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Jam Side Down
Traveling the West Highland Way by William Kerr
Chapter 4


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 Continues.

“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 was open.

“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 protest.

“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 woods.

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 Bannockburn.

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 or stepping-stones.

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 the bus.

 “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 that time.

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 reply.

“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?”

“Aye”  

“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 say.

“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 to myself.

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 later”

“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 myself.

 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 General Hospital.

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 Kenny.

“Where are you?” he asks.

“I’m just walking across the bridge over the burn”

“Is the old boy still sitting there”?

“Who the white gutty man”

“So you noticed too?” Kenny replies.

My heart sank again. I step up the pace. Thank god Kenny had seen him as well, probably not a ghost at all.

“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 is.”

 “ 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” I ask

“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 ballroom.

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 pistol.

“ What are you doing?” I ask

“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 eat these.

“Are you alright” I ask him.

“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 Sherpa

“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 this.

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 spare.

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 response.

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 yards.

“Nearly home John Boy” I say

“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 being done.

”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 Sherpa.

“Where are yies?” he asks

“Waiting on the boat,” I say

“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 good-byes.

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 bed laughs.

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 loud.

“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 drastically.

The consensus is stick with the way.

 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 to him.

“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.


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