Friday, May 15, 2015

WEST HIGHLAND WAY (WHW) – Day 2 – Drymen > Balmaha > Rowardennan

West Highland Way, Scotland -- Day 2



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 shouldn't be wishing too hard for an adventure.. because the within the next 48 hours, I seriously had my ass kicked on the West Highland Way.

I had fallen asleep quite early, so I was up at 5am having had a fairly good first night's rest. I immediately started packing my tent, in the bitter morning cold.

I had forgotten some simple, everyday concepts while in my first year of living in Dubai. Concepts such as "morning dew." The night before, I had placed my towel I had used after showering over my tent. The next morning, the mixture of morning dew and morning frost had turned my travel towel into a stiff sheet of ice, which had to be ties to my backpack to dry throughout the day.

I was the first one out of camp that morning and on my way... but it didn't take long before the muscles in my legs were once again screaming at me. The flat surfaces were OK to walk on, but the problem is there were very few flat surfaces. The rolling hills just kept going higher and higher and I started to find excuses to stop for short, 30-second breaks. To look at the map, to look at the amazing views, or take photos of the mountains, sheep or waterfalls I was passing. Those short breaks took up a massive amount of time, but gave my legs a needed rest.

Then, just as the rolling hills have about taken their toll on my legs I see a massive hill in the distance and wonder which route the WHW will be taking around it. As I approach closer to the hill, I begin to see more clearly that there is a path going right up to the top of this hill. I began to curse the world.. seriously. My pack felt insanely heavy at this point and I didn't knnow how this was going to be possible.


'Conic Hill'
crossing over this hill you begin your trek along the shores of Loch Lamond

Up until this point I'd had amazing conversations with locals along the way. I was alert and perky and full of positive energy. Upon my approach to Conic Hill and for the entire time crossing it, the people I met seemed genuinely concerned about me. Thinking back to the amount of discomfort I was in seems quite hilarious now because it was my own bad planning that was the cause. (1) My backpack was absolutely way too heavy. (2) I had not taken the time to train on hills or stairs before I left for this massive adventure. My legs were completely fatigued and shaking violently in protest at this point.. and people would ask me "Are you OK?" I quickly waved off their concern, but that didn't stop them from repeatedly looking back to check that I was still alive as they made their way up the hill ahead of me. I wanted to cry at some points and at others I wanted to get down and crawl on my hands and knees, however then I would have to stand up again, and I doubt I would be able to lift myself back up. This was almost 4 miles of extreme angles and stairs. I kept thinking to myself that when I get over the hill it will be easier going down. Again, I was wrong. Downhill only allowed this adventure to terrorize a completely new set of muscles.

"Slow and steady wins the race."

I kept repeating this to myself and I did make it over the hill.. eventually. Every single person that had been miles behind me when I started had been able to pass me as I made my way through the first half of this day.

When I finally got off Conic Hill, I spent a few hours in a in a coffee shop in Balmaha, to let me legs calm down. I had an amazing lunch, hydrated myself with lots of water and coffee.

The second day route continued from Balmaha and ended after another 7 miles in Rawardennan. There I was going to try to get a bunk bed in a hostel as there is no 'wild camping' allowed between Drymen and Rawardennan. Sleeping in a bed sounded amazing at this point.

As I left the coffee shop I stopped in a general store and got some cereal bars and a bottle of red wine. Starting at this point and for the next few days, I'll be walking along the shore of Loch Lamond and I was told that the path going forward would be a fairly flat surface for a while (lies!!).

After I left the coffee shop my legs once again felt quite good. So I set out to find a place to stay that night. There were no campgrounds and every hotel was way too expensive or booked. This meant that I had to keep walking until I exited the restricted zone for wild camping. The rest of the day, it rained in a slight drizzle. I didn't mind.. as this felt kind of good.

Onward and literally upward, 10 more miles, I was out of the restricted camping area. However, the path down to where I could actually set up a tent was closed off due to maintenance and there are $1000 fines for leaving the path in some places. My legs where having a violent tantrum and it was really starting to rain hard when a couple came up the path behind me, and a girl from Canada had just about had it that day as well. We hopped the fence and took to setting up our tents.

I found a nice place way down the hill, just across a small stream and right beside a great tree. A nice bed of thick grass would insulate me from the cold ground. As I was setting up the tent, a black dear ran right in front of me. It felt like a very rare, surreal and magical experience. The couple found a spot I pitched my tent.. I drank a cup of red wine and went to sleep. Then it started raining quite hard. But I was in a tent. I slept amazingly well... for a while.



Sometime though the night I started feeling wet. At first I dismissed this but then it got to be too much. I mopped up the water in the tent with the clothes from my backpack and squeezed the water out through the tent door. Then spent the 5 minutes getting my sleeping bag back over me and zipped up to my chin.

After repeating this process several times, I new that I needed to get creative to solve this problem. I took my rain poncho and draped it over my tent. This actually helped quite a bit and I got a bit more sleep until the wind blew the poncho off. My next step was to use the binder clips I brought with me to clamp the poncho to the corners of my tent. The tent was still leaking a bit, but not so much. I just want to get to sleep now.


My tent by the end of the night.

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

SCENES FROM DRYMEN TO BALMAHA:















SCENES FROM BALMAHA TO ROWARDENNAN:










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