Lands End to Cape Wrath

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      > Getting Out There
      > 1. Lands End - Bude
      > 2. Bude - Severn Bridge
      > 3. Severn Bridge - Liverpool
      > 4. Liverpool - Arnside
      > 5. Arnside - Carlisle
      > 6. Carlisle - Ardrossan
      > 7. Ardrossan - Oban
      > 8. Oban - Mallaig
      > 9. Mallaig - Badrallach
      > 10. Badrallach-Kinlochbervie
      > 11. Kinlochbervie - Durness
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Daily Schedule

 

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Lands End to Cape Wrath
 

BADRALLACH TO KINLOCHBERVIE
Canoes, stream crossing, food planning to the top, in my prime, micro navigation, Assynt, Ben Stack.

Sunday 7 August                     

Sunday evening out again.

What must be the final leg, into the most remotefullness so far; Sutherland. I have to passage between shops: Lochinver too Drumbeg too Kinlochbervie too Durness.

Zigzag to the top.

Pack heavy heavy today leaving Ullapool with maybe three days to Lochinver. Camped this evening on a hill above Drumrunie looking west out at a row of big hills, chilly breeze sun dropping behind Coigach.

I took a liberty and added a twist to the trip today. From Badrallach to Ullapool would be a long walk east and back around the head of Loch Broom, on roads for a day or more. A ferry used to ply across the loch, a short hop from Altnahari but not this year. Health and safety clamp down apparently insurance too high.

Solution to avoid the walk (not really into long walks), was to canoe across. Julian and I we carried two canoes down the track, a mile and a half of stretched arms down to Altnahari beach. Blue and clear water and sky gentle breeze across to Ullapool in time for lunch. Now is that cheating? I donít think so in fact highly commended certificate and a little bonus adventure. First time in a canoe in 20 years and arms instead of shanks, fine.

Ullapool bustling metropolitan area, ďHighlands not PylonsĒ, fish and chips and goodbyes to Jane and Julian (trying to persuade me to stay cos The Alabama 3 are coming to play in Ullapool on Tuesday, tempting but Iím going to Goa) out along the road by 1.30. (in joke).

Green sign on the way out of town; 170 miles by road to John-O-Groats. Slight tang of perhaps I should be still heading for there? If Iíd not stopped for so long here and down in Penrith, stepped out a bit harder? Lands End to John-O-Groats abandoned, will I regret that?

But no, that wild rock wind and sea surely the place to finish, and I also have to go on a way round Cape Wrath. Durness for food and maybe the start of the road home, bus or thumb?

Getting going again, here we go, remembering what it is Iím doing , reconnecting.

Up and over the Old Peat Road form north of Ullapool across to the Loch Bein Derg reservoir. The Old Peat Road through open moor-land with huge square shallow basins and piles of cut peats all grown over looking like long forgotten.

Round the reservoir north and down to boots off in the sunny evening and ford the River Kanaird then cutting back up over soggy grass and sphagnum and sparse heather. Soggy but not boggy, lots of rain in the last week while I idled but this country here not too wet.

Boots off and fording river procedure:

  1. Trousers to shorts, boots and socks off sandals on.
  2. Boot aces tied together, socks inside and slung over my neck dangling.
  3. Tent / sleeping mat bag un-strapped from rucksack and camera added to it.
  4. First crossing with this light load and stick to explore dodgy nature of river bed and strength of current; check out how difficult it is going to be with the rest of the heavy pack.
  5. leave first load on far bank and return.
  6. Make third and final crossing with pack.

Toulouse style pork sausage (from Ullapool Somerfield) with chilly and Apricot Pollenta and now zipped up. I have a renewed stash of very delicious fresh ground chillies also. A few spoonfuls to last me out kindly donated by Sue in Badrallach brought back just the other week from her Turkish holiday. Intoxicating rich damp dark red gun powder will have to go in every thing.

Stepping out again and again here we go; feeling doubtful, tired and can I do this.

So as before let the system take over, trust it and just do what I have to do.

Find a flat spot, put up the tent, get super duper, collect water, etcÖ.

There will be a meal there in as long as it takes and warm fed and cosy. All that might be accompanied by a gloomy heavy feeling yearning doubt in the pit of the stomach, slight this evening but trust again and that will pass. Got this wild and big big stretch of country to wander up through, just relax and get into that.

