The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 22 June 2008

Day 68 - By Culra Bothy to before Melgarve

21 June
Distance: 17.5 miles

We woke up to a truly spectacular scene. I cannot possibly do it justice with words or with my snapshots.

Our tent was perched on the bank of the stoney river in the valley bottom.

As I stuck my head out at 6am it was to see a herd of deer crossing the river just behind us. The sky was absolutely clear, a startling shade of blue, and all around us were towering mountains, many sporting patches of snow.

It's no wonder that it's such a popular place. We saw more people before 8am than we've seen out and about in any one day since leaving the Pennine Way. There were five other tents nearby and at least five people staying in the bothy (the other side of the river), plus as we walked out (seemingly in the wrong direction - being Saturday everyone else was heading towards the hills as we headed away from them) we saw plenty of people cycling in.

Along the river we headed and along the edges of forestry until before we knew it we were at Kinloch Lagan where the loch was incredibly low on water - as have been most that we've passed.

Heading back into forestry the other side of the loch a marshall warned us that a race was coming through and that very soon we would meet mountain bikes coming towards us at speed.

It was a warning repeated by two more marshalls along the track. At any moment we expected to have to leap out of the way.

When we stopped for lunch an hour later we still hadn't seen a single bike. Perhaps they'd all taken a wrong turn, we pondered?

What we did notice whilst looking at the map and the landscape over lunch was that we were walking two sides of a triangle and that there was no obvious reason why we couldn't just cut across the third.

Over a deer fence we clambered and across land that could so easily have been bog and tussock territory (as was yesterday's similar direct route), but turned out to be mainly dry and relatively easy, with just a couple of stream crossings thrown in for interest.

Having cut just over a mile off our route (avoiding a bit of road walking into the bargain - always good) we finally started seeing the mountain bikes.

Garva Bridge was our intended end point of the day, but that was from where the bike event was starting and it was teeming with people, plus it was only just gone 2pm, which felt a bit early to stop.

So we carried on a little while further, but not dreadfully far.

Rumour (i.e. a Munro bagger we met near Garva Bridge) tells us that it's going to be miserable weather tomorrow, but at least we've got a reasonably short day now. I'm not sure what I'm looking forward to most in Fort Augustus: a proper meal or a hot shower. I think that I need the latter more than the former.

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