Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Walk 244 -- Applecross to Tornapress

Ages:  Colin was 68 years and 4 days.  Rosemary was 65 years and 146 days.
Weather:  Very sunny and clear, but a cold wind.
Location:  Applecross to Tornapress.
Distance:  11½ miles.
Total distance:  2253½ miles.
Terrain:  A rocky path steeply uphill and a track next to some woods for first quarter of a mile — then it was all road.  The first half of the Walk was uphill from sea level to 2053feet.  The second half was back down to sea level.  It is the highest road in Britain!
Tide:  Out, coming in later.
Rivers:  No.247, Russel Burn.  No.248, River Kishorn.  + lots of streams.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  Nos.212 near Applecross.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We had towed our caravan to Reraig, all the way from Malvern, taking two full days to do so.  We set up last night on a caravan site four miles from Kyle of Lochalsh.  This morning we drove into Kyle to hire a car (this had been pre-arranged).  We drove both cars to Tornapress where we left our own car.  Then we drove the hire car over the pass to Applecross and parked in the campsite where we finished the last Walk.
At the end, we came to our car parked by the river at Tornapress.  After tea and caramel shortcake, we drove over the pass to Applecross.  Then we drove both cars back over the pass once more as far as Lochcarron.  There we left the hire car to be picked up in the morning.  We drove back to our caravan in Reraig in our own car.
We were blessed with brilliant weather for our Walk today over the highest public paved road in Britain — 2053 feet above sea level.  And we walked it from sea level to sea level, no ‘cheating’ by starting halfway up!  However there was a cold wind, as it is early in the year, and this became more and more evident the higher we climbed.  Fantastic views made up for it though!
A path from the caravan site took us steeply uphill via wooden steps and grass.  Suddenly two deer appeared above us, but they seemed completely unfazed.  They scampered down to the road and disappeared.
As we rose up we had beautiful views behind us — across the road to the caravan site, and beyond to the mountains on Skye.  There were tree stumps next to us, lots of trees had been felled some years ago and the wood had blanched until it was almost white.  We each sat on a stump to eat our pies.
A couple of about our age came down the path we were climbing and stopped for a chat.  They hailed from Norfolk, and were holidaying in Applecross.  The path met a track at the top of the field, and this took us alongside woods to the road.
All the rest of the Walk was to be on this road over the pass, and it was a long way uphill to get to the top.  So I started ‘Nordic’ type walking with my two walking poles, and actually went at quite a pace without getting over-tired.  All day there were streams of motor bikes coming over the pass, so Colin was in his element!
We met a man on a very peculiar tricycle on which he was almost lying down.  We have seen these tricycles before and always thought they were for disabled people, but no!  They are just a different way of propelling yourself.  We had passed this rider in our car very near the top of the pass when we drove over this morning — now he had got himself almost to the bottom.  He stopped for a chat, and told us he had done the pilgrim’s route from Le Puy to Santiago di Compostello on this contraption, but he had found cycling round Scotland more difficult.
The tricycle has eighty-one gears, (9x3x3)  That is how he was able to climb to the top of the pass without getting off to push, and to come down safely without the vehicle running away with him.  He let Colin have a go on it — he said it was very comfortable!
We pushed on in ‘march-mode’.
The higher we got the colder it became, but the sun continued to shine brilliantly and the views remained clear and spectacular.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day to do this Walk!
Our surroundings were just barren mountainside, it would have been forbidding if the weather had closed in.
We sat on a rock to eat our sandwiches.
We had the most magnificent vista overlooking the Cuillins, but we soon moved on because it was too cold.
We got to the top!  The half-way point of the whole Trek!!
We have reckoned that the complete circuit of mainland Britain’s coast — the way we are doing it according to our rules — is 4500 miles, and by the time we had reached the top of Bealach na Ba we had walked as near as dammit half that distance.  So we decided it was our official halfway point.  It has taken us twelve years, so we should roll back into Bognor Regis in another twelve years time, when Colin is 80 and I am 77!  Will we do it?  Who knows!