Slipping away

Five years of planning and I donít know how many weeks of walking, ten odd days to go. Where has it all gone? Where are all the miles? Theyíre not in my tent, are they in my feet. I canít get them all in my head. I want them all here now to hold but theyís gone.

More ear walking and today getting into just inhabiting my senses.

Trying to move out of my mind and thoughts where I can spend so much time, going round in circles and winding myself up for excitement and disappointment or negative gloom and doubt. But there is so much else to get into and be with; all thatís flooding in through eyes and nose all the body physical and I guess Iím back into the walking window. Be with the void and allow my senses to fill it up.

But I will always lose the slippery struggle. Always be seduced into fantasies of this that or the other imagined exciting or scary future. Always driven to be making more of what is here right now. (nothing).

 

Monday 8 August

ASSYNT

Make your mind up baby 

Uh hu?

You gonna enjoy it baby 

Uh hu?

Itís gonna be the best bit baby 

Uh hu?

Itís gonna be the best bit baby

 Uh hu?

Up and out on top again. 8.30 fed and watered sitting facing north west on the rocky summit of Meall Š Mhuthaich 350m. Loch na Gainimh below, a ripply mirror of the sun in streaky clouds hovering on the shoulder of Suilven, the Chicken Sphinx. Canisp to my north in full evening sun a big crumbly grumbly wall. Marching of to the south Cul Mor and Stac Polliadh. Big fellas my company for the evening each standing up to say yes Iím here me, great big statements of I AM-ness high over the chip chop plateau of churning waves.


Night spot 110 out on top in Assynt.  Suilven and Canisp.

Just grass and sparse dwarfy heather, black peat clinging to the rock. A thin pasting of organic processes that barely disguise the absolute rocky-ness of all this.

15 miles today. Main road A835 all morning over too a little beyond Elphin and picking up the path north west around Cam Loch. The path out towards Lochinver

Assynt, and Scotland is doing it again.

Came up the road this morning knowing that I was going out into the wilds again, a new piece of country looking forward to it, then suddenly

←             →

 

→   BLAM   ←

Blam, once again Iím out and hurray. Assynt very pretty this evening.  

All your life you been walking

This is where you got to baby

Tell me what you see

 

All your life you been walking

This is where you got to baby

Do you like it what you see

Still enough of a darling breeze to let me sit out here alone to watch that evening change in everything as we loose the sun.

Round the north of Cam Loch then onto a lovely lovely easy path, not track but flat and rocky and easy in fact a genuine marble effect path, crushed marble (crunch) very pricey and flat paving. Rattling out over round the hills to get amongst those big egos. Though old Jack K would assert that his Hozomeen desolation mountains were only the void not thinking or moving or dreaming while he slept; Iím not sure, I think these guys enjoy sticking it out and making me feel small or big and will they be there in the morning?

To be so fickle

I have a new sun rain hat that I did buy in Ullapool. Guess what; I like it better than our lost friend.

Somehow more comfortable, more floppy more me. Better make the most of it now, never be able to wear it at home far too camp for to be family accepted.

Next morning 10ish.

Very lazy after setting alarm for 7.30, reclining in open mouth tent following delicious breakfast of Crunchy oaty cereal porridge with chopped dried bananas soaked over night. Hot choc and coffee; you have to look after yourself.

Silent silence sublime soft with mist right in, can just about see the rocks 20 feet or so over there. Mountains taken a break after yesterdayís show. Occasional hiss of misty rain on the tent, just once Glurk, Raven.

Iím so confused; should animals and plants have capitals? R for Raven. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Bog Cotton! Lesser Birdís Foot Trefoil.

No little birds up here, Pipits and Stone Chats left behind, Rooks also where they be?

 David Balfour described this kind country as desert but I donít know, thereís lots of life out here, itís not a tropical rain forest but we do have DiscothŤque caterpillars and dragonflies, dragonfly larvae in the little lochen Iím camped beside up here, spiders with cartwheel webs in the mist and frogs. Adult frogs and toads in the damp grass and this years crop an inch or so long now. Ponds up on Hergest Ridge were swarming with tadpoles when I was there on Saturday 21 May, thatís 81 (81) Welsh English and Scots days ago.

