a hill, buck naked, soaking wet, shivering, bleeding from our knees and palms, breathless, scared and stunned is what this story is really about.

I had been travelling around Scotland for about a week, falling in love with the country and its people. The Scottish are proud and eccentric,
they boast of their history, recounting tales of William Wallace and their hatred for the English in battle. They speak of their family histories with a sense of overwhelming respect and they have a glorious belief in a kind-hearted monster named Nessie. To most she is known as theLoch Ness Monster and I couldn’t wait to go on a hunt – a Nessie hunt!

I met four Canadians and three Australians in a hostel in the highlands of Scotland, all equally keen to locate the infamous Nessie. According to the locals, to bring Nessie out of the depths of theLoch you need one thing, love. More specifically, we had to show her some Deep Scottish Love.

For our first attempt we stood on the banks of Loch Ness trying to balance on the rocks while we danced, waved, pelvic-thrusted and shimmied to the water.

To an outsider I imagine we looked like we were trying to perform a rain dance – badly. No Nessie. We then chanted, “Come to me, come to me,Ness-ie, Ness-ie… I BELIEVE”. Nothing. We threw loveheart-shaped rocks into the water. Nothing.

Back at the hostel that evening we discussed our next move over drinking games. Not a good idea. It’s 5pm. March. Freezing fucking cold. “I will absolutely never skinny dip inLoch Ness – it must be freezing” It’s 10pm. March. Getting even colder.

Several bottles of wine and drinking games later, eight naked bodies glimmered in the moonlight, wading into Loch Ness. The Loch is deceptive. It travels out really shallow for about 100 metres and then plunges down deep. I was the first to scream. The rock bottom disappeared beneath my feet plunging me into the freezing black mass of water.

I scrambled as quick as I could back to the shallow floor. When I was back on the rocks I sprung to my feet to see if Nessie showed herself. I wonder if Nessie is picky? Maybe my bottom was too wobbly? Could she tell I’m not Scottish? Maybe she only liked local love?

Suddenly, we all started to sprint for the shore, but it wasn’t because of the monster. Andrea, my fellow traveller, was squatting down, hovering just above the water and relieving herself. She panicked at our sudden sprint. “Nessie?” She yelled, running after us. Running across the rocks, however, proved to be difficult. We fell – a lot!

So there we stood. Panting. Naked. Cold. Looking out across the Loch. Stunned. There were eight bodies on the shore – and something was still splashing in the middle of the water. I took one look at each face around me and started to cheer. Nessie has become a bit of a hero of mine. I like her mystery and the adventure she brings to travellers and the spirit that she brings out in people. I know Nessie exists – I swam with her.

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