West Highland Way Sept 2012



Who cannot want to pitch their tent
for the night by this bridge?

So the plan.
The observant amongst you will know that I'm planning  the WHW in September.
Like Lejog this has got under my skin and I'm itching to walk it.
It's time to get off my arse and do some training now so next weekend
my mate and I are doing a ten mile walk down the canal from Hamstreet to Rye. It's around ten mile, so a decent distance to start with, after that
 we're planning to go from the start of the canal at Seabrook to Rye.
 About 20 mile, a two day trip with camping overnight. I can test out my tent
and my legs.
Allow me to digress awhile to talk about my mate.
I'm 43, Garth's 27? We met when I employed him a few years ago, while he
 worked there we didn't socialise but recognised we shared common interests even though
our characters are completely different.
Anyway he left after a few months and we began to get to know each other as friends
rather than manager/worker.
This has lead to various "adventures or missions" as we like to call them including
two trips to Amsterdam for the weekend, one on our own, one with his missus Tash
and friend Robin, A race to Paris from Rye, me in my car, him and Tash on the trains.
They won.....
Dungeness to Dounreay, a 1500 mile round trip in a L reg 1.1L Metro, max speed 60.
A trip up to the Lake district and then on to Scotland , stopping in a mongolian yurt
 in the forest in Dumfries in the same metro with Tash as well to look at wedding venues.
As I said we're like oil and water in lots of ways and sometimes we're like an old married
couple arguing, mostly arbitrated by google's infinite knowledge.
Just recently Garth's got into walking as well, not that he's never walked before. He was brought up on Romney marsh and Dungeness beach, which if you know the area you'll know is going to involve lots of shingle walking, which is about the worst type of surface you can walk on, hot coals not withstanding.
Well Garth's idea of walking is "I must get from here to here in the shortest time possible and next time I must do it quicker".Recently he has done 10 and 15 mile stretches of the canal,  pushing himself to do it really fast. he's also planning a 32 mile stretch of the South Downs Way from Pyecombe to Eastbourne, doing it in a day. Me and Tash will be the support team, meeting at certain points to pour red bull down his neck and some fodder. That is not my idea of fun.
Of course Lejog is a matter of getting from A to B and not taking eternity to do it, all walks are an A to B but walking to me is about the journey on the way, the views, the history, the stories you make up to yourself about the ruins of old mills , cottages etc, who lived there? What happened to them, why did the buildings become derelict and unloved.
So for a while now my main topic of conversation has been walking, the West Highland Way in particular, and I've been telling everyone it's September.Last night Garth expressed an interest in doing it with me. I think my slathering's about the Scenery, pitching your tent, getting a good meal down you and watching the sunset has perked his interest in a slightly slower approach.
In my opening blog I've said walking is a solitary thing for me and that holds true, but what we've come up with sounds like a good plan.
So we're going to do these couple of walks on the canal in the next couple of weeks to see how we get on.
The loose plan we've come up with for the WHW is to set off in the morning together, walk for a few miles, then if Garth wants to surge ahead then he can. We may meet up when he stops for a bite to eat and rest, maybe not, but we will when I get to the end of the days walk if not before. We can camp up have a yarn, then get a good nights kip. That's the idea anyway.
I've also asked a friend who used to work with us who looks after Monty the Dog for me sometimes overnight or a weekend if I'm visiting family if she's open to looking after him for 10 days. He's 12 now and getting a bit too old for that sort of thing. I wish i had got round to this a few years ago when he would have ran all the way,That would give me time to visit family in Manchester for weekend, then up to Milngavie for the WHW in 7 days. She's fine with that so things are moving along.

Sunday 2nd September 2012

Day 0
Well, got into Glasgow this afternoon about 5 o'clock. Train from Preston, 1st class, only 38 squid. Gave Garth a text as I was leaving Lancaster to see where he was, thinking he was on the east coast line as that's what we thought was happening when we looked at all the train options. Anyway, turned out he had just left Lancaster so we ended up on same train. I asked a steward who passed who said it was £15 to upgrade so rung Garth back and told him to get his arse up to 1st.
Walked up to the hotel, which was right next door to Queen St station for our train to Milngavie in the morning.
After negotiating the intricacies of inserting a room card into the lift slot to get the lift to operate, we dumped our stuff in our room and hit the town, well, went for something to eat and a couple of drinks at a Wetherspoons across St Georges Square.
Whilst having a drink, waiting for our food to arrive, I found myself drawn, like a Greek sailor to the harp of a siren, a German to the singing of Lorelei,  to a high dresser behind Garth's seat, which instead of being a dangerous rock to be cast, shipwrecked upon, was adorned with an abundance of alluringly rustic wicker baskets, generously brimming with a dazzling array of various condiments and spices. My eyes were immediately fixed onto the tomato sauce sachets. Garth had been bothering me for a week to get some for him. I availed my self of this serendipitous event and returned with a good handful of reds and brown, mayos and salad creams, a few mustards, and of course a  lot of sugars, of which I have been emptying  the nations reserves of recently. We then spent the remaining time there discussing at length the number of red sauce sachets we had and worrying that we might be short, so liberated a few more each at regular intervals. I think we must of ended up with 20 each at least. The amount Garth uses that should suffice till we get to Drymen at least.This man will quite happily , without shame, let you cook him a nice, medium rare, 21 day aged, well seasoned steak and proceed to smother it with cheap ketchup. Not even Heinz! I'd insist on that! Walking back up to the hotel we decided to have a sort of Munro challenge so repaired ourselves to the Wetherspoons actually next to our hotel across the entrance to the rail station, me for a couple of coffees, Garth for a couple of beers. I don't know how many Wetherspoons we have in Scotland so a lot of planning will be needed if I ever decide to bag all of them.
We finally called it a night about 1030 and went to bed, me nervous about the day ahead, wondering how I would manage. I knew I hadn't done nearly enough training beforehand, and what with all my goodies liberated earlier, and the extras we'd thrown in at the last mo my pack must have been up to 15 Kg. I'd hoped to keep it below twelve.

Garth escaping cattle class.

Monday 3rd September

Day 1 Walking 915am-245pm

First things first, all sobriquets are bestowed with the warmest of wishes to all mentioned. Everyone we met along the way were great people, all doing it for different reasons but all conjoined in a mutual respect for the walk, other walkers, all happy to smile and say hello,well almost all, to analyse the days walk and discuss the highlights and lowlights over a drink in the pub or bar at night. When I initially set my mind to doing this walk, I wanted it to be a solo walk, just me and the scenery. This evolved into my friend coming with me, still knowing that I would probably be walking a lot of it on my own anyway, because Garth likes to walk faster than I do nowadays.
Now after doing the walk, if I was asked which bit I could of done without, be it the scenery, the solitude or the friends found along the way and the comradeship formed, it wouldn't be the latter.
Getting back to the walk, we arrived off the train in Milngavie about 845 having missed the 745 train literally by seconds. This gave me an opportunity to have another coffee and fag so all was good for me. Arriving at Milngavie and passing a Pharmacy I paused, then proceeded in to peruse their pharmaceutical profferings  I came away with vital supplies, namely aspirin, Anadin joint pain with ibuprofen and more ibuprofen.
Chemically prepared we arrived at the obelisk at the start of the walk. Just to ensure we knew we were in the right place the council, presumably, had provided a large metal sign above the bridge to herald the start of the walk.

As we approached a young guy  came up, acting to my eye slightly shady, furtively approaching us asking if we were "Doing the Way". Replying in the affirmative that we had taken leave of our senses and were that mad, he asked if we wouldn't mind visiting the visitors centre and signing a walkers book. We went down still not 100% sure but found everyone friendly and nothing more was expected of us. We returned to the obelisk for pictures and the same guy took some photos of us. He turned out to be a nice lad who had done the walk himself a few times so after asking about fresh water opportunities ahead we were ready for the off.

Going down the steps we came straight away to a transit being filled with rucksacks, lots of people milling about, it was the Travel-lite van being filled for the first leg. The lad taking pictures had told us that today was an extremely busy day for a Monday, around 40 odd bags on the van which meant around 80 could be walking today. This was not good news at the time as I'd hoped we had picked a quiet day as at this time solitude was on the key things I was looking forward to. A gentle stroll along a muddy path soon brought me to my first test of the day. A steep hill, "Eiger" like in proportion awaited, which soon found me huffing and puffing as if in need of an iron lung, or at least an oxygen tent. I stopped after 50 yards were a bench was located. Taking off my pack I removed a fleece I was wearing leaving me in just a baselayer, which is pretty much all I wore the whole trip. As soon as I put on a fleece and was confronted by the slightest incline the fleece would come back off.

