Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Day 2 - Twenty men in kilts

I am sitting in an elderly couple's back garden in the sunshine with a wonderfully cold glass of coca cola. I was on the hunt for something to eat in the village of Achluachrach (unpronounceable name, I know), but according to the couple, the next pub is a two-hour walk away. So the man offered me lunch - and minutes later I'm sitting on the grass, holding a plate loaded with cake and cookies.

The morning started fairly late with a fruit bun and newspaper in my log pod. With everything packed up, I had to cross the river Spean again. The camping site owner was kind enough to lend me a big wooden stick, which made fantastic pole for crossing the river without getting my feet wet at all (this time). 

I returned to path I had left yesterday afternoon by climbing under a fence (one of many to come) and then continued on the nice forest track up onto a kind of plateau, mainly inhabited by dozens of sheep.

From up here I have fantastic views over the nearby mountains, and I can see a little crofter's hut up on the hill next to me where an old railway line used to be.
It's extremely hot, so I am glad to pass a sun-lit forest before arriving at Monessie Farm. The gates here are actually tied shut, and I feel a bit like I'm trespassing when untying the ropes.

Shortly after the farm, I take a wrong turn and end up at a river ford instead of a bridge. So, back again to the junction, where I take another wrong turn (before I didn't even notice this was a junction, so it's amazing that the second path I took from there was a wrong one as well) that leads deep into the forest. There is supposed to be a bridge somewhere, but when I finally find it, I am separated from the bridge by a high fence. Back again at the junction I finally find the right path, that gets me to the suspension bridge. It is very wobbly, and looking down on the gurgling water in the gorge below me doesn't help. There's also a lovely waterfall, which probably looks a bit more impressive after rain. On the other side of the bridge is the elderly couple's back garden...

The next stop is an old church on a hill behind Achluachrach. It's quite a steep ascent, so I leave my backpack on the side of the road. The view from Cille Choirill Church is amazing...
I sit down on a bench (you can see it in the picture above) and relax - until a group of very young teenagers arrives.
Back over the suspension bridge it goes, and over fields. After a whole day of meeting nobody but sheep on the walk, I can suddenly see some colourful moving dots in the distance. On coming closer, they turn out to be about twenty men in kilts (and some of them are wearing nothing but those).
It turns out, they are walking the East Highland Way for charity - fundraising for the Edinburgh-based charity CCLASP. They are an interesting bunch, and soon we get talking. As we are taking the same route, I decide to walk with them - and put away my guidebook, because they look as if they knew where we have to go. Well, they don't.
We get lost quite a few times, which is fun, and we cross the (same) river four or five times, which is also fun (especially because my shoes get wet only once). We climb fences (including some barbed wire ones), and cross a wet bog.

At some point, we reach a road, where some of the guys get a taxi back to their vans, so that they can pick us up later. They also take my backpack with them, so I'm walking much easier from now on. After even more stream-crossing and boggy ground, we walk over the railway tracks and suddenly stand on the A86 again, where we get picked up by the vans.
The men give me a lift to my hostel in Tulloch, which is part of the station there. I am the only guest, and get a private room instead of a dorm bed. Interesting how the day turned out. Had someone told me that I would walk the EHW with twenty men in kilts, I would have laughed...
Read more about my East Highland Way trip here.

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