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]

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Day 4 - Inverarnan to Tyndrum

20 October
Distance: 11.5 wet miles
Weather: showers, some hail, then more persistent rain.
Song in the head today: High on a hill lives a lonely goatherd... (how annoying?!)

The deluge forecast for the early hours of this morning did not appear, from our vantage point inside of the tent, to be as bad as expected. Yes, it rained, at times quite heavily, but not to the extent forecast.

Then at 4.45am, we were both awoken. It seemed as if there was one group of people throwing pails of water at the tent and another group violently shaking it. Once awake, it didn't take either of us long to realise that a fine spray was hitting our faces.

It was no big deal. It wasn't another failure of the tent. It was merely rain finding its way through the vents thanks to the squall outside. A bit of zipping up and the problem was solved.

Within minutes it had passed through and all was calm again, with just the roaring of the nearby burn/river to lull us back to sleep - except that by then I was wide awake, so it was a bit of an early morning for me.

Arising in the dark at 6.30 there was minor carnage around the site, caused by the squall, but all was quiet with barely even drizzle falling as we made full use of the campers' shelter to pack away (where I acquired a low-tech black bin bag to solve my sil-nylon leakage problem).

Our timing was incredible. The very moment we left the shelter to set off for the day, the heavens opened again. We lasted a whole hundred yards before we dived into our packs for our overtrousers, which then stayed on for the rest of the day. The rain did frequently stop, and the sun even burst through for a few seconds, but the intervals between showers were short indeed.

(This is sounding more like a blow by blow weather report than a walk report, isn't it? But, aside from the fact that I'm British and thus have it ingrained into me that the weather is a good topic, the inclemency really has been the overriding feature of this walk so far.)

Today's 'silver lining' in having so much rain was that rather than the walk being dominated by the busy road and the railway, as this section is reputed to be, both intrusions were drowned out by the howling of the wind and the roaring of the rivers and burns.

The surroundings were pleasing too, spectacular at times (and in between showers the cloud often cleared enough to see some of the near hills). Even better, the paths were unobjectionable, even if they were a touch damp underfoot (and talking of feet I was premature in praising my Salomon's yesterday, as today the right one sprang a little leak).

Shunning the cafe at Strathfillan (I'm not sure why, now I look back; maybe at the time it just seemed like too much faff to have to strip off our dripping gear to go in) we hurried on through the now heavy and persistent rain for the last hour to Tyndrum.

In contrast to yesterday's complete lack of welcome at Beinglas, today the owner of the By The Way Hostel & Campsite went out of his way to help us. At 1pm we were an hour and a half early for (the perfectly reasonable) opening time and I was quite happy to go into the village for lunch to kill the time. The owner spotted us walking off though and called us back, giving us a very warm welcome as he showed us into the hostel.

Yes, today we have gone soft in the face of a flooded camping area. We've not even gone for a wooden shed. We've gone the whole hog and have a twin room in the hostel, and what an excellent hostel it is too.

As we stripped off our outer layers in the drying room before coming indoors the extent of the failure of the water repellency of my Paramo jacket became apparent. I looked like a contestant in a wet t-shirt competition. Mick's jacket on the other hand had been revived no end by its tumble drying last night so it was just his legs that were sodden.

The leaking shells being a potential killer of this walk, action was needed. Off into Tyndrum we went and at the outdoor shop invested in a bottle of Nikwax and a pair of Cascadas for Mick. Admittedly he already has a pair at home, but the shop didn't have a good choice of overtrousers and at least this pair fits him (hmm, just realised that his new pair are the same colour as mine; we will be Howard and Hilda).

The jackets have now had a double treatment of Nikwax, one by hand, one by machine (well, we had a whole bottle so I thought we may as well make double sure that they were well treated). In the absence the rubber gloves the instructions told me were necessary, I used bare hands for the hand washing bit. My hands have now taken on an interesting water-repellency!

Despite all of this (hopefully) waterproof gear and a more promising forecast for tomorrow, we will not be moving forward. Duncan ( is a day behind us, having left Milngavie on Saturday and Tyndrum seems like a good place to spend a day, allowing him to catch us up.

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