This hill was occupied by a large 30 plus herd of red deer as I arrived last evening, I passed 5 Dutch guys on the path at about 5.00, busy busy and there was a Scots man camped and fishing in Cam Loch as I walked round at about 2.00. Busy. A happy man I think who stood up to his thighs in the loch and told me how his friends thought he was mad to spend his time out here but he loved it and heíd been coming here since he was a lad I hope heíll be there again, doing what he likes to do if (when) I walk that path again.

At some point today Iím going to go for a walk, that would make a change.

Down the hill to Lochinver. The map says itís there so Iíll go and see.

Hallelujah itís a simple simple life.

Can you get to love the midge

Get to think that

 itís the spice, itís the chilli

Let me know

 

5.30.

Sitting in a bar in Lochinver, food served at 6.00, drizzle. View out to Loch Inver disappearing. Plan to eat then walk out a little way round the headland to camp above the sea. Could be a wet night but I want to be in the tent, donít fancy a BnB.

Down slowly out of Assynt today following Glen Canisp north west to the sea.  The most knockout rocky river; Abhainn na Clach Airigh, growing in and out of lochens round lumpy foothills. Suilven sitting above it all but hidden in low heavy clouds and forgotten about until lunch time. 15 minutes of lifted clouds and towering up caught in the sun with tiny figures on top then gone again. 

Drinking beer with a guy who had been up there this afternoon but missed that window. Up up and down down and seeing nothing of Assynt spread out.

Timbale of Haggis with Drambuie Cream

Monkfish with Creamy White Wine and Prawn Sauce

Pint of Tenants 80%

 

Wednesday 10 August

Morning fog and wind

Drizzle so a very slow morning, still in sleeping bag at 10.30. Camped on a hill above Baddidarach round the bay from Lochinver now lost in the fog. Thinking about the next stage; Drumbeg, Kinlochbervie, one more food parcel and 2 more shops, maybe 10 days now, thatís it till Cape Wrath and a day or so after that round to Durness.

Planning, thinking about food, Iíve got; actually lots:

  • Pollenta, Bulgar and noodles enough for 4 evenings plus
  • 3 dehydrated meals and noodles to boost.
  • Sausages and an onion bought yesterday in the Lochinver butchers to go with Bulgar this evening.
  • 1 tin of salmon to accompany noodles at some point.
  • Oat cakes, half a 250g pack.
  • 1 tin sardines in olive oil for lunch today.
  • Cheese enough for today.
  • Oaty cereal for breakfast in a little while.
  • A packet of 4 genuine Lancashire Eccles Cakes for breakfast tomorrow.
  • Chocolate some.
  • Nuts and raisins some.
  • Dried Apricots, just a few to eek out till Kinlochbervie.
  • 6 energy bars
  • 2 packets Sesame Snaps.

So. I need to get to the shop in Drumbeg, maybe tomorrow morning. It could be 3 or 4 days from there round to the next shop in Kinlochbervie. (No point in getting there before Post office time on Monday).

So Drumbeg, apparently a very tiny shop but also a green grocers! Iíll need a couple of onions for supper times and maybe some more sausages for suppers, some sardines, cheese, chocolate for lunches, some fruit for immediate consumption. Breakfasts, oats or flap jack.

I could just live on the dehydrated meals with noodles to boost and just find some cake for puddings, lighter but not so much fun. But then it might turn stormy and I end up eating them anyway.

I shall eventually get going today, weather seems to be lifting a little. A short days walking north to above Drumbeg with a good chunk of bush-whacking.

Thatís exciting now, Iíve got over the bush-whacking phobia induced by that first evening on Kintyre and enjoying to get my teeth in to it. Study what Iím walking through; how does it look just here? Boggy or dry, deep and dense, tussocky or even and flat. Could it be just like this when Iím bush-whacking over there tomorrow? well if it is then thatís Ok I could get across this without a path.

Each bit of country is a different kind of going. Look at the day, how far do I want to go? Prepare for it to be very slow and hard going and plan around that. Try to link it to jumps between paths. Study and prepare.

Got to get up and out now. Pack all this away and get along. Squirm and squirm around inside this nylon nylon until itís all packed away then out and off. Not much else to do.

Wednesday evening.

Camped above a nameless lochen at 100m on a hill about a mile inland south of Drumbeg. I swam out into the black waters this evening in the drizzle and murk.

Deep deep soft peaty mud sinking up to my hips in the loch bed.

Interesting procedure requiring some planning to get undressed and into the water without attracting too much midge attention. A nightmare situation It would be to be naked in the centre of a swarming biting. Under water safe and sound and also out away from the shore itís Ok, they donít seem to venture too far out across the water.

