Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Walking the West Highland Way - Episode 5 : What the Devil????????

Leaving the King’s House, we continued along the old narrow military road while heavy threatening clouds hung overhead, like banners around the tops of the neighbouring mountains, obscuring any views of their peaks.

My brother and nephew had taken the option of having their rucksacks sent on ahead to the hostel in Kinlochleven, our next resting place. My son and I carried our full rucksacks. Knowing my luck, if I had entrusted it to a company as my brother and nephew had done, that would probably be the last I would see of it.

Anyway, on this part of the walk we had to negotiate an upward gradient called “The Devil’s Staircase”. This apparently scary name held no fears for me, as it clearly couldn’t really be the Devil’s staircase as I do not believe in such medieval entities as devils, demons, angels, goblins, fairies, elves, trolls…………I think you get the picture. Also, I didn’t believe that it could be that torturous a climb as I had taken a look on the map and it was clear that I had been up far steeper hills than this before. Also, I know of at least one person who is much less fit than myself, and managed to get over it, so I just knew it wouldn’t live up to it’s name. I was right. When we finally came upon it, I knew I had definitely made the right decision in hanging on to my rucksack. Ascending the scary “staircase” was a walk in the park. We passed quite a number of fellow walkers, many of whom had just stopped to admire the view.

Once over the “staircase” it was pretty plain sailing down into Kinlochleven. Then my mobile phone rang. It was my wife. She was staying at her sister’s while I was on my adventure and she rang to ask how I was getting on and to wish me well. I really appreciated the call, even though I was coping well with the walk, despite the still intense pain from my horsefly bite, I was nevertheless really tired and looking forward to the finish the following day when we were due to arrive in Fort William. So, hearing my dear wife raised my spirits. I was alone at this point. I had stopped to take a solitary pee, and when I finished and got walking again, my comrades had disappeared ahead, not to be seen again by me until my arrival in Kinlochleven. What the Hell! I was past caring. I decided I would walk slowly, deliberately with indolent ease. There was no rush. Why rush? I wasn’t for rushing.

Presently, I caught sight of a corner of Kinlochleven, in the far distance, and a long way below me. From a purely psychological point of view, this was good. Even though I still had a few miles still to go, the fact that I could see where I was headed made me put a spring in my step. Even so, I had to ensure that my step was not too springy, as the going got very steep – downwards. Any undue stepping springiness at this point was liable to send me falling arse over head, so I held back, leaned back and took very careful, deliberate and decidedly unspringy steps. Anyone who has done any hill walking will know that walking on a stony, rocky track down a steep incline is far harder and more painful than going up. Well, it was painful alright, to the point that I was swearing under my breath for quite a prolonged period. When anybody passed me, I kept the swearing in my head, rather than verbalise it, not wanting to cause offence to anyone, given how easily people are offended these days………if you believe the media.

The phone rang again. It was my son. He had arrived at the hostel and was wondering what was keeping me. I was reassured by the thought that at least one of our group was thinking of me! He asked me what I saw looking around me. I told him what I saw looking around me. It was pipes. Big pipes – lots of pipes. They were water carrying pipes, and ran down the steep slope of the hill. My son was glad I could see the pipes because it meant he was able to tell me I was nearly there! Wonderful – my body screamed out for rest as the soles of my feet felt like they were disintegrating from under me. The stones under my boot soles were starting to feel like they might penetrate through into my feet.

Continuing down, I finally set eyes upon the turbine sheds at the bottom where the electricity was generated. A few hundred yards after leaving the track and setting foot on flat and level concrete at the bottom, I spotted the hostel ahead and off to my right.

The room was small. Very small. And spartan. But then, what do you expect for £15? It was a place to crash out and rest our heads, so it served its purpose. It was also the last stopping point along the way before reaching the relative luxury of the Fort William Premier Inn on the morrow.

The day was about to take on an ironic twist. This was the first occasion where we had arrived at our destination with a decent amount of time before bedibyes to take a stroll around and have a look around. We set out for the local shop for some emergency rations. It was a case of shop or starve. We got nearly to the shop, and it poured down with rain. Damn! Typical. The story of my life.. Soddit.

My brother's rucksack never turned up, but my nephew's was delivered as expected. Fraught words followed down the phone between my brother and the rucksack courier company. Words like “silly cow” or such like ensued in an attempt to lay the blame on the lady in reception at the Kings House who had labelled up the rucksack. However, my brother had carried the rucksack from the reception to the pick up area after it had been labelled. Most people at this stage check the address on the label................ Anyway, the rucksack got duly delivered and he breathed easily again. I was past caring, though somewhat bemused.

The evening came and we settled down to an awkward nights sleep, in closer proximity to each other than we would have liked. There was to be no escape from anyone's snoring tonight. I don't remember hearing any. I must have slept like a brick. It had escaped our notice that we had no bed linen, only rough blankets........... No one was caring. Until the morning.


3 comments:

bali-travel-tourism said...

very good
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Archie Stephens said...

Oh, how I remember that painful descent into Kinlochleven! I did the Way about 5 years ago now and each day on the walk I vowed to never walk the Way again; but now I'm planning on doing it again next year to mark my 40th.

Anonymous said...

thank you