Monday morning 07.45am
Again it looks as If I am
last up. No sound of the cooker going this morning. No sound of rain. No
smell of bacon, just a smell of damp crisp air. Its cold, last out never
shut the door and the inner tent door is open as well. Maybe this is
someone’s way of wakening the whole house. I crawl out the bag, put on my
trousers, socks and boots and move outside. Where is everybody? No one to
be seen, I never heard anyone screaming, as they where pulled out the tent
by wild dingoes, more like run out the tent away from the snoring. I
cannot complain my snoring has yet to keep me awake. The head is a bit
fragile this morning. Drinking and walking is not recommended, well not
drinking to excess and walking sixteen miles the following morning. Last
night I think you can call it excess due to the early start in the day in
the Oak Tree Inn. Its quite cold, maybe this is caused with sleeping with
so many clothes on. I need to get the three S`s seen to early this
morning. I go to the van, it’s open, I get my toiletries bag, clean
T-shirt, no need for socks, these will do another day and my towel, and
it’s damp from yesterday. I head over to the shower wandering where they
all are, passing the shop come cafe on my way. I see them through the
window, sitting drinking tea or coffee. I go in.
“Breakfast will be ready
shortly,” James, informs me.” Just waitin` for you”
I wish them all good
morning and I get the same back. Good, everyone seems cheerful enough this
morning. I notice it is eight o’clock. I did sleep well last night, that’s
about nine hours at home I average six; all this country air is certainly
doing me good. I sit down and the lady behind the counter is out right
away with the coffee pot. Superb. I let the showers wait. Breakfast came
and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The couple serving informed us that
they where Forestry Commission employees and do this work for about ten
months out of the year, that is run the campsite. I say, “Good work if you
can get it”
We all leave saying thanks
and are wished a safe journey from our breakfast hosts. I go to the shower
block. I am impressed again of the high standard that I find. I hear the
others coming in.
Back at the car we take
advantage of the dry weather this morning and get the tent down as quickly
as we can. It is still wet from all of last nights rain so myself and
George run back and forwards with the outer tent shaking as much of the
rain off as possible, I do remember some of my cub scout training. It was
down and in the van in no time. Everything is packed up. The Sherpa has
been busy too. We are all handed a plastic bag with sandwiches and two
Tunnocks Carmel Wafers. No chance of stealing them this morning I think.
We remind James that we will not see him now until we reach Ardlui. As the
road ends about four miles on at Rowardenan, James has to drive back down
the Loch, around its southern point at Balloch and travel back up along
it’s western shore, the busy A82 trunk road to Ardlui where we are booked
to stay the night in the campsite at the Ardlui Hotel. James assures us he
knows the road. As he bangs close the back doors of the van there is an
almighty scream. It doesn’t stop. We all stare at Kenny what’s he done. I
notice his hand is caught in the van door in the gap made by the open
hinge, that is now closed. He is screaming like a pig, not saying anything
just making noises.
“Open the door”; I shout,
his hand is jammed”.
James immediately opens
the doors and Kenny pulls his hand free. I notice his finger nail hitting
the deck (I did think it was part of his finger). My immediate thought is
hospital, end of the road for Kenny. We gather round the invalid. He is
saying nothing. James is apologising profoundly.
“It’s not your fault James”
Kenny says.” My hand should not have been there in the first place.” As he
waves it about as if this will relieve the pain and by the look on his
face I know it is not working.
“I am really sorry” James
“It’s an accident” he is
now sucking it.
There is very little blood,
but the thumb has swollen up. Ouch, that looks sore. I ask Kenny what does
he wants to do. He tells me there is nothing he can do or more so there is
nothing a hospital will do. It was the top of his thumb that had got
caught in the door and it removed the best part of the nail when the door
“It`s bloody sore” he says
gritting his teeth, I had to agree with him on that but he insists it
shouldn’t stop him from walking.
“It will take my mind off
the blisters on my feet” he says.
I trusted his judgment and
choose not to make a fuss over this as James is feeling bad and also this
type of accident seems to happen to Kenny every other week. Being a motor
mechanic his hands look like an OS map of the Western Highlands.
Kenny had leant against the
doorframe while putting on his boots. I look at Johnny and George. Both
are standing by eagerly waiting to use the first-aid kits they have in
their hand. In all this they had done what was necessary and sought out
the first-aid kit. I was impressed. But they stood looking on waiting for
someone to take the first-aid kit and do something with it.
“What are you two going to
do, build a raft or something?” I ask them.
It was decided that the
best course of action would be to leave the wound alone, except for
cleaning it up and placing a cover over it. We all agreed that it would
have been better if the thumb had actually cut itself open, releasing the
pressure and the swelling.
“Right Kenny lets get
walking, it’s a lot safer out there than it is here around James Stewart”
Johnny is now putting smiles back on our faces.
“BBBuut” James tries to
“Never mind BBBBUUT, you
nearly took the man out, lets get out of here quick boys, stay back from
the van, he’s not afraid to use it”
James had told us last
night that he had decided to go home this evening, in the hope that he was
picking Peter up on Tuesday morning off the nightshift. He was keen to see
us get off, as the quicker we left the quicker we would get to Ardlui and
get the tents up so he could get home. This all in all was a journey that
would only be about fifty miles for James. He would be home in about an
hour from us arriving. We set off, we all felt a bit of Kenny’s pain.
The first half-mile was by
a single track at the side of the road. I wonder why not walk on the road.
As I am last I follow the other three in front. As we reach Sallochy we
turn left off the road into the woods and emerge at Sallochy Bay, where
Glasgow University has a field centre and boathouse. We have a bit of a
climb up and over Ross`s Point the little hillock known as Teac a
Mhinisteir, crowned by the plantations of Ross Wood. Not bad I thought for
the first climb of the day. I cannot help but laugh at the sign nailed to
a tree, advertising a B and B `five hundred yards through the woods off to
the right` There was not much to see at this part as we where away from
the Loch shore but the path drops almost to the Loch side once more, where
there are excellent views across to Beinn Bhreac (the speckled mountain)
north of Glen Luss on the west side of the Loch. The path approaches Mill
of Ross. About three quarters of a mile on we come back onto the shore at
a car park where three guys are fishing.
At this point George
complains that his knees are sore and says he prefers to walk the road to
Rowardenen. I ask if he wanted me to go with him but he says no. I was
glad of this, as I didn’t want to voluntarily leave the way. This lasted
all of two minutes. I looked around and there was George stepping up the
pace to catch back up with us. He had started on his own but quickly
decided against it. I say to him, there really are not any bears in these
woods. He tells me that its not the bears he is afraid of but he realised
James Stewart was out there driving about in a van. It felt safer in the
The walking is quite varied
here, sometimes open ground, sometimes in the darkness of spruce
plantation, and then through much more pleasant, deciduous woodland. In
the Queen Elizabeth Forest planting first started in 1951, though the wood
inherited the old oak trees from the Duke of Montrose's estate.