But then how to get back on shore and dried and covered up quick enough to save your skin? I had everything ready on shore, dry head and midge net on then rapid approximate drying rest of body and cover up still very damp but safe and worth it for tingly cool-fresh and triumph.

Getting into wild water is just so important:

Physical invigoration excitement, clean and wide awake soothed body stretching ten hard head down strokes out to the middle will always making me feel better, relaxed and looking after myself. Also the fundamental connection to the earth. Be in the water being the water.

Got into some very different country yesterday and this morning; paths and twisty lanes around Loch Inver and Loch Roe. Sheltered and ebullient. Came down from the Assynt world of life clinging thinly to the rock, down into tangles of gorse, hazel, birch, rowan with dog rose and meadow sweet and water lilies in bloom. Honeysuckle, sage, and multiple varieties of heather all now blooming crazy. I thought Iíd left the last tree behind but it was all there down out of the weather onslaught.

Mid morning on the path north east from Rhicarn, Glac na h-Imrich to Loch Grocach, heading out to pick up the path into Drumbeg. 100m up and into the open again this time a rich and damp heath with even isolated birch in sheltered spots, burnt I think quite recently and evidence of a long history of peat cutting. There are lots of square holes a foot or two deep dotted around and lurking in the heather calling for concentration and making it tricky walking with no apparent system of cutting. I was walking and wondering about the hard work and to come up and out here to dig peat from all over the hills and cart it down to where? No paths and did they use wheel barrows or what. It has no name on the map this piece of land between Lochinver and Drumbeg stretching out to the Point of Stoer. Up and down plateau deep cut, a maze with lots of water; lochens between lumpy hills. Very grey and dour today in low cloud. Dull light giving no depth and perspective to the landscape, somehow looking flat. Hints of big mountains lurking in the clouds off to the north east but mostly hidden.

Feel of country un-walked since peat cutting stopped. No path or prints human. My path though, here waiting.


On the way over to Drumbeg.

How far away is a midge bite?

A midge biting me just here on my right cheek. Close my eyes; how far away is it. Itís no closer or farther away than the sound of the wind through the grass. Open my eyes and itís no closer or farther away than that birch in the heather down there by the loch. There is no way to judge the distance, how far away from what? Where am I exactly?

 

Thursday 11 August

Seventieth night in tent

After a fish supper in the Kylesku Hotel tent pitched on a grassy ledge 50 meters above the water on the western side of Garbh Eileen, the island at the head of Loch Š Chŗirn Bhŗin now cut in half by the sweep of the A894 and the new Kylesku bridge. Quinag opposite beyond the black waters now in full drama being swept by cloud and rain in the falling light. I surprised a big Red Stag on his evening rambles as I came looking for my resting place half an hour ago. We stood looking at each other for 2 minutes odd about 30 feet apart before he turned and trotted off round the side of the hill. Deer should have arms so they can rest hands on hips to give a camp sideways stare and tut and say well look at her and with all that nylon and that silly walking stick would you ever.

We stood looking at each other for 2 minutes odd about 30 feet apart, hands on hips giving a camp sideways stare he said tut and will you look at her and with all that nylon and that silly walking stick would you ever! then he turned and flounced off round the side of the hill.

I came down to Drumbeg at 11.00 this morning, visited the tea shop the green grocers and the village store. A dive into civilisation and came away with all manner of delights. Some excellent looking chorizo, smoked cheeses, cherries; Hallelujah no rude existence in these wild places.

Cruising now with the realisation of another shift: gone are many anxieties with so much achieved, time and distance; imagined and real hurdles now in the behind.

Fears I had about Scotland being too much; hey Iím doing Scotland in style, feeling as though Iíve really seen it, gone out and found it. Over and over Iíve walked into the hills through and over and out the other side. Trust in a system, it works.

Strolling all afternoon the rolling road Drumbeg round the here. The third test on the head-phones; getting to know Quinag, Sŗil Gorm, Sŗil Gharbh mountains and water and Michael Vaughn 166.

Pondering:

Every step Iíve taken is contained in every step I take

Each step I take contains all the steps Iíve taken

The whole path Iíve followed is there in each step

The whole path is here in each step

Each contact with the earth contains all the contacts

Each step is the first and every step

All is now

Now is all

Strolling, pack heavy but fine with food for 4 days I can just do what I want. Chatting with some locals as I came through Ned, past a grassy spot at the head of Loch Ned where Vivienne and I had camped a midgy night in August 1983: finding it just as I remembered it.


