Trip Journal - West Highland Way

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West Highland Way -- 04 July 1998

The next morning we were up with the rooster around 7:00. Not the top rooster, mind you, but the second fiddle rooster. The top rooster was crowing from the chicken yard where all the hens were. Our rooster, whose shabby tail feathers belied that he regularly came out the worse for a tussle with the other rooster, was relegated to the camping yard where he begged for handouts. Whenever the top rooster would crow in the hen yard, our rooster would reply with a sort of sickly crow that appeared to do 1little for the chickens and did even less for us. When we got up, we saw Angela again coming out of her tent. She said she had set her alarm for 8:00, but woke up because the rooster was crowing right outside her tent. I didn't tell her that roosters usually get up much earlier. Paul talked to Angela for a little while while I was in the shower. She apparently left home at 18, didn't get along with her family, left the country and never looked back. She had just graduated from University in Holland and this trip was her present to herself. She had good camping gear, and I wondered if she had been doing it for quite a while. She thought the way markers were really hard to follow and was quite surprised that we didn't even have a map. We were among the first to be ready to go, mostly because all we had to do was take the wash off the fence and tie the still wet items to th backs of the packs, while everyone else had to make breakfast and break down their tents. We had gotten bread, cheese, chocolate and fruit in town the night before, so we were set. I may be a little biased, but I think simpler is better.

We followed the Way along road back toward town, until it went over the cutest little bridge and started off through another sheep pasture. by then we were getting warm, so we stopped to change from long-sleeves to short (in the open of course) and immediately after, the two Belgian guys came by, and a little further on, another man went by with almost no pack and a little floppy-eared dog named Holly. We turned onto a forestry track that went steadily uphill through a forest consisting mostly of one kind of pine. Our guidebook, or rather the 5 pages we had ripped out of it, said we'd get our first glimpse of Loch Lomond from the top of Conic Hill. When the path reached the top, we saw the Loch and assumed that we had done the hill. We even boldly proclaimed as much to Angela and Holly's person when we caught up with them a bit later. But apparently, all we has climbed was a small knoll. The hill was yet to come. And what a hill it was! A huge piece of rock jutting up out of the ground, rising up into the sky. It was massive. Not quite a mountain, but high enough. As i looked up I saw the tiny ribbon of path that wound its way to the top, and presumably, back down again on the other side. So we started up. It was slow going, up steep, rocky climbs, but we did make it, and faster than some. At the top, there were magnificent views of Lock Lomond. We sat down, along with 6 or 7 others to eat lunch, catch our breath and soak up the view. We'd been sweating all the way up, and I had though it was quite warm, but as soon as we stopped moving, we realized it was quite windy and cold. We put on our jackets aver our wet shirts, but took off our boots and socks anyway to let them dry out. I was freezing. The way down was all steps cut into the side of the hill. Very hard on the knees, especially after all the uphill work and the chill afterward. A lot of people came up with their dogs. They, like bikes, aren't allowed on the WHW, but they sure were cute. At the bottom of the hill, the path descended into a magical forest with huge old fir trees. It was breathtaking.

After going through the forest, we came to a town and decided to stop for tea. The Oak Tree Inn was our choice, so we hobbled in and dropped our packs. It was just an ordinary pub, but to me it felt like there was a cheery crackling fire, deep cushions and dark wood. We ordered coffee for me, tea for Paul, and scones for both. They were lovely. While we were eating, the two Belgian boys clumped in. Eyeore was very tired and dejected. He told us that the remainder of the day's walk was supposed to be very hard. Our 'book' said Conic Hill was the toughest part of the day, but I laughed and said I though we'd be okay. Somehow, while I'd been sitting down, my legs got switched with the Tinman's, and they hadn't been oiled in a very long time. Outside the Oak Tree Inn we ran into Angela. She seemed to be doing very well, better than the Belgians, but she was tired too. We had all said we'd probably all stay in the Youth Hostel just beyond the next town that night, if we could make it, so we said our goodbyes and headed out.

The rest of the day's walk was indeed very difficult - hilly and long. We walked through a lot of de-forested timberland. It was really draining both physically and mentally. We were exhausted when we finally got to the Youth Hostel at Rowardannen. Tanya, the woman at reception, was very nice, and occupied herself during slow periods by practicing her accordion. She had what we Americans think of as the quintessential Scottish accent. We left our boots in the front hall, resigned ourselves to sleeping apart in separate, single-sex dormitories, and settled in.