Whilst sorting myself out and wondering what I'd let myself in for, the first of many people we met along the way came past. Two ladies in pink fleeces approached and we exchanged pleasantries.Fiona and Leanne were from Aberdeen, Fiona was doing the walk for a charity called Clan who raise money for anyone affected by cancer. Please visit her page on Just giving and do what you can. They became the first to be given a moniker, which we decided would be "The pink ladies". this evolved into "The perennial pink ladies", as throughout the day we kept seeing them, then finally "The hardy perennial pink ladies" as they didn't hang around and were doing the walk in 6 days.For speed of typing I will refer to them from now on as the HP's.
An interesting but tiring walk led us to our first stop at a bar/restaurant at Dumgoyne not far past the distillery, where we had a drink and something to eat which for the life of me I cant remember what.
Setting of again and feeling the strain under the rucksack I started to wonder if I'd made the right decision to carry everything. We had passed four guys a couple of miles outside of Milngavie, all with day bags. They had seen us with full backpacks and proclaimed as they passed that the baggage service was the best £40 they'd ever spent. Wholeheartedly agreeing with them I struggled on.
After a few more miles we came to a honesty table set up under a stand of trees alongside the path. Casting my eye over the table I saw tupperware boxes with fairy cakes inside, all with a variety of icing colours and designs on. A flask of coffee, tub of sugar and cooler of milk was also present, plus various other titbits.
Suitably impressed I took a fairy cake and in the spirit of bonhomie added £2 to the honesty tin even though the price was only 80p.
Only a mile or so after this we came to Gartness, a tiny place , a few cottages by the river was all we could see of it. Another honesty stall was set up outside one of the cottages, this time proclaiming choc ices and lollies for the tired walker.Aware that this could start to become expensive if we carried on at this rate, I plumped for an orange ice lolly at 80p and deposited the exact change in the tin.
As we left, from my map I was expecting us to have to turn off the road for Drymen and our first stop for the walk. We continued for 10 minutes up and down a steep section, me wondering if we were ever going to get to the turning. Stopping for a much needed breather I suddenly realised we were actually at the campsite we were aiming for at East Drumquassie Farm.! With no encouragement needed we started to get our tents up and get organised. I went to the farm and paid our fees (£5 each), then after a brew and rest we headed to Drymen to get some food and drink. I'd decided by this point that I really couldn't carry my pack the next day and was anxious about organising Travel-lite in time. I imagined that I may be able to purchase some sort of hold haul / sports bag to put all my camping gear, clothes, food etc, all the things I wouldn't need during the day, then keep my rucksack with the essentials in. I had no luck finding anything suitable, the only likely place, a outdoor centre, was closed for the day. Starting to worry now I went to the Clachan Inn and had a drink while I figured out what to do. I saw a kid running past the pub window and suddenly thought that maybe if I hung around outside, I could ask a kid if they had an old bag at home they didn't want anymore and if they would not rather have a tenner in their pocket. Whilst waiting outside for the opportunity to do a bit of bartering, I thought I'd better ring Travel-lite and see what the score was. They immediately put my mind at rest with regards to day bag issues. They would pick my bag up from East Drumquassie and drop it in Rowardennan along with a daybag for the rest of the walk. All I would need to do was carry water next day. Garth had brought a couple of emergency daybags with him.  £1 from tesco's, it would see me through the next day. With a great weight lifted off my mind, as well as my back, I could relax now. We checked out the food possibilities and plumped for the Drymen Inn, where Fiona and Leanne who we had bumped into in the Clachan Inn recommended. Walking in we both knew we'd made a mistake and was proved right. We asked for a menu and was told they were still being printed, so the waiter read out what was on from a pad in his hand. We opted for the safe option of sausage and mash with vegetables. Asking for a Coke and being told they only had Pepsi was another black mark, but to be fair that's more down to the way Coke operate and make it a lot more expensive to stock behind bars. Ended up with an orange juice and lemonade instead. Our food arrived, three artfully arranged sausages, well I say sausages, more like underfed chipolatas without a hint of colour to them, almost as if they had been cooked in the sous vide craze that seems to be in vogue at the moment. I put them out of their misery along with the mustard mash and undercooked veg. I suppose if you like that sort of thing it would be fine but I think you'll agree, sausages should be nice and golden brown verging on the full brown. We were even less impressed by the bill £26 and some pence. I don't mind paying well for good food but it seemed more like the chef thought he was a great cook and charged accordingly. Paying up and leaving a reasonable tip, we stopped at Spar before heading back to the campsite.It rained slightly but nothing too heavy and we arrived back around 7 o'clock.
Quite a few people had arrived throughout the afternoon, a chap on his own who we had seen a couple of times throughout the day was setting up a tarp between two trees with a bivvy bag behind, shielded from the wind. He seemed to know what he was doing and we nodded and exchanged hellos.Other people were setting tents up along the fence line in front of us, the camp was filling up and I started to worry about my biggest bugbear when camping on sites, namely noise. It always winds me up when on a campsite and your trying to get to sleep, there will always be someone, a couple or maybe a group who seem to think that a material who's thickness is measured in the micron scale is capable of stopping everyone else on the camp from hearing them go on and on all night. I had some hopes though that as everyone who was there seemed to be as mad as we were and were doing the WHW, that everyone would want to get some sleep early and all would be quiet. Little did I know that I would be the reason everyone suffered that night.
I needed to go the the farm again to pay my £35 for travel-lite which I'd arranged earlier. Leaving the office and coming to the gate I found four young lads, probably around 19-21yrs old, standing on the road, studying their maps and engaged in a discussion in a foreign tongue. Saying hello I enquired as to where they were hoping to reach. They indicated on their map Garadhban Forest, a mile or so past Drymen. Knowing about the summer camping ban in the area and wanting to help fellow wanderers, I pointed out that it was going to be dark in 10 minutes or so and they were still a couple or so miles short, plus obviously the camping ban. I told them it was only a fiver to camp and that there were showers and toilets, so ended up persuading them to stay.
I gave them no more thought and went up to the barn next to the camp field, where the owner had sectioned of an end and put  the aforementioned showers and toilets and some  kitchen work surfaces where you could use your cooker, make a brew etc. Quite a few people had gathered in there as the weather was threatening and clothes and towels were hung on string around the walls. We met Corrina, Dave and Maddy the Jack Russell , Corrina's dog.They were both from York, friends who'd decided to do it together. Corrina had done the coast to coast last year with Maddy which  made me wish again that I'd done this sort of thing years before when my dog Monty was younger and he could of come with me. We christened them Chas and Dave, only because if you say    ....... and Dave, everyone will say Chas and Dave, it seemed to work, so sue me!

I made a cappuchino  and offered C & D one as well. I was awash with coffees and sugars and I always like to feed and water people if I can, it gives me great pleasure to cook for people and a good brew when needed is better than most things I can think of lol.
We chatted for a while and I think it must have been around 11 o'clock when we went back to our tents to call it a night.
Not long after bedding down the reason why everyone would suffer that night became apparent, when the four lads, Belgians it turned out, returned to their tents, whilst literally bellowing to each other. I was on edge straight away and suffered their racket for about half an hour before I could take it no longer. Shouting out, I asked if they could possibly keep it down as everyone was trying to sleep. It seemed to work and although they didn't shut up the decibels dropped somewhat. I resorted, not for the last time to putting my earphones in and listening to some music. I decided they would henceforth be called "The F.....g Belgians", although this was later shortened to just "The Belgians".
The wind and rain came in heavy which we had been expecting and I had a fitful night with barely a couple of hours sleep.
All in all a good day, but with lots of ups and downs literally as well as metaphorically.

Tuesday 4th

Day 2 Walking 930-430

A bright start to the day, the rain had stopped in the night and the wind had dried our tents out so was happy about that. Was also happy that I'd sorted out the bag issue and was looking forward to the day ahead. I dropped my bag in the shed designated by virtue of a little Travel-lite sign.
We walked the mile or so into Drymen and stopped at the Spar to get a drink and I a Mars bar.
We met a group outside who were doing the way, Sarah an American, her Scottish Boyfriend Matt and two Japanese lads,Susashi and Keisuke. I don't think we saw them again until toward the end of the 3rd day above Loch Lomond. They passed us on a lovely little path while I was on the phone talking to a customer from work. I'm in the middle of nowhere having to work out a quote in my head whilst trying not to trip over a loose stone or root from a tree. Work, you've got to love it.
We also saw the guy off the camp last night who had the tarp and bivvy arrangement. Stood at a bus stop waiting for the bus.I was pretty sure he was doing the walk so was surprised to see him there, he seemed, from his kit to be fairly hardcore and I don't know what happened there.
Anyway we left Drymen and headed out on the road to Balmaha. We'd decided to give Conic hill a miss and use the road. A cheat already, I know, but not one I dwelt on too long. We'd been told in the tourist office in Milngavie that there was a diversion in place through Garadhban forest due to logging. Having seen Conic hill approaching I'd seriously doubted whether we could get up and over it and get to Rowardennan and convinced myself that we might get lost on the diversion so ended up going for the easier but boring road option.
Looking back now, if Conic hill had been further down the WHW we would have done it without a concern. We went higher than Conic a few times on the walk and had steeper climbs, but that second day it seemed like a lot to take on. Garth was also starting to suffer with his knee and was still carrying his bag at around 17 kg. Later at Rowardennan Garth also admitted doing the hill and the rest of the days walk would have been a tall order.

                                                                   A tall order........

The walk in to Balmaha was uneventful, just a slog on the verge and sometimes the road itself. As we were saying we could do with a nice wall to sit on, a bench made from two upended logs and a good thick lump of raw wood presented itself next to the entrance to a property. It looked like it had been deliberately placed there to stop people sitting on the two stone stanchions that supported the large gates as they were the only things around suitable for a seat. Either side of the entrance a low hedge ran in both directions which offered no rest for the weary traveller. I silently thanked the owner for his consideration and used the service provided. A quick fag break and we set off again. Maybe 20 mins later we came to Balmaha and seated ourselves outside the Oak Tree Inn, a pleasant looking establishment by the side of the loch, although we couldn't actually see it. I went in and ordered poached eggs on toast as I fancied something light. I had a coffee and my eggs arrived. Now when you poach eggs you should put a drop of vinegar in the water to help the egg coalesce. That's a drop you hear? I swear these had been actually cooked just in vinegar and no water. Seriously, they were the vinegarest ( I made that word up) eggs since Creation. The toast wasn't buttered and I had to go find some at the bar. They redeemed themselves though with what I think are one of the best inventions since sliced bread. I'm talking about those little rectangular packets of marmalade's and jams you get at hotels etc for breakfast. Truly, these are the pinnacle of portable packaged preserves. I never fail to experience a frisson of excitement when my eyes alight on them.I'm sure that the marmalade isn't exactly to Fortnum and Mason's standards but I can not resist their charms. I finished the vinegar with a hint of egg on toast and saved two half's of toast. Lavishly spreading them with the contents I munched happily away, forgiving them their egg debacle. An ice cream stand of sorts was on the pub lawn, no ice cream but adorned similarly to the dresser at the wetherspoons in Glasgow. Replenishing our supplies, me especially of sugar sachets, we made ready for the off just as the HP's turned up, having just come off Conic Hill. We said hello and admitted to our wimpiness in going by road.
Leaving Balmaha, we expected to be taking a lochside route but were immediately thrust up a steep climb which Garth christened the "Mordor Steps" due to the steepness and twisting nature. As usual when confronted with a steep climb I was immediately knackered and had to stop a couple of times but soon reached the top and started to descend again to the loch side.

                                                             On top of Mordor steps

 A fairly easy walk brought us to Milarrochy bay where we found a bench to rest on for five minutes.We continued and after a mile or so of following near the road we found ourselves climbing a small headland up to about 170ft. Although every climb left me out of breath I found I was fine when I'd had a 30 second break and a sip of water. Descending we followed the road again stopping at Cashel campsite hoping to purchase some bread rolls as we were thinking we were going to be wild camping tonight so they would go well with some soup. A lady who worked there told us the shop was shut and asked what we were looking for in a way that seemed like she would open the shop to get them for us. Telling her bread, she laughed and said that it was all sold out anyway. We wasn't too bothered so continued on. After another mile of road following we started climbing another headland to around 150ft. Looking wistfully at the map I wondered why when they planned the WHW they didn't draw a nice line following the road all the way to Rowardennan. Although after missing Conic hill out another shortcut was out of the question so I didn't dwell on it too much. Besides, I was going at my own pace and enjoying the fact that I was in Scotland, walking the WHW, and on the east side of Loch Lomond.  I've driven up the A82 a few times on the way to Mallaig and always dreamed of being on this side doing the Way. Now I was here so I couldn't be complaining now could I?
Yet again down to the lochside, we walked through a campsite at Sallochy choosing a little bridge at the far end over a little burn to have a rest, while I took my boots and socks off to give my feet an airing. They seemed in pretty reasonable shape, no blisters or sore points. Garth's knee had started to trouble him that day and was getting worse, and he announced he would also avail himself of the services of Travel-lite.
I was pleased because I knew he had a heavy pack and would be able to enjoy the walk more, and hopefully his knee would not get any worse.