Ned.

Locals gave word that the Kylesku Hotel does good food so thinking I might just eat there before camping: because I can.

With time to amble I had the thought today that I could climb one of these mountains.

So hatching a plan: the path Iíve picked out cuts north east across from here and hits the road just north of  Ben Stack. So I could climb Ben Stack.

Tomorrow Iíll walk over there and camp somewhere on a shoulder half way up and zip up to the top early the next morning leaving tent and all so without burden of rucksack. Ha!

I climbed Ben Stack 23 years ago a couple of days after Vivienne and I camped at Ned so passing through life and let me tell you at some point tomorrow morning Iím going to walk on to the last map! O.S Landranger (your passport to the country) sheet number 9: Cape Wrath, Durness and Scourie. Walking on to it at 228 400. (Have a look, see if you can see me).

 

Friday 12 August

20.15


Night spot 113 0n the western shoulder of Ben Stack.

Camped on the western shoulder of Ben Stack (264 426), 350m odd. Brooding blanket of cloud, grey cold windy a little drizzle but absolutely (absolutely) fine. Iím down around the corner from a strong south west wind; I hope it stays from that direction. Mission accomplished for the day, just 8 Ĺ miles up from Kylesku and pitched up by close of play; 6.20, time added for rain. Australia 210 for 7 in reply to Englandís 440.

Looking over at Arkle and Foinavon with big round slippery lead tops in and out of clouds just like Bein Eige 2 weeks (?) ago.

So I spent the day just getting up here. No enormous task; strolling in wonder through soggy grass moss and heather round strings of lochens and the ruffled foot hills.

Networks of lochens each at a different height, emptying into one another round and downwards.


On the way out to Ben Stack.

A big and chunky slow going landscape with organic processes pasted a little thicker compared with Assynt along under Suilven. I left the path thinking Iíd bushwhack all the way but it was slow and wet with a lot of holes / drops hidden amongst boulders in the vegetation so I made my way back to pick up the path again for as long as I could. Not another soul and just an occasional footprint human of someone who had chosen the same route up here in the last year or two. So with the permission of the weather Iíll scamper up to the top tomorrow morning with minimum pack.

Iím very excited to find I have the energy and inclination to do this: it wasnít in the plan, I didnít think Iíd be getting into this kind of macho getting right up on top energy but it just seems right. Get my teeth into this new chunk of country; have a good look at it from on top. From here I can see way off towards Kinlochbervie and hills marching out towards what must be Cape Wrath. Hey Iíll climb all of them.

One small anxiety: Iíll be spending the night lying under nylon at the foot of a steep almost cliff huge loose rocky mountain and amongst boulders that have clearly fallen from it. How often do they fall? Is there a Morris Traveller sized boulder balanced ready to be part of the natural processes of erosion or even football sized: that would be sore as well. Just like swimming in deep water and you canít help imagining large dark shapes and teeth hurtling up from way down below your soft pink kicking feet.

Left leg trapped beneath a one ton rock unable to move or reach mobile phone. Imagination. 

Very familiar with this kind of a path moment today. I am often these days a wild open windy place. Feet following an intermittent track with signs of very occasional four wheel use; a grassy ridge between parallel stony tracks. No tire marks; firm and gritty like crumbled quartz in the tracks. No real mud. Grass mainly today with spriggy heather and dotted with tormentil. Out all around across turbulent lumpy foothills with rocky out-crops working up towards the now towering cone of Ben Stack. Stop and lean on my stick (which is bent at the point now from too much if that), pack off to put on an extra layer; mid afternoon a bit chilly.

 

Saturday 13 August

Day 114 Nicole Farhi

Delights culinary this evening: Oh my goodness; Drumbeg chorizo best ever, better I think even than the Hay on Wye Chorizo of day 32. Chilli from Sue in Badrallach, organic smoked cheddar from Drumbeg. You have to do it in style and followed by Mmm my favourite, Ray Mears style beverage: freshly picked Bog Myrtle Tea. Replete, so now I can sit here and see whatís left.

Extraordinary to be out here in this outrageous landscape: evening 6.15 after grey and muggy drizzly all day now high up above loch and rocks with the cloud letting go of the big fellers and suddenly bright and blue evening show time.