The route from Balmaha to
Rowardennan offers the walker a constant change of scene, from shore to
woodland and hill, and it's on this stretch that you will pass the last of
the bigger islands Inchlonaig, (The Island of Yew Trees) famous for its
Yew trees that are said to have been planted by Robert the Bruce, to
ensure a supply of longbows for Scotland's archers and used at
A little further north, you
see the famous Loch Lomond crannogs. The crannogs are man-made islands
dating from the Iron Age, and are composed of logs, stones and brushwood
submerged in the Loch. They were places of refuge, approached by causeways
We arrive at Rowardenan and
decide to take refreshments at the Rowardenan Hotel. George, Johnny and
Kenny all opt for Guinness and lagers but I think to myself that I will
give this a bye as I am still feeling the ill effects of last night at
Cashell. It had taken us about two hours to walk this part this morning as
the walking surface in most parts was only wide enough underfoot for one
walker at a time and was constantly up and down and very seldom running
straight as well as been laden with roots. However the rain had stayed
away and it actually felt quite nice sitting in the beer garden in the
hotel grounds, hangover excluded.
The phone rings, its my
sister Carol, good I think the anniversary present is in hand. She tells
me that she is going to drop Megan her daughter, Susan my Daughter and
Hannah their friend off at Buchanan Street bus station in Glasgow as they
are traveling up to Lochgilphead for a few days to stay with Kenny’s
sister Colette, before she goes to organise Bernie’s flowers. She wanted
to know how much she should spend. I tell her no more than fifty quid, as
I am skint with the cost of getting organised and doing the walk. I have
an idea. I ask her to phone me once the kids are on the bus. As they are
traveling to Lochgilphead the bus will travel up the Lochs western shore
on the A82 trunk road. We are walking up the eastern shore. I ask her to
tell me what they will be wearing and where about they will be sitting on
“Ok “she says, “I’ll call
you about half past one when their bus leaves” and says her good-byes.
This means they will travel
along the Loch about two-thirty too three o’clock.
We eat half of the packed
lunch provided by the Sherpa. It must be the Whisky (and the Gin and
Vodka) from the night before giving us all the munchies. The bottles of
Highland Spring water are very welcoming too as the drooth is rife in my
mouth. Again the topic of conversation leads back to Kenny’s thumb and all
the pain he is suffering. I stand up ready to move off and for the first
time I feel a real stiffness in my legs. I shouldn’t have stopped I think.
I put this down to dehydration, a hangover in my legs. I don’t mention
anything but walk on myself and the others follow me. As I return back
onto the road outside the Hotel. There it is! No it’s not the herd of
reindeer or the Golden Eagle.
“Would you look at that,” I
say to others. I pick-up an empty Buckfast bottle that had been left on
one of the hotels windowsills facing the road.
“Looks as if it’s
Coatbridge boys that are ahead of us” Kenny says
“Aye and leaving a
Coatbridge paper trail incase they get lost,” I add holding up the empty
bottle. I place the bottle back on the windowsill just in case what we say
is really the truth, you just don’t know when it comes to Coatbridge folk.
The small village of
Rowardennan lies at the foot of Ben Lomond. The Ben has a well-worn path
to its summit from here and offers spectacular views all round the 'Loch
Lomond and Trossachs National Park' area, on a clear day almost all of
central Scotland can be seen from its summit. Ben Lomond, which
translates, as 'Mount Luminous' is 3,193 ft. The village has a superbly
situated youth hostel on the Lochs edge. The Rowardennan Hotel (Inn)
served as a halt for the drovers who brought their cattle across the Loch
by ferry on their way to the markets in Stirling and the ferry still runs
today during the summer months to Inverbeg carrying a more intelligent
breed the Scottish tourist.
This is Rob Roy country
and the story goes that one of his sons, brought a kidnapped heiress to
the Rowardennan Inn and forced her to marry him for which he was later
hanged in Edinburgh. Rob Roy MacGregor was an outlaw a villain of the
first degree. If living today he would have been seen as a local gangster
who ran rackets and extorted people out of their hard earned cash under
the guise of protection schemes. He was a renowned swordsman, a master in
the use of our traditional weapon the claymore and became a soldier at 18,
quickly gaining a reputation and becoming known as the best swordsman in
Scotland. The MacGregors were notorious cattle rustlers, this being a
romantic word for thieves, who were the cause of a great deal of loss to
southern farmers, and the MacGregors had seen a greater opportunity for
gain and had moved into the protection business - cattle protection. This
business was looked on by the government as racketeering and so huge fines
were handed out to any farmers who were proven to have signed-up for the
use of the MacGregors `Service`. Most farmers in the area joined their
protection anyway - because it was the only protection they could get, the
government being powerless to stop the rustling. Since it was common
knowledge the MacGregors did most of the rustling, it was no surprise that
things improved when they started guarding the livestock.
At times other clans would
do the raiding and then true to their word, the MacGregors armed to the
teeth, pursued them sometimes far into the highlands and forced the
rustlers to surrender the stock, which the MacGregors then returned safely
to their rightful owners. Impressed by their success the government then
hired the MacGregors to officially protect the livestock and gave them the
name of 'The Watch' and it is known that Rob Roy served in the Watch as a
young man. He later started his own cattle business where he gained a
reputation for fair-trading and expanded his trade over time by borrowing
from the Marquis of Montrose. When one of Rob's agents ran off with £1,000
of a Montrose's loan the Marquis had Rob's home burnt to the ground and
attempted to seize his lands. Rob became an outlaw and raided all over the
area, he began his campaign of lifting cattle, stealing
rents and returning them to the poor; as well as driving away the factors
sent to evict those in arrears throughout the area. Slipping back
to the West Highland Way where a cave is said to have been his hiding
place. This is found on the low road or footpath and is sign posted. Known
as the 'Robin Hood of Scotland he used the area around the West Highland
Way in the Trossachs And Loch Lomond to hide during the years that he was
hunted by Montrose’s men.
One story in his life
happened in this area of the West Highland Way, his home was at Inversnaid
where he settled with his wife Mary. In 1716 he heard that a poor widow
was to be evicted from her house because she couldn't pay the rent. Rob
Roy paid her a visit, gave her the rent money and told her to be sure and
get a receipt from the factor when he called for it. When the factor
arrived the old lady paid the amount due, the factor wrote her out a
receipt and left. Rob Roy held up the factor on his way home, relieving
him of the rent money he had just collected. The old lady had the receipt
proving that she had paid the rent in full. Rob Roy is believed to have
never killed anyone and he gave himself up to the authorities. He was
tried and sentenced to be sent into exile from Scotland but was pardoned
before the sentence was carried out. He died at his home in the Highlands
in 1734 aged 63, leaving his family £274:13:4 in his will a huge sum at
The road for cars now stops
here at Rowardenan, along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond The only way to
the top of the Loch now is by boat, swimming (not recommended) or on foot.