It costs £7.75 per person if you're a member of Youth Hostels International (which we are). We paid the £2 extra for beakfast the next morning. But we hadn't thought about dinner. We hadn't though that the youth hostel would be in such a remote location. There were no stores for miles. But it's a beautiful old house, stone block with gingerbread. It's right on the shore of Loch Lomond, which is the largest Loch in Scotland apparently, and the second most famous, after Loch Ness. Be that as it may, we were still hungry. Luckily, they sell canned food at the reception desk. I had Heinz Crfeam of Chicken Soup and Paul had four packets of Alpen with milk. We also had tea with sugar and milk (1 pence each for the sugar packets) which we prepared in the communal kitchen. We sat in the lounge, which has window seats on two sides overlooking the Loch. I worked on the website for a while, but mostly I contemplated how my legs and feet ached. We'd done 26 official miles so far. When you stop walking, your legs and feet go through a "thawing" period. Just like when you have frostbite, and you get the feeling back in your hands and feet and you really ache, it's the same when you stop walking. Different parts of your legs and feet "pop" or wake up and start complaining. The thawing process takes about an hour. While I was working on the computer, Paul was looking at the "book" and trying to see how we could revise the plan to take 8 days instead of 7 so we could slow down the next day. I was really disappointed, but I could see his point. If this were just a 2 week trip and then we were going home, we'd press on, but we didn't see the point of pushing it and then having to take weeks to recover. We weren't on any schedule and had nothing to prove, so why not take the extra day? Paul went out to prowl while I was still typing, and came back to tell me there was music going on in the reception area. He went up to his room to get his recorder and when I came in, he ande Tanya were playing songs together. Another was doing Irish dancing. It was amazing how willing everyone was to sing, especially a group of strangers. We did everything from the Beatles to the Cories. During a lull, Paul played the National Anthem, and its possible everyone there though he was nuts, but then we told them it was the 4th of July, and they all started laughing when they understood. At about 11:30, we all trooped off to bed. I was way more than ready. Much to my surprise, everyone in my room was already in bed. I had though they'd be up a;; night. Unfortunately the hall light stayed on all night and there was a transom over the door, but I managed just fine.

West Highland Way -- 05 July 1998

At 7:00 the next morning, the alarm went off and everyone in my room jumped out of bed, as if one. I lay there for a little while, then hopped in the shower. Another cold one, just like the night before. I met Paul in the Lounge before breakfast - I had thought I'd do morning pages, but he was up and ready to go, bored probably. We went into breakfast, which was a box of Frosties, 2 rolls, cheese, tea and coffee. Not terrible, but not a home cooked meal either. I loved it, especially the Frosties. We stopped in to leave a message for Tanya - she had said she would send us the music to some of the songs she and Paul had played. There was one, "The Road and the Miles to Dundee" that sounded suspiciously like "Carnlough Bay" THe tune starts out like "Away in a Manger". As we were giving the note to the man at reception, Tanya came in, all dressed up in a suit. The man told her that there was some money unaccounted for from the previous night, which sounded like a reprimand, but in the end was handled very nicely. Maybe Tanya is new. We asked her to pose for a picture outside the Hostel, and then she even volumteered to send us a tape of some good Scottish fiddle and accordian music. Then she was off in her little car, and we were off on to the Way.

In the wrong direction as it turned out. On the way to the Hostel the previous night, we were following the road, and we hadn't seen a way marker for a while, so we wondered if we were still really on the right track. The marker were looking for was just past the Hostel, so we never saw it when we came out and started backtracking. We never saw Angela and the Belgian boys after that either. I wonder what happened to them? At breakfast, we'd been sharing a table with a young scottish woman, her mother, and her boyfriend. Their relationships were getting a real workout on their holiday trek along the Way. The boyfriend seemed to be logically analyzing the journey, saying that 14 miles was really a lot to ask, wasn't it a bit much though? He was either genuinely whining, or else trying to establish a rapport with the mother. She was feeling terribly inadequate in front of her daughter because having her pack carried for her (there is a pack-carrying service that drives your pack ahead each day and leaves it for you to pick up for £28 for the whole Way). Also she had discovered that she was too claustrophobic to sleep inside a tent. At around 11:30 she had had to bail out, and sought out a B&B (her daughter walked her there) with just a toothbrush. The woamn at the B&B tried to overcharge, and after negotiating, she still ended up paying £30. So the daughter was upset with both her mother and her boyfriend. She had done the Way twice before and was very fit. The mother warned us that according to the daughter, the place where we planned to stop for lunch, a hotel in a remote area and the only place to get food the whole next day, was snotty to walkers. It was a "proper" hotel and delivered a certain level of service, and apparently didn't like to stoop to the likes of us. Paul and I thought that this young woman probably got this king of reception wherever she went. She looks down on the people she loves and other people (she thinks) look down on her.