But what do you know? Can only peep out through tent zip for a quick moment coz of our little friends. Perfect of course for them: warm, damp, still, not a breath. Green and yellow nylon stretched panoramic; zip, peep, take it all in and zipÖ...

Later on now: 8.45, and as if by magic as I was writing that a healthy fresh northerly breeze did spring up giving me time to leap from tent and wash in rock rain pools and jump around and shout naked and declare my ownership of all this.

Camped on top (again of course) of an un-named knoll 130 meters at the northern end of Loch Š Garbh Ė bhaid MÚr. Sŗil MhÚr: the northern arm of Arkle now bearing down and lifting me on itís bow wave. Big red sun diving now into the coastal hills and a sudden drop in temperature.


Night spot 114, looking back to Ben Stack.

So another day according to plan. Up at 08.00 in the rain and fog to the top of Ben Stack. That weird thing of climbing and climbing seeing no more than occasional swirling glimpses of a world beyond your 20 yards of wet rock and soggy vegetation. Winding up the western flank and at one point following the steep edge of a wide what you might call scree slope but a jumble flow of boulders rather than usual shingly stones: very eerie and beautiful with blodgy white lichens and dark green moss on slick wet rock.

No real path till quite close to the top so I was trying to keep a careful watch on my route up through gullies and round enormous balancing boulders and leaving the occasional little cairn of 2 or 3 stones in key spots to trace on my return in the fog. Wind scary whistling across exposed ridges at the top which had me on my hands and knees at one point. On my way back suddenly there were 2 guys looming from the fog striding out no bother immortal across the ridge.

Looking back from here now I can see the whole mountain sitting in all itís grumpy-ness: Somehow not so big when you can see it all.

Back down to the tent (still there) by 11.30 and starting down off the mountain by 1.30 after rest and lunch and waiting for the weather to lift. It didnít really until I got along to here this evening.

The strangest thing:

I have acquired a charcoal grey Kashmir polo necked sweater by Nicole Farhi: In perfect condition, just soggy. There it was lying in the heather, I almost stood on it as I took my zig-zag path down the mighty north west flank of Ben Stack, perhaps a half a mile above the road and Lochstack Lodge:

maybe 263 434.

Hanging drying on a guy rope in evening wind and sun right now: any claimants? Quite a pricey item I expect.

Path out north east from the road at Lochstack Lodge and round north of Arkle.


Out from Lochstack Lodge towards Arkle.

I thought at one point yesterday that I might climb up there as well, camp half way up and make another morning assault tomorrow; skating a big ramp and really getting to know this bit of country. But blimey look at it: how would I get up there? Not from this side anyway.

It was hard going this afternoon, wet and warm and too midge-horrific to stop and rest. Difficult bush-whacking north from the path too here: up and down across uneven rock and heather and deep soggy moss but goodness gracious itís worth it.

Predictable this but once again Scotland is revealing itself. Iíve come through different junks of country in the last few weeks each with their own collections of big mountains dominating their own piece of rocky wilderness, each one with a different feel.

If I had known that it was going to be this exciting as I struggled up the Cornish coast all those weeks ago: I think Iíd have been just very happy. Glad I didnít know though cos this is all a surprise and every day an opening up and discovering and hallelujah!...

Kinlochbervie tomorrow and the last parcel. Cape Wrath by Wednesday?

Text From Jim: Good luck mate. Donít trip up and break anything. Looking fwd 2 having you back.

Last few days thinking hard, concentrating on taking it slowly and being careful. Donít want to be stuck out here with a broken something. So mindful watching of every step, tuned closely with the walking window. Crossing rocky rivers today; oh just being as careful as I can, concentrate, donít take risks, no rush at all and Iíve come this far.

More than a couple of times my foot has gone down a surprise hole in the heather and rocks heavy pack over balancing crack. Oh shit!

Somewhere, well probably in quite a number of parallel universes not far off there are Davids who broke something just then. Very sorry to you all.

Mobile phone and mountain rescue and all that: bone sticking out kind of stuff. Could still happen in this universe and maybe youíre reading the 3 days to go broken leg version just over there.  If I can feel it, feel the jarring cracking, it must be happening somewhere.

