Going wild on the West Highland Way: Day Four

Day Four – Tuesday – 10 miles20151006_190330

11 am – Walk 3 miles to Inversnaid.
Midday – each lunch and walk 7 miles to Invernan and camp.

Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Wrap, chorizo and babybel
Camping dinner: Cheesy pasta in a mug

It was nice to wake up late with no need to pack a tent and with a short walking day ahead. Bothy Pete slept badly, falling off his mat throughout the night. He built another fire, bringing in a ‘faggot’ of twigs (his words, not mine – the official term apparently). I made tea on the fire. It was surreal, like stepping back in time.

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I went down to the lake to wash my hair. The lake was soapy with fog. It drizzled, but the still, drifting quiet was like magic. The glassy water didn’t have a single imperfection. After pouring the first pan of water a little down my back, I decided to strip down a bit and just grit my teeth. But the water wasn’t as cold as I’d expected it to be. And if I’d of had the right kit, I’d of loved to have taken a swim.

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Bothy Pete went down later for a swim and I was pretty jealous, and when he came back he’d had a change of heart. He’d been tempted to stay at the bothy because of the rain, but nope – he was going to do The WHW now. Hooray! I started to pack and found a hole in a bag of almonds and fruit with half the contents missing. Vermin! That would explain all the odd noises in the night and why my map was covered in dirt despite being on the table. Ugh! I wiped everything down with anti-bac wipes and took care sterilizing pots etc. Most of me and my gear dried out by the crackling fire.

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I said my goodbyes to the Bothy and Pete, and left at midday in the dregs of the rain. Bothy-Pete was going to leave later. The Way was hairy – subsidence, stairs of rock or black roots and a few sheer drops. But I finally made it to Inversaid to see a huge, waterfall beating down the rocks. I ate lunch looking out at the loch and mountains, sock and shoes off, naturally. The sun pushed the clouds apart . The day was warm and sticky. My little toe was better than yesterday, so far, since I popped the blister on it. I decided to keep my boots loose for now.

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From then on, the walk was MAGNIFICENT. I saw five toads (one small red one), and a family of startled goats. I scrambled about the rocks at Rob Roys cave (bit tricky). And when the sun really blazed, I took an afternoon break on a beach and dipped my feet hoping the cold water would help sooth them. The weather was like something you could eat or would want to roll around in. The loch was as blue as the sky. We could have been somewhere entirely different. Painful feet are more manageable with views like that.

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As I waited for my feet to dry, I started to write up notes on yesterday when I heard my name. Bothy Pete had caught up! He was dripping, and it’s no wonder. He didn’t leave until 1.30pm and had done 5 miles in under 2 hours with all that weight on his back. I’m surprised he didn’t come a cropper in any of the waterfalls that run over the path – there are only a few wet stepping stones that get you across.

Bothy pete

We soaked in the sun before I set off before him again, crunching along the path. The land flattened out before the end of Loch Lomond. Bothy Pete caught up again, and we slipped and skidded over a muddy mess of a path that was impossible to find. But Pete’s the sort of person who doesn’t avoid puddles or mud, but goes straight through them. I just fall in them – and now I’m covered in mud. But at least both of us had slipped in waterfalls earlier.

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We finally found Doune Bothy but it was locked. We knocked and knocked but there was nothing. Although I needed to push on to Invernan, I decided I wanted to stay for one night on a loch-side beach. Despite the cloud of midges that followed my head, it was worth it. Not being able to stop walking to avoid the cloud, was worth it. Slapping my face to swat them, was worth it. The sunset was a carnival – luminescent candy floss pulled across the sky and loch.

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I stuck my head out of my tent at 9.30pm, and found the midges had fallen back. The clear night sky was like looking at a reflection of the world from space – cities and cities of light. There were so many stars that I couldn’t find a single constellation. A bright, chalky shooting star scratched across the sky, and there were odd patches of semi-darkness covering parts of the sky – not quite cloud or anything I could see – just a black haze. There was an odd glow about the sky above the lake too. I didn’t find out until the next day that the Northern Lights might be the reason.

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Never forget to look up. It makes everything worthwhile – even the sore, numb, tingling feet as I lay in my tent at night. I’d hear the same lines in days to come from another walker – never forget to look up.

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