We were discussing all this when we met a nice couple headed the other way who told us thay were were indeed still on the way, so we reversed our backtrack and started out for the day. This was supposed to be a really tough day, with a lot of climbing up and down, mud and a bit of scrambling, whatever that is. It started out fine, with gentle inclines, picturesque waterfalls and glimpses of the Loch through the trees. I wasn't in a bad mood, although Paul probably thought I was. Id didn't feel like talking, or rather, I didn't want to analyze anything, talk about how it worked or how it could be improved. Paul thrives on this type of discussion, and probably longs to talk to someone who loves it too, but I can't do it for extended periods of time. I want to talk feelings and people. We each need another person on whom we can call to talk to when we crave our favorite discussion, and then dismiss when we're done. But we don't have them, so I just avoided analysis. Pretty soon, we were doing a lot of up and down, clattering over tree roots and boulders, with a bit of mud. Not too much though. I actually thought it was a lot of fun. It took my mind off everything else.

We stopped to let a group of young boys go by. They each had a massive backpack with tents, sleeping bags, mats and canned food. They were moving very fast and Paul wondered if they could keep up that pace for very long. I said "no" and sure enough, a little way further, they had to stop for a rest and were yelling and bickering with eachother and being eaten alive by the midges as we sauntered past them. The Highland Midge is a tiny, innocuous looking monster that gets in everywhere and bites. From the looks of my legs at the end of the day, a small army of them got under my wool socks. We lso took turns passing two other couples, especially one couple who we kept noticing. They ate their lunch outside the hotel while we stayed in. We pretty much kept pace with them all day. We arrived at the hotel feeling quite good. We got there at the same time as the blond British woman we had met at the Hostel the night before. She too had started out with an ambitious schedule and then revised it down to something doable. She called her family from the hostel to let them know she'd be later than expected, and also arranged to have her pack carried, and she switched to different shoes (trainers). She'd been very nice to us, and I was impressed that she was doing the Way alone, as was Angela. I don't know if I'm that brave. But then again, there is something about Scotland and the Highlands in particular that makes a woman feel strong and powerful. I know I felt it, even when I was the most tired. I felt as if I could handle anything, even when it was really hard and I had the comfort of knowing that the Earth or the Universe would support me. In a sense it was the feeling of knowing your interconnectedness with the world and knowing that it doesn't diminish you to be part of something bigger than yourself. Very nice indeed.

When we got to the hotel, I was feeling great. Of course there's always your legs' tinman-in-the-rain feeling after you've sat down for a half-hour, but I still felt wonderful. Practically high on the fresh air and the experience. The hotel has a special walker's entrance where the trail goes by in the back. There was a sign that asked very nicely for us to leave our boots outside and our packs on the dance floor just inside. All of this I considered perfectly reasonable. We pulled off our boots and padded into the bar, where our experienced walker woman, her boyfriend and mother were all sitting looking miserable. The bar had already prepared sandwiches and drinks and it was very dark. I don't know whey this trio stayed in there. After we saw the dining room all lit up by the sunlight streaming through the windows and the gorgeous view of the Loch, we were sold. Nearly every on in there was a walker - very few people were wearing shoes. I think the trio must have brought the "bad treatment" on themselves. Everyone we met on or near the Way seemed very friendly and there saeemed to be a respect for those walking it. We had veggie burgers and fries for lunch with tea, coffee and huge glasses of water. We always carried a liter of water with us, but it was never enough. As we sat comfortably inside, the 2 couples and the Lord of the Flies group (the young boys) all trooped out to the picinic tables outside in the front. The boys ate cold spaghetti out of cans. How heavy to carry and unsatisfying to eat! After lunch we called Julie (Paul's sister) to tell her that we planned to meet her in London, and then used the facilities. All along the way I washed my hands whenever I had the chance. It was amazing how important basic cleanliness was; although we were pretty willing for it to be in the form of cold showers. And it didn't seem incongruous for me to be fastidious about being able to shower but still wearing the same t-shirt and shorts day after day. Must be how it was in olden times.