From the little headland we came down we spotted the HP's coming towards us and decided to get a move on. I didn't want to be caught on the next hill which I knew was coming up, gasping for air as was my want.
This was the hardest climb of the day, up to about 300 ft over a very short distance, but I wasn't passed and felt fine once I got to the top and started just walking again.
We met a ranger or warden who was a friendly lady, who informed us that there was no camping allowed at the youth hostel, which had been our impression and intention. I knew about the camping ban of course and thought our only choice then was going to be just past Ptarmigan Lodge, where the ban ended.
We also met for the first time Paul from Ireland, on his own he became obviously "Irish Paul". He passed us while we were chatting to the ranger and said hello.
We continued on, little ups and downs but more or less descending all the way to finally reach the road not far from Rowardennan hotel. Deciding to see if there was any accommodation there I went in reception after taking my boots of as indicated by a sign by the door. Standing fourth in line with I'm sure slightly ripe feet, I waited while the receptionist dealt with her first customers. A couple were checking in and I listened whilst she explained this, that and the other about towels, sheets, checkout times and other seemingly important rules and regulations. Fully versed, the couple left and the next guest earned my undying friendship by stating that he needed to check in and when the receptionist drew in breath and started to go though the same lengthy discourse as to the hotel's whys and wherefores, stopped her by kindly telling her he had heard the previous conversation and was quite up to date.
Taken care of quickly, the man in front of me approached the desk and loudly complained that some vehicle or other was parked in front of his door and he couldn't get in his room. Slightly confused as to how a vehicle had managed to enter the hotel and position itself in front of his room door I immediately christened him "Angry man", although as the week progressed and we met him a few times he turned out alright. He was walking with his wife and another couple of around the same age, about 60 ish, though I still applied the same appellation to encompass the whole group.
Finally my turn came, and I mistakenly asked if they had any doubles available.I didn't realise what I'd said till about an hour later! Replying in the negative I must have looked crestfallen because she told me they had a bunkhouse at the back. Brightening up I asked if they had any room available and she said they had some yes. That was enough for me and I said yes. She called a lad over and asked him to show me the room. I went outside, put my boots back on and met him around the back. Opening a door and expecting to see a room with maybe 6-8 bunks in I was made up to see a single bunk bed in a room. Brill, we had the room to ourselves.
I returned, unbooted and paid for the room. Being told we could have a towel for £2, as they had a shower block I assented, and further being asked if we had bedding decided to have two lots for £5 each. Ummm a duvet for the night and a mattress, luxury. I also arranged with Travel-lite to pick Garth's bag up the next day and supply him with a day pack. £30 this time as we were further along.
She said she would arrange towels and bedding so I went to the public bar outside and further down the hotel where I'd left Garth. I filled him in on developments and said I was going to get a shower and sort my feet out. Going back to the room, I sorted my bag out, got my toiletries did this and that, still waiting for my towel to arrive. I had a cigarette on the steps outside and with still no towel and my feet gradually getting sorer, went back to reception to see if I could hurry them along.
The same woman who had dealt with me earlier seemed a bit confused when I said I was still waiting, and went in the back where she sat back down in front of a computer and started tapping away. This went on for a couple of minutes while I grew more exasperated. The lad who had shown me my room appeared and I asked if I could possibly just get the towel now as I was dying for a shower. He obliged and I finally headed for the shower, only I couldn't find it. There were various bunkhouse buildings behind the hotel and I looked in all. There was no signs anywhere and I finally had to ask the same lad with the towels where it was, which was in one I'd already looked in.
There was a toilet and shower in the room but hardly any room to turn around. someone had thoughtfully left their wet towel and socks on the towel rail, with the sink decorated with a used toothbrush. The shower had one of those body scrub things, the big fluffy kind on a loop of string, hanging from the on/off knob.
Delicately removing it with my fingertips I dropped it in the sink and finally turned the shower on.
A pitiful stream of water came out, alternating between lukewarm and cold, but it was still a nice shower after the days exertions.
Refreshed and in clean clothes I went back to the bar to indulge in some libation.Garth got me a drink and we studied the menu. I opted for the curry and poppadom whilst Garth I think had the burger.
Food was good and arrived pretty quickly given by this time the bar was filling up.
Angry man was in, and at the table next to us 3 girls were eating three different courses between them including an enormous plate of mussels which looked very inviting. I think they were German or Dutch and we learned that a male friend had had to drop out that day after twisting his ankle badly.
We also saw a couple of guys we hadn't seen before who I immediately christened "The Rozzers", as the minute I looked at them I thought Police. We didn't get to talk to them that night but throughout the walk up to the last day we saw them regularly and had some banter with them.
The HP's came in and we waved hello.We had a couple more drinks and I went outside to ring my mum, to reassure her I wasn't dead up some mountain somewhere.
I went back in and we joined the HP's at their table for a drink and chatted for an hour or so
We left around 11 and went back to our bunk, where I had a takeaway coffee from the bar whilst Garth and I had a fag outside and discussed the walk so far.
Finally turned in about 12 after jotting some notes for this blog.
All in all a good day again, with great scenery, good company and a comfy bed for the night.

Wednesday 5th

Day 3 Walking 835-430

Another night with not much sleep. Because of Garth's knee I took the top bunk and clambered up there.
Trying to get to sleep I started to become paranoid that I would fall out of the bunk in my sleep and at the very least break a leg or arm. There was no rail around the top and it was quite narrow. I'd tried to get to sleep by putting my back against the wall and outstretching my arms towards the edge in the hope that that would stop me rolling out. I also moved the pillow so it was between me and the precipice that could spell my doom. It worked for 10 minutes then the paranoia started again and I couldn't relax.Every time Garth rolled over or moved the top bunk would twang from side to side making me more nervous.
Finally conceding defeat I, as gently as I could, got down off the bunk and slowly pulled the mattress from the bed until it finally freed, sending the bed into another bout of twanging, which fortunately didn't wake Garth.
There was just enough room for it on the floor and I settled down a lot happier and relaxed. I could sprawl out on the bed as much as I liked now. 
Within a short time, what must have been 4 people returned to a room behind us in the same block. There must have been a toilet directly behind the wall 2 foot from my head, which they seemed to then use every five minutes for the next two hours, while talking all that time. I resorted to earphones and music for a while and must have finally nodded of around 3.
I'd wanted to get up early today as we had 14 miles on supposedly the hardest day of the walk.
My feet were still fine so I wasn't I concerned on that score, Garth was having a shower this morning and breakfast started at 730 so when I woke at 7 I got up and started to get my bag together for collection. Garth headed for the shower and we were sorted and in the breakfast room at around 740. it was still quiet so we didn't have long to wait. All the staff were the same from the previous evening, which was a surprise, though thinking about it the hotel is a family establishment so should have expected it really. Breakfast was good and as Garth doesn't eat mushroom, black pudding or grilled tomatoes I had double helpings of each. Cheers Garth!
Two coffees later we were ready for the off. I had a load of change accumulated , probably £5 worth which I didn't fancy carrying so I gave it to the waitress when she appeared.
We met the HP's outside, we wouldn't see them after today as they had a 20 mile walk to Crianlarich  as they were doing the walk in 6 days. As I said "Hardy Perennials". Full Kudo's to them.
We left at 835, keen to get on. Passing the youth hostel where I'd collected my bag from the previous night we started to climb up the forest road, this continued for around 3 miles, never getting to high or far from the loch. We finally came down nearer the loch and the fun started.
This consisted of lots of climbing up rocks and then down the other side, then after 20 yards of doing it all again.
                                  Garth surveying the next obstacle, with his trusty umbrella.

It was all good fun though, we were passed a few times and in turn we passed people. A young couple, not sure from where, definitely European though, who we had seen the day before passed. I decided they would be called "Sourpuss" as every time we saw them I would say hello and smile as I did with everyone we saw. The most I could raise from them was a glance from the girl, maybe a scintilla of a smile, just. The lad more or less just kept his head down and I couldn't tell you anything about him as he never uttered a word.
Sooner than expected we arrived in Inversnaid. We were surprised, we had been scrambling over rocks for a few miles and didn't think we had covered that distance already.
We'd seen some nice waterfalls over the last two days but the cataract besides the hotel was on a whole different level. The noise was deafening and we had to shout to each other to make ourselves heard.

