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Journeys With A Pen

Hiding in the Highlands

UNITED KINGDOM | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [41] | Scholarship Entry

How Did I End Up Here?
That's the question I'm asking myself as I lie inside my sleeping bag, watching the tent above me sway from side to side in the thunderstorm ensuing just outside my thin, plastic house. To make matters worse, in my haste to find shelter I've set up camp beside a steadily rising river and all I can do to save myself is pray it doesn't overflow.
Where's Wally then?
I'm on the edge of Rannoch Moor, an environment that even on the best of days is rather unforgiving. This section of the West Highland Way is isolated, exposed and the weather here changes faster than you can say 'toss the caber'. In fact only this morning I was in my shorts, lathered in sun cream, beaming from ear to ear, thinking just how well everything was going. Back then even an extortionate midday pint (costing £12 from the only building for miles around) couldn't tarnish my spirits.
Now though, the thought of it and the warm interior from which it was purchased are only adding to my hangover.
Speaking of hangovers, in the tent to my right I can hear Michael’s alcohol-induced snores do battle with the thunderclaps above.
As the ominous clouds had gathered this burly Scotsman had spotted a deluded Englishman (me) chasing his windswept tent across the moor side. Instead of walking quickly past, he’d decided that this too was the perfect spot for him.
And after setting up our emergency campsite together (i.e. me watching Michael), we’d spent the next few hours seeing off a crate of Special Brew that my Scottish saviour appeared to be lugging around with him for fun. This feat was concluded when Michael left my tent for his, lulling me to sleep with the phrase, ‘I’m in nay state to keep an eye out, so yous’ll have to make sure we dunny drown!’
It’s people like Michael who have made this trip worthwhile. Before I left home I had naïve dreams of walking all week in sunglasses, cooking outside as the sun went down and sweating rather than shivering in my sleeping bag.
After being at the mercy of Scotland’s four-seasons-in-one-day weather for the past eight days, such ideas have certainly been blown off the brae-side. Indeed without the Michael’s of this trip my enthusiasm might easily be left wanting. Thankfully it’s not. The people I’ve encountered on my journey haven’t only kept me going, they’ve made this week one I’ll never forget. My only small complaint is that with tomorrow night’s companion, I just hope it’s not Kendal Mint Cake and Special Brew for dinner again.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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