Colin managed to demolish a small cairn when trying to set up Thomas the Travelling Teddy for a photograph.  But he rebuilt it, so that was OK.  There were lots of people about because everybody stops for a few minutes at the top to look at the view, so we had no difficulty finding someone to take our photograph.  Posing for it, we froze!
So we moved on very quickly to a more sheltered spot down a bank to eat our apples.
The views on the downside were really spectacular — even better than on the way up.  It was steeper on the eastern side, and we were glad we hadn’t had to walk up that way.  The road was also narrower, and we had to keep leaping off the side whenever traffic passed us. 
There was snow on the tops of rocks looking like icing sugar — it was beautiful.  
The way the mountains folded, the steep drop to the loch below, the mountains beyond, the road snaking down twisting and turning with hairpin bends — it was all breathtaking!  
Probably the best views we have had so far on the Trek.  
But difficult driving, no wonder they ban caravans on this route.
Part way down we came to the spot where I had been a victim of ‘road-rage’ back in April.  It was when we were camping at Applecross and were setting up a Walk in the Torridon area.  We drove both cars over the pass, Colin ahead in the hire-car and me behind in our own car.  It was exciting, but we were both coping well.  Coming down this side, we could see three vehicles way in the distance coming up.  They were a long way off, and I mistook the distance between passing places.  The first car seemed to come upon us very fast, and Colin nipped into a passing place.  I had just passed one, so thought I would go ahead and squeeze in behind Colin.  But I couldn’t because this car continued at the same speed past Colin, and only braked when his nose was about a foot from mine.  So there we were, face to face on a narrow mountain road without a hope of passing each other.
The driver, a man in his fifties or thereabouts, sat there and scowled at me.  So, very calmly, I reversed extremely slowly back up the road.  It was about two hundred yards to the passing place, which thankfully was on the mountain side not the drop side, and I was completely in control the whole time.  I took it slowly, and kept stopping to make sure I was straight before continuing.  All the while the other driver kept his bumper no more than a foot away from my bumper, and he continued to scowl at me.  He was trying his best to intimidate me, but I was so furious at his actions I wasn’t unnerved at all.  I was just angry!  It was stupid and dangerous conduct, and a complete antithesis to the behaviour of absolutely everyone else we have met in northern Scotland.
Meanwhile, Colin had got out of his car and was running back up the road because he thought I might be panicking.  He came to ‘Grumpychops’ in the other car first and asked him what the problem was.  “Drivers going uphill have priority!” was the terse reply.  By that time I had at last reached the passing place and reversed into it.  He sped by without any acknowledgement.  The drivers of the other two cars, who had kept a decent distance all the while, had the grace to look embarrassed as they passed with a ‘thank-you’ wave.
That is the only time I have ever experienced road-rage.  But what a place for it to happen!  And what an idiot!
We found a little nook out of the wind to stop and eat our chocolate.  But Colin was disgruntled and said it wasn’t good enough.  (He had been grumpy all day despite this wonderful Walk, but later he came out with the most awful cold.  So I suppose that was what was the matter with him.)  He marched on, and I let him go.  I felt better on my own without his constant carping.  When I finished my bar of chocolate I walked on, and found him crouched in another little nook very similar to the one I had stopped at.  He looked like a petulant pixie with his fleece hat!
The road down was a lot longer than either of us thought — perhaps we were getting tired.
Even when we got to the bottom, on a level with the loch, there was another mile to go.
A big red notice warned us that the road is normally impassable in wintry conditions.
At last we crossed the river and came to the layby where our car was parked.

That ended Walk no.244, we shall pick up Walk no.245 next time by the river at Tornapress.  It was twenty past six, so the Walk had taken six and a half hours.  After tea and caramel shortcake, we drove over the pass to Applecross.  Then we drove both cars back over the pass for the last time and on as far as Lochcarron.  There we left the hire car to be picked up in the morning.  We drove back to our caravan in Reraig in our own car.
I don’t like the sound of Colin’s cough.

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