I can sense at this point that this is where the going will get tough. We
have about twelve miles still left to walk with probably one stop at the
hotel in Inversnaid about seven miles farther on, as I could see nothing
on the map that resembled a resting place before this. The start of the
walk from this point is again quite pleasant walking up through the
Rowardenan Forest part of the much larger Queen Elizabeth Forest Park that
surrounds Ben Lomond. For about a mile the track is along the shore but
moves into the forest at Ptarmigan Cottage with a steady incline away
again from the shore.
Shortly after this point
the WHW splits giving you two choices. As in the song but without the
metaphor, you can take the high road or the low road. Taking the high road
was our Akealas choice. At this point as we climbed up the long woodland
track I thought our Akealas plan was to take us the hardest way possible,
climbing wherever there was a climb, making us work for our money. But I
later learned that this was not the case but in fact the opposite. There
is good forest track to be walked on but not a walk for one who would be
looking to see spectacular views around the Loch as we are quickly
engulfed by high firs.
Again I notice the
silence, not even the wind, only our feet pounding the path can be heard.
Johnny and Kenny have marched on in front of us, George and myself are
more or less now keeping up to a two hundred yard gap behind them. I am
getting a bit worried about George. I notice a difference in how he is
walking. Its as if he is walking paying care and attention to when his
feet are touching the ground, as if he is placing them gently, not hard
like me or the others. He is also showing in his face as if he is carrying
a bit of pain, not moaning or anything but it is obvious. I ask him if he
is ok and feeling all right, he assures me that he is with the exception
of his knees, they are beginning to hurt. We would normally be talking
about anything for the sake of talking at this time, but I could sense
that George was concentrating on something else; again I see an expression
of pain on his face.
The phone rings, its Carol.
She tells me that the flowers and chocolates are all arranged and will be
delivered to Bernie the following day about 2.00pm, as this will catch her
coming in from work. She also informed me that the girls had left Glasgow
on the bus about an hour ago. This would mean they are not far away from
Loch Lomonside at present, maybe even just joining it. I asked Carol to
explain what they where all wearing and what they had done with their
hair. This was a good question to ask I thought as I new at least one of
three teenage girls would have something different about there hair going
away for a few days. I asked her what colour the bus was and what they
carried onto the bus with them as well as where they where sitting. Now we
are ready for a wind up. As kids they have tried it on with me so often,
its payback time.
“Right George” I say “The
girls are on a bus at this moment traveling up the other side of the Loch.
I’ll phone them and get them to start waving out the window, let them
believe we can see them.”
“You’re a sad man” was his
“Hello, Susan, it’s me” I
hear her telling Megan and Hannah its her dad.
“Where are you now” I ask.
She tells me that the three of them are on the bus going to Lochgilphead.
“But where exactly are you
just now on the bus”
“In the back seat” she
replies. Typical Chapelhall answer.
“No where about is the bus
just now?” She says they are passing Loch Lomond.
“Is it a blue and yellow
bus you are on?”
“Aye” she replies
“ Are you all sitting in
the back seat?”
“What’s Hannah watching on
the DVD?” I ask
“ How do you know that?”
Susan asks me.
“I can see you, see the big
mountain at the other side of the Loch, well we are right at the top of
it. I am looking at you through my binoculars, can you not see us, I am
waving at you”. I hear Susan tell the other two girls that I can see them
through Binoculars from the top of `that big mountain` on the other side
of the Loch.
“ No way” I hear Megan
“Tell Megan she doesn’t
suit her hair in a ponytail” I hear Susan telling her this and also that I
can see Hannah watching the DVD.
“Ask him what I am
watching” I hear Hannah say.
“Tell Hannah I cannot see
very clearly but it looks like `Cinderella story`”. Susan passes this on;
I hear them scream with laughter. I ask them to get to the right hand
side of the bus and start waving, telling them I cannot see them clearly
and to wave harder.
“We are “Susan says.
“You are breaking up now I
can’t hear you wave faster” I say as I cut off the phone.
“I will get my moneys worth
out of that one when they are all older” I inform George, once again he
reminds me that I am sad bastard.
“Does Alistair still
believe in the Celti-Chorous Bird” George asks.
Now this is a reference to
Alistair my nephew and Kenny’s son. On holiday in France I informed
Alistair that there was a very rare bird that was never seen north of
Paris due to it being too cold. It was Green and White and made the noise
of “Hail, Hail”, therefore it was called the Celti-Chorous bird after the
Celtic Song `Hail, Hail, the Celts are here`. I would go behind his tent
and shout in parrot style ” Hail, Hail”. Alistair returned to school at
the end of that summer and told his teacher and classmates the story of
this wonderful bird that is named after a Glasgow Celtic song.
“Do you think we can catch
Johnny out with something similar” I ask George
“I doubt it,” he says.
Worth a try maybe, I think
Moving down to where the
two paths meet again Kenny and Johnny are waiting for us. I think to
myself that George and myself can also have a short break, but not today
as Kenny and Johnny start to walk off as we reach them. I must have B.O.
The sky is getting greyer and once again I feel the chill that had woken
me this morning. Within a mile we are back on the shore. Walking on a path
that is now no more than a foot across, and heavily laden in tree roots.
There are now also several burns that have to be crossed and I am thankful
once again for my boots. They are keeping the water out. As the only way
across the burns is actually to plough through them my main concern is dry
feet. Thank God they aren’t deep. I foolishly never put a pair of dry
socks in the backpack this morning. I remember Kenny’s words, `keep a pair
of dry soaks with you at all times, you never know when you will need
them, and a towel`, I had neither and I would guess that George and Johnny
where in the same boat as me. However you would not think that of Johnny.
Like a seven-year-old kid ploughing through puddles, he did not give a
dam. If his feet were wet so be it, no point in avoiding burns or trying
to jump over them.
We made slow progress. The
rain came on heavier so I put on all the waterproofs and my biggles cap.