                                                         The waterfall at Inversnaid

There was already a few people outside the hotel when we arrived. Corrina and Dave were there. As were the HP's, who were getting ready for the off. We found a bench outside, already occupied but still with room and accepting guests.
We got some drinks from the bar, Garth managed to get a Carlsberg, which cheered him up no end. They had Coke behind the bar so I was happy too.
We perused the bar menu and opted for the burger and chips. I also managed to get the phone number for Beinglas campsite. After the bunkroom at Rowardennan we were becoming spoiled and I was hoping to procure a beehive/cabin for another night of luxury. Alas there was no room so it would be camping tonight.
Sat at our table where a young couple who, during the course of conversation, we learned were obviously doing the Way of course, but the girl turned out to come from Ashford, just 10 miles from where we lived.
She had just moved to Aylesbury, Bucks, so what with doing the walk, moving and starting a new job, she must have had a hectic month!
My phone rang, it was Jock, real name John, a guy who works for me who broke his hip 3 month's ago. He was coming back to work next Monday. He's a Glaswegian, a real character who you cannot help liking. We'd all paid him visits at home, I'd used the company credit card and bought him a load of food and beer when he got home from hospital and John ( another John!) who also works for me had been round cutting his grass for him , keeping things tidy. I laughed , telling him I was indisposed at the moment, what with being over 500 miles away. I told him to just potter around looking busy on Monday, I would be back Tuesday if I hadn't got lost on the trail, or decided not to go back at all and just keep walking like Forrest Gump kept on running.
The HP's were leaving and we said goodbye for the last time, they still had around 13 miles to go. They left by going up the tarmac road which rises steeply from the hotel and I viewed it with some trepidation.
Our food arrived and was standard pub fare, nothing special but fine enough.
After eating, I checked my feet over. I'd took my boots and socks off when we arrived and so far so good. Still no blisters, but feeling a bit sore.
We'd been there for around 40 minutes I guess when the HP's suddenly came back down the same road they'd left on 30 minutes earlier. They'd obviously taken the wrong way and at the bottom turned sharply right to take a path along the loch. We all commiserated with them and wished them luck. Between us not to them as they hadn't stopped and were too far away to speak to. I silently wished them well and hoped they got to Crianlarich at a decent hour.
An elderly couple who looked about 70 were sat at the bench next to us. We had an amiable chat, they had just walked from Beinglas and when I asked if the path was difficult broke into the most evil chuckle which although had me laughing with them was not a good omen.
We set off around 1, after I went down to the lawn by the loch and said hello to Corrina, who was enjoying the sun with Maddy,not sure what laid ahead or how difficult it really was.
Pretty soon the path got even more twisted than before Inversnaid. The rocks got bigger, the tree roots in the path got thicker and were like crazy paving at times and the little climbs up and down got higher. It was all very enjoyable though and wasn't that taxing really.
We decided to fore-go the opportunity to visit Rob Roy's cave. I'd not read a single good review of it from all the blogs I'd read, and was enjoying myself on the path. Then my phone rung again twice in succession, first a customer needed a quote, then another wanted to know if his order was leaving. He'd rung me as he couldn't get hold of my boss, who never answers the phone even though he insists on having the office phone transferred to his mobile. I made a couple of calls and rung him back to say yes, it was leaving. As I said earlier , Work, you've got to love it.....Just as I finished a group came past stopping briefly to chat. It was Sarah, Matt,Susashi and Keisuke who we had met back in Drymen outside Spar. They were all very friendly and we had a laugh and a joke with them. They were all carrying backpacks which made us feel like lightweight's. We continued on and after around 3 miles started to ascend through a wooded area with hills to both sides. I thought that this could be were we were leaving the loch side and again was surprised that we had travelled so far.
Suddenly the trees stopped and we found ourselves in a beautiful small glen.

                                                                    The "Rozzers"

                                                    Garth and his ubiquitous umbrella.

We stopped at a couple of convenient rocks for a sit down and smoke. Yes I know all we seem to do is sit down and smoke but believe me, a couple in the morning and maybe 2-3 during the day is very good for me.
The "Rozzers" came by, stopping to say hello, we exchanged our days experiences. I still didn't know their names and never actually found out . We just called them "The Main One" and "The Other One". The former had the look of a hard but fair cop, the type who would give you a slap to tell you off and you'd thank him for it and run home hoping he didn't tell your dad, The Other One looked like he wouldn't give you an inches leeway. But both were friendly enough and after catching up they carried on their way.
We soon followed and found ourselves going down to the loch again, we hadn't got to the top of the loch after all. We could see a ramshackle building by the water, which was Doune Bothy.The HP's had said they were having their lunch there as they had only had a nose powdering session at Inversnaid.

                                                                        Doune Bothy

I was hoping they would still be there as I was concerned about what they had to still do today what with the wrong turn when leaving Inversnaid and was going to suggest that they could get to Beinglas, take a taxi to Crianlarich for their B&B booked through a travel company. They could then get a taxi back in the morning and continue on. They were planning on Bridge of Ochy for the next day so they would have just been swapping the total miles around on the two days, 14 today, 20 tomorrow, rather than 20 then 14.
The bothy was empty though, when I poked my head in. There was a single large room with a raised area at one end, no doubt to sleep upon off the floor, and a large fireplace at the other. In any other situation it would have been described as a hovel, but I could quite imagine getting a roaring fire going, getting a boil in the bag on the stove and a brew and having a good nights sleep in there if it was at the end of a day's walk.
I broke myself out of my reverie and continued on, we still had about 3 miles to go. Another mile by the loch brought us to Ardleish, where we finally left the loch for the last time and ascended another small narrow glen. The views back along Loch Lomond were stunning and I was sorry to leave it in a way. Plus I'd wanted to dip my feet in there at some point but never had. Oh well, next time!

                                                            Leaving  Loch Lomond

Garth started to leave me behind which I didn't mind, there wasn't far to go and you've got to go at your own pace on something like this.
The path continued up the glen winding this way and that on the right hand side

                                                    just keeping an eye out for the"Rozzers"

                                                 Looking back toward Loch Lomond again

                                                                   not a bad view!

                                                          A typical stretch of path !

                                                             Nearly there.............
Finally I started to descend and knew I couldn't be far. My feet were a bit sore, and feeling bruised but I'd really enjoyed today. The views had been great and I knew it was only going to get better.
I finally sighted the campsite and 5 minutes later was sat outside with a can of Irn Bru which Garth got me , chatting with a Scottish couple who were staying at the Drovers Inn that night. I can't really remember what we talked about but we had a good laugh with them before they left.
Sarah and her group, Corrina and Dave were all there with their tents already up . We also saw a guy we had bumped into a couple of times. On his own, he didn't say much but at least he smiled when hailed and said hello. We learned later in the bar that he was from Belgium so christened him "The Quiet Belgian" and our other Belgian friends just became "The Belgians" from this point on, loosing their explicit epithet.
They were ok really , just that first night had coloured my views. We had seen them camped up that morning just past Ptarmigan cottage where we had initially planned to camp. Now that would have been fun! I was hopeful that they would be trying for Crianlarich today to take them out of our timezone, but they turned up not long after I'd put my tent up. We'd deliberately pitched near Chas and Dave as all the tents in that area were small with mostly 1 person in, so noise was hopefully not going to be an issue. I watched as they went down to the far side which was a relief. Chas and Dave told us that they were going to go down that side but someone had parked a car on the other side of the wall and were playing really loud rap music or some other crap.
Still sat outside, a group of three arrived, a guy, his dad and another guy. The first one collapsed down on a bench next to us, looking absolutely done in. He had a big backpack on and I complimented him on managing to negotiate all the little climbs and narrow bits with such a large pack.  Through conversation we learned they had not only done that but had actually set off from Balmaha that morning. Now that's hardcore!
No wonder he looked absolutely done in.
We also met the "rappers" from the other end of the site, who were in fact a couple, from their accents clearly from Glasgow, who not to put to fine a point on it, were the most stereotypical Glaswegian couple you could imagine. They were not a good advertisement at all and looked completely out of place. Everyone there from what I could see had got there by foot from the same direction as we had. These two came barging noisily out of the bar, nearly falling over. The bloke could barely slur a sentence together and the woman had that unfortunate habit that women of a certain size and stature possess of wearing too small, white leggings of that kind that leave little to the imagination. I felt that if she weren't careful she could lose something any minute. Certain protuberances were pretty prominently paraded. They threw themselves down on a bench nearby and started to quiz a passing woman who worked on the site as to the possibility of them doing the WHW. I nearly choked on my can at the thought of doing the walk and coming across these two every day. That would have been bad timing!
The campsite was really good, showers, toilets, washer, dryer, a bar and restaurant and a little shop selling the essentials. When I'd been looking at camping along the way in the planning stages I'd seen Beinglas campsite's web page and not been too impressed. There seemed to be a hell of a lot of rules and regulations listed which put me off a bit. When we started the walk with the intention of wild camping, Beinglas had been one I'd definitely thought would be passed by. The intention had been to camp up somewhere near Falloch Falls, calling at the camp just to use their facilities. I needn't have worried though, it was a great place and all our fellow walkers were there.

We repaired to the bar where we ordered food. I had the ribeye steak as I thought I'd earned it. It was nice enough, though totally under seasoned, if at all, before cooking. I managed to snare Garth's onion rings off his plate, not for the last time on the trip, plus his salad and any other green objects on his plate. We sat with Chas and Dave for a while, Irish Paul was also there and The Quiet Belgian was in. Corrina went to bed fairly early so we adjourned outside to fill our lung's with nicotine and had a few more drinks. At around 11 we all turned in for what I hoped would be a good kip for a change.
As usual, no luck there. A group of what sounded like 4 girls must have been in a tent nearby and kept me awake for two hours with a constant barrage of talking and periodic outbursts of laughter. I don't want you all to think I'm a killjoy, always moaning about this and that. As I've said, Micron thickness materials DO NOT SOUNDPROOF!
Finally got to sleep about half one I think, It was fairly cold and I ended up with earphones in and a snood on my head, I must have looked a right plonker!
A brilliant day today. Yes technical at times, but never too taxing, brilliant views, good conversations, a few drinks, a nice shower and still no podiatric problems to speak of.

