Hope to Durness. 16 miles

NEW : See my campaign to establish a National Coastal Path here

Today’s walk was a real killer. The forecast was for heavy rain and it was accurate. It wasn’t so much the fact that it rained; its just that it was the type of rain. Eskimos have a hundred different words to describe snow, and I think that Scots should have the same number to describe types of rain. The rain I’m talking about is the fine, persistent stuff that comes at you at an angle. This angle is always the most efficient to deliver the maximum quantity of water up jacket sleeves and into pockets. The kind of rain that when you reach into a soggy pocket and then you pull your hand out the cold wet inside of the pocket wraps around your hand and attaches itself to the back of your hand. ALSO, the really important bit of paper, (e.g. five pound note, map, prescription, P45 etc) that you forgot that you had left there comes away in soggy bits when you finally manage to haul your hand out. This is the the rain that waits for days as a fine benevolent mist around a loch until the idiot who wears glasses comes along, when it decides to muster itself into large enough droplets to cause havoc with the glass, so that the idiot with glasses has to look at the world as if looking through a kaleidoscope. This is the rain, that no matter how well you have hauled the waterproof trousers up so that they nestle just below your armpits, still manages to burrow down your back to the crack of your arse. I have to hand it to this type of rain – how it manages to soak my face and my backside at the same time is pretty impressive.

The second thing that made this walk a difficult one mentally, was the route. Very early on in my walk, I realised that I would have to walk around a fair number of sea lochs. Now to those of you who need edumacated about Scotland’s topography, there are many sea lochs and inlets especially on the west coast. Scotland has for some years now been runner up only to Norway in the annual crinkly coastline competition. The consequence of this inherent crinkleness is that often right at the start of a day’s walk you can look across a loch at a point on the far shore, often no further that a couple of hundred metres and think, “after 8 hours of hard walking in the rain, that’s where I’ll be”. Therefore its is important to come with a full arsenal of “mind games” to stop yourself losing it completely and sobbing uncontrollably halfway. I played “the guess the percentage of foreign cars game” for a about 2 minutes until we realised that I would have to remember the total number of cars AND the total number of foreign cars AND divide one into the other AND then multiply by 100. So once I realised that we couldn’t be arsed. Near the end of the walk we met in a cafe on the west shore of Loch Eriboll, an old congenial gent of about 70 with a hearty disposition. This old man had done the Landsend to JOG cycle run 12 times, and was obviously enjoying his life to the full. I hope I’m like that when I’m 70 and not the crabbit old bugger of 50 that I’m in danger of becoming.


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