I’m considering nicknaming the Bongo “Farage”: there’s the obvious xenophobic reference, but there’s also the wordplay that suggests I (and it) go far for our age. On the other hand, less perceptive readers may thinks it’s in homage to the great man. Comments are welcome.
Wednesday afternoon saw me back on the road to Fort William and thence to Tyndrum and Glen Lochy, where I parked in a nice wee Forestry Commission car park cum picnic area: not a “No Overnight Parking” sign in sight. The weather was super and Beinn Laoigh (Ben Lui) and Beinn a Chleimh looked inviting as I sat outside in the last of the evening sunshine. Not long after my arrival a couple arrived, stopping to exercise their dogs before continuing their journey. They cast nostalgic looks at the Bongo and confessed to having once been Bongo owners themselves: the husband told me that he’d once been able to extricate a car with his when two Land Rovers had failed. Admittedly, he’d had some special differential gear box or something fitted, which made all the difference.
A good night’s sleep in the van, punctuated occasionally by the Oban train which ran near by, led to another lovely day and I was away walking by 9:15am.
The first obstacle to overcome was the river which lay between me and the railway line: I spent some time wandering the bank until I spotted a line of stones which provided an easy crossing, especially with use of my walking poles. A word about these poles: I omitted to mention that on my last outing – accompanied by Leslie and Paul – I slipped in the mud and was disconcerted to hear a loud cracking sound. For a moment I was convinced I’d broken the leg that curled up under me, but was relieved to discover it was the snapping of one of a pair of cheap poles I’d bought days earlier, to replace some good ones I’d worn right down past the tips. Therefore on this outing I had the remaining half of that set and another old one that had a tendency to telescope shut under duress.
After the river, there was the railway line. It was fenced in, with dire notices about the financial penalties for straying on the tracks. However, a tributary to the main river had a small walkway under the railway bridge, which necessitated almost crawling to cross the line legitimately, but that was all right.
The next stage to the hill proper was to make my way through woodland. The path was one of the muddiest I’ve ever encountered: there were many places where the mud seemed bottomless and the air was occasionally blue with imprecations as I sank over the tops of my boots into the mire. Eventually, muddied but unbowed, I reached a gate that led out of the wood into the open hill-country.
I had a long slow climb up the flanks of Beinn Laoigh, punctuated by many stops for a breather. They say that the hills only change on a different – geological – timescale from us, but I beg to differ. It is my experience that over the years the Scottish hills have got steeper.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about gear, but I must mention my new GPS unit. It had arrived the very day I left Inverness, so it would be fair to say I’m not yet fully acquainted with all its features. I had decided to move on from my trusty Garmin which has served me well but which has very poor maps, compared with the Ordnance Survey. The new Memory Map gizmo has a larger screen and uses OS mapping, which is great. It is also a phone and a camera. However, not familiar with all its features, I was glad to have the Garmin as a back-up: not that I really needed a GPS on such a fine day.
I had almost reached the summit of Beinn Laoigh when I was forced to don my crampons for about 20 feet of ice. If I’d not been alone, I’d probably have had the courage to go up unaided, but a slip would have led to a long possibly unstoppable slide to a probable serious consequence. My strenuous climb was rewarded with a sight of a Golden Eagle soaring away. The views from the top were great: I’m useless at recognising hills but I suspect Ben Starav, Stob Coire an Albannaich and Meall nan Eun featured, their snowy corries glinting in the sun.
The descent from Beinn Laoigh to the bealach posed no problems and the ascent to Beinn a’ Chleimh was easy compared to my earlier exertions. Water was streaming off the hill and I could hear gazillions of little water molecules burbling their joy at being unlocked from their frozen prison as they headed in a downhill rush.
I must have been in lyrical mood as, to me, the river running through the dun coloured landscape to the south west of me resembled silver tracery on a much used leather saddle.
On the top of Beinn a’ Chleimh, I met two guys who had ascended from a different angle. What must they have thought (® Daphne Morrison / Gillon neé Drayton 1924-2013) when they saw me with my non-matching walking poles?
I headed back to the bealach and picked up a path than ran – though I just walked – back to the very gate I had entered from. A pleasant, though equally muddy, walk in the woods took me back to crawling under the bridge and skipping gaily over the river back to Farage.
I was probably a little negative about my last outing: the weather having had an impact on my enjoyment. This trip put things back in perspective: there had been some cloud on Beinn Laoigh but that had cleared by the time I reached the top so I had been in almost constant sunshine. The wind had – as advertised by the meteorologists – risen as the day went on, but it was never more than a stiff breeze. My boots, despite the mud and river crossings, had kept my feet dry. I had started to learn about the new GPS. Everything had been great.
Today – Friday – Sonia has set off to Montenegro with some colleagues to spend a week supporting parents of autistic kids out there. It seems that autists are shunned in that part of the world and parents tend to see having a child with condition as some sort judgment on them. I’m really glad she’s plucked up the courage to go: I’ve had many a trip to exotic parts and she’s stayed home to feed the cat. I’ve got a few things on in the coming week, so I’ll probably not be able to take advantage of her absence to have another foray with Farage. Besides, having recently spent a small fortune at the vets, I don’t want the cat to die of hunger when I’m not there to tend to its every whim!