Thursday, April 15, 2010

Walk 239 -- Alligin Shuas to Torridon

Ages:  Colin was 67 years and 342 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 119 days.
Weather:  ‘Fair-weather’ cloud, and there was still a cold wind.  We saw no sign of the volcanic ash from Iceland which has closed every single airport in the UK because of the danger of it getting into aircraft engines.
Location:  Alligin Shuas to Torridon.
Distance:  5½ miles.
Total distance:  2207 miles.
Terrain:  Two stretches of slightly boggy moorland, but mostly a hard track and paved roads.  Downhill at first, then more or less flat.  BLISS after yesterday!
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  No.237, Abhainn Alligin.  No 238, Abhainn Coire Mhic Nòbull.  + lots of streams.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  No.208 as we left Alligin Shuas.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan in Applecross, and we had hired a small car locally so we had two.  Yesterday we left the hire car in Torridon.  Today we drove to Torridon in our own car, then switched cars and drove the hire car on to Alligin Shuas.
At the end, we came to our own car in Torridon.  We had tea and caramel shortcake, then we drove to Alligin Shuas.  From there we drove both cars through Torridon to Shieldaig, where we parked the hire car until tomorrow.  Then we returned to our caravan in Applecross in our own car.  (Sounds complicated, but it was simple really.)

We were supposed to have a complete “rest” day today, but we had the second half of yesterday’s Walk to complete.  I felt a bit depressed by my ‘failure’ yesterday, but Colin was very encouraging.  He knew how difficult I had found the paths over the last two days, and appreciated the fact that I was totally exhausted.  I felt a lot better after a lazy morning, and we drove over the mountains to start our Walk in the middle of the afternoon.
We walked down the road from where I sat on the verge yesterday, until we got to a hair-pin bend.  Then we went straight on down a tarmacked track to where a new house was being built.  From there a good path led over a bit of moorland towards the loch.  We really did have fantastic views all through today’s Walk even though the sky was not the intense blue of yesterday.
The path started to go downhill ….. and then we lost it!  Oh no, not again!  But we looked around, and found it quite easily — it was lower down snaking through rocks and trees.  It was really quite gentle, not at all like yesterday.  It was a very pretty route. 
We walked down past a huge rock which had a succulent type of plant growing from underneath it.  We reached the shoreline with relief, and after that the rest of the Walk was almost flat.
We were on a track that took us past some garages, which were probably boat-houses,  and over a small river on to the road through Inveralligin. 
 This is a village tucked away in the mountains and very quiet — except there was the inevitable ‘person-with-strimmer’!  (They follow me everywhere!)
Most of the householders own boats as they all live on the shoreline. 
We passed a stone jetty, and someone had made a ‘boat-path’ through the rocks from their house to the water. 
A house called “The Boat House” had a home-made pictorial sign. 
We passed a sawn-off log, and Colin remarked that it looked like a cartoon character.  I could only agree, the sawn-off end looked like Popeye’s face!
We were revelling in the magnificent views of the mountains and the loch.  We loved the way the light played on the water. 
We followed the road right through the village until the last house.  There it turned into a track and continued round a large rock. 
Colin had taken over the navigation for today because I find it difficult in the field when I am tired.  We were marching merrily on when I realised we had passed the chapel where we were supposed to turn off.  So we backtracked — Colin was annoyed, but I suppose he was tired too.
The chapel was locked, but we looked at the graveyard since we had to pass through it.  There was a memorial stone to Duncan Darroch who seemed to be more important than anyone else — I think he was the local Laird.  The path became more and more indistinct, and eventually disappeared altogether.  Oh dear, that was not what we wanted! 
We went through a gate to the ‘wrong’ side of the fence, according to the map, but it was a good job we did because when we came to the next stream we had a bridge our side of the fence.  If we’d stayed in the other field we wouldn’t have been able to get across.  We went back through another gate, but the going got really rough,  There was no path at all!
Then I saw a proper track through another fence, it was running parallel to us.  The fence was not barbed wire, so I climbed through between the strands — with some relief I must say!  Colin got really annoyed that I’d done that, I don’t know why.  He was navigating, and wanted to stay in the rough field because “it was nearer the sea”.  I think he was so tired (he will never admit to tiredness) that he had lost all sense of reason.  Anyway, he grudgingly came through and joined me.
We came to a stout wooden bridge across a bigger river, and sat there to eat our chocolate. 
The track continued through the grounds of Torridon House, and we passed a very old-fashioned petrol pump on the way.  We were on the tarmacked drive leading from Torridon House, and we soon came out on the narrow road between Torridon and Lower Diabaig.  Barely any traffic, so it didn’t matter that it was a road, and the vistas across the loch were mind-blowing!
We approached Torridon, and reminisced about the first time we visited this hamlet — many years ago before we found out about the Scottish Tourist Board’s best-kept secret, the midges!!  Unwittingly, we camped at Torridon in July!  We have never experienced, before or since, anything so dreadful as the Scottish midges in July!  We pitched our tent, then went to a local pub for a meal.  At 10pm, in the dark, millions of midges were hitting themselves against the outside of the window where we were sitting indoors.  We were reluctant to go back to our tent, but we had to as we had nowhere else to sleep.
I remember going over to the toilet block to find two Dutch girls preparing to sleep on the floor in there because they daren’t go back to their tent.  They were both crying, and asking why no one had warned them about the midges.  They hung in the air like soup so we were breathing them in and out, and by morning we were both covered in an itchy rash like measles.  Our tent was full of them irrespective of our sprays, and despite several million of them dying in our washing up bowl overnight they hung just as thick in the air above it.   We couldn’t pack up and get out of there quick enough!
But in April, Torridon is a truly wonderful and beautiful place — the midges don’t arrive until about June.  The way the light played on the mountains and the water was truly magical.
We passed the primary school, and were intrigued by all the carved animals in the grounds.  I especially liked the teddy bears’ picnic.  It looked a happy place, I wonder how they deal with the midges! 
We passed the War Memorial which looked poignant with its mountain backdrop.  Further back we had passed another memorial stone to Duncan Darroch, this one had been erected by his wife in 1912.  But he was buried at Gourock, which is an awful long way away.
We stopped at the toilet block, then walked on to where we had parked the car.

That ended Walk no.239, we shall pick up Walk no.240 next at the road junction in Torridon.  It was twenty-five past seven, so the Walk had taken three and a half hours.  We had tea and caramel shortcake, then we drove to Alligin Shuas.  From there we drove both cars through Torridon to Shieldaig, where we parked the hire car until tomorrow.  Then we returned to our caravan in Applecross in our own car.

This morning all Scottish airports were closed.  This afternoon all those in England and Wales followed suit.  By this evening most of those in northern Europe were also shut down.  This is because a volcano in Iceland is erupting, and depositing ash in the jet-stream.  It is a fine abrasive powder which would wreak havoc if it gets into aircraft engines.  The last time this volcano erupted, in the 19th century, it continued for eighteen months!

No comments: