Sunday 5 August 2007

Stirling + Perth and Kinross: Drymen - Fort William (West Highland Way) [29th July - 5th August]

[Update 10]

The whole Drymen campsite awoke, I'm, sure, relieved that the Belgian group playing whisky poker did in fact 'shut up' at 11pm. We thought they were heading for a telling off after they proclaimed that whisky was foul and that the West Highland Way was for whoosies! Funny though how in two days time they would be making use of the 'Travel Lite' service, which takes your rucksack ahead for you to the next campsite, probably due to their hangovers, but they were clearly enjoying themselves.

It was lovely not to have to navigate through the clearly signed and grit tracked West Highland Way (WHW) and apart from the toilet roll trail created by novice walkers not in the outside loo know how (read How to shit in the woods), it was the best bit for stunning views. Walking around Conic Hill, the first view of Loch Lomond was amazing and Daisy's energy came bouncing back after a play on the loch shore. The ups and downs of the loch shore path (still aching after that 42 miler) led us to a stunning wild camp site right on the loch shore at Rowardennan. Someone had left a tin of mutton hotpot by the camp fire so Daisy tucked into that while we watched the sunset and listened to the lapping shore. Romance was obviously in the air as our Pennine Way friends, Rachel and Adam announced their engagement :-).

Next day we scrambled up to Rob Roy's cave - quite cosy and we left the loch to join streams that led us to Inverarnan campsite where a really good guitarist entertained everyone. Road to Amarillo was best! We'll have to go back to the Drovers Inn here though, apparantly it's an old dusty traditional Scottish pub with stuffed animals and kilt wearers. Instead we had a dreadful tin of stewing steak for dinner, we really miss real food!

We met a nice, 'really' lightweight backpacking family, Mike, Ngaio, Jasper and Sam who was walking the Highland Highway. What an inspiration making their own lightweight gear (Ngaio was 10 when she made her rucksack) and Mike even knew Ray Jardine, the American lightweight backpacking guru. We kept bombarding them with questions and they've definitely pushed us in the right direction to make our own gear and go back to sleeping under a tarp with more space and no zips to break. We were a bit dubious using such lightweight gear before we started our walk with our British climate, but apart from winter conditions they've proved that gear can be cheaper and lighter, plus you know how to fix things when as we have found, everything breaks! See Ngaio's blog, we are featured on a couple of the August entries.

More forests, heather and streams later, (didn't see any otters or pine martens :-() Tyndrum had nice fish and chips (although not as good as Yorkshire) and lots of midges. Another drove road took us to the Bridge of Orchy, where we got chatting to James, who also had a Jack Russell called Daisy, but she was back at home. We've discovered that talking to fellow backpackers is great for taking the pain out of walking! We resisted the hotel bar and pushed on to Kingshouse, passing ridiculously lush yellow/green grass. Daisy was allowed in the bar there and she behaved as she was so tired so we treated ourselves to some real home cooked food - mmmm! We also met Steve, the camper van man, who shared tips about living in a camper for when we eventually finish the walk.

Stob a Ghlais Choire, and the moody weather looked amazing in the morning, then it was up the Devil's Staircase for a view of Ben Nevis and Kinlochleven where we dropped down to camp beside the best view on the WHW, Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe. Due to postal strikes, our next maps hadn't arrived at the local post office from home so we had a welcome day off to wait. It was nice to check emails for the first time too. The midges, however were worse than anywhere here, even worse than Byrness, so after choking on mosquito coils and Will, looking like he had been to a collagen injecting lip surgeon after so many bites again, we thankfully collected our maps the next day and moved on to Fort William.

Will thought he saw a wild cat in the misty, spooky forest and Ben Nevis, although under cloud as usual looked immense. At busy Fort William we had a feeling of being finished, but obviously there was still more to do - 200 miles in fact! Darn it, it was also Sunday, so the 1 hour photography service was closed. Sorry, will have to wait a bit longer for snaps!

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