We talked to another couple who were also sitting outside while we were gearing up. They had walked the Way a month before. He said he'd had a whole battalion of blisters and she had none. I asked her what her secret was, as I was cultivating a good crop myself, but swhe didn't know. I wished they were walking right now - they seeed really nice and I thought it would be fun to talk to them. But we said goodbye and continued on. The waiter in the hotel had asked the cook about the next stretch (as he'd done it before) and he thought the second half of the day would be harder than the first. It started out easily enough though. We walked through a local nature reserve area - pretty flat, nice wide path abd not too taxing, although my feet were really complaining. Paul's knee was bothering him a bit, so he cut himself a walking stick from a birch sapling. We passed a stunningly huge tree, tenaciously but precariously hanging onto the ledge by the shore and hanging out so its branches brushed the surface of the Loch. Paul had a little lie down on one of the big, horizontal branches while I sat at the base of the tree, slapping midges. Unfortunately, the bugs always like me better than Paul. After the tree we had some more up and down and a bit of scrambling. I swear that sometimes the path we were on was only fit for goats, not humans. We saw three of them on the steep slope, having their lunch. They were black goats with white in their faces and big curving horns. One climbed down the steep slope on top of a fallen log with the grace of a gymnast on a balance beam. It was quite impressive. Soon we came to a low flat spot where the water running off the hills flowed into the Loch. The water was quite cold, and the spot was beautiful: little rivulets of water running over round pebbles, the forsest we'd just come through on one side and open pasture on the other, and a little stony beack in between. We stopped to have a drink and rest, as did a few others. Paul drank his Coke, but I saved my coveted (not) Sprite for dinner. The next leg of the Way was through a beautiful pastoral glen, with gentle, rolling hills and a gorgeous scenery. I stepped into the bracken, which are ferns but on a huge, prehistoric scale, to answer a desperate call to nature, and was nearly discovered by some women walkers who were following quite close behind. As it is, I'm sure they had no doubt about the true reasons for my close inspection of the Scottish flora. The longer we walked, the bigger the Glen grew, and the higher we went, until finally, we came to a sign that told us that the town of Inveraran, our Holy Grail, was just two miles away. Well, that didn't seem so bad. We walked on, and right around the corner was a big hill, a Scottish hill, and our path cut right to its foot, and over it. Paul's knee was still bothering him, so we switched packs. I certainly didn't mind, since I'd had the easiest time of it so far, weight-wise. And I was quite ready to give my shoulders a rest. So, after a short sit-down to restore our strength, we took each other's packs and made our way up the Big Hill. It was hard, but I hung in there. It seemed to me that the path was taking us in the wrong direction (uphill and to the East) when I felt pretty strongly that Inveraran was downhill and to the West. I realized that I was attempting to pull the path West with my mind, and that it was very tiring. Once I gave up and let the path go where it would, I had a much easier time of it. But it seemed to me that both the second and third days, the last two miles were the hardest of the whole day. It probably wouldn't have mattered if we had walked only 12 miles each day. We still probably would have thought that the last two were the most taxing and the part of the Way most likely to be mismarked in its mileage signs.

We finally started the descent, which couldn't go down fast enough for me. We hobbled into the campsite just behind the German couple, who had booked a B&B room at that campsite. Unfortunately for us, the place was all booked up, so we had to walk another half mile into 'town' to see if another place could put us up. My feet were killing me. I had a huge blister on the back left foot, and another monster on the whole of the little toe on my right foot. My other toes had been walking on it, and it had finally had enough of the injustice. Aside from these two major complaints, my feet in general were aching. Paul's knee was hurting, and because he was favoring it, and using the walking stick to help it out, his other knee and arms were stiff and sore. We slowly made our way to town, passing sheep, some of whom showed no interest in staying within the confines of the pasture clearly marked by a fence, and a wooden bridge before we turned into the road. The Rose Cottage, our nearest, and therefore first, option, was fully booked. There were only two alternatives left, the Stagger Inn, which was all the way on the other side of the street and therefore, our least favorite option, and the Drover's Inn.

