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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The 2009 Challenge, day 3: Tomdoun to Fort Augustus

This was always going to be a big day; and I fear it was, really, too big. So don't try this one at home, boys and girls!!

It started well, despite the ice which had formed on my tent overnight. The hotel gave me a wonderful breakfast; and despite the evident blisters which were forming on both feet, I set out in good spirits. I followed the road through Inchlaggan and crossed the bridge to Torr na Carraidh, then turned East at Geenfield. The shady track through the woods which the map promised never really materialised. It was a track, alright. But such trees as there were, far from clustering all around, were that far removed from the track that they afforded no shade whatever. And it was hot again. VERY hot.

I crossed the bridge by the car park, intending to follow the path along the south bank of the River Garry and cross the footbridge just beyond the power lines; but I never did spot the start of that path, and before long my track turned into metalled road, and I found myself passing through Wester Mandally and Easter Mandally. Not that I had a problem with this, mind ... for it is a very beautiful road to walk.

In due course this road meets the Great Glen road, where I turned left. I then followed the track from the road bridge East to the gates of the hotel, where I had my lunch, and crossed the bridge to the Invergarry war memorial. I had planned to take the little footpath up to the Great Glen Way, but again I never did spot this; and besides, the hillside looked steep and my feet were getting sore. Instead I explored a path (which is not shown on the map) through the woods along the north bank of the River Garry. This is not viable, however, and before long I was beating my way back up to the road, which I then followed the remaining length of Loch Oich to Bridge of Oich.

Turning off the road and onto the Caledonian Canal towpath, I could feel my soles burning at every step and I knew I was in trouble with my blisters. How bad they were I did not know; and I did not care to find out until the day's end. I fell in with some other walkers for a while, and was glad of their company and their pacing. They proudly told me that they were walking from the West of Scotland to the East. All the way. Fort William to Inverness, through the Great Glen, in four days. I smiled indulgently, and said that I would only be in the Great Glen as far as Fort Augustus.

After a while, I needed to sit and rest, and my companions continued without me. Feet sore and with empty water bottles, I begged some water from a boat at Kytra Lock, and eventually hobbled into Fort Augustus. I was in trouble with my feet, and I knew it. It was just before five and the medical centre was still open, so I went in and asked them to have a look at my feet.

The nurse at the medical centre was very kind indeed, but she didn't understand walkers at all. She said that with the state of my feet I should stop walking immediately. When I told her that this was the wrong answer, she said that I must rest them for at least 48 hours before continuing. She then dressed them and gave me some wonderful foam rubber heel cups, which she taped in place. She also gave me a big box of surgical dressings. I thanked her, and made my slow and painful way to the Caledonian Hotel, where I had booked a room for the night.

Then I phoned Challenge Control, and considered my options.

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