Well, so much for a restful night. It seems that midges don’t sleep at night, that or they were treating me as a B&B. It meant that I didn’t have much time to reorganise things or get comfy. Likewise, my ground choice was not as horizontal as it could have been and my bivvy slid from my roll mat more than once. Several times during the night I questioned how I was going to complete the trip. I shouldn’t be having such doubts so early on.
After a night punctuated with muscle cramps and nightmares involving Matlab licensing issues (don’t ask!), I decided to launch myself out of my insect-proof bivvy and into the wilds. I promptly became breakfast. It appeared that my midge-bitten muscles were mostly recovered and I was quickly packed and away. Maybe that should read that I quickly packed and was slowly away. I plodded along and, for the first time, was overtaken by two walkers. They were ladies carrying day packs and I caught up with them just outside Inversnaid hotel. They told me they were on their third day of walking and were getting their luggage transported along the way. They thought it was crazy that I was so far along after one day. The gave me a cereal bar and a handful of Jelly Babies, so I was energised for the next leg of the journey. I left before them, but they had threatened to catch up.
When you look at this leg of the journey on a map it looks flat and easy. The map lies, this stretch has lots of small ups and downs and twists and turns, making it one of the harder parts of the West Highland Way. As beautiful as it was, I was glad to be past it. The stretch between the loch and Beinglas is also deceptively hard going. It just seems to take longer than it should, and the hot sun was sweating the energy out of me.
At times my thinking alternated between “This is amazing, everything is beautiful, I’m making such good progress” and “oh my god, the sun is killing me, why am I doing this? I must be crazy.” The answer to why I’m doing this probably lies somewhere between pointing people towards the stuff UNICEF do, and me actually being slightly crazy. It does, however, appear that I’m not as crazy as the Germans. At least I think they are mostly German anyway. I kept passing them all afternoon, usually they were in groups of two or three. They were slowly getting in my way and carrying giant rucksacks that probably contained another German who would presumably climb out, swap places and carry on walking. I don’t know, they did look like heavy rucksacks though. They were all here in 2011, probably not the same ones, and presumably if they are then they have returned here and not just been lost along the West Highland Way for the last two years. Whatever the case, it does seem to be some sort of masochistic rite of passage for them to carry heavy things around Scotland. So there you go, if you want to find a masochistic young European you know where to look.
Anyway, I arrived at Beinglas in time for the start of the tennis, so I stopped for a large coke and watched Murray win the first set 6-4. The two ladies from earlier in the day wandered in about half an hour after me and wished me well for the rest of my trip. An athletic guy with an overly tight white vest started chatting to me in an over-friendly way, so I decided that it was around about time to skedaddle and accumulate a few more miles despite the blistering heat.
Out into the furnace I stepped and immediately into the shop to buy sunscreen and between the sun and my sweat it might have been more effective if I just drank the stuff. The person in the shop commented “I bet you didn’t think you’d be buying suntan lotion in Scotland.” I just thanked him and did my best not to mention that I didn’t think I’d be spending £14.50 on a bottle of suntan lotion.
On I sweated. The commentator for the tennis had talked about how much the players must be struggling in the heat. Well, I don’t know about them but I was struggling and I don’t even get a medal. The afternoon was slow going, I passed a few more walkers but most were hiding in the rare patches of share as I sweated by.
Yesterday I had thought that every mile done in the evening was worth two the following morning. I have since decided that every half-hour in the pub was worth another couple of miles in end-of-day range. As the day wore on and the midges began to descend on Crianlarich forest, I pushed on through the craftily placed B&B signs.
My legs were tired, I was severely dehydrated an bed and breakfasts seemed determined to lure me in with the promise of hot showers and comfy beds. It was only a matter of time before broke; a little further I admitted defeat, calling time at around 19.45. Tomorrow I will have to manage my food and water intake better. (Note to self: pee should never be brown.) the dehydration more than the muscle pain has limited me today.
Here I am writing this from Stathfillan Wigwams. Ok, it’s not quite a luxurious B&B, but it’s not my tarp either. Anyway, I’m on holiday and have wanted to stay in one of these since I passed them in 2011.
The man running the campsite was actually from Cape Wrath, so he told me some wonderful stories about the place and also told me of two walkers in their late sixties who walked from the Pennines to Cape Wrath and back – two years running! I felt a little soft for hiding in comfort so early on.
The early rest and comfortable environment gave me a couple of hours to shower, wash my clothes, eat, drink and give myself a proper systems check. The four small blisters on my left foot and one on my right were somewhat inevitable. The ground has been hard and my feet have regularly complained in the heat. I’ve thus far resisted the temptation of cooling them by walking in streams, if only because my socks are still more or less still dry.
Checking my feet also alerted me to some sort of tick type insect merrily munching its way into my ankle. Out it was pulled, but even with a tick removal tool it was stubborn and wanted to stay put.
Stopping here had also given me some much needed human contact. I’ve met some really nice people out here and it’s nice to be reminded that, for the most part, folk are good.
I’m now sat in my cabin with my first cup of tea this trip. I’m probably suffering from caffeine withdrawal too. I’ll have another cup of tea before a long and hopefully restful sleep. If tomorrow is a little bit cooler then I should be able to built on the slim lead over my predicted location, then it’s out into Glencoe before back onto the Way and to Fort William.
I’m quite enjoying the time to myself, but if anyone particularly wants to join me for a wee while, you know where I am =)