Monday, 19 November 2012

The Great Glen Way Pt 7

We sat for a while then got a wee bit bored so drove a wee bit further towards the walkers, it was still a wee bit damp at this higher altitude, I say that as if we were thousands of feet up, we weren’t really but the cloud base was still quite low. This part of the route is on a minor road that forks of the A82 near to Dochgarroch lock and circles back to the main road a bit further along via Abriachan so there is easy vehicle access.

We stopped again at a place called Ladyscairn (only 6 miles past Drum) and waited some more, then got bored again, we ended up going all the way to Abriachan which meant the walking group would have a 6 mile day, which was fine really, the weather was crap any way.

The route leaves the minor road at Abriachan and cuts through some forestry where you can find the Abriachan Eco Camp, rough-made signs advertising hot chocolate and Ovaltine can be seen on either side of the route. Coming from the Inverness side, the path disappears into the woods, about a quarter of a mile in you’ll hear it all before you see it, wolves barking (yes wolves), pigs snorting and chicken squawking, (do chickens squawk?) The path continues to another minor road near Loch Lade (stop sniggering at the back), it was from that side I approached, an arduous walk of about three quarters of a mile, well, I felt since the others had done some walking I should probably do some too.

Abriachan Campsite is a bit of a mysterious place, it has a facebook page but no main website, there is no obvious vehicular access and you don’t find leaflets in any tourist centres, you basically have to go there to see what it’s about, even when you do, its not immediately clear. There are a lot of animals, as mentioned; pigs, dogs (several of them) and chickens. It’s a real outdoor existence, Sandra the lady who, I don’t know if she lives there? She was wearing a bin liner as a jumper so it’s possible, was rustling up some hot chocolate and short bread for our team of walkers who had arrived some time before while some other folk were speaking to the coast-to-coast barge walkers whose boat we’d borrowed earlier in the week. It was very wet and very muddy; a large bear like man was cutting lengths of wood on a very serious looking machine that, well; cut big bits of wood. I’m sure there was someone else helping him but he was clad neck to toe in camouflage water proofs, if I’m being honest, he was really very hard to see in the trees. (I’m joking; I could clearly see his head floating among the lower tree branches.)

We chatted for a while, Sandra and her Husband were building a house and eco campsite in the woods (which is what the serious wood cutting was all about) but it was a slow process. She started to talk about the toilets they had fitted, one was an old Coca Cola bin and the other was branded with the Pepsi symbol, she told us that people thought they would stink but they didn’t, you just did your business then covered your leavings (how delicate) with some saw dust. It then got a bit weird, she went on to say one was called Elton and the other was called Mick (I think it was Mick,) the reason being that they’d been used (respectively) by each pop star. I thought, hold on a minute, is she trying to tell me Elton John and Mick Jagger had visited this muddy wood for a dump in a plastic soft drinks bin?

No, they hadn’t, she and her husband used to be roadies, for festivals, back stage these old advertising bins would be used as toilets (don’t ask for details, I didn’t, so don’t really know the genesis of this concept.) Normally they got thrown out, as you would expect, but they kept a couple for posterity, so to speak.

I admired what they were doing, trying to live a rustic existence in the woods with the animals being ecologically friendly recycling everything they could, to be honest though it looked like really hard work, winters must be hellish. The place is open 365 days a year although how that can be the case if they get a couple of feet of snow (which was why I didn’t venture in the previous year.) Suffice to say, I ‘liked’ there facebook page so occasionally get the odd picture popping up on my time line (yeah, I’m connected…) with bemused walkers cowering from some angry wolves or being chased by curious pigs.

I’d like to say it was a bucolic experience but I think it was too muddy for that, plus the wood cutting was extremely noisy. If I was asked to name noises I associated with the countryside, I hate to say the noise of a two stroke engine powering a strimmer or some other power tool would come to me before a woodpecker pecking or a cow mooing. It seems that every where in the Highlands of Scotland, some one is blowing leaves about their property with a leaf blower.

We left the eco-camp after Sandra insisted on taking some photos for her facebook page, I returned to my car kept company by some of the group while the rest walked on to where the other two cars were. I am ashamed to say, our walkers decided to duck as we passed the coast-to-coasters as they continued to slog their way toward Inverness.

With the days walking over, we headed for Inverness and our accommodation, this was a bit of a shock; we’d spent the week in fairly quiet surroundings, no traffic jams, jostling crowds or young people wearing skinny jeans. All of sudden in Inverness, which we’d hit at rush hour, we found ourselves hemmed in. Our hostel turned out to be on a pedestrian precinct, I’m not complaining about it, which would be daft given we’d spent the week walking, what’s another 300 metres in any case. We abandoned the cars in a charmingly provincial 1960’s multi-storey car park and hit the streets to look for the Eastgate Backpackers Hostel.

Go to Pt 8


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