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]

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Day 79 - Lairg to Loch Choire

2 July
Distance: 17.75 miles
Number of people seen out walking since Saturday: 0

Sodding flies! What is it about our heads and backpacks that makes them swarm around us whenever we go anywhere in the vicinity of a forest?

There was a lot of forest today. About six miles that felt more like six weeks. And for all of those six long miles we were accompanied by sodding flies. Rarely did one land on either of us, they just flew around and around and around our heads.

This was another forest that gave us a navigational difficulty. "Cross the stream...and head uphill due north through a narrow gap in the trees, now on a visible path" says the Cicerone guide. Except that trees grow wider as well as taller and even though this is a very recent guide there's been time for the trees to grow wide so as to block the entrance to the 'narrow gap'. It took us far longer than was reasonable to locate it (funnily enough exactly where it should have been) having tried a couple of dead ends first. Again, I was rather reluctant to bash through the trees in the absence of finding the right way.

It was a joy to finally leave the pine trees behind, even though that was when the going started getting rather harder.

For much of the next five or so miles there were sometimes vehicle tracks, but they were ruts in very wet ground so not good walking. The walk that didn't look too bad on paper transpired to be a hard-going boggy, tussocky yomp.

My legs were giving out and my mind screaming at me to stop before we reached the summit of our day (after a five mile slow and steady climb). Two things kept me going: the thought of how lovely it would be to camp at the head of Loch Choire and a Mars bar. I'm not a huge fan of Mars bars, but it was sugar and it certainly gave me the perk I needed to finish the job of getting up the hill.

On the final push to the loch (positively striding out, all weariness gone once the end was in sight) a noise made me look around. It took me a few moments to locate the source. A large group of deer on the other side of the valley were having a good chat amongst themselves, with barking and higher pitched mewing sorts of noises predominating.

At the loch, which is indeed a stunning setting, we eyed up our likely pitch but thought we'd just have a look at the wooden hut a few paces further on before we pitched. The hut turned out to be an ex-stable that has quite recently been upgraded as a bothy. It's not big but it's very light and airy.

It wasn't a difficult decision to make. The tent was forgotten. We'll spend tonight indoors, kipping on a generous sleeping platform after an evening spent in plastic garden chairs - luxury!

I'd been kicking myself for the last few weeks for not joining the Mountain Bothies(y?) Association before we left and finding out whether there were any bothies on our route. Having stumbled across a few of them and making use of this one I will give my thanks upon my return home by joining.

Our arrival at this hut was perfectly timed. No sooner had we decided to stay than we heard rain upon the roof. Showers are passing through at intervals and the wind is fair howling. However, we completed our walk in fine weather (wall-to-wall sunshine this morning, and about time too) so it can rain as much as it likes for the next few hours!

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