The ground under foot became very muddy and slippery. A few parts would be
considered treacherous as now fast flowing burns caused by the extra rain
had to be crossed and several points had already been washed away
previously. We managed these parts but again the rosary beads where back
in my hand. One slip and I was in the Loch. This was now hard going. Kenny
had said this would be the toughest part. I had to agree with him. I would
be holding on to trees, anything that would support me, keep me safe, and
keep me from slipping. I was beginning to think of Loch Lomond in totally
different light. I stopped briefly. I realised that Kenny was now a good
bit in front of me, George and Johnny where still behind. I couldn’t see
any of them. Looking around I cannot see the top of Beinn Bhreac a corbet
on the west side of the Loch. The cloud was now very low at a guess about
1,000 feet. I hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t fall any farther. The rain
was now very heavy; no other sounds just the rain battering off my
waterproofs. I think what if something happens to the others; Kenny, I
will walk into him that is if he is not in the water and George and Johnny
are together. I know George is beginning too struggle. I hope he is
coping, I know Johnny will stay with him. At that point my phone rings.
It’s the Sherpa.
“Where are you?” he asks
“Somewhere in Loch
Lomonside” I answer. I don’t want to small talk at this time. I have too
much on my mind.
“What time will you get to
Ardlui at?” he asks.
“ No Idea, I’ll call you
“Ok, Bye” short and sweet.
Again I feel great sense of
loneliness, some people actually enjoy doing stuff like this I think. I
come to a small opening. It only exposes me more to the elements. I almost
take the heart attack.
“For fuck sake” I say to
Sitting on a wooden bench
chair staring into the Loch I notice an old man, I stirred him and he
moved, stirring me, turning round to look at what had disturbed him. He
stared and I stared back. Is this a bloody ghost or what I think to
myself? He stares right through me. What the hell is he doing away out
here all himself. He looks as if he should be in ward 1 of Monklands
I say hello and ask him how
is he doing. He says fine and looks away, now with his back to me. Good
old Scots hospitality.
“Terrible day for it” I say
“Aye” he says back, not
looking at me but staring into the rain, straight ahead as if he dare not
look at any other thing especially the Loch.
I think how could this man
do this, be out here alone. He doesn’t look like a walker. He does look
all right, a bit `peely-wally` but otherwise he seems in perfect health. I
then notice about twenty yards on a small house, more of hut like the ones
at Carbeth, a small pier and a rowing boat tied up to it. The picture is
now a bit clearer. I feel a bit happier. He is probably a bit eccentric,
and the hut is his holiday home, probably been coming here all his life
doing a bit of fishing. The chair he is sitting on was probably made by
him and placed there by him, so he could sit and relax and watch the world
go bye. But one bit I couldn’t understand, `It’s bloody teeming with
rain` and very cold, no sign of any fishing just sitting there rain
bathing with his pipe in his mouth, no smoke either. I walk on; he isn’t
in the mood for talking. I am just a bit perplexed and not afraid to say,
a wee bit scared, a Scooby-doo moment.
“ Raggy, Raggy, I bet its
old Mr. McGregor,” I say to myself in a Scooby-doo voice, I should have
unmasked him when I had the chance, but why bother as Thelma and the
others were not there for me to show off my superior investigative skills.
I could have exposed him as Loch Lomonds very own white gutty man. I never
noticed his foot wear so I will ask the guys when I see them if they
noticed what he was wearing.
Walking by the hut I
notice that it could be doing with a few repairs here and there, no way
can anyone be living in that now. I cross a bridge over one of the bigger
burns at its mouth flowing into the Loch. I look back, but don’t see
anyone, not even Johnny or George, not even the White Gutty man, the seat
is empty, now that is weird. I look forward, no sign of Kenny; I am
getting the hell out of here.
The phone rings again. It’s
“Where are you?” he asks.
“I’m just walking across
the bridge over the burn”
“Is the old boy still
“Who the white gutty man”
“So you noticed too?” Kenny
My heart sank again. I step
up the pace. Thank god Kenny had seen him as well, probably not a ghost at
“Aye, I saw him a wee bit
back sitting on the bench staring out on to the Loch. I nearly had to stop
and check my drawers the bloody fright he gave me, scary old bass that he
“ He must live in the
green hut” Kenny says.
I agree. He informs me that
he is only about five minutes ahead and is making good progress towards
Inversnaid and should be there in about forty-five minutes. I told him not
to wait on us and to carry on and get out the rain as soon as he can. He
had also called the other two and they are ok, Johnny was still with
George and staying with him and where practically on my back. I felt ok
now that we had made contact with the rest of the guys and carried on.
If anything it got worse.
The terrain is bad on the feet, undulating by the yard. No sign of a let
up in the weather, the path still kept disappearing in places and where it
can be seen was slippery and dangerous and hanging over the Loch with a
six foot drop into it at times. I felt quite scared, the others seem fine.
I will take my time; don’t rush, slow down let George and Johnny catch up
with me. This is probably the loneliest and most vulnerable I have felt in
my entire life. I keep on thinking what if something happens, something
bad. I got these three guys into this situation. They came along because I
asked them. More to support me in walking the WHW than raising money for
charity. I think of this responsibility. Having embraced responsibility
all my life this was one time it did not sit comfortably with me. Again I
ask God to protect Johnny, George and Kenny and not forgetting the Sherpa.
I wonder what cosy café he is sitting in. This brings a smile to my face.
Fish teas indeed.
The rain begins to let up
and before long it is off once again, but the sky tells me that it is
taking a break only. I do see a bit of hope. I trudge through the path.
Watching every step I take. I think if there are wonderful sites to be
seen, I will miss them all. How many reindeer have seen me this afternoon,
and how many have I missed due to my gaze being on the ground, watching
every step I take. I here voices, kids voices.
I look up and about thirty
yards in front of me I can make out about six or seven kids, all standing
in a group. As I get closer I notice they have maps and flags. They all
look about twelve years old, first years I would guess. They see me coming
and don’t seem bothered at all. I assume that they have walked out from
the hotel that I would say at a guess would only be about ten minutes from
here. Looks like a spot of orienteering going on and they have come out
after the rain had stopped.
“Where’s the pub from here”
“It’s about four hours down
that path mister,” one says pointing in the direction of the way.
I laugh, a twelve year old
is trying to take the piss, superb. He gives it away by giving me a sly
smile at the same time. Their Akeala buts in;
“You’re only ten minutes
away from the hotel mister”
I thank them all and leave
them be, telling them to hurry up two old blokes that are coming behind me
and to tell them that Celtic have signed Ronaldhino this morning, as well
as to be careful, as the White Gutty man is only half an hour away.
I carry on, I can hear a
fast flowing burn and then I notice the hotel. Eventually through the
trees I find a narrow plank onto a metal bridge over part of the Snaid
burn. I look up the waterfall, it is a sight I am familiar with having
visited Inversnaid before. It feels good to be here. I check my watch it’s
three o `clock, not bad I think and with another five miles after this we
should make the Ardlui ferry by six o` clock including an hours rest here
as we need it, well I do. The path now leads up to a bigger metal bridge
over the waterfall and then down metal stairs leading into the car park at
the rear of the Inversnaid Hotel. I think well that’s the hard part over,
I thank God asking him to bring George and Johnny in safely behind me. I
deserve a pint.
