Monday, 4 November 2013
The 2013 Challenge, day 1: A Rough Time in the Rough Bounds (6)
I followed the road almost to Arisaig, and then I crossed the new main road and headed past Kinloid. I sat on a rock beside the path to eat my lunch, and then continued to the level crossing. Shortly after the level crossing I came to a stand of trees and, on a whim, I sat beneath a tree for half an hour or so, simply enjoying the sense of being at one with my surroundings. I watched the early afternoon train scurrying north towards Morar, and I mused on the fact that with only another 8 km or so to go to my planned camp by Loch a Choire Riabhaich, I could spend pretty much as long as I liked just enjoying the wilderness and the rain. After a while, though, I began to realise that the rain wasn't really all that enjoyable, and so I roused myself and carried on.
I had not gone far when I heard gunfire ahead; and so I proceeded with caution. As I reached Sunisletter, I came upon a group of half a dozen or so men having a clay shoot, and swiftly found myself invited to join their gathering. I managed to resist their suggestions that I demonstrate my (non-existent) shotgun skills (and to think that I have an uncle who used to shoot for Australia!) - but I found it rather harder to resist the uisge beatha which was freely pressed into my hand; and when I finally managed to tear myself away from their hospitality, it was not without having a can of gin & tonic thrust into my pocket "for later". Well, who was I to refuse?
I followed the track to Scamadale, and then began to climb up into the hills. Before long, the path seemed to lead into a thick-planted pine wood, and it was evident that there was no way a man could force his way through. The plantation had an open left flank, however, so I made my way round this side, hoping to regain the path in due course. However, when I reached the far side of the plantation, I met a deer fence. A big, 12 foot beast of a deer fence. With no obvious means of crossing it. But cross it I must. So I found a sturdy post, with a diagonal brace, and I climbed that fence (OK, so it may only have been 9 foot ... but it felt like 12 with my pack on). And as I climbed down the far side, and dropped the last few inches to the ground, I lost my footing. As I did so, my pack took over, and swung me in a twisting, wrenching motion to the ground. And as I came to a rest, i could feel that something in my left shoulder was definitely not right. The pain was indescribable; and I spent about five minutes just lying there, waiting to see whetehr it was going to subside or not.
Well, eventually my shoulder began to calm down a little, and I got to my feet. It was uncomfortable, but bearable ... and as I didn't want to be the first retirement of the Challenge I decided to press on. So I followed the deer fence along the edge of the wood, and at the far corner I found my path again, and a gate in the deer fence where the path had come through the wood. Which was a wee bit puzzling, because the path coming OUT of the wood was wide and well-defined; but there had definitely been no such path going IN to the woods. But, what mattered most, was that there was a clearly defined path climbing up into the hills. So I followed this path up ... and soon I was totally swathed in cloud. And still the rain fell steadily on me.