Micro Navigation

Constantly working; this next step, the next three yards, gaze and assess the next hundred yards. Round these rocks, hup round onto that little terrace, and then round to where the route could drop through that bank, grab that hawthorn bush to help me down. Diagonal across the hill to there which will take me above the drop off to those rocks and onto that shoulder. The altogether absorbing and sacred process of moving forward. On the flat gravel path, on the road, not needed, put on standby.

Crossing a rocky stream: concentrate now. How shall I do this? Just here? Can I jump that? from that boulder and then on to there. Mmmm. Look a little further up stream, donít know. Have to go back down that way, it doesnít really matter so just wander along till I can cross it then cut off up that way to rejoin the path. Should get narrower higher up but then it might go into a steep gully. Best look at the map.


Streams to cross, concentration.

Today on the path along beneath Arkle, just closely watching and picking my route in the yards ahead. I was suddenly back and riding my bike perhaps ten years old. Fast peddling a bumpy lane in and out and around pot holes. Remembering that clear straight energetic focus just riding fast in and out and around pot holes. No worries or reasons to be doing anything else. Childís eyes.

 

Sunday 14 August

21.11. 59.2įc.

Itís been quite a passage, Ullapool to here, Sunday to Sunday.

Path over to Drumrunie, road to Elphin, path in across Assynt past Suilven and Canisp to Lochinver. Over the top to Drumbeg, road east past Quinag and around to Kylesku. Out to Ben Stack, up and down and over to beneath Arkle and today round the front paws of Foinavon to here: little hill, Garbh Shrom, 154m above Rhiconich at the head of Loch Inchard.

Kinlochbervie tomorrow, just down the road.

This phase: really since Glen Carron, has been about moving round these big mountains, they have been dictating my route. Before then, perhaps since Kintyre was more about weaving the lochs and sea lochs, they were dictating. This part itís been dancing Do-se-Do with the big fellers.

The plan today was to head straight on down along the Rhiconich river to pick up the road and head on along Loch Inchard to Kinlochbervie and find a room if such a thing there was. But the sun came out and took me on an adventure: a big ark round to the nudge up to Foinavon. Please myself, follow my nose, be an explorer.

Accompanied by this particularly persistent and I ask you! (SUI) with Linda Rondstadt.

You and me boy we march to the beat of a different drum

Canít you tell by the way I run

Each time you make eyes at meÖ

I ainít sayin you ainít pretty

Iím just sayin I ainít ready....

Plenty of time and just so digging this country and being out in it. Gazing out after breakfast at a waterfall across on the Garbh Allt river and thinking ooh Iíll just check that out on my way this morning. Ending up immersed in it and from there being drawn over to explore the maze of hills and lochs and just why not spend the day cruising.

So a big circle 9 Ĺ miles out to the east that in the end carried me less than 3 miles from my starting point this morning.

Blissful day, easy going bouncy soft forgiving moss carpet that sprung me along and had me moon walking almost running. Happy bush-whacking; round and in and out and over rivers and lochens. Crazy twisting water courses; back and forth feeding round and down through each other all in the sun and fresh wind. I was just about managing to keep a forward momentum between inevitable diversions into swimming in rivers and lochs. A busy Dipper outraged by my presence in his private lochen and Dragon Flies the size of Budgerigars. Discovering how different loch bottom mud is from estuary mud but just as much fun:

Green, more coarse and sloppy organic less mineral with mainly peat and roots. Smelling green and sweet rather than the heady rich seaside pong. So I guess mainly the accumulation of rotting plants in still pools rather than the fine mineral silt salty cocktail washing in and out. Which would be better for the skin and general constitution?

Garbh Allt, Mathair Gharg Uilt, Cnoc Laith (for lunch), Loch na Claise Cŗrnaich and out onto the road at Clach a Bhoineid.

Letting go of forward momentum; the basic pre-occupation of most of the last 4 months; just to wander and enjoy feeling strong out on my own in this wilderness. Food to last, water everywhere and sun in the sky so actually no worries.

Was this always the actual destination of this walk? So exciting and satisfying, did I set out walking in fact to reach this spot: this part of the world and this state of mind and body. A to B being specifically this. Not just to walk the walk that distance, but to arrive here: standing in the bright sun and dwarfed by rock and water; naked and standing and laughing covered in mud.

This evening from here I can see back six mountains in a row to Quinag. Since then Iíve crossed 2 roads in 3 days. Roads actually dividing this country into big chunks, taking their own paths, the passes between the mountains. Get away from roads; not so many in the last 3 weeks, getting a different perspective of what they are, their nature.

