Monday, 19 November 2012

The Great Glen Way Pt 6

Our penultimate day didn’t so much dawn as descend; looking up the Loch toward Inverness a bank of fog could be seen making its way toward us, it looked exceedingly damp. While the bacon sizzled in one pan and water heated in another on the picnic table set between two of our Microcabins I thought the thick fog would extinguish the gas burners such was the amount of moisture hanging in the air, the kind of sticky drizzly stuff that seems to find its way through zips and sticks to your skin like, well; like sticky water.

Ok, so my descriptive narrative is shit, not as shit as the weather I can tell you, it did eventually clear later on in the day but it just moved from the sky into the ground. We paid our bill; the owner of the site gave us a good discount for the second night and offered us a further discount if we ever returned, I think on balance given the keenly priced Microcabins and the location, we’ll definitely be going back to The Loch Ness Holiday Park, Easter Port Clair by Invermoriston 01320 351207 (if you’ve gone to Invermoriston you’ve gone to far,) and if hobbit Microcabins are a bit too effete for you, they have more traditional cabins to rent pictures of which can be seen at (great for walkers and campers alike...) Although business must be good because he had a Bugatti in his drive way, well I say a Bugatti, it wasn’t, it was a Bentley but they both begin with D and look sleek and expensive to me.

We dropped the walkers off at the coop car park in the damp mist and headed on toward Inverness in the cars, since we were on a budget and had already gone over it with having a second night in the Microcabins (despite the exceedingly useful discount) we thought we’d check out the last British Waterways campsite at Dochgarroch Lock, we dumped two of our three cars in the outskirts of Inverness and returned to look for this elusive site, at first we couldn’t find it but we noticed the now recognisable signage for the canal toilet & shower blocks, the camp site was, as we’d come to expect on the other side of the canal in the opposite corner. There was a picnic table but no fire pit, the weather was starting to clear up but it was really very cold indeed so we thought we’d go back to Inverness and check out a couple of hostels.

We wandered back to the car which I’d parked in front of a sign that said ‘no parking’; at that same moment a man appeared with a fishing rod and said, “You’ll get blocked in if you park there.” It’s a very unique kind of person who’d suggest such a thing, I mean, yes, I might get blocked in but such was the space available it would have to be a deliberately awkward move designed purely to annoy the person who’d parked in front of what was, lets be honest a fairly redundant sign given the profundity of space available.

We grabbed the fishing rod off him and proceeded to chase him up the canal tow path while playfully whipping the backs of his legs and shouting “this is for the all the fish you’ve tortured…” I’m lying, we didn’t do that; we just left.

So off we went to explore the world of hostels in Inverness, I can’t lie, cheapness was key here, I’d already programmed some numbers into my phone (I know, get me with the techno babble) most were booked up, but two seemed to have space, each for reasons that became obvious on further examination. Its important to remember while we were selflessly throwing ourselves into the world of shit hostels in Inverness the others were plodding along a boring path out of Drumnadrochit up into yet more forestry which ascends to the highest point on the route (an oxygen-starved 1210ft above see level) in cloying fog, so we were all struggling here albeit for different reasons and lets be honest to varying degrees, from basically not at all to probably a fair bit, I’ll let you decide which party was experiencing what sensation. Suffice to say, there is reason the hostels that had space, had space.

Hostel number one was a bit like a secure unit, only the other way round, it seemed impossible to get into, I phoned ahead and spoke to the guy who said he had bed space but not all in the same room, (cue alarm bells) he said he might be able to shuffle people around though. So it was Myself Lewis and Michael (the leader team) on the door step of a 1970 type building, square and imposing with lovely views over a retail outlet village. I pressed all the buttons on the elaborate looking door entry apparatus and just when I thought I might have to do so again a tinny voice came through, I have no idea what the person said and I don’t suppose he could  make me out either, the door opened anyway and we ascended some stairs to reception.

The hostel seemed ok, I had read some reviews the previous week and one that stuck in my mind was about a hostel that was ran by some Indian gentlemen, the review was less than flattering, this chap was a Kiwi though so I thought we were ok, we’re not at the really crap hostel, just the crap one.

He hummed and hawed over a ledger and finally said there was space but not in the same room, I thought fair enough, if we have a room of five and one of four that’s ok. But he said, no, it would be across rooms that already had people staying in them.

Ok, if I can convey one bit of advice and insist you pay attention to it and nothing else I say, it is this; do not under any circumstances stay in a hostel (branded or otherwise) unless you can book out the room entirely for your group. I know you’re thinking about the financial argument but listen, if you can’t get a room to yourselves, just bite the bullet and get rooms in a hotel or B&B. For, it is not until after you have paid the tariff and settled down in your odd smelling, unattractively coloured bunk in a room with half a dozen perfect strangers that you will realise the enormity of your mistake, despite the very obvious personal safety issues (do serial killers skimp on accommodation? I think they probably do) and the notion of sleeping inches away from someone who hasn’t washed for a month because they’re on a budget and can’t afford soap. It is one thing to have to listen to people you know snore, but to listen to people who you don’t know do it is frankly, unbearable.

Here’s a quick story, there is such a hostel in Corpach just outside Fort William (and at the other end of the Caledonian Canal as it happens.) A friend was staying there in a mixed room, he had to leave such was the volume of snoring coming from somewhere in the room. He slept down stairs on a sofa near the kitchen so was woken up by some annoyingly keen ice climbers or some other daft extreme sports-people. He staggered back upstairs to try and reclaim some of the night for the purposes of sleep and eventually fell into exhausted unconsciousness, for about ten minutes, at which time the man who had driven him from the room in the first place noisily roused himself (no, I said ‘roused’ himself) and proclaimed to all “What a shit night’s sleep that was, it was like sleeping on the back of a stegosaurus!”

I think I would have punched him and continued to punch him until he was dead or I ran out of puff, (I suspect the latter would happen before the former) but not before that guy would have got a bloody good biff on the nose.

And so it was that we left the Inverness Tourist Hostel, it was just too much of a risk, yes, you could end up sharing a room with a bunch sexually promiscuous Swedes but most probably you’d end up with a group of smelly Australians with dreadlocks and a serious lack of personal hygiene.

Next up was the Eastgate Backpackers Hostel, I phoned the number, a Scottish chap answered and said yes, they had a room with 8 beds, yes someone can sleep on the floor, yes its only £10 per head per night, so we booked it with out looking at it. Yes, those are alarm bells you can hear. We were happy in our innocence though, so we picked up the other two cars and head out to the pre-arranged meeting point at Blackfold, 11 miles from Drum and 7 miles short of the end point in the grounds of Inverness Castle.

Go to Pt 7

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Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?