I follow the sign for the
walker’s entrance. This takes us into the hotel ballroom where another
sign informs me to leave all equipment, clothing and boots on the stage. I
notice Kenny; he’s organised, sannies out and a pint of Guinness. He asks
me if I would like a pint. I tell him I will see to it myself on the way
back from the loo. I do as the sign says removing all that is required
before moving into the bar in my socks. It’s really nice and cosy and not
another soul to be seen except the barman. My feet feel sore having
removed the boots. I walk as if I am on a bed of coals. The barman doesn’t
react in anyway to my predicament. He must have seen this a thousand
times. I order up a pint of Guinness and go to the loo.
On returning the barman is
a bit more reactive and is now willing to talk.
“Well I’m glad that’s the
hard bit over “I say
“Are you getting the boat
over to the other side and walking up the road then.”
“No we are walking farther
up to get the Ardlui ferry and staying there for the night”
“Well I hate to waste your
day, the worst is still to come”
I feel like lying down on
the floor and crying. Kenny had told us that up to Inversnaid would be the
worst part. I remember again that it is eleven years since Kenny had last
done this; I can forgive him his confusion as he has got us this far. I
chew the fat with the barman for a short time and then head back into the
Back in the ballroom Johnny
and George enter at the same time as me. Drowned rats come to mind. They
look exactly how I feel.
“I that was a dawdle that
bit Kenny” Johnny directs this at our Akeala. Sarcasm is the only thing
that is shinning through today.
“The hard bits over” Kenny
replies. I didn’t have the heart to share with the others what the barman
has just told me. He said that almost half the people who call into the
hotel going north cross the Loch and walk to Inverarnan on the busy A82
road as the next part is extremely dangerous, especially in bad weather as
the path all but disappears completely for about three miles along the
Lochs edge. I say the Lochs edge as he told me there is no shore: just
rocks and boulders. I should have brought ropes. I do wonder about what he
said. I have traveled that road many a time in the car and there is no way
I would walk it. I cannot believe that walking on the west side is safer
than walking on this side, the east.
I can see the statement he
made being true if he said they got the bus or phoned a taxi, but anyone
who recommends walking the A82 has other personal issues especially from
Inveruglas to Inverarnan, there are parts of that road that two large
vehicles cannot pass at the same time and there is no pavement that I know
of between any villages.
The two teddy bears
(Rangers supporters) take off all that is required. George looks
absolutely terrible and sits alone on the stage while Johnny goes to the
bar and gets the lagers in, if he was racehorse he would probably be taken
outside and shot at this point. I get my sannies out of the bag and go
over to Kenny who is sitting at the opposite side of the ballroom from us
at the windows. It’s as if he wants to be alone, he is not looking too
good. I say this to him as I approach and at the same time I see the blood
from his thumb lifting two feet into the air like water from a kids
“ What are you doing?” I
“I’m trying to relieve the
pressure on the swelling on my thumb,” he informs me.
I notice the first aid kit
on the table; he is sticking pins into his thumb and then pressing it,
squirting blood into the air sitting by the window to improve his light. I
decide not to sit beside him.
“No offence Kenny but I
think I’ll eat my sannies over here. I walk back to the stage beside
George, as there is no blood rushing from him to spoil my sannies. He
looks as if he is ready to slit his own throat so I better hurry-up and
“Are you alright” I ask
“I am absolutely knackered,
my knees are done in”
There is only another four
mile to go I tell him but offer him the chance to get the ferry from here
across the Loch and the Sherpa can pick him up and drive him up to Ardlui.
He refuses the offer and
gives me the impression that I have offended him. I hope I haven’t as I am
only thinking of his own health and well being, Gerry will kill me if
anything happens to him. Should I share with him what the barman has told
me? I decide to share the barman’s story with them all. I hope I have done
the right thing. If I know that the next part is going to be extremely
difficult it is only right that they all know this.
I am quite encouraged by
there reaction. They are all up for it and sounding quite positive. I
didn’t remind them that we had also to build the tent and get the dinner
ready at the end of all this as well. I do wish the President were here
tonight; it would have been a big bonus to get to Ardlui and everything
ready in the campsite.
Kenny suggests that we call
the hotel at Ardlui and check what time the last ferry would sail at. It
was times like this that I was glad that I had filled my phone with every
number I could possibly think that may well be needed. The receptionist at
the Ardlui hotel who also runs the campsite tells me that the ferry stops
at seven o’clock. She also informs me that a man has been hanging around
the hotel all day waiting for us. I asked her if he is wearing white
gutties and has he had a fish tea. She ignored this question. It was now
just after four o’clock, with about four and half miles to walk, or crawl,
this gave us only two and half to three hours to do this or it would be
another two miles farther on to Beinglas farm our only other option for to
night, but this would have meant walking the last part in darkness. This
is not an option.
The phone rings;
“Where are you” it’s the
“The lassie in the hotel
told me you better hurry up or there is a chance you wont` get the ferry”
I wasn’t prepared for this
conversation and I passed the phone to Johnny. He told James not to worry
that we would arrive in time.
We all gathered our gear
together and put on all the clothing removed earlier. As we head out into
the car park at Inversnaid no one takes the time to notice the
surroundings. No mention of the ferry approaching on the Loch, no mention
of the Power station on the west side, no mention of the falling clouds.
It is going to get worse, I knew it and so did the others. We opened our
hippies and we all took a swig. No toasts.
We first approached the
shore from the Inversnaid pier. This was very rocky and the small rocks
where in no time overtaking with larger ones, big enough to crawl over. I
thought of an old work colleague who would travel to Fontainebleau in
France just to climb over big rocks, I think what is that all about and
Andy actually enjoys this. It wasn’t easy. I was not fit enough for this,
it was a struggle. We had to help each other all the way, watching,
lending a hand. This was very slow. We came to Rob Roy’s cave. I wasn’t
going to look inside as it meant going back on ourselves for a short bit
and that broke rule number one. I wanted to see this cave; it has played a
big part in our history. As well as being a sanctuary for Rob Roy it was
also a sanctuary for Robert The Bruce.
After the death of
Wallace, executed by the English in 1305, Bruce was outlawed and fled, his
wife was taken hostage and his lands and castle were seized. At one point
he came to a cave where a flock of goats were resting, having chased the
goats outside, he hid in the cave. English soldiers who were searching for
Bruce came near the cave, but when they saw the flock of goats grazing
near the cave-mouth, they thought that there is no one inside. If someone
were in the cave the goats would have run off scared. In gratitude for
saving his life Bruce when he became King of Scotland passed a law that
the goats were to be allowed to roam free forever. I think the soldiers
where just to bloody lazy to crawl over all these rocks and have a look.
