I woke at 8am and was very very confused at why my watch was lying to me. There was no way it could have been that late, but I must’ve needed the sleep and I did feel refreshed once I’d got over my befuddlement. It was quarter to ten when I left the hostel.
After a dry-ish start, it was wet and dreary for the rest of the day. I think this photo is of Loch Affric – but it doesn’t really matter where it was….. all of my photos from that day have the same grey murk in them.
When planning my route, this year, I’d struggled to split the days into nicely balanced chunks. I didn’t want to over-commit myself if the weather was poor or if I was tired, but I didn’t want to miss out on the comfort of a hotel or village shop if I’d only needed to push on an extra couple of miles. I’d heard that the hotel at Tomich would be happy to let people camp in their garden so I decided, quite early in the day, that I’d add on the extra couple of kilometres and give myself the chance to dry out in front of the fire whilst sampling the local beer.
Walking through the forest with the rain dripping off my hood onto my nose, I bumped into a hiker coming from the other direction. He looked familiar and, as he got nearer, I recognised him as Markus, the Challenger from Austria. I asked him what route he was taking this year….. as he did appear to be going in the wrong direction. It turned out that he was not on the Challenge this year but was walking in Scotland in May nonetheless. It was good to have a natter – and he let me know which Challengers he’d already passed and who I was likely to meet in the Tomich hotel.
Reaching the road into Tomich, two waterproof-clad, rucksack-bearing, pathetic-looking creatures also joined the road ahead of me. With their hoods up, they didn’t notice me as I walked behind them towards the centre of town. They were a funny pair; wandering all over the road and stopping to look at things without noticing me slowly gaining on them. I smiled to myself and considered what possesses people to spend all day, possibly day-after-day, out in such miserable weather? They were probably Challengers and I presumed they’d be heading to the pub…. as that’s what we do.
I finally caught up with them as we entered the hotel. All of us huddling in the porch whilst we took off heavy packs and wet coats….. they turned around and there was one of those “It’s you!” moments of recognition as I realised that I’d been walking behind Alan and Phil for the last 20 minutes!
They’d had a bad day. I thought I’d had a pretty bad day ….. but they’d had a really BAD day. Something about going up “the wrong bl**dy mountain….. TWICE” if I recall correctly. Nothing cheers me up more than someone having a worse day than me, so thanks guys!
Despite expecting to be able to camp at the hotel there was some discussion about whether this was possible or not. Apparently I should have booked ahead which, with hindsight, would have been the polite thing to do but just hadn’t occurred to me. After putting my tent up in the garden, I changed into dry clothes and headed back to the bar to join the merry throng of Craig, Vicky, Jayme, Peter and Jeremy, plus Alan and Phil, for food and beer.
It’d been a tiring day and I was glad to have the relative comfort of a pub before crawling into my tent; and today’s extra mileage meant that I had two shorter days ahead of me.