Sunday, 22 May 2011

Day 6 - River Ling to Teahouse Bothy

Sat 23 April

The alarm went off optimistically at 6 but the rain was still beating down heavily on the tent so we both wordlessly decided to ignore it. Eventually the call of nature drove both of us up and into our waterproofs and then out into the weather - the rain obviously pausing as we got out of the tent. Miraculously the rain held off while we packed up the wet tent and though the change in the weather had dented our romantic bivvie at least we had kept dry due to Dave's forethought in putting the tent up.

The mist came down again and kept us damp and slightly chilled as we trudged in vaguely companionable silence onwards and slowly ascended up towards the loch and the forest. Just before we reached the forest we saw a pair of deer again, hovering on the horizon. Were they the same deer? It's impossible to say but why not?

By the time we reached the forest it seemed that the worst of the mist had lifted and it felt a little drier and we felt a little more awake after a standing breakfast. The forest section was uninspiring but still rather wild and we finally joined the track down towards Attadale and relative civilisation. We hadn't gone to explore the Lochan an Iasaich - partly because we didn't feel bothered and partly because we didn't want to find that the position would have been even more dramatic than our camp on the river (though we both felt we'd made the best decision). The track was lined with that rough large gravel which twists your ankles and makes you long for more robust footwear but we made good time and were soon on road and heading past Attadale Gardens which appeared to be just opening for the day.

At the main road we headed right towards the 'station'. Originally we had decided to do what perhaps could be termed a cheat here and take the train from Attadale along to Achnashellach to avoid the long trudge along the road. I wasn't totally sure that this wasn't cheating but could see the logic in avoiding tarmac. As it turned out though we arrived at the station at 10.15 and the next train wasn't until 12.37. As the station consisted of a tiny shelter big enough for us but not our packs and as the weather was threatening another rainstorm we decided to go with the walking on tarmac. Apart from anything else we had seen a sign for the Corran Pottery and the chance for some real food and a few cups of tea was too good to pass up.

The road to the pottery was fairly busy and started by climbing up a nasty hill. The whole road provided very littled verge to cling to - not pleasant at all and we'd probably recommend the train to people rather than risk it.

After cheese toasties and lots of tea we continued to walk to Srath Carran (where we arrived at about the right time for the train but by now we decided we'd stick to the road - as it turns out the train would have been a better option though obviously part of us felt that walking the whole thing made it a 'purer' experience). Dave bought some meths at the relatively well stocked local shop there and we got shouted at by some mean English guy when we struggled to find the path out of town - we'd followed the guidebook instructions through New Kelso but should probably have followed the footpath that breaks right straight after the road bridge over the River Carron.

There was a short bit of walking along the river and through the forest which was pleasant enough - the weather had got warmer and drier now so the Goretex socks finally came off and, although the rain clouds came and went over head, it didn't rain again that day.

After the forest came a gruelling walk along the A896 towards Achnashellach - all the road surface was hard on our feet and the mostly single lane width meant that we were constantly up and down off the verge to avoid speeding cars. It was hot again now too.

But the scenery was interesting and we were diverted for a little while by a signpost to Torridon and the realisation that the character of the mountains around us was changing as we trudged.

Eventually we made it to Achnashellach around 3pm and wound our way up the track to the train station, hoping beyond expectation that there would be a cafe here. It didn't look hopeful but there it was - a cafe in someone's house which was open and friendly and could supply us with crumpets and scones and yet more tea.

After an hour sitting in the garden, eating and chatting to the owners (who used to live in Orkney), the vague chill and the threat of drizzle as well as the need to get somewhere for the night drove us on and we headed up through a little more forest and then along the River Lair with inspiring views of Fuar Tholl to divert us. The different rock and the strangely carved shapes made Dave a happy bunny and, notwithstanding the cafe breaks, the day suddenly got a lot better. After passing a few walkers going back towards the road, we broke off from the main river along an easy path (it was all good path today with the worst footing being in the forest) by Drochaid Coire Lair and heading towards the River Coulin.

We descended a little through the brown hills and Caledonian pines to get finally to the Teahouse Bothy about 6pm. This bothy was recommended to us by Andy from Fort William and we had been looking forward to it while also dreading that we would arrive to find it already occupied, knowing it was small. But when we got there we found no-one else and no sign that anyone else existed. Just before the actual shelter was an amazing waterful, not high but wide and plunging into a perfect plunge pool if only it had been warmer.

So we settled in to the bothy and cooked, watching the weather closing in a little around us but admiring the still beautiful sunset and the scenery around. The guy at the cafe had told us that the forecast for the next day was for heavy showers but every prediction we'd been told so far had been wrong and, anyway, we had little choice to go on regardless of the weather.

My last note in my notebook for today simply reads: 'Going so so well so far. Very happy!'

Time on feet: about 8 to 6; 10 hours (take off about 2 hours for eating!)
Actual distance: about 24k.

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