If I were hiding in Scotland, being chased for my life I would consider
coming here. I think that will be the only time that I will come back to
We plodded through burns,
crawled over more rocks. We shoved the Feral Goats out the way. We had
rain, always rain except when the hail stones came. This made our way more
treacherous than ever. What was once slippery now became an ice rink, for
a short while. I wasn’t sure if we were even on the way. There was no sign
of the path. Our heads were all down. This was torture, hell on earth. I
thought of all the guys that I have spoken to over the years, the Munroe
baggers, the ramblers, the bloody eedjits who actually enjoy this; they
must be off their heads. What is enjoyable about this?
It was getting dark and no
sign of the rain halting. At this time of year darkness came by seven
thirty, but the heavy rain cloud brought it early tonight. I held my
rosary hard in my hand. I know I will make this. I know the others will
too. I think again of why I am here and the others. I promised to do
something to help others. To do something that would take me away from the
dreary life of doing nothing, from the life of everyday being the same and
nothing changing, accepting it and living with it as if there was nothing
else. I had asked my friends to come along with me, knowing they would,
knowing they wouldn’t say no. I hope they are not cursing that morning at
Carnwath golf course when they volunteered to take this on. It was so long
ago now. At the time it was something else to do. To get away from daily
routines, have a bit of a laugh and some craic and personally to stop the
bread from falling `Jam Side Down`. I don’t hear anyone laughing I don’t
here the craic. The voices are silent but I can hear them holding back the
pain, keeping it too themselves.
What will happen if I give
up? I would gladly do it this very moment. I have crawled, scraped and
scrambled my way along this Lochs edge. The rain cannot get more profound
than what it is now; the clouds are sitting on my head. My heart is
racing, feeling as if it will beat me today to the end. I want to go home,
but what will they all think. I cannot do this. Will they say, “I knew
it”? I am still standing, bent over, with the walk that has come upon us
this afternoon. I have friends with me, some are at my side, some are
looking down on me, some are thinking of me at this very moment, some are
guarding me, some are protecting me as I take one step at a time, as I
pull one piece of this Loch back to me at a time, what it has been trying
to take away from me, it is mine, I will not give in to it, this is one
piece of life’s loaf that will land `Jam Side Up`.
Kenny says that he will
step up a gear to ensure that one of us get to the ferry pier before seven
o’clock and signal the ferry to come across and get us. I say, “Good
shout”. If we were toiling to get there by seven well Kenny could signal
the ferry to come over at seven, buying us all about ten minutes extra to
get there. The hotel who ran the ferry where expecting us, I am sure they
will not leave us stranded.
My phone beeps, a message.
Song for the day. I take the phone out. Johnny and George are waiting to
hear what it is. I know they are not interested and sorry Tom, work mate,
at this point I am not interested either.
“ I don’t believe it, `Road
To Hell` by Chris Rea, how appropriate”
We all have a snigger, but
no one is singing today. My phone is not long in my pocket and George’s
rings as well. It’s Gerry. I decide to walk away and let them talk. I look
back at George, I think of his pain, its getting worse; I see it in his
face. Every step is toil. He should not be doing this. I will have to talk
him out of this tomorrow. At least encourage him to rest for a day. I hope
he will listen.
We start to move away from
the shore with a slight climb, not too strenuous. The path quickly starts
downward again and I see the boothy at Doune, I think that might have to
do tonight, but it would mean breaking rule one. If we hadn’t a boat to
catch it would make a welcome rest. The way was now a bit better but the
rain is not halting. We where back on grass/dirt path, although it was
heavy laden with water. I can see the Ardlui hotel in the distance. On
the map it looks as if we have about a mile to go. However the map tells
me that we are back down onto the shore, about two hundred yards ahead. My
relief was short; I hope it is better than what we have just come through.
Again I have pulled away from George and Johnny and I look back to see
where they are. I notice that they are not to far behind and going by my
calculations we should all reach the ferry pier with about ten minutes to
The phone rings, its Kenny.
He asks me if I have passed the boothy and I tell him yes. He says that we
will reach the ferry in about ten minutes time. I tell him to wait five
minutes before signaling the boat, as its now six thirty. This will allow
us all to get to the pier in time for the boat crossing the Loch. George
is now almost a standing pedestrian due to the pain in his knees. I wait
on him and Johnny to tell them the good news that the ferry is no more
than fifteen minutes away and we should make it in time. There is no
The shoreline we now walk
on is not to bad, but the rain still has not stopped. I hope the worst is
over as we were out of the trees into open space and could see our goal
for today. My thoughts now went to raising tents. Dinner wasn’t an issue;
we can find something to eat in the hotel, save a lot of bother. I thought
about mentioning bed and breakfast at the hotel but I didn’t want to put
any pressure on the guys regarding costs. It was always my intention that
costs would be a minimum, hence the tent, but the tent is not working.
There is no way we can raise it in this weather. I’ll deal with that
question when we are on the boat. I am thinking that if anyone wants to go
home tonight they could climb into the van and James can bring them back
again tomorrow. Not a bad option I thought.
The path now leaves the
shore and into some parkland. I see the ferry pier, flag pole and Kenny.
It is about one hundred yards away from the path back down onto the shore.
I notice the cottage to my right with a couple of outhouses or barns as I
walk down to the pier. There is a light on, I wonder if they would do bed
and breakfast. I wait on Johnny who is now in front of George by a hundred
“Nearly home John Boy” I
“I am bugered, absolutely
knackered” is Johnny’s only reply. He looks like he has just went ten
rounds with Tyson in a swimming pool fully clothed. George is next. I say
to him that he should rest tomorrow, as he does not know what damage is
”I’ll wait and see,” he
tells me” I’ll be fine in the morning”
“Two many hard tackles in
the past has caused the dodgy knees” is my diagnosis.
We reach the pier, Kenny
has the flag in the air but there is still no sign of the boat coming over
to get us and there is no shelter from the rain.
The phone rings, it’s the
“Where are yies?” he asks
“Waiting on the boat,” I
“He’ll be there shortly he
is just firing it up”
“Good “I say,” James where
are you just now?”
“I’m at the reception
paying for the campsite fees”
“Ask the lady if she has
any caravans to hire tonight,” I ask. The heads are lifted.
