Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Following the night on the lonely hillock, and more failed attempts to locate the path through the Forest of No Return, today is a blurred memory of fast-flowing water, deep peaty bogs, rock-climbs, wind and rain. But at the end of it all, and this time ahead of darkness, I reach the bothy at Sourlies and am greeted warmly by two men from the Midlands, the lanky German, and a couple from Glasgow. There’s nothing to light a fire with. Quite understandable, I think. The nearest dry log is probably at Morrison’s in Fort William. There’s no electricity or running water either but the assault of the weather against the bothy’s thick stone walls and impervious roof makes it feel cosy and I have no trouble falling asleep on one of the padded benches.
At nearly midnight, I’m woken by lights and voices outside. The door bursts open and a huge, three-eyed, dripping rustling bog-odorous beast fills the tiny space inside the bothy. When they get their head torches under control, the beast turns out to be three pre-uni Danish boys on a gap-year jolly (?) trekking from John O’Groats to Lands End. I find it hard to conceive that they’ve been crossing those hellish rivers and squelching swamps for the last four hours in total darkness. Why? (We all want to know). The answer is obvious really. One of them has a birthday in two days and they want to make sure they get to Fort William in time to celebrate it properly. That’s a priority only a teenager could understand.
‘I hope you don’t tell your mothers what you get up to,’ I say.
‘Oh no,’ one of them laughs. ‘We only tell them the good bits.’