Wednesday, May 6, 2015

WEST HIGHLAND WAY (WHW) – Day 1 – London > Glasgow > Milngavie > Drymen

WEST HIGHTLAND WAY (WHW) – Day 1
London > Glasgow > Milngavie > Drymen


WEST HIGHLAND WAY BLOG LINKS:

- Things to Know Before You Go
- Day 1 – London > Glasgow > Milngavie > Drymen
- Day 2 – Drymen > Balmaha > Rowardennan
- Day 3 – Rowardennan > Inversnaid
- Day 4 – Inversnaid > Crianlarich
- Day 5 – Crianlarich > Bridge of Orchy
- Day 6 – Bridge of Orchy > Kingshouse (Glencoe)
- Day 7 – Kingshouse > Kinlochleven
- Day 8 – Kinlochleven > Ft William
I arrived at London Heathrow Airport at 7pm on April 30, 2015 with the intention to spend as much of the next four months trekking across Europe. Something I had always wanted to do, but had never had the time or the resources.
  
However, I arrived in Europe one month earlier than expected. I had been planning on spending the month of May in the warm, tropical Philippines. Then after that, around June 15, I was to join my friend Suzanne from Dubai to complete the Camino de Santiago trek in Spain together. But those plans were all destroyed when I could not use my Space A ticket to get a seat on any of the fully booked flights headed to Manila. After several days of running back and forth to the airport, I decided to push forward my European trip.

During the flight, I decided to change my itinerary and tackle Scotland's West Highland Way first. I needed to kill time, about one month's worth, in order to get back onto the schedule where I would meet my friend on the Camino de Santiago in the middle of June.

All I brought with me on this trip was my backpack, several shirts, undies and shorts (all quick drying fabrics), one pair of jeans, 3 pairs of black athletic socks, a Lonely Planet "Europe on a Shoestring" guide.. my toiletries, 4 bungee cords, poncho, sleeping bag liner, computer, 2 hard drives, pens, camera, and my beloved pair of Keen hiking sandals.

Everything I brought with me on the trip.
(Some things were quickly abandoned.)

When I packed for my vacation, I had not intended to encounter any cold climates.
I was now headed directly to North Scotland in early May.

Upon reaching Heathrow the immigration officer asked me the purpose of my visit. I told him that I planned to hike through Europe for the next 4 months. Then, more specifically and earnestly, he asked me where I was staying 'that evening.' I tried to explain that I was immediately heading to Glasgow to begin the West Highland Way and that I would be staying at campsites and hostels along the way, but this only seemed to make him extremely suspicious. "Where will you be staying TONIGHT?" he asked for the fourth time. Eventually I told him I could get the address from my emails online so I left the immigration line and switched on my computer to get the address of a friend in London to put on my immigration form. (As it turned out, I spent that night on the bus from London to Glasgow, and I spent the next two nights camping in my tent.)

After returning to the counter to present this new information, I was met with even more questions about my intent to enter the UK. So finally I started going through every last detail in my itinerary for the next four months. I talked about the villages I would be visiting along the West Highland Way, how then I might go to France and trek the Mont Blanc trail before heading to Spain and joining my friend on the Camino de Santiago and I also told them how long I had wanted to do the Camino de Santiago trail, almost 20 years, ever since reading 'The Pilgrimage', by Paulo Coelho where he documented his trip as a spiritual journey.

After I spoke enthusiastically and passionately for over 10 minutes about my trip, they let me go on my way, but the agent also inferred that they would be keeping track of me and looking further into this. This didn't really bother me as I was traveling alone and now it felt like I had company with me.

At 11pm I was on a bus headed to Glasgow. I slept most of the 8 hour trip, and when I finally awoke at 6am, it was just in time to see the sunrise over the Scottish hillsides, which were sparsely populated with colossal wind turbine windmills, all slowly and gracefully spinning in sync. It was a really beautiful sight to see first thing in the morning after almost 20 hours of traveling.

The reception I received in Glasgow could not have been more charming, happy and wonderful. From the very first question I asked at the Glasgow bus station and throughout the day, every single person I had the slightest interaction with seemed to be bursting with such positivity and I cannot remember the last time I have had so many lengthy conversations with complete strangers.

Things I needed to get done before heading to start the trek:

1.     Put all of my cash money onto a safe, travel, cash card. For this I went to Thomas Cook and put nearly $6000 on two cards. One for UK in Sterling. One for later in my trip in EU in Euros. This card can be used online and at ATMs and it also has a passcode, just like a regular bank card. So if this card is lost, it will be harder for someone to get money off of it before you call it in. For more information on this amazing service check out their website: www.cashpassport.com/thomascook

2.     Get some warm clothing. I found a military surplus store right in the heart of town. You could get absolutely everything you need for your trek entirely from this store. Clothes, backpack, boots, walking sticks, gear, etc. I bought a Gor-Tex all-weather jacket and a wool ski-cap.

ADVENTURE 1
38 Dundas Street, Glasgow
0141 353 3788 – www.adventure1.co.uk


3.     Get a haircut. Luckily there was a Turkish Barber Shop immediately next door to the military surplus store.

After these tasks were done, I boarded a bus on the way to Milngavie. The bus ride was about 30 minutes and we didn't pass anything memorable. The bus also let us off several blocks away from the start of the WHW. My advice is to take the train from Glasgow. It is only two stops away from Central Station and the train stop is just steps away from the entrance to the trek.

In the middle of the village I found the gate that marks the beginning of the WHW. I had meant to sleep the night in Milngavie and get an early morning start on the trek, but now that I had seen the entrance, my heart was racing and I couldn't wait.

 



I visited the tourist information office and bought a WHW trekking map, a WHW passport/visa book with spaces to get stamped in each village that I travel through, a small tent and their warmest sleeping bag. I also bought a WHW patch which I planned to sew onto my backpack. I was now carrying a colossal backpack that weighed half my body weight. This didn't matter to me at the moment.. I just wanted to start walking.

I began walking the WHW at about 2:30pm on May 1, 2015.

After getting my photo taken at the entrance to the WYW, I skipped down the concrete ramp, past a small charming waterfall and emerged immediately into … a parking lot. Yes, the first scene you will see after your joyous start of your adventure will be parked cars behind a building. Moments later however, you are on an urban park trail leading you out of town. For the first hour you are walking along streams and through the woods as massive factories and row houses are still within a few meters. By the third hour though, you are well out of town and the beauty of Scotland begins to unfold before you.

I left so late in the day that the only people I passed on the pathway were locals. Any other WHW trekkers that had left on this day had started many hours prior. I was so excited and enthusiastic about my adventure, I said 'Hello' to everyone. This is an open invitation to a lengthy conversation in Scotland, as I found out, as this simple greeting always seemed to lead to a quick 5 minute conversation with just about every person I passed.

Passing out of the urban park, into the relatively flat countryside, passing through sheep farm after sheep farm and eventually entering more rolling hills approaching Dryden.. for the last few miles, my legs really started to ache. I kept tightening my waist harness thinking that a more secure fit would help with the weight of the backpack.

At around 8:30pm, I finally came upon the Easter Farmhouse and saw the many tents in their yard. For £5 per person you can camp on their farm. I expected that this adventure would really make me a bit sore, but finding a place to camp the first night was fairly easy.

I happened to lose my entire toiletry kit that night before I even got in the shower, but I was in my tent by 9:30pm and slept quite well.

Photos from DAY 1:

Glasgow




DAY 1 West Highland Way:




 





 

1 comment:

  1. I liked reading your blog. Did you make a new blog just for your scotland travels?

    ReplyDelete