“Oh well its worth a try” I
said” See you soon”. “Nothing”
Their heads all bow once
more. We are all quite quiet, not saying much. I think of today’s walk. It
was hard, very hard. Not helped by the weather and the quality of the
track, we are all deflated. We had spoke about this and had said that as
long as one of us was up and we were all never down at the same time we
would get through this. We were all down with not much to look forward to
at the other side of the Loch. Maybe that is now the issue, the thought of
not having a bed tonight, sleeping in the tent, a tent we cannot put up
due to this rain. The boat comes into view. It’s a small fishing boat
about twelve feet long with a cabin at the front. I had used them a few
times fishing on Loch Tay. It arrives in no time and we clamber aboard. We
agree to pay the ferryman on the return journey as none of us had enough
money on us to do so now.
Johnny brings light to the
darkness” Why don’t we book in bed and breakfast”
The words where not out his
mouth and we all answered; “Aye” in harmony. Great shout John boy.
The ferryman had told us
that he had bother getting the `putt- putt` started. Johnny was calling
him Para Handy but he was more of a mechanic with a boat to me than a
skipper of a tug. No one spoke; I believe we are all praying that there
are rooms available at the hotel. Being exposed to the elements in the
boat made no difference, we where soaked through to the skin, it could not
do any more harm, in fact it felt good, the wind now rushing against us. I
had a feeling of achievement and also pride. The good Lord could not have
flung anything else at us and I am sure if he had he would have been there
to help us once again. This is a memory that will always be with me, one
that will always be very vivid, like the giving and taking of life itself.
This is one story to tell the grandchildren I thought.
Para Handy looks around and
shouts to us all that there is no need to worry now, there is a blazing
fire in the bar and the best pint on the Loch behind it. He was a small
man about thirty years of age, in his blue overalls, with several layers
of clothing underneath and a woolen tammy on his head. I thought he makes
us all look like a bunch of wimps in our full walking attire, fully
protected from the elements, but it was probably the couple of inches of
machine oil that covered all exposed parts of his body that was protecting
him. We arrived on the Lochs west shore at the pier of the Ardlui Hotel.
Please God let their be room at the Inn.
James is flustered; his
main concern is to get home. We had told him this morning that we would
arrive by five o’clock but we are now about two and half hours late. He
had told Eleanor his wife that he was coming home tonight as he was going
to pick up Peter the President in the morning after he had finished his
night shift and bring him up to join us. We had still to confirm with
Peter if he was coming tomorrow or Wednesday. I thought I’d better phone
him right away, as he would be leaving for work soon. I did not have the
opportunity to think of this earlier. I got on the phone as we walked to
the hotel reception.
Peter answered and I asked
him if he would be coming up tomorrow or Wednesday. He said that he could
not make it tomorrow but definitely Wednesday. My immediate thought was
another scenario like tonight’s too look forward too tomorrow. But on the
plus side, it should be easier from Wednesday.
“Do you want me to bring
anything up with me on Wednesday” he asks
” Aye, a caravan”. I reply
“If James is still coming
down tonight ask him to call by here and pick-up some more water” He adds.
As an employee of Highland Spring Peter has become a major sponsor of our
walk supplying us all with bottled water. I thank him for that and say my
Johnny’s first at the desk
and doing the deal. Two rooms, have you got them and how much. Great, deal
done. We had secured two rooms bed and breakfast for the sum of £52.00 per
head. The receptionist told us this was our only available option as there
were no caravans available and the campsite was closed due to flooding. We
all agreed no questions asked. We needed this after two nights camping
and a day in Hell, after what we had gone through today this seemed great
value for money, well worth it. As the going rate for Bed and Breakfast
around these parts is about twenty-five pounds I do think to myself
however that this is a bit of a rip off. These people know that they have
a captive audience here. I have been in national hotel chains that give
better value. I suppose we are paying for the view I thought, but not
today. Johnny says that he will pay all the bills with his Visa card and
we agree to give him the cash when get to Fort William. The girl asks if
we are walkers. Johnny says no, deep see fisherman, without the boat.
Although Peter is not
coming to join us tomorrow James says he will still travel home and come
back tomorrow and go back down for Peter again on Wednesday morning. I am
quite glad, as this will save him the cost of bed and breakfast. I say to
the others if they want to do the same also, again I have a bit of a guilt
trip regarding this extra cost incurred by us all. But no, we will all
stay and get an early start in the morning so there is no one going to
slow us up due to the rest of the crew waiting for them. I feel blessed at
this time to have these guys with me. I am on the bell first tonight.
We get our bags and the
carry out from the van and tell James to come back here tomorrow at a time
to suit himself to pick up our gear. We would be away before he got here
so we would call him on the mobile phone to fill him in with all the
details regarding tomorrow’s stops and campsite. I ask him to call by
Peters house in the morning to pick up more water and another camera and
spools for myself. We all live in the same area and this would not be an
issue with James. As he was Peters wife and my wife’s cousin I remind him
that this will be a good opportunity for him to visit some of his
relatives. I cannot help but envy James tonight, as he has to travel back
home. As well as going back home again on Wednesday morning for the
President I realise that not everyone would do what we are asking of
James. If Carlsberg did Sherpas?
We are shown our rooms, two
twins across the landing from one and other.
“Right Lisbon Lions Stand
to the left and Copeland Road End to the right” I point out.
Kenny and myself take the
door on the left and George and Johnny the door on the right. The girl
tells us that there is a drying area for all wet clothes and boots and if
we leave everything we want dried out at reception she will have them
placed in the drying room to ensure we have a dry start tomorrow. It feels
great. I want to lay in the bed and go to sleep. But first I have to get
the wet clothes off and have a hot shower. I don’t even know if I could be
bothered to go to the dining room to get dinner, at this time all I wanted
was to crawl up in a warm corner and sleep.
I bag the shower first.
Kenny pours us a half each, a good half I may add, we toast each other and
fling it back, the glasses are re-filled in no time. I go through my bag
for a change of clothes. I ask myself why have I brought all this gear
with me? I have enough clothes to have done myself for two weeks holiday.
There are fourteen t-shirts, two pairs of trousers, two pairs of shorts,
two pairs of shoes (one gutties, one walking), one tammy, one skip hat, a
book that I have been attempting to read now for over a year and one pair
of walking socks, outers and inners and six pairs of boxers. But wait,
where are all the other socks. I had left out eight pairs of socks and
another two pairs of walking socks but they are not to be seen anywhere. I
had last seen them on Sunday, so they must be somewhere. I need to phone
Bernie. Dialing the number I realise that since Saturday morning I have
used two t-shirts and changed my underwear daily and footwear once. This
tells me that I have probably seven t-shirts, one pair of trousers, two
pairs of shorts one pair of shoes, a book, a tammy and skip hat that I
need not have bothered bringing with me. I think that I should send all I
don’t require back home with the Sherpa tomorrow night.
