The Wise Man appears as if from nowhere, out of the sunlight, and speaks.
‘Your first time?’
‘Be prepared to alter your plans.’
And as fast as he’s appeared, he’s gone, into the shadows.
Day One – 12.9 miles
I wake with a migraine. Brilliant. I’ve actually been worrying about this, so that’s probably why it’s happened. I start the day with doses of cocodamol and ibuprofen, and try and ignore it.
Signing out at about 9:15am, I realise I’m already much later than many! No rush though, I set off in blue skies. The day promises to be hot.
My route along Gleann Lichd opens out and I start bumping into people. A quick chat here and there, and before I know it, I’m climbing past the waterfalls and up into Glen Affric.
Everywhere I look, there are views to lift the spirits. I stop for a break, take on more water and chill for a while.
Moving on, the ground starts to level out as I approach Camban Bothy.
A popular place for a break, I bump into several people, including John Woolston. Most set off again before me, but that’s fine. I’m happiest going at my own speed.
The weather is holding up well. I continue on and before I know it, Alltbeithe Youth Hostel comes into sight. I’ve heard they do scones. And tea.
Inside the hostel I join John again, and we both partake of home made scones and jam, before I move a bit further on to pitch for the night.
A lovely, quiet pitch with just a few tents to see in the distance. I’m still struggling with my migraine though, which is now making me quite nauseous. I make my dinner and find I can’t eat it. It’s my favourite too, macaroni cheese. Thank goodness for Complan. I make up some cold – it tastes like strawberry milk shake and that goes down easily.
Day Two – 13.5 miles
Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve slept well. The migraine is also fading fast. I do marvel though, at my own stupidity at not having brought my toe sock liners. These socks were a miracle discovery of mine a couple of years ago, successfully stopping all the blisters I used to get on my little toes, which fold underneath the next-door toes. I’ve become a bit blase of late, as I don’t need them on short walks, but normally always use them backpacking and on longer routes. My little toes are already starting to feel sore after one day. I try taping them up for today.
The weather this morning is overcast, but not raining. Breakfast is enjoyed – porridge with strawberry bits – and I set off. I’m aiming for somewhere near Plodda Falls this afternoon.
The Glen is very quiet. I see no-one till after I’ve turned off for Cougie. And the Cougie turning is a surprise. Last year, it was a little path heading off uphill, but this year the whole area has been turned into a construction site, with a path diversion in place.
Easy to follow mind, I sit and have some lunch amidst all the chaos (I am very hungry) then move on, soon passing another guy on his own break. A quick chat, then off again, wandering along a much nicer, grassy track for most of the rest of the way.
Again, not a soul in sight. Very peaceful!
But by the time I hit a touch of civilisation again, I’m ready for tea and toast, and a chat with three other challengers with the same idea. My little toes are also starting to get very sore this afternoon. Obviously taping them has not been mega successful.
Delicious! Migraine and nausea now all gone, I am enjoying my food again today.
Moving on, I manage to pitch for the night in the vicinity of Plodda Falls. Another quiet spot, not another soul anywhere around.
Day Three – 16.9 miles
It rained overnight, and it’s still raining while I breakfast and sort myself for the day – including putting more tape on my sore toes.
The fly sheet is sopping, so I split the tent before packing in order to keep the inner dry, and set off with full waterproofs on.
It’s a long slog today, climbing up to about 550m before dropping down to Torgyle Bridge, and then up and over another ridge before reaching Fort Augustus. It’s about 9 miles over the first section and I want to get it out of the way before lunchtime.
Although it’s a good track it still feels wild and remote, and the weather matches it. Alternating between wild, windy and dry, or wild, windy and heavy rain, it’s certainly atmospheric!
As I finally drop down to near the road at Torgyle Bridge, I bump into Morecambe and Wise – sorry, Colin and Dave – having their lunch. I’m enjoying these unplanned meetings with other Challengers. A couple of retired policemen, with Scottish accents so broad I have to concentrate to understand them, they persuade me that they know the best way to Fort Augustus from here. My toes are now very, very sore, so it sounds like a good idea to team up.
All I can say is, that after scaling a 7 foot fence and ploughing through the undergrowth under a line of new electricity pylons, it’s a good job they’re funny. We have a good laugh and it takes my mind off my feet for a while.
I reckon we probably make a sorry sight when we finally drop into Fort Augustus. I’m limping, Colin has very achy shoulders and Dave has a painful back.
Morag’s Lodge beckons us all for the night.