At the Drover's Inn, there was no reception, at least not of the human variety. In the front hall there were all sorts of dead, stuffed animals: a black bear rearing up on its hind legs, a two-headed lamb sitting in the front window, and all sorts of predatory birds frozen in the act of attacking some small defenseless creature. Along with thesez were the more ordinary deer heads mounted high on the wall. All of the taxidermy appeared to have been done sometime near the end of the last century, as several were falling apart, and all were moth-eaten and extremely dusty. The cieling was all blackened by smoke, so it was apparent that it had not been painted since the place was lighted by candles. Off the main hall was the pub, which with exposed beams, smoke blackened ceiling, ,two big stone fireplace at each end of the room, and a dark wood bar along half of one wall. Behing the bar was a big scotsman in a kilt, pouring pints and drams of whiskey for the crowd. In front of one of the fireplaces someone had hung their laundry to dry. All in all it was a pretty wacky place. No one came out to help us, so finally Paul went into the pub to find someone. A young woman with short, dyed black hair came out, said they had one room left, it cost £40, and proceeded to walk us up several hundred flights of stairs (well, at least 3). She told us that the toilet was just deown the hall and the showers were downstairs on the other side of the house. We were in the Bridal Suite, room #14 (I'm not kidding - it said "Bridal Suite" right on the door). After she left us, we collapsed onto the lumpy,uneven bed and started letting our legs and feet "thaw". A survey of the room soon had us rolling on the bed and laughing hysterically, as the ridiculousness of our situation sank in. The one window hung partway open, and quite possible had not closed properly since the place was built in 1703. We never did get it to close, and ther was even a spideweb build across one corner of the opening. The one chair sat collapsed in the corner. The four-poster bed was lumpy, and higher at the foot than the head. We later discovered that one corner of the foot of the bed was supported by a milk crate. One of the posters was broken and leaning, with only the canopy frame holding it up. Also, the bed made a terrible creaking sound every time we moved. Bridal Suite indeed! We called the place Cold Comfort Farm, and laughed until hunger overcame us, and we had to eat.

Dinner consisted of - you guessed it - bread, cheese and lingon jam with chocolate and my Sprite. It tasted wonderful. After our bellies were full and our feet were reasonably thawed, I remembered that I had seen a sign downstairs in the front hall that said the Inn didn't take credit cards. When I mentioned this to Paul, he reacted as it hit by lightning, because he knew we didn't have enough cash to cover the price of the room. Paul went downstairs to speak with the staff about the problem. They were unmoved as they informed him that, yes, they really could not take a credit card, and there was no bank within 20 miles, besides which it was night, and there wed no other rooms available in town. Their best suggestion was to go to another hotel 2 miles down the road and see if they would give "cash back" on a credit card. But they weren't sure if they would do this for someone who was not staying at their hotel. Poor Paul, tired as he was, was willing to walk the 4 miles and give it a try. I offered to go as well, but I really didn't feel like it. Luckily Paul said he'd go by himself and left me feeling guilty. So I set to doing laundry in the sink, so at least I would be doning something, while Paul set out. Our room had a white, porcelain sink, slightly stained and cracked. I stole 2 slivers of soap from the bathroom, and was all set except that there was no hot water, and what water there was would stop running every once in a while. But I really wanted to wash our socks, which were muddy, and let's be honest, also stank. So in between droughts I got the bare necessities washed. Paul wasn't gone very long at all, and he seemed rejuvenated when he came back in. He told me that he had gone across the road to the Staqgger Inn to saee it they might have a room anyway, and more importantly if they would take credit cards. There was no room at the inn, and no policy of "cash back", but in the course of finding this out, Paul ran into our Greman couple, who happened to be sitting in the dining room havin dinner. When Paul said hello, the guy, Thorsten Bulthaup, asked what the problem was, and once he ascertained that we were short about £15, he pulled a £ note out of his wallet and handed it to Paul just like that. He didn't even seem worried about getting it back. He said "Oh, I'm sure we'll see you further on, and you can get it to us then." Amazing. Fantastic. We couldn't believe our luck. Paul did insist in finding our where Thorsten and his partner, Christiane Koenig, were staying for the next 2 nights, just in case. They had their itinerary written down back at their room, so we were to meet them there after dinner. So Paul went to have a shower - you guessed it - cold. Then we headed over to meet them in front of their B&B.