Bernie is not at home. I
realise that she will be down at her mums in Calderbank as usual on a
Monday night. I ask Ewen to go to the chemist and get three APS spools for
the camera and say to him to ask his mum to put them in a bag along with
my APS camera and the two pairs of walking socks that I seemed to have
left somewhere in the house. Bernie never mentioned yesterday that she had
come across the socks so I wonder if I have actually left them or lost
them. I tell Ewen to tell his mum that I will call tomorrow.
I have a very welcoming
shower. I take today’s socks into the shower with me and wash them, just
in case I need them on Wednesday.
As I am getting dry I
realise that although we had constant rain I could feel my face burning,
not by the sun, but by the wind and rain. I was a bit weather beaten to
say the least. I had brought a moisturising lotion along, as this is
something I am used to using being a golfer. I am always being asked where
I have been on holiday because of my tanned-skin face, but this is due to
the Scottish weather pounding me on the golf course every other week,
summer and winter. Johnny comes into the room and I offer him some
moisturiser as well as his face looks sore. He says the hotel has provided
some already and showed me where it was to be found, in the basket on the
shelf in the bathroom along with the shampoo. Kenny confirms as he has
already used our ration. Once ready Kenny and myself go across the landing
to the Copeland Road Stand.
George is in his bed and
with a reference to our recently deceased Holy Father Pope John Paul the
2nd, Johnny points out how much George looks like him lying there in bed
with the covers up to his chin, just showing his head. I do feel like I am
walking past a dead body lying in state, all he needs is the mitre on his
head I think. Again I tell George that he needs to rest tomorrow, as he is
not looking too clever. There is no response. Johnny is showered and is
getting dressed for dinner. George says he will join us later.
“This moisturiser is awfy
sticky” Johnny says as he rubs it into his face.” My hands are all sticky
too,” he informs us.
Kenny picks up the tube
that he has dispensed the cream from and takes great comfort in telling
Johnny that he is moisturising his face with shampoo.
Even the dead pope on the
Kenny and myself leave
while Johnny washes again. I tell them we will get them in the bar as
there is a bar menu available and we are assured that the food is first
class by our receptionist. We gather all our wet clothes and boots
together and drop them off in front of reception as requested and leave
the hotel by its main entrance running round the side of the building to
minimize another soaking from the rain to the bar entrance that steps out
directly onto the busy A82 trunk road.
In the bar the barmaid
makes us very welcome. Two pints of Guinness are quickly ordered. Para
Handy is here talking to what looks like his apprentice and a well-dressed
man in a suit. Going by the conversation between them I would say that the
suit is also local and by calling someone local in these parts could mean
that they live within twenty miles of the pub. At the other end of the
bar, there is a very large lady, to say the least. I am talking Mama
Cass’s big sister here. She asks us if we are walkers and I tell her we
are and doing the WHW along with Kenny and another two mates who should be
joining us shortly. I have a bit of a blether with her and the suit, Para
Handy and the apprentice are joining us in no time also.
The usual small talk takes
place, and the usual answers, Where are you from?” Aye, I suppose someone
has to come from there” Are you doing it for charity? “No it’s a walking
diet we area all on” What other stops have you planned? “Just Fort
William when the bus gets us there tomorrow, and so on. George and Johnny
now join us; George is looking a wee bit better, it must be the thought of
a hot meal and a few pints of walking fuel.
I show Mama Cass’s big
sister my sponsor sheet that I have with me at all times. It gives her a
little information about St Andrews Hospice and the purpose it serves. She
gives me five pounds and writes her address as the pitch number her
caravan is situated on in the adjacent caravan park. I look at the sheet
and thank Evelyn for her kindness.
”We all sit at the table
next to the big fire and ordered our meal. The food is excellent and well
worth the visit to the hotel itself. We talk about tomorrows walk. Will it
get any better? Kenny doesn’t seem too sure. He suggests that it might be
better and safer walking up the road to Inverarnan. He asks us all what we
think. The general consensus was that today was not safe in fact it was
very dangerous at parts and taking the road until we reach Inverarnan or
Crianlarich might be safer. Para Handy buts in.
“Don’t be daft boys. There
is no pavement between here and Crianlarich; you would be road kill in no
time. You’ve done the hardest part, I assure you”
I think, and then agree out
“Aye you’re right, I’ve
traveled that road many a time by car. I think we should stay on the way,
but again its up to you, what do you all think. I’ll be happy as long as I
get to Fort William on Friday.”
Kenny tells us that the
Forestry commission workers at Cashell had told him to stick to the high
road when the way split along the Loch and it would be very difficult on
the shore paths but once they are out the way things do improve
The consensus is stick with
We had one more pint while
we watched a bit of the Monday night football on sky. It was an easy
choice, bar or carry out in the Copeland Road End.
We all went upstairs and
got changed for the first time into our sleeping gear and went to George
and Johnny’s room to have a drink as George was pleading for his bed. He
was sleeping in no time. He looked dead in his bed and gave me the feeling
that I would expect to have only when sitting around a dieing man. I
suggested to Kenny and Johnny that maybe we should all knell around his
bed and say a rosary. Kenny looked at me as if to say are you half daft,
Johnny looked as if he thought I was serious. I then said no, a bad idea;
if he did wake up he would probably die of a heart attack seeing us bead
rattlers all praying around him. The craic continued and for the first
time today we felt like a team again although we had one on the bench
injured. It was good to just chill out for the rest of the night. We spoke
about today’s walk and the good thing was that Loch Lomond has now been
conquered; we have done the hardest part. I am sure we all felt a great
sense of achievement, and rightly so. Every part of Loch Lomond was
discussed even the parts we didn’t see. Like the Kangaroo Island where
wild wallabies live. Johnny doesn’t believe me. But this is true, I swore
“Did you see the white
gutty man just before Inversnaid?” I asked Johnny
“Right taxi for Kerr”
Johnny replies. By this reply I can assume both Johnny and George never
seen him, I wonder.
We sat to about eleven
o’clock and my eyes where getting heavy. I volunteered to move first
tonight. Johnny shouts ditcher; this is shouted three more times by eleven
thirty, once by myself, once by Kenny and once by Johnny. We toasted
George lying in his bed and said good night to the Rangers end. We had
just sat on our beds and Kenny says one more ditcher. I am not going to be
in the best of fetal in the morning. The lights are out. I think of
today’s walk and all that we went through, about George, about the weather
and the walking conditions. The white gutty man. I now realised why all
those daft Munroe baggers and ramblers do this. I realise now what it is,
its very enjoyable once you have completed it, I have done it, I have
survived this, and I have achieved something that I didn’t think I ever
could. I have a story to tell. Walk to Fort William, a dawdle.
I fall asleep thinking;
don’t forget to phone Bernie, it’s now our wedding anniversary.