Hard and straight and finding the route they can. I was struck mightily by the contrast this afternoon. Stepping out onto the tarmac waking up to human presence; this is what we can do; we can decide itís important (it might be); harness the energy to fashion these contrivances for taming the world and allowing us to make our way A too B real sharpish. Hallelujah.

But the contrast: hard and sharp and loud and cutting across get out of my way.

And a definite case of mistaken identity: Today there was a young mountain goat springing out immortal across rock and heather. This evening in this digital camera window screen there is some haggard old bloke lying looking knackered and altogether uncouth in my tent. We donít know who this chap might be and why he insists on wearing my clothes.  

But:

IN MY PRIME

I heard somewhere, a radio programme I think, that as you get older (past the middle ages), you loose the ability to accurately judge the passage of time. Well hey out here, I can get it right to within 15 mins every time. Not wearing a watch so I might walk all morning without checking the time, midday-ish Iíll guess 11.45, dig my little clock / thermometer item from the pouch on the waist band of my pack and guess; 11.45? hey presto 11.48!

I feel strong, legs working, I can hoist and carry this ridiculous pack all day.

Iím eating up the country, these mountains are mine Iím in my prime.

And taking pictures taking pictures all the time. Hunger, search, seeker out consume, gorge.


Night spot 116, above Rhiconich stormy morning.

 

Monday 15 August

Kinlochbervie and the last parcel

Checked in fish soup and steak and ale pie for lunch in the Kinlochbervie Hotel.

Picked up the last food parcel today; number 10 there waiting for me and success with all ten parcels the whole system, no Royal Mail problems. Sorted into piles and taped up on the sitting room floor in early April and weíve been reunited; each made itís journey thanks to my Father; happy reunions.

But that was the last one, all done, blimey.

Plan now: a slow start tomorrow and just wander the 8 or so miles up to Sandwood Bay; described by many people Iíve met along the way as a very fine place to camp. Thatís tomorrow; Tuesday. Cape Wrath on Wednesday.

Camp there balanced on the cliff then I donít know. One more day to Durness; finish the walk in Durness.

I donít have to, got a few days to spare and actually 2 weeks tomorrow till I have to be back at work, 2 weeks tomorrow!?

But it actually seems right: Cape Wrath imagined destination then round to Durness first possible bus or hitch.

So now itís all squeezed into that. 3 or maybe 4 days is what I have; a long weekend for some walking in Scotland but with some time to play with and if the weather sits down I could wait for a good forecast.

I came down from a stormy wet hill top this morning, waking in a cloud with the task of breakfasting and packing up and all that everyday stuff inside madly flapping tent. Carefully down to the road and along Loch Inchard to here It would be favourite to be wandering this last bit of coast in some kind of clement but it is as it is.

So feeling in a bit of a flat spot. That last stretch was very satisfying; coming together just so; maybe that was it. But:

Wait a minute

Iím still doing something here

I havenít finished yet

And itís getting better.

Iím loaded up with food enough for four days and I can still go for that after all climax, somehow seeming all important: Still grasping.

Again that distance and disbelief disconnection when I stop walking but tomorrow Iíll be out there and in it again and also shaking off the disappointment dismal third test draw after such heroics and hope of the first 4 days. Television in my Hotel room with a view out into Loch Clash and the Atlantic. Wet and dismal Monday afternoon and somewhere down south they just couldnít bowl them out.

Texted Monday Ward round:

Hi Kwame, just visited the last shop, 3 days to go to the top if it exists. Hotel room now to watch the cricket. See you all soon

Kwame

Thanks. Sounds fab. On holiday back next week. Whatís the cricket score?

Aus 287 for 7, 25 overs to go, 136 to win.

Ah ha. Now tomorrow Tuesday morning, 8.20 still in hotel bed. Wet and stormy without; the radio Scotland forecast is that this will lift this afternoon but return again on Wednesday morning. So: sit it out and wait for a good forecast or go for it?

Torn; it would be great to be walking up there in the sun and twinkling sea, altogether more pleasant. But Cape Wrath; this is what itís about.

It sticks itself out into weather; wild and stormy by nature.

Prepare, (I am prepared; I have the Special 6) make myself ready and go and be in it.

So a slow start today, let the weather pass and take what comes tomorrow. 

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