Thursday 6th

Day 4 walking 915-330

Before I start I've been told by Garth that I missed out the most important reason why I was glad he opted for the baggage service, which was that he could no longer gloat about me wimping out when he got home. I confess ok? That quite possibly came to mind at some point I'm sure, so let's say no more about it !
On another note, The perceptive amongst you will have perceived my penchant, my predilection, for peppering my prose with alliterative phrases, particularly of the P persuasion, please pardon my partiality for them! I like how they roll of the tongue.I recently made some Purple pigeon perches for a pal. Now if you'll just go with me on this and say that phrase with a Scottish accent ( I mean no offence to Scotland!) paying particular attention to "Purple" you'll get it I hope. Again I mean no offence, I love Scotland , love the Scottish, have lived there and would move back like a shot. I just have these mad forays into playing with words I like.
Getting back to day 4 then, and if your still with me! 
We got up around 730, our tents where still wet with dew and the weather didn't look like it was going to do anything to help the situation so we packed them up hoping we could do something about it at the end of the day. The chances were slim as last night we'd been told that the rain which had held off till now was definitely on its way today, predicted to be about 11 o'clock. I wasn't too keen on the idea of having to wear waterproofs all day as I've learnt that I don't do layers. All through the walk up till now I'd stayed in just a base layer, using my fleece as padding over my shoulders for the straps of my day bag, Only putting it on when we stopped for a break as I didn't want to get cold. I'd made that mistake a couple of weeks ago while out training. Again with just a base layer, we had been out, only about 5 miles, but it was fairly windy and not that warm. Walking I'd been fine and back at Garth's the heating was on so I'd stayed in just the baselayer. Getting home I didn't have the heating on and soon started to shiver, which continued even in bed. I wasn't going to make that mistake again, so even a 5 minute fag break saw me donning the fleece. It worked so I must have been doing something right.
We went to the bar for breakfast, ordered, and were asked if we wanted cereal's. Replying in the affirmative, we sat down and waited. after 10 mins our breakfast arrived. I said "oh, we asked for cereal as well, at which point she said that they were on the table by the bar! My fault, I mean, everywhere you go, and where I've been, Cereals are always out for you to help yourselves so can't blame them really.
I could blame them though for no beans or tomatoes! As I've always said "you've got to have something moist on't plate". So breakfast was a bit dry and going to get a coffee and twice finding the pot empty was another black mark, when it wasn't that busy anyway. Let me just reiterate, I'm not moaning for the sake of moaning. I've read lots of blogs and finding out about how good the food was, the accommodation, the facilities provided are all useful information to have. All these little niggles did not affect my enjoyment at any of these places, I only give them so future adventurers can have an idea, and maybe bring their own beans.
Feeling quite full after raiding Garth's plate for his Black pudding, can't remember if there was mushrooms? we went outside for a fag and a final organise. We met Paul outside who said he had the phone number for By The Way campsite in Tyndrum. Needing no encouragement I got straight on to them and bless their cotton socks, they had one beehive pod left! I snaffled it immediately, £35 or £38, I cant remember. It could have been £138 for all I cared.We more or less but not quite high five'd each other we were that made up about it. It would be a chance to dry our tents and have a comfy bed. I'd discovered that my airbed had a alarming tendency to shoot out from under me and go up the inside of the tent whenever I turned on to my left side. The first I knew of this was on the first night when lying there I started to feel damp, cold and uncomfortable. Feeling underneath me I discovered the airbed had disappeared and was up the side of the tent.
I told Irish Paul he was a "Hero to the walking classes" and thanked him profusely.
We'd also seen the "Rozzers", the Main One all kitted up ready for the off, The Other One not. It turned out he was availing himself of public transport as he was suffering from blisters. We immediately applied the sub-sobriquet of "The Busman" to him. Blisters! Pussy!
Both feeling a lot happier about tonight's accommodation we set off around 915, hoping to get into the day before the rain arrived.
A pleasant first couple of miles followed, small ups and downs, nothing too heavy.

Pretty soon, cresting the top of a little rise we got hit by wind and rain which forced us to don our waterproofs. I wasn't looking forward to this. I just determined not to go too fast and to keep it zipped enough to do the job. The weather was coming from behind us which was a help, even though the forecast had said it would be coming at us from the front, so we didn't look a wet gift horse in the mouth and carried on.
Another couple of miles found us at the sheep creep under the railway, I was a little in front of Garth as he had stopped to render first aid in the form of his elastic bandage to a woman in a group of four who was suffering from knee trouble, so waited on the other side. He came through, banging his head on the underside, making me laugh out loud. Of course after I'd determined he hadn't knocked some sense into his self and was ok. ( I think).

                                                                                    "On me head son"!

A little way along we passed under the road using a large plastic duct pipe, it must have been of at least 6ft diameter. the path rose sharply on the other side but only for a short distance when it settled down to a gradual and easy climb the two miles to the turn at the top, left for Tyndrum, right, down the hill to Crianlarich.
Garth left me behind, both of us just getting on with it. The weather was lousy, but the wind was gentle and behind us so I quite enjoyed this section. I walked and talked with a guy for 5 minutes, who looked to me like a pro. In conversation it emerged this was his first time doing anything like this as well. All along the walk, I'd come across people who looked like they did this all the time but then would learn that they were novices like me!

                                                                                It looks bad I know but try it yourselves!

                                                                                     I'm singing in the rain!

I reached the turn a couple of minutes after Garth and we quickly decided to keep going rather than going down to Crianlarich and then having to climb back up again. We thought we had broke today's back and the last six miles were going to be easy. Ha, I got that wrong! A little more climbing on decent track followed and then it was all downhill from there, and I don't mean that literally. Overall ok it was downhill but steep downhill's were followed by steep uphill's. The track deteriorated, more or less becoming a river at times. All right, maybe not a river, but at least a trickle all the way up to a wee burn. Garth had gone again and I didn't see him until I got down to the viaduct by the A82.
I took my time, my feet were starting to seriously hurt, and the steep downhills were not helping. I didn't worry too much whether they were wet or not, I was confident that my boots were keeping my feet dry.
It was around two and a half miles to the viaduct, a long two and a half miles. Not far past the turn at Crianlarich my water ran out. It was a surprise as it hadn't happened before and I didn't think I'd drunk a lot that morning, I came across a large waterfall which seemed like a good spot to fill up.

                                                                                     I came across a few of these!

                                                                                               That's water sorted

The reason I'd run out of water so soon became apparent when on opening my daybag I found the screw cap had came loose on my Platypus bladder, or I hadn't tightened it enough. There was about two inches of water in the bottom. Luckily I'd developed a habit of keeping everything in Zip lock food bags and nothing had suffered. I refilled and it tasted great. Continuing on, it was only two minutes before I came across Garth having a fag by the viaduct and joined him for one. We didn't hang around and came to the road. The possibility of just following the road instead of taking the loop on the other side was but a fleeting thought as soon as a couple of cars roared past. The thought of loud traffic was not appealing and we crossed to the other side where a little path took us to a bridge crossing the River Fillan. An easy mile followed, easy except for sore feet.


Garth had took off again, and I took my time hoping it would be over soon.
White bridge soon arrived where the path took an underpass under the road this time. A flat walk along the river then a bit of confusion as to the way when I came to some forest and tarmac roads at a large flat area.
I took what turned out to be the right way unlike a couple of lads in front who went down the tarmac road for a couple of hundred yards before turning back.
The path was really beautiful at this point, banks of heather on either side, purple all around, no pictures as I just wanted to get to the end by now.
At last I reached the campsite and headed straight for the office to grab the key or find Garth, whichever came first really.
Told Garth had already got it I headed back to the pod at the end of the line, feet ablaze. Garth spotted me and I basically just plonked myself down on the bunk, took off the waterproofs and removing my boots and socks saw the carnage inflicted on my left foot that day. Blisters abounded all over the sole. A large red one stuck out from the side of my big toe, and another on my third toe. I asked Garth if he would kindly get my rucksack from the drop off point which happily was about 10 yards away. seeing my malady he complied and I went straight for the showers with my towel and a clean set of clothes. A shower was free and I  hobbled in. It was a great shower, hot and powerful enough. Feeling not a million but at least a few times better I hobbled back out and put on nice fresh, clean, dry clothes. Not that my clothes had been wet before taking of my waterproofs. Only the bottom of my trousers were wet and I put that down more to the fact that I'd left the bottom closing on my leggings open. That could also account for the fact that my socks had been soaking, hence, I think, The blisters. I've worn the boots for a couple of years, Brasher Leathers, and never got them wet before, going through 2-3 inches of water sometimes.
As light footed as I could I returned to the pod to administer first aid to my foot. I popped all the blisters       (which I later learnt was not the thing to do apparently) drained them and cleaned them up with antiseptic wipes before applying compeed plasters. They were feeling worse every minute, not so much from the blisters, but just sore and bruised.
There wasn't a bar or food available at the camp and I'd decided to stay on site tonight and give myself a rest. Also I thought it would be a good opportunity to actually eat some of the food I had brought with me.
I'd brought 8 tomato cup-a-soups, A boil in the bag curry, a chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, and spotted dick and custard b in the b, three pasta and sauce packets, a lentil dahl thing my sister gave me, countless high energy bars plus of course all the coffee, sugar and condiment sachets I'd been collecting.
Up till now I'd only had an energy bar and a coffee so thought it would be prudent to start using them.
First though I had no more clean clothes so got everything together and some of Garth's and headed to the grey door below on the right,

                                                                                           The Grey Door

within which there was a dining area  with three tables, a kettle and microwave, and a washer and dryer. I then had to hobble (I was doing a lot of hobbling) to the office to get a token for both. £3 for the washer and £2 for the dryer. Dave and Corrina were in and we chatted while I waited for my clothes. I made a brew which went down well. Corrina was growing concerned as to whether Maddy was going to be all right doing the next day and was considering getting the bus. We discussed options, I didn't want her to miss the walk but completely understood her concerns. I would have been exactly the same if Monty had of come with me.
They were both staying on site that night as well, Garth had gone to the pub on the main road for food and drink. I heard Corrina and Dave discussing what they were going to eat, Corrrina said she would go to the office shop and see what they had. As always, the chance to feed someone took over and I went back to the pod and grabbed a couple of the pasta packets and a couple of soups, plus a couple of coffees. I returned and gave them to them both. I hoped they wouldn't feel uncomfortable in accepting them. I'll often ring a couple of friends up saying I was bringing dinner, then go round and do a big roast, proper gravy, the works.
Ok, I wasn't doing any cooking but don't nitpick please...
We chatted for a while, I sorted out my clothes, dry ones all folded up on our bed's, still damp ones in the drying room, An all pervading odour of sweaty feet hit you as soon as you opened the door and there was little room to hang everything. I did the best I could and took all the socks back to the pod and draped them on the shelf below an electric fan heater mounted on the wall.
I decided to have the last pasta packet for tea and going back to the kitchen room with my stove and pan, plus another coffee, found C and D still in. Corrina had been to the shop and had a tin of Big Breakfast, which she cooked up adding the pasta packet to. That seemed like a great idea so hobbling(again) to the shop I grabbed a tin of beans to go with mine. It was "bloody lovely pet".
We were getting ready to leave when "The Belgians" came through the door, as loud as ever, booming voices all of them. We timed that well.
I rolled a couple of fags and sat outside the pod on a little shelf and relaxed a bit, drinking a can of orange. Not long after, around half eight, Garth came back bearing a can of Gin and tonic for me which was gratefully received.
Garth retrieved some more damp clothes from the drying room, I felt he shouldn't miss out on the alluring aroma within, and we shuffled some things around under the heater.
Staying outside for a while we saw the "Rozzers" returning and said hello.. The Main One came up and stuck his head up to the door to have a look at our pod. It was a tip inside, I'd spread nearly everything from my rucksack all over the place looking for various things throughout the evening. I nearly asked him if he had a warrant but resisted. They still hadn't given much away about themselves but we had a laugh and a joke about this and that and they went on their way, saying goodnight.


Calling it a night we got our tents out and spread them as best we could over the floor of the pod and got our heads down.

A tough day overall, first half to Crianlarich was easy, second half seemed twice as long and was very tiring. Twenty miles tomorrow seems like a tough challenge with the way my feet are feeling at the moment.

