We bid farewell to the Crap YHA, and its lovely lochside backyard, on what was already starting to look like a nice day.
We hit the trail. A lot of water had come down recently, so we found ourselves constantly fording little swollen streamlets coming down off of the mountains.
Me: Those guys [ahead of us] are pussies.
The pussies in question, it turned out, were Shawn and Phil from our smelly room back at the YHA. Really, really nice guys. (Despite the silly gaiters.)
For some reason, perhaps the mysterious dead guy we had just passed, we had a bit of a discussion about war and about how the experiences of, say, the WWII generation were so very different from ours. Those guys didn't need to go trekking through Africa they'd already done it, except they were being shot at. "I've been to Africa and it sucked. I'm pretty happy staying right here in Southampton."
We were pretty happy right where we were it had turned absolutely beautiful. Shorts weather.
Tim: But nothing really to photograph.
Me: Don't worry our Ben Nevis day will be just like this.
Tim: Okay. Whatever.
Me: Oh, my God I'm turning into my mom.
My mom has a lovely habit of predicting and genuinely believing that conditions at an important time will be ideal. It's very sweet. But perhaps not a trait you want to cultivate when planning how to get down off a mountain alive. (The weather on Ben Nevis the summit of which is in cloud 300 days a year was going to be a huge factor. More on this later.)
We entered a lovely stretch of dappled, loch-side forest, with some enjoyable climbing and scrambling over boulders. Also through here, we were dogged, so to speak, by a woman and a pretty dog, who kept passing and being passed by us.
Time for Tea!
Inversnaid pretty much consists of the Inversnaid Hotel the only food/drink stop on our 13.5 mile day. We ducked inside the "walkers' entrance" round back for tea and nibbles, and took up a table in the sun. (Though not before the son of a bitch at the snack counter tried to give me 16 pound coins in change. Pretty much the ultimate through-hiker practical joke. They don't call it sterling for nothing.) When we got back outside, the tiny birds descended.
Not only the birds came out but also the lovely dog and her walker. The dog was named Tikka. The walker was named Liz much like Tim's girlfriend and entrusted us as foster carers for Tikka while she ran in for the lavatory. Afterwards, we were sad to give Tikka up. But very glad to have met her. She was as sweet as she was pretty. Liz was nice, too.
It was as we were exiting the hotel's loch-side lounging area that we passed two Latina women sitting at the trailhead. According to Tim's much more timely (and perforce more accurate) mo-blog, the ensuing dialogue went like this:
CottLW: Can I come?
The cuter of the two Latina women was called Lina. And we learned, in short order, that Lina's walking companion was, basically, flaking out packing it in and taking a ferry to their next overnight stop. Lina, being cool and hard-core and Colombian, was not about to flake out; but she also recognised the possible dangers (or, at least, boredom) for a woman traveling alone. Thus did two become, for awhile, three.
"We Didn't Warn You About the Movies. Sorry."
Lina, it transpired, had been working as an au pair in London for the last year. Sadly, she was shortly to return to Colombia. This was one of those last-minute jaunts one takes when one is living overseas and has to go back and realises in a panic one has hardly looked around. She was very cool, and had a nice digital SLR, and pretended to be impressed with my really crappy snippets of Spanish.
So, if you happen not to have seen the film Rob Roy with Liam Neeson and that really creepy Tim Roth with that awful rape scene Rob Roy MacGregor was more or less the Robin Hood of the Highlands. Anyway, you can read about him on Wikipedia (rather than here), but anyway a cave along here was supposedly one of his hideouts. It is now very helpfully marked for anyone looking for it.
Is That All There Is?
While clambering out on the Rob Roy hideout rocks, I took a call from Anna about the status our change of broadband at home. Because I spent awhile dealing with this, Tim and Lina decamped back to the trail well before me. Because I felt bad holding things up and because I am an absolute world-class idiot I decided to make up time scrambling over these huge slick boulders. I did one of those things where you think, Okay, this will work just as long as I don't slip here, and then proceed to slip exactly there dinging the shit out of my knee. It ended up not being a big problem, but it could easily have not not been.
I realised something today that was already probably obvious to anyone with a head: photography is all about light. If the source light sucks, it's like trying to make whiskey out of brackish water. This is one reason why a lot of my earlier pictures were rather sucky. Another is that this was my first trip with a camera with full manual controls and I was trying to learn to use them. A final reason was that I ignored my own advice when I bought this camera. (click for more on this if you care)
The rain came back, as of course it must. Aside from the encumbrance of the rain kit seven miles (the first half of the day) is not always seven miles (the second half) it made for some lovely, peaceful walking in a gentle rain. All the while munching on yummy wholemeal biscuits.
The Sound of Trains
"Oh, Gloria Inmarcesible!"
Proceeding past what I was so very sure was the end of the loch, we wandered into some pasture (sheep!), followed by hills and forest.
In the forest we caught a glimpse of the unusual feral goats of the caves and woods north of Rowardennan. They are descendents of goats which escaped their captors and went rogue during the Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was only when we came upon a big loch-side bothy that we realised our reports of the loch's demise had been slightly exaggerated. Seeing the structure, Tim got his hopes up:
Me: Of course you could, dear man.
From Tim's moblog entry (well worth looking at for the photographic study in
obsession dedication): "If you need a 10 minute break simply point out some interesting wildlife such as a little frog in the grass!" And, by little, by the way, Tim means it was actually about 3cm in length. When you're tiny, grass is a jungle!
Then it was some lovely, rolling slogging to get into camp for the night.
And camp was wigwams! Yes, you know, you're going through the guidebook making bookings for lodging and you're looking at pretty B&Bs and grotty hostels and rustic bunkhouses and then you see wigwams. And the place in question, Beinglass Farm, is highly recommended. And you can get a whole four-person wigwam (private) for a bit less than those bunks in that attrocious-smelling YHA (disastrously unprivate). And you think, Hey! why not?
Poor Lina, though, had a slight logistics problem. Basically, her next overnight stop to which her companion had conveniently taken a ferry was still something like eight miles away. And the sun was going down at that very moment. We reassured her that if worst came to it, our wigwam slept four. But we were actually able to put her on a direct bus that passed right on the main road in front of the camp site. (Albeit the main road was a half mile down the drive. And she had to flag down the bus to get it to stop. But, otherwise.)
So, after showering and doing some much-needed laundry, Tim and I got on with the serious (and unvarying) business of evening drinks and dinner. On the downside, we had a long walk in what was now a downpour. On the upside, we were going to the Drovers Inn.
The Drovers Inn is described by the guidebook as "world famous" (well, okay, "self-styled 'world famous'"), "not to be missed", and "an eccentric mix of smoke-blackened walls, sagging velvet-covered chairs, moulting stuffed animals with bar staff wearing kilts". It did not disappoint.
It just takes crappy pictures.
Actually, that's pretty unfair. It sometimes takes fantastic pictures. But quality can vary a lot; and it rarely produces the rich-colour stunners of my old Finepix 2600. This is what I get for ignoring myself. (hide)