We got there before they did, so we had time to meet the two dogs that lived there. One had seen it all in his time and had no patience for the younger one, who looked vaguely like a border collie, only thin and with shorter hair. The older one was civil enough, and greeted us politely, let us scratch his ears and then went to lie down in front of the doo, where he could keep an eye on everything. The younger dog obviously wanted something from us, but we couldn't figure out what it was. He looked at us expectantly, then ran over to a hole in the wall of one of the outbuildings and then looked at us again, expecting us to join in whatever it was he was doing. For a while, he 'hid' behind a big wire metal tray that was leaning against the wall, which was comical, because not only was he visible through the wire, but he also stuck out at either end. But maybe that was his way of signalling to us that we were supposed to find something that was hidden, because next the dog stuck his whole snout into a small hole in the outbuilding and began snuffing, as if he might be able to inhale whatever was hidden in the hole. I'd have been rolling on the floor laughing if I had been at all sure that I'd be able to pull myself back up. Thorsten and Christiane walked up the lane hand in hand and invited us up to their room. It was just an extra bedroom in the house where there were three children under the age of three. Thorsten told me that none of them could walk yet, but that they got into everything and were constantly underfoot anyway. Yikes. The father came in and asked us to be quiet because the kids were asleep in the next room. Paul and I figured that at least we'd have no problems like that in our room. People would expect the guests in the Bridal Suite to be noisy. So we got the names of the B&Bs where T&K would be staying the next two nights (they had booked the whole thing in advance through a travel agent!) and then made our way quitely out.

We limped back to the Inn headed to the pub downstairs. We figured that with the money from T&K we could pay for the room, get some bread, cheese and fruit for lunch and (this was key) still afford a pint of Guiness before we hobbled off to bed. The nice thing about the Way is that wherever you stop for the night, you are surrounded by people who are in just as much pain as you are - everyone moves slowly, limps and groans and smiles at each other knowingly. Its very chummy. I suppose there were some locals in the pub as well, it was hpopping that night. The bartender wore a kilt, white t-shirt and wool knee socks. The woman whom we'd met at the hosteland again at the hotel where we had lunch was there chatting with 6 middle aged men. A guy with a blond pony tail was taking long-exposure pictures of the bar scene with an expensive camera. maybe he was doing a write-up on the place. Next to our booth where we sat nursing our shared beer was a book shelf filled with ancient, crumbling books entitled "The Great War" The had volumes I through XII there, but we were afraid to open them for fear they might collapse. It was such a wacky place. I'd have liked to stay longer but it was time for bed and we were out of money, so we climbed the 600 or so steps to our room, flopped down on our lumpy bed and after a while, sought our rest. I kept rolling into Paul, and he into me. It wasn't the best night's sleep I ever had, but it was definitely one of the more interesting locations.

West Highland Way -- 06 July 1998

The next morning, I woke up very stiff and sore. I went to the showers prepared to have to go down to the kitchen and demand that they boil me some water for a bath if I didn't find hot water coming out of the taps. Luckily for everyone, the water was quite comfortable, although not exactly hot. Going down the stairs for breakfast was almost harder than going up. When we got to the breakfast room, we were amazed by the sheer volume of food offered us. The same guy who'd been working behind the bar last night (no kilt this time) came in with toast and plates of ham, eggs, baked beans and a baked tomato. There was also cereal in the one serving boxes (and they had Frosties), granola, coffee, juice and tea. We ate our fill and then went out to call a couple of B&Bs to reserve rooms for the next couple of days. It was obvious that the Way was filling up and that a little planning was necessary to avoid having to sleep in a sheep pasture. We had found out that, on day five, there was only one place to stay. After some struggles with the coin phone, we reserved a room for each of the next two nights. Then paid our bill, although I suspect that had we skipped without paying, no one would have even been upset. It really was a strange place.

We stopped at the camping place, which had a store, the store, as far as we could see. Unfortunately it was slim pickings, they had no fruit or cheese. So we left with two sodas, some chocolate and about 60p to our names.

