Cape Wrath to Blairmore. 13 Miles.

Sandwood Bay

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

This was the hardest day’s walk for a long time. The rain held off which was a blessing but I knew before I set off that it was going to be a tough day because the terrain was difficult. Unlike just about every other leg of this krazy kaper, there was no path to follow. Zilch. Audrey thought there was a path but it turned out to be a stream when we got close up. We decided that stumbling about in the stream wasnt as preferable as squelching through wet stinking bog for 8 miles. It was the first time I really had to use my GPS just to make sure we didnt get lost. There were large deep fissures that came inland from the sea so we had to choose a route that was a little bit inland from the sea. As we approached Sandwood Bay we sang Gracie Field’s songs and spoke in Cockney accents in a vain attempt to keep our spirits up. However it was to no avail as Audrey had already gone insane. I cursed myself for not paying more attention, and I should have suspected that her mind was in a fragile state when she attempted to pour the precious remains of our bottled water down my trousers. I was too busy talking to myself to notice.

We met another eejit before we descended into Sandwood Bay. He was Polish, spoke with a French accent, and was staying in the Bothy north of Sandwood. We exchanged pleasantries about the relative merits of staying in bothies (there are none, see my previous post for my thoughts on this matter), but he seemed happy enough and smiled throughout like he had a direct line to God or Buddha or somebody. Perhaps the large water stain in the front of my trousers was the source of his amusement.

My feet were soaking from the bog wading, I was tired and we still had 5 miles to go when Audrey brought up the subject of chocolate truffles. Now everyone knows that that isnt allowed. Ever. The trouble started when she just casually mentioned the chocolate shop in Balnakeil that made hand made chocolates and truffles. The shop was cocoa mountain and Audrey and I had coffee and home made truffles there the day before. Needless to say, we both starting salivating which didnt help as the only water that we had was down the front of my pants, and I for one was not that dehydrated that I was going to suck ma own pants. However, as we headed down the track from Sandwood Bay towards the car park, Audrey started wondering if she could get back in time to hammer the door in and demand a latte before the place closed. Now this is a very dangerous strategy and the idea falls into the class of thoughts I call the “False Hopes Syndrome”.

False Hopes Syndrome is a term given to meditative processes that rely on some “good” event taking place sometime at a fixed time or date in the future. For example birthdays, Christmas, Friday night blow outs, or in this case, the promise of chocolate truffles. How it manifests itself is that the person having the False Hope, looks forward to the event so much that the present, and the passage of time between the present and the arrival at the False Hope, is essentially devalued or in extreme cases, worthless. (The opposite case which follows the same principle but in reverse, that is the False Gloom Syndrome, is where someone thinks something bad or unpleasant will happen st some fixed point in the future)

So why is that a bad thing?I hear you scream. Well, I can see that in theory having something to focus on in the future, might reduce the pain of hiking along an unmade road in the rain with wet pants. However, two problems arise with this mode of thinking. Firstly, you would have to take into account that the future event was going to indeed occur when and as you have predicted it – the shop will be open, the truffles will be delicious, the coffee will be at the right temperature and NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG TO SPOIL IT!.

However, logically, if we look forward to something that has been decided will be better than the immediate now, then it follows that the time between the present and the realisation of the False Hope will in someway be inferior, less attractive and should be “rushed through”.

Also, while we are focussing all our mental energies on the False Hope, we dont appreciate other positive things that are going on around us. The smell of the sea, the call of a skylark, the tickle of the rain as it runs down the back of our necks for example.

Does this mean that we shouldnt ever look forward to something good happening? No it doesnt; the secret lies in imagining what your reaction would be if for some reason the False Hope didnt turn out the way you had imagined it in your mind’s eye. Lets presume Audrey and I arrived just in time to see the owner driving away having locked up the shop. If our response was to scream, wail, curse the heavens and render our garments, then I would suggest that we had fallen into the False Hope Syndrome trap. If however we laughed and said “oh bother thats a shame, I was really looking forward to savouring those mouth watering truffles, but no matter, Im sure we will be able to get some another day”. Then we have looked forward to something without being attached to the False Hope. More on attachment in future blogs.

Audrey thanked me for explaining this to her, kicked my shins and wouldnt talk to me for the rest of the evening cos “I had spoiled EVERYTHING


2 Responses to Cape Wrath to Blairmore. 13 Miles.

  1. Sue Pike says:

    Superb blog. this took me back to the two occasions I’ve been in Sutherland. Your photographs are much better than the ones I took! They took me right back to the amazing (wet) skyscapes and the rugged geology of the area. That North coast is spellbinding and the Caithness coast was so melancholy with its ruins and its stone circles.

    I’ll be really keen to see the rest of your trek.



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