Friday 7th

Day 5 Walking 10-6 o'clock

My flysheet was still damp this morning when we got up about 8. No choice but to pack it away. Again no choice tonight, we would be camping. I'd tried to book Kingshouse a couple of months ago with no success, but knew we could camp by the hotel and also the views were going to be spectacular from my tent.
My feet felt a lot better today.No new blisters had popped up and the pain had subsided a lot.I made sure they were dry and dusted them with talc before putting a thin pair of socks on followed by a slightly thicker pair. I'd opted for a pair of walking socks (Karrimor's) on day 4 which hadn't worked. I couldn't get a thin pair underneath and this had probably added to the problems. I really needed to look after them today if I was going to make it 20 miles.
We left By The Way around 915 after bumping into The Rozzers. The Other One was availing himself of public transport again today to get to Kingshouse and we tried not to take the mickey too much. I could sympathise somewhat what with the state of my feet after yesterday. We made our way to the Green Welly, which I'd passed a few times on the road to Mallaig in the past, but never stopped at, as we always stopped by Loch Lomond to let Monty have a stretch.
Much has been made of the place on blogs I had read, as a place that had to be visited. I have to say I found it very uninspiring. We had a large bacon and sausage bap each, whose ingredients came out of a bain marie apparatus. It was warm was the most inspiring thing I could say about it. We were the only people in there I think. I spotted a drinking water tap on the side and thought now would be the time to fill up.
We went out and I visited the shop adjoining, which was like a service station shop but more inclined to the walking fraternity than any other.
I grabbed some tobacco and a Mars Bar, we had a quick fag outside whilst I finished my coffee.
We had a quick chat with "Angry man" who as I said wasn't really that angry after all. 
We finally left at ten, with me thinking we had to cross the road to get back on the Way. Thankfully this view was quickly disabused when I saw Garth pointing at everyone else going up a gravel road on the right of the Green Welly. We joined them and rose up a gradual slope with a burn on the right . the going was fairly easy, following the valley at the foot of Beinn Odhar, then along Beinn Dorain, a mountain which I've seen a few times but never this close up. The top was wreathed in cloud as were all the other high tops I could see.
I came up to The Quiet Belgian, taking a rest by the side of the track and stopped to chat while Garth caught me up. He had stopped earlier after we had passed under the railway.
He was a pleasant chap, who'd kept to himself most of the week, I had a quick fag and saying goodbye carried on. Garth hadn't stopped and was soon out of sight. Irish Paul had passed earlier as well, another thoroughly nice chap with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. Before we left Tyndrum he had supplied us with the phone number of Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven, where we had been able to secure a bunkroom to ourselves for £38. That's another favour I owe him.Cheers Paul!

                                                                                                   Along to Bridge of Ochy

                                                                                            Beinn Dorain

                                                                                      A sheep.....

I soon came to the Bridge of Ochy, Garth was sat outside, with a can of Coke for me waiting, nice one Cyril. Paul was also there although he left not long after I got there. I felt fine, we'd done the 7 miles in 2 hours and my feet weren't troubling me. I was too hyped up to feel any niggles. I'd been looking forward to this day more than any other. Rannoch Moor awaited and having driven it, seeing all the little lochs dotted around, the barren but beautiful landscape I couldn't wait to get up there and see it again.
The Quiet Belgian soon arrived as did two lads, one carrying a large backpack, the other with just a bottle of water. We'd bumped into them only a couple of times on the walk. Like me and Garth they were an odd couple. One, tall, in good shape, carrying everything. The other, probably same age but fairly large built with a bit of a waist. He looked like he was doing fine though and we chatted while we had our drinks.

                                                                              Me, The odd couple,  Garth and The Quiet Belgian

The Quiet Belgian was finished for the day as were The odd couple. We were surprised, other people we'd bumped into were only going to Bridge of Ochy today from Tyndrum and it was only seven miles. I felt like we'd just set off, not done 7 miles.We ventured that they could have got to Inveroran instead but they were stuck with their accommodation of course.
We got a pic of us all, and saying goodbye we looked around making sure we hadn't left anything. I spotted a carrying case against the leg of the bench opposite. It was obviously Paul's, he'd been sat there 10 minutes previously. I picked it up and fastened it to my belt, presuming it was a camera. I was keen to get off to catch him at the Inveroran hotel if he stopped. We went down over the bridge

crossing the River Ochy. Garth suddenly realised he had left his umbrella behind, leaning against the bench. I waited while he retrieved it and we carried on. That hotel must have a large Lost Property department based on our little group's forgetfulness percentage, 33% and all that.
  A pleasant incline followed with Garth leaving me behind, I came to a large gate in a fence which surrounded an area of forest. The path got steeper and soon came out of the trees where the views opened up.

                                                                                          Loch Tulla

.                                                                Looking back at the path before Bridge of Ochy

 The path climbed steadily upwards, not too steep though until I spied Garth waving to me. I'd learnt by now that if Garth had stopped and was waiting it meant he was at the top. I joined him at the cairn, where we enjoyed a cigarette and the views.

                                                                                    Enjoying the views.

                                                                                     ............And a fag!

I could have stayed longer but was keen to get to Inveroran and catch Paul up to return his camera. For me some of the best views were coming up and I'd of been gutted if I couldn't get any pics myself.I hadn't looked in the case I'd found, but decided to do so and take a couple of pics for Paul . I left Garth behind and started down the hill. I could see the hotel in the distance, the path stretched out in front of me. I came across what looked like the loneliest tree in Christendom

Having just this minute posted this pic it occurred to me that someone could have died at this spot and the tree is a remembrance to them.
I made good time down the hill and soon arrived. Paul was having a brew outside and I reunited him with his camera. I was glad to be able to do a good turn for him after his help with securing us accommodation on two separate occasions.
Garth joined us and I went in to get a coffee and Carlsberg. I also grabbed a menu from which we both opted for the BLT.

Paul left us, and our sarnies arrived. I'd taken my boots and socks off, my feet were holding up well. No new blisters and not really that sore. I fed the robins which gathered, crumbs from my bread, There was about six of them waiting on the stone wall, darting down as soon as I threw some down.

I'd soon eaten and finished my coffee, so decided to get going leaving Garth to finish. I was getting quite excited now about the route ahead and really wanted to do this bit by myself. A short walk along the road then over Victoria bridge soon found me passing through a tall gate by the Forest Lodge.

It was all uphill from here now for the next 4-5 miles to Ba bridge, though a gradual climb, not taxing at all and a good surface. I stopped to take pics and to check behind me for Garth catching up although it was a couple of miles until I did finally spot him coming up. Amazingly I was also catching Irish Paul up although I wasn't rushing.

                                                                                   Catching Paul up

                                                                                        Ba bridge

                                                                                  Ba bridge


I was loving it. The views were stunning, the mountains wreathed in mist, I was catching people up, in fact I passed Paul now. I had my mp3 in, playing Dire Straits, Brothers In Arms, which if you don't know it starts off with "These mist covered mountains, are a home now for me". I came to a little grassed area surrounded by waist high rocks which looked like an ideal spot to have a quick fag and to soak up the view. I hadn't stopped all the way up apart from to take a pic and check for Garth so felt I deserved one. Paul and Garth came by a minute later, neither stopped, Garth's knee was giving him grief and he wanted to get the day over with. I didn't hang around though because pretty much immediately the dreaded midges descended and started to feast. I shoved a Mars Bar down my neck, lit my fag, blowing the smoke around me to discourage them , doused myself to choking point with midge spray then got my pack back on and set off within 5 minutes of stopping.
Another easy climb of about a mile or so finally brought sight of the A82 snaking along below me and in the distance, a white splodge which was Kingshouse Hotel. Yes it was a welcome sight but I wasn't tired really and felt brilliant to be honest. The weather, which had been overcast all day but never wet, finally turned as I came round the final hill blocking my view of Glen Coe. The wind picked up and not so much rain as heavily laden air hit me.  Although I still only had a baselayer on I didn't stop. My feet weren't aching at all, I wasn't cold, I was buzzing in fact, taking my time because it was pretty rocky at this point so couldn't go fast but I was  listening to some top tunes, whistling away, enjoying myself. I think this was the point where it finally dawned on me I WAS doing the WHW, I.'d just done Rannoch Moor and Buachaille Etive Mor awaited.
In short order I reached Blackrock cottage, where about 500 yards of tarmac road linked it to the A82. I stopped briefly to stick a fleece on. It was getting pretty damp now. I'd spotted a blue dot by the road while I was still on the hill and imagined it was Garth waiting for me, the way his knee had been plaguing him, and the speed I'd been going I was surprised I hadn't at least kept him in sight after he had passed me earlier. Approaching now I first thought "ha it's not Garth it's a Blue sign by the turning. Then getting nearer I realised it was actually a couple of people stood there waiting at a bus stop. I thought they were locals or something, later I realised it was a couple of people who we'd seen a few times along the way, a father and daughter I presume, or the oddest couple in history given their respective ages.
I also realised at this point that I was the one wearing blue, Garth's jacket was green....Doh....
I passed them still whistling away, giving them a cheery wave and crossed the road. The final 3/4 of a mile along a tarmac path to Kingshouse was a breeze, I was almost skipping along, my poles over my shoulder, I felt like I could keep going to Kinlochleven.
Kingshouse came into view, what a setting, Glen Coe laid out in front of me, the tops hidden in mist.
I went straight in, heading for the bar looking for Garth. The Rozzers were in already, but hadn't seen Garth but said there was another bar at the back so I headed there. He wasn't to be found there either, Sarah, Matt and co were in though. I headed back to the cocktail bar at the front, which mustn't be confused with some swanky New York affair, but rather a northern working men's club, circa 1970's.
 The Rozzers insisted they hadn't seen him and slightly concerned as to what had happened to him, I checked to see if our bags had arrived and if so was Garth's there. I couldn't see it and again went back to the bar at the back which was called the "Climbers Bar". Suddenly Garth came in just behind me, we'd just kept missing each other.
We got a drink and joined Sarah and co at the table, where after a quick perusal of the menu I plonked for the steak and ale pie. It arrived quickly and was very nice thank you.


                                                                               Mark....Note the chair

                                                                   Dave....Looking pissed...check the chair!

