He who would travel happily must travel light
I met Greg, who I don’t remember his name, walking away with his three companions, when I was going to breakfast. He was the tenant of bothy next door. He had done the West Highland Way last week by bike and this one he did on foot, in just five days. The previous evening we were commenting on the harshness of the terrain that day, that he had also met the American couple, that I had also met the German couple, and, after asking myself about the story of Catalonia, we spent some time with the English. He had voted Yes.
It has started to rain, shyly, as the ferry returned me to the other side of Loch Lomond. In the last minutes of living with the lake, Scotland has shown itself as it is: a hard, cold, humid, inhospitable land that gives no respite. That is why Scots are kind, warm, friendly, close people, always ready to help you.
From Inverarnan to Crianlarich in the rain
Today’s route from Inverarnan to Crianlarich is the shortest of all, just ten kilometres, plus three that I hadn’t done the day before. It reaches Crianlarich, which is in a way the spiritual centre of Scottish hiking: it is where the first hiking association was founded. In addition, the Hills of Crianlarich, the three hills surrounding the village, are peaks that every good mountaineer must have made. It is a very curious village: there is a hostel, a hotel, 3 or 4 B&B, a shop where they have everything, police, parish, daycare, train station, bus stop, and public toilets.
There is also the Ben More Lodge, with a very nice waiter and waitress, and a Scottish son of an Italian who, when he wants, starts playing the guitar and singing. And of course, there are houses, but maybe there are four or five. Well, the fact is that today’s route has ended there.
The way from Inverarnan to Crianlarich is not difficult. Smooth slopes, acceptable path, and short distance. That, on a normal day. But it rained late into the night. And it’s windy. And the rain has left the roads completely muddy, but in an unsuspected way: there were mud puddles of 50 or 60 meters, of those where your boot gets stuck. The stones, which the road is full of, skated. And the wind was throwing water straight at my face.
The Way begins to take its toll
To all this has been added a pain with inflammation in the left knee, a blister that begins to be too large beneath the same leg, and inflammation of the ankle in the other. So, what was supposed to be an easy and fast way has ended up turning into a torture of almost six hours to do about fifteen kilometres. I didn’t even take out my backpack to take photos, I took four and only with my mobile phone, don’t expect too much quality.
It is also not surprising, however, that my body has begun to say enough between Inverarnan and Crianlarich: my physical preparation, after a year of irregular and infrequent sports activity, consisted of injuring an abductor in April after only a month of running once or twice a week. To the little or no preparation, we must add the stubbornness of wanting to carry the whole backpack during the route (about 14 or 15 kilos).
While crossing Glen Falloch, a super beautiful walk around the Falloch River, with its waterfalls, I decided to rest tomorrow. That I am here to enjoy and have fun and for now, today, is being quite the opposite. And when I walk again, if I go back, we’ll see, it will be only with a small backpack that I will buy in the village shop, if they have any.
So, while mentally reorganizing the trip, I got to the point where the path lets you choose between continuing on to Tyndrum, or detour to Crianlarich. With the strength and feet I had left, in the rain, all wet and my hands frozen, I continued to the right, in the middle of a forest … What a forest, guys!!!
Crianlarich, base camp from now on
The photos of the forest, however, past tomorrow, that tomorrow I will rest. Since from Crianlarich there is good communication with the beginnings and end of route of the next days, I cancelled the accommodations, except the two nights in Fort William (the second was because I wanted to go up the Ben Nevis, but I think it will have to be another year). I was able to extend my stay at Ben More Lodge one more night, and the waiter himself looked for a B&B for the two nights because they were unable to relocate me.
Ben More Lodge is a B&B with a pub and restaurant on the ground floor, wooden bungalows near the house, and a small further camping area. I spent the afternoon at the bar, trying whiskeys, talking to the waiter and the waitress, and hearing how the Italian-Scottish played.
While I was having dinner at Ben More Lodge itself, an old man sat at my table, and asked me how my knee was. We’ve been chatting for a while, he told me that he had been to Barcelona and Lloret, and that the Way, when it rains, is hard and not worth it. Then he came and gave me a tube of ibuprofen in gel, which seems to have worked miracles.
I think I will be able to continue. Thanks, Greg!!