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 20 May 2010

What a day!

We're sitting on the Caledonian Sleeper, rushing south at great speed, but it's not been an easy day to get here. Over the last two days we walked over 46 miles - but that was nothing compared to the epic that today has been!

It started with Mick having mis-set the time on his alarm, and then when it went off at 5am, rather than turning it off and rolling over he sprang up and put the kettle on.
We were walking at 6.45am, which was going to see us at the ferry far too early, but we had to wait somewhere, and at the slip-way seemed as good as place as any.

By 9 we were at the slipway.

Just after 11 the ferry came.

"Just got to nip back" said the ferryman as he sailed back off without us.

Ten minutes later we were on board.

The walk into Durness took a little time, but there was still plenty more time to kill before the bus to Inverness at 1520. Fortunately, for the forth time since last night, we'd bumped into Alice and Martin, who are excellent company, and a long lunch was had.

Waiting outside the Tourist Info Centre (which was unhelpfully closed) we met up with Ian again (who had timed his walk into Cape Wrath to perfection, arriving minutes before the minibus) and more time was pleasantly passed.

At the appropriate time, two women were joined at the bus stop and we all chatted together for an hour and a half. By the time the bus was half an hour late, we were suspecting that something was significantly amiss. When it was over an hour late, a message reached us that it had broken down, but that an alternative bus was being sought. After an hour and a half, a minibus arrived and ten minutes later it was filled to the rafters.

Being so late, the driver positively hurtled down those roads. Then we had to change to a different minibus, as the man who had filled in to help out us stranded tourists had to get back home to his children and could only take us so far. The second minibus was bigger, but already had some people on board; again, we were packed to the rafters, although the hurtling was less extreme.

For reasons that were not entirely clear, we were then thrown off the second bus and onto a third, but at least this one had luggage stowage and was more spacious and it wasn't any great bother to have to change (moreover as we weren't charged for the journey).

The problem that was before us was that we really wanted to try to catch the sleeper, which was due to leave Inverness an hour after our bus was due to arrive - and our bus was running an hour and a half late.

In a magnificent feat of hurtling and time saving, an hour was recovered, and we arrived in Inverness just half an hour late. We hotfooted it to the station, arriving just 25 minutes before the train was due to leave.

It was there that the (already-long) day turned to a farce. Someone, somewhere made an error in our ticketing (and it certainly wasn't us - we asked for a ticket, we were sold that ticket). The ScotRail chaps were not happy. There was to-ing and fro-ing as we ran to the ticket office, to the train, back to the ticket office and back to the train (where we were referred from person to person to person; we now know most of the staff by name), with minutes ticking away. Were we going to be allowed on the train (with our perfectly valid tickets)? Were we going to be granted a berth (per our tickets)?

For a while it looked like we were going to spend the night stood in a corridor, but eventually it was sorted. Two berths on the 'comletely full' train were found. The interconnecting door was open for us. We dumped our bags and made a bee-line for the lounge bar.
Tea has now been eaten, and I finally have a celebratory glass of wine in my hand. Tomorrow, we'll be home - four days before we were even due to walk into Cape Wrath.

(And I will get around to making a post about our last day. I have been trying to write it, but spent too much of the day chatting, reading other people's blogs and being thrown about on a minibus, where doing anything other than looking out of a window would have been unwise.)
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  1. Congratulations troops!!!!

    It's been an epic and many thanks for sharing the trip with us.

    I'm exhausted after all that effort so I'm off to lie down.

    Have a good journey home.

  2. Well done. From colin and Helen. Stockport walking group.

  3. Thanks for the comments and congratulations, one and each.