By this time it must have been 730 ish and still needing to put our tents up we headed out to find a spot to camp. Choices were limited but we found enough room by the river and set up. Corrina and Dave were already set up and not having seen them around presumed they had already turned in. At the speed they had done the walk so far I imagined they'd probably already eaten as well as had a drink! No, I was wrong, just as we had finished and decided to go back to the bar Dave emerged from his tent to join us. We rejoined Sarah and co again, where Dave ordered something to eat and we all had another drink. Sarah told us her friend Mark was joining them tonight to do the last 2 days of the walk with them and soon enough he turned up and took the last free chair at the table, which was a rough hewn top made of some heavy duty woodage.  That's another made up word, I seem to be making lots of words up recently just by adding "age" to the end, but that's just me sorry. Anyway the table was substantial and the chairs which were crafted from more slices of tree weighed a ton as we'd discovered when trying to pull them nearer the table.
We spent the rest of the night chewing the fat over various subjects, putting the world to rights, helped by a not ungenerous amount of single malt whisky, which Mark and I decided to sample. I wouldn't mind but not half an hour before hitting the sauce, whilst pouring a can of Coke, I'd been asked by the Main Rozzer who had come into the bar with his sidekick, "Don't you drink Colin?" , to which I'd replied, "Very rarely, used to years ago but can't be bothered any more really". So I was feeling quite inebriated when we called it a night about 1130.
I turned in and wrote my blog up till one, feeling very happy with the day's events, and looking forward to a short day tomorrow, or later this morning!

Saturday 8th

Day 6 Walking 1010-1500

Today was a reminder of one of the most important lessons to be learnt when walking day after day. LOOK AFTER YOUR FEET!!! 
I'd been blasé about my feet last night and not tended to them at all. I'd been on such a high from the day's walk, and with only 8 and a half miles today I thought things would be ok. I paid for it by the end of the day and probably the day after as well.
Anyway, we got up about 830 ish, thinking we'd have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, lashings of coffee for me, plus maybe some unwanted items from Garth's plate but these dreams were dashed by Dave who informed us that the hotel didn't serve breakfast to campers, only guests at the hotel. We couldn't use the toilets  either which didn't impress anyone. It seemed like the hotel welcomed walkers at night in the Climbers Bar, but come morning you became persona non grata. A glimmer of comfort came when he told us the bar would be open at 10 for all us campers, so we decided to get packed up, firstly having a bacon and potato saute that Garth had brought with him. It filled a hole but wasn't a full english which I had been looking forward to. Dave had, by laying on the charm, managed to wrangle a bacon sarnie and a coffee out of the hotel  for Corrina. Seeing her standing there with a butty in one hand and a coffee in the other, Maddie on a lead as well, I finally got chance to use a piece of equipment I had in my bag but still hadn't used yet. A foldable chair which my dad had lent me. Feeling quite gallant I set it up and offered it to Corrina who gladly accepted. I never used the chair myself, I'd used it on our training walks and extolled the virtues to Garth of being able to take a proper sit down when having a break, but what with not carrying our packs we had never been short of a comfy spot to rest. 
It was pretty close to 10 now, a few of us congregated outside the bar waiting for it to open, planning on grabbing a quick coffee then getting going. 10 came and went with no sign of opening. Someone, I cant remember who, went to find out what was happening, coming back to tell us the hotel had decided that they were going to wait till 11 o'clock before opening up for us. This really was a bit of a pisstake on their behalf I felt. I reckon there must have been 20-25 people who had camped overnight by the river. most had been in the bar the previous night and spent a fair bit of money, me especially on the single malts which were extravagantly priced. The hotel was the only place around, not another option for anything until the end of the days walk at Kinlochleven. An outside toilet block and at least a coffee would not have been a lot to ask for and would have been more money spent by everyone. It seems ridiculous that they haven't got this organised before now. 
Feeling a bit pissed off, especially since I had deliberated whether to have a cappuchino or not when I'd had my half of the saute, deciding against because I imagined I would be having one now, instead of being stood here at nearly quarter past ten without one, we said F*%k it and set off, everyone else doing the same.
The first 3 miles were easy going, a gentle stroll along a good stretch of road, turning into a muddy and rocky path, skirting the side of the road up to the bottom of devil's staircase with Buchaille Etive Mor dominating the landscape.

 Irish Paul had passed me 5 minutes earlier, he'd stopped at GlenCoe Mountain resort the night before, a few miles short of Kingshouse just off the WHW. Dave also passed me, flying past at 100 miles an hour. Corrina had unfortunately decided to wait for the baggage carrier who was going to take her to Fort William. Maddie had had enough and was suffering a bit. I was gutted for her but would have done the same for Monty if I had brought him.
I popped a couple of preventative (I hoped) painkillers and took on Devil's staircase which I had been viewing with trepidation the whole walk. I didn't rush at all, everyone on the path ahead disappearing out of sight and people catching me up all the way. The path got steeper and became a series of switchbacks, I was stopping every 2 mins or so, knackered and out of breath, but it also gave me chance to soak up the views and see Buchaille Etive Mor for the last time.

I've learnt with hills that you think you've got to the top only to discover that it was a false summit and there's another climb to go. Amazingly that didn't happen here. A lot sooner than expected I spotted Garth sat on a cairn with a few other people and joined him. Ok, it hadn't been easy, but it was a lot easier and shorter than I was expecting and I was quite proud of myself for getting there. My feet were throbbing and I was beginning to regret not taking care of them the night before, but convinced myself that the day was nearly done, just a stroll down to Kinlochleven, nothing too hard. Ha... what a fool!
                                                             A well used cairn on top of Devil's Staircase

I joined Garth for a well earned break and soaked in the views. It was pretty misty with low clouds, but dry which suited me fine.
After a few minutes we got going again, the path stretching away before us, snaking first down then back up the side of the hillside.

                                                              It's downhill all the way now...not

4 lads on mountain bikes went past us a minute later, flying down the hill then back up, disappearing around the point within a couple of minutes, making us, well me anyway, jealous, wishing we'd bagged a lift from them.
We made steady progress and soon arrived at the point ourselves.
I'd imagined, before the walk, that turning this corner I would be able to see Kinlochleven nestled at the bottom of the hill, a gentle stroll down, then a nice long rest after a short day.I was soon disavowed of this vision as turning the point there was no sign of the town, only more path.
I'd passed Garth 5 or 10 minutes earlier and slowed to ask him if he had the talc, which we had been using on our feet . I was looking out for a suitable spot to stop and give my feet some attention. It soon arrived in the form of a small stream crossing the path on its way down the hill. A rocky outcrop on the inside of the path provided an excellent seat and a pool of cold water swirled around in an impression in the stone path.
I gratefully but slowly lowered my feet in to this foot spa, my feet were on fire and very sore, I was regretting not looking after them last night.


I spent about 20 mins here, enjoying the view, Blackwater reservoir in the distance.Yes my feet were killing me, but I was really happy to be in this spot, right now, having walked about 76 miles to do so.

Drying my feet well I gave them a dosing with talc and socked and booted back up, I set off again. My feet felt a lot better, but that didn't last long. The path continued down twisting around the hillsides, sometimes going back up again, making me start to worry about how steep the final descent into Kinlochleven was going to be.
At last I was rewarded with a distant view of the town, which was still a long way down from my height and again had me worrying about how steep things were going to get.
It must have been around this point that I finally realised the old adage runs true, " it's easier going up an hill than coming down". I've never really believed this before now. I have always hated having to go uphill on a walk, not that I've done many. Cycling+hills as a kid has put me off them ever since. Of course cycling downhill is great, piece of p*$s really if you think about it. However.... Walking down hills is a different kettle of fish, a different ball of wax, etc, all together. To put it bluntly and literally it is a major pain. Even with two poles and having just tended my feet, they were soon in agony with every step. The path was never ending, at least it seemed to be. Just when I thought we must be getting close to the end I'd be confronted by another uphill which took me higher again.

At last the final descent arrived, following the water pipes, a loose gravel path which did nothing for my poor feet, sob sob, and I shuffled and limped past the aluminium factory, with just enough energy to appreciate the Brunel-like proportions as each of the five pipes branched off in to the factory.

 Garth and Dave were sat on a bench outside the hostel which was in the grounds of the smelting plant, which contrary to some blog reports, I found quite a pleasing building, not an ugly monstrosity as some would have it.
Joining them on a bench I implored Garth, as I was feeling close to death, to pretty please get me a coffee which I imagined would be available inside. He soon came out and said "hard luck no coffee. The bad news continued when we learnt it would be an hour before we could check in. Needing a coffee as I hadn't had one all day and couldn't sit here for an hour we walked, well I hobbled into town which was only 2 minutes walk away.

We plonked ourselves on a couple of seats outside a nice pub by the river with a couple of drinks, I had 2 coffees in quick succession and felt a bit more alive .
Just as we were finishing our drinks, a transit pulled up right outside the pub 5 foot away, with Corrina sat in the passenger seat with Maddie on her lap. It was the Travel-lite van with our gear in, They dropped a few bags at the pub, while I chatted with Corrina. They were on their way to Fort William next where Corrina was staying at a campsite in Glen Nevis a mile or so out of town. We said our goodbyes and they were off to drop our bags at the hostel.
Next up came The Rozzers, who stopped to chat. The Other One had bussed again, but was walking tomorrow, the last day. Garth put the unasked question to them at last to which they replied that we probably wouldn't talk to them if we knew. Laughing I said I was pretty sure they were policeforce, which they confirmed.Ha. Both from Hull, The Main one had retired this year and the Other One was retiring at the end of the year.
We left them to it and made our way back to the hostel, where were finally able to check in. It seemed like they were doing some ground work on the site, A couple of kids, who couldn't be older than 12-13 were using the plant machines like old hands. A 4 bed bunkroom and en-suite shower etc was ours for £39. Very reasonable. A nice shower it was too.
My feet were a mess,well my foot was, a overlapping row nearly all the way down the sole of my left foot, my right foot though was fine. I took my insoles out which I'd made at work from high density 6mm foam and cut a hole out where the row of blisters were located. This relieved the pressure somewhat.
These insoles have been a godsend the last few years. For ever it feels like I've had a sore point about an inch away from my left big toe on the sole, where the toe hinges from. I distinctly remember having it when I was in high school. It would progressively get harder and sorer over a month or so, then I would take a sharp knife and gently pick the centre core bit out, retrieving a triangular lump of hard skin about 4mm across. This would provide relief for another month or so. About 5 years ago I had a podiatrist come out and see what he could do. He scrapped at it a bit but didn't really do a great deal to help, saying I'd probably never get rid of it and could only continue to do what I already was.
This wasn't good news and if it was still like that then I'd never have been able to do this. It would get to the stage where I could barely walk on my left foot at times, the pressure pain was that intense.
One day whilst using some of the above mentioned foam, I thought I'd try cutting an insole from it and then, after wearing it for 10 minutes, took it back out and and used a steel punch to cut a round hole out where the hard point had made an impression in the foam. Putting it back in and slipping my foot in, the relief was immediate. I could twist my foot around on the floor and put as much pressure as I liked on it. I cut another one for my right foot taking out a half moon shape on the outside edge where I had some more hard skin, nothing like the other on on my left though.
It was like I'd been given new feet overnight, The pads would flatten out over a couple of weeks then I would replace them.
I still had to pick out the core point every couple of months, It would inflame and make really sore an area about 1 1/2" diameter around the centre. Well one day, about 6 months later, during one particularly invasive home surgery, the centre core popped out, larger than normal, followed in an instant by a wormlike length, of whiteish/ grayish goo about an inch long. I stared at it. panicking, thinking "oh shit that doesn't look good". However after wiping it away and using some ante-septic cream and padding it with tissue, again the pain had gone. I kept an eye on it over the next few days but I must have done something right because over the next few weeks, maybe a couple of months, the thing disappeared entirely. I could massage my thumb right into it, or rather over it now and not feel a thing, not even any evidence it had ever been there.
For the first time in god knows how may years I could now walk around like normaland could actually think to myself that maybe I could get into this long distance walking business.
Anyway back to the walk.
Feet now sorted to a degree, we walked back to the same place and went in to have a much needed nosh up, me choosing the Scampi, which I'd never had before. It was very nice, light, fluffy batter with decent sized pieces of tail inside. I snaffled Garth's onion rings, which again I'd never had. They had never appealed to me before, always looking greasy. However these were just like the scampi, again light, and melted in the mouth.A tasty salad and dressing completed the dish and I was well satisfied.

