Trails and trials of the writer who walks
It’s Day Minus One, and thanks to my cheap advance rail ticket (Glasgow to Fort William £3.30) I now find myself in the total darkness of a Highland 11 pm at the gates of a camping/caravan park in Fort William, unable to find the backpackers’ field or the toilet block. Whether I pitch up, finally, in the emergency assembly lawn or the dog-walking paddock, I’ll never know and don’t intend to stay long enough in the morning to find out.
This is a gentle introduction to my choice of the westward route of the Cape Wrath Trail, giving no hint so far of the horrors to come. Even the time-consuming uphill detour to avoid a herd of Highland cows, calves and bull (who have chosen to meander along my trail as if they themselves were out for an afternoon ramble) is, I realise later, in the proportion of a train cancellation to an aeroplane crash.
A locked deer-stalkers’ bothy provides, at dusk, at least some flat grass near a stream but it’s a midgy evening. My midge jacket and hood do a reasonable job and, despite the sticky warmth (oh, how I would love to skinny dip in that stream!) I have to keep my trousers tucked into gaiters and stay zipped up inside my tent.
In the morning, the outer of my inner (tent) is totally black. With midges. At first I don’t mind, thinking they are all the ones that never got to the inner sanctum and died of cold overnight, but before my eyes, they begin to twitch and flutter and come alive again. So do I. I don’t ever recall having packed up and left in such a short time.