We started out well enough. We sang songs, Old English rounds, etc., as we followed some shepherds and their dogs in a truck up the track. I always figured that shepherds would walk to their fields, but I guess shepherds also don't stay with their flocks all summer long anymore either. There was some beautiful scenery: waterfalls and puffy clouds above the green hills. But it got harder and harder. There were some tough hills, some mud. It took us two hours to get to the railroad bridge that our 'Book' said we should reach in an hour and a quarter. Paul's knee was really bothering him, and my feet were aching so much that I'll never use the phrase "My feet are killing me" lightly again. We stopped to rest frequently. At one point, I sat down on a rock and left the world for a while. I think I might have been catatonic. When I came back, Paul said, "I'm ready to be done, are you?" I slowly nodded. I really didn't feel like I could finish, and even if I did, I would have been lame or sore for days afterward, which wasn't the point of this trip. I was bitterly disappointed, and hated to give up, but knew it was the right thing.

The 'Book' said that if we followed the old military road to the "trees", there would be a path down to Crianlarach, which was the official halfway point, and which we knew had a train station. We didn't know which trees the 'Book' was talking about, but we agreed to walk to that point and then decide how we felt. But it was really all over as soon as we started talking about it. I was so disappointed that I wouldn't be finishing, but so relieved that i would be stopping. It took a long time and a lot of detours around mud caused by water seeeping out of the hillside, but we finally reached the path down to Crainlarach. Several people were sitting down having lunch there, and I was embarassed to walk by them and have them see that I was takinging the path out, instead of continuing on. But I held my head up high and did it. I knew it was the right decision. The path down was very steep and really hard on Paul's knee. The tiny train station looked like Valhalla when we got a glimpse of it through the trees. It was so small it didn't even have a ticket counter. There was a sign saying that you should buy your tickets on the train. There was a small tea room with a payphone, however, where we began our first attempt to pay back Thorsten and Christianne by paying for part of their room charge at one of the places they would be staying next. The woman we'd met at the hostel, who was popular with the older men in the pub the night before was also there, talking with two blokes. The West highland Way must be a bigger pickup place than the "Social Safeway" in Georgetown! Anyway, we were unsuccessful in our attempt to make the payment, becuase the phone ate up all our remaining money before we could get it worked out, and we were cut off. So we boarded the train to Edinburgh with empty pockets, ate our lunch and read books the whole way back. I barely noticed the scenery as it went by, I was too tired and too disappointed. When we reached Edinburgh, the first thing we did was get some cash out of an ATM. This made Paul feel a lot better. Strangely, it never bothered me that we didn't have any ready money with us. I always knew something would work out.

The first thing we realized when we got back was that Gordon was still sleeping on the sofa bed in the living room. Sice we had expected to be gone for a week, we assumed that he would have reclaimed his bed, but I guess it was too much trouble. So we just dropped all our gear and Paul got in the tu b to soak his knee. Hot water! I planned to go in right after Paul, but Gordon came home early and pretended that he wasn't at all surprised to see us. He insisted that we go out with him and his friend Alberto Massimo, an Italian/British friend of Irene and Gordon whose parents now livin in South Africa. So I jumped in the shower and then we headed out to pick up Alberto and go to eat at Napoli, Alberto's favorite Italian restaurant. Albertos knows everyone - he is very well connected in Italy. He tells stories you can't believe about members of the Italian Parliment, mafia boses and the like. He's very entertaining. Alberto als has a wonderful set of moustachios, almost like handlebars. Everyone at the restaurant knew him and chatted casually in italian. We had pizza and pasta, Italian beer and as an apperitiff, an herbal liquor colored ruby red. It was lovely. After dinner we went back to Alberto's flat, much to my chagrin. I was hurting and exhausted and just wanted to sleep, but the boys still wanted to play. Alserto has a reputation for staying up until all hours and sleeping in past 10:00. Sure enough, he and Paul set out on a grand tour of Scotland via the extensive collection of Scottish Whiskey in Alberto's liquor cabinet. Alberto would pull one out, display the label while describing the region in which it is made, the characteristic flavors and how it differs from the others, and tell a short story about how he got the bottle or something he knew about the distillery. I'm pretty sure they had at least 8 glasses. Paul held up remarkably well against Alberto, the master, who is reputed to drink up to 16 whiskeys during the course of performing a single organ concert. The tour finally ended at midnight and I was really glad to finally get to bed.

The next day, Gordon told us a story that Alberto had told him about seeing a ghost