                                                                                  The view from the pub

We joined Sarah and Co at their table for a few drinks. Susashi and Keisuke didn't stay long and us stragglers went up stairs to carry on with a couple of tipples, where I could go out on to the balcony for a smoke and enjoy the view. We didn't stay that long either and made our way back around 10 oclock for a well earned sleep. I made a brew in the communal kitchen which was large, clean, had every cooking pot and utensil you would need if you wanted to re-enact the feeding of the five thousand. There was a pool table as well, but I didn't have the energy to even think about having a game. a quick fag and brew outside, sat on the bench, then it weld myself to the bed time.

                                                                             Early morning on the last day at Kinlochleven.

                                                                      Mark, Matt Sarah,Keisuke and Susashi. Aka, Sarah and Co.

                                                                        Leaving Kinlochleven

Sunday the 9th 


My feet felt a little better this morning, not great but I knew at least I would be able to finish. We got organised and went looking for some breakfast. We found it at the Tailrace Inn. There were only one other couple in for breakfast, the whole place seemed like a ghost ship. I was hoping to sit outside for our munch, but upon inquiring if this was possible was told bluntly, "just sit in the dining room". Well the dining room was stifling, I'm not keen on being cold but this was oppressive. I hate central heating when it's just over the comfortable mark. I always say, I'd rather be cold than too hot because it's a lot easier to warm yourself up than try to cool down.
Breakfast arrived, which was ok, only I was sweating eating it. We finished and after a quick perusal of the various historical pictures of the town and a couple of pics of a Snow Patrol Album, we got outside for some much needed air. Feeling like we may get told to move on if we deigned to sit on the benches outside, after my earlier admonishment, we started off along the pavement to start our way up the steep ascent out of the town. The weather was quite nice at this point. A little bit of sun, not too warm. The ascent was steep alright, but was over a lot sooner than I expected. Irish Paul passed us on the way up, He'd had a late one the night before, ending up going to the Ice Factory and joining in on someones birthday party bash. He said he was feeling a little worse for wear, haha.
the path was pretty decent, opening out in to Lairigmor Glen, sculptured out by a glacier apparently, it certainly looked like it anyway. Up until this day of the walk we had rarely walked together, but now we did, both shattered and just wanting the day over with. On the first day of the walk this section would have been a nice amble, instead it was a long grind. Deforestation had taken place in the few plantations there were and these left the landscape even more barren than it would have done. Still inspiring scenery though.
                                                                                 Irish Paul                            

                                                                            The protagonist

We eventually came to Blar a Chaorainn, where a decision was needed. Fork left and cut a couple of miles off the day by using a little road all the way to Fort William, a cheat. Or go right on the official path. I was willing to go for it if Garth said to the right but relieved when he said to the left. Well, I think I would have preferred to go the right way after the torture of those last few miles. Hard tarmac road, isn't good for sore feet, and it snaked up and down like a rollercoaster, going down 100 ft then back up even more. Turning a corner and hoping to see my first sight of Fort William, but being confronted by a view of the road snaking up and down some more into the distance was demoralising. It seemed to last forever, but eventually coming to the top of a rise, suddenly the town came into view in the distance. Feeling cheered we entered a picnic/viewpoint area giving a panorama of the town and surrounding mountains and lochs. The feeling cheered bit disappeared straight away though, as looking around the nicely fenced in grassed picnic area, with a telescope to appreciate the afore-mentioned vista all I could see was crap everywhere. Bottles, cans, chippy wrappers, crisp bags and other detritus was scattered or rolling everywhere. The wire fencing had paper decorating it all the way round. Cigarette ends were everywhere. It totally pissed me off. I wouldn't mind but there were a couple of rubbish bins with hardly anything in them by the gate. This put me in a bad mood which continued all the way into the town to the end, which thankfully came about half an hour later. We had the obligatory pictures taken by the man on the bench before continuing on to our apartment.


  I'm not being posh there with "Apartment". The place was called Glenlochy Apartments. My feet had given in now and I hobbled, wincing all the time, the mile there. Having been given a pin code  to open the keysafe, I imagined we would be in in a jiffy and I could die in peace. Things are never that simple though, because on opening the safe, there was no F%&*ing key in it. This was after surmounting the final obstacle of the day,the bane of every dalek, a flight of stairs.
This just made my mood even blacker, getting my phone out and passing it to Garth, I asked him to ring the owners and sort it out, because if I did it, I would lose it over the phone.He went downstairs and rang them, coming up to say they had emailed me to say the apartment no had changed, we were now on the ground floor in apartment one. Traipsing back downstairs muttering away darkly, we finally got in.
Well, the place was great, A 2 bedroom place, each with a double bed, a large living room and kitchen attached, a washing machine, which we threw our socks straight into. A large tv, nice fire and most importantly, the thing I had been dreaming of recently, a washing up bowl. I filled it straight away and plonked myself on the sofa and lowered my feet slowly into it. Finding the remote beside me, I turned on the TV and finally had a smile on my face for the first time this afternoon. Whose face did I see but Colombo's. There's nothing better on a Sunday afternoon than watching Colombo. Well I'm sure there is but after that walk, with my feet in a bowl, and Colombo pestering some guy with "just one more thing", I couldn't of been happier.
Suitably revived, but, declaring that I was not walking anywhere else, and after having ring the owners back again, because, despite being provided with a plethora of pamphlets on what to see and do, plus all the bumff regarding the apartments, there was no taxi numbers anywhere, we went outside and were soon in town, picking our bags up and ended up going in the Crofters pub. We'd heard you could pick a self congratulatory certificate on completing the walk. We got our drinks and upon finding a table and going to sit down, a waiter, a young lad appeared and interrogated us at to our intentions. I told him we would be eating but could we sit down first. He disappeared and left us alone. Garth selected a speciality burger, which appeared on a piece of slate with a basket of chips. It looked very fancy, Garth said it was average, Mine was below average. Spying scampi on the menu and after really enjoying it the night before, I'd ordered it, looking forward to light and fluffy on the plate. This time, however brown and hard was the order of the day. It was suspiciously regularly shaped, suspiciously of the frozen kind. The chips were similar and the salad was undressed and consisted of a bit of lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Not impressed one bit, I ate for the sake of eating, The waiter came over to ask if everything was all right, Garth said fine, I just stared at him in silence. I was in a bad mood again and just wanted to get back to the apartment to finish the day.
Paying up we again availed ourselves of a taxi and going back stood outside having a smoke.
We turned in about 11 and I just crashed out.


Just do it. If your considering doing the WHW but worried about being out of shape, don't.  Ok it's not easy, but with just a little training under my belt, a few 5-7 mile walks, plus a nine miler, but all on the flat, I managed it ok. I had sore feet for sure, due to blisters gained on day 4. Plus I didn't look after them at end of day 5, but I never any aches and pains anywhere. No stiff knees or sore legs. I tell a lie, on the last two days for the first half an hour my legs felt a bit stiff but that disappeared. Going up the steep bits knackered me out and I had keep stopping on them, but that gives you an opportunity to turn round and see the scenery behind you. If you just plod on and never look back your missing out on just  as much as in front of you. 
Walk at your own pace. Don't try to walk faster than is comfortable just to keep up with someone.If walking slower to stay with someone doesn't bother you then ok, but going faster than you'd like will destroy the whole point of the walk. 
Take your time, soak it in, stop and have a break, contemplate where you are. Again there's no point doing it if you have your head down and dont stop. That's my opinion anyway.
Consider using poles. I keep trying to convince Garth that he should take some in September and I think he's finally coming round to the idea. When he stopped carrying his pack, he started using his brolly as a stick anyway. Consider this statistic. Even at a very conservative estimate your going to be putting 400 tonnes, yes 400 TONNES less weight on each knee every mile. Yes every mile, on EACH knee. Sounds mad I know but do the math. I can say with confidence that I don't think I could honestly have completed it without them. Whether it;s going up, down or on the flat they make a big difference, allowing you to take the weight of your legs and work your upper body as well.Even on the flat they help you get in a rhythm if you want to get a move on. 
Look after your feet. This one's important. Make sure your boots or walking shoes/trainers are comfortable, preferably with two pairs of sock, one thin, one thick, Try and get decent boots which are waterproof. Keep your feet dry if at all possible and when they do get wet try and dry them soon. 
Don't try and carry too much in your pack. even if your camping all the way I'd recommend using the baggage transfer companies. Unless that's your thing of course. Some people view the thing as a intense challenge, carrying everything, doing it in five days. Like I said it's up to you, I did it for the challenge of going all that way on a map, but I didn't want to miss anything either so took my time, having breaks, having a sitdown, enjoying the experience. Garth would always get in anywhere from 20-60 minutes before me, but so what.? Times irrelevant on something like this, or it should be anyway.
Well thats my blog of the walk, I hope you enjoyed it. I.ll probably add to these musings as and when I think up some more. So dont forget, stop thinking about it, get out there and do it.!!

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