Saturday, 29 September 2012

Road to Inverness.

Road to Inverness.


The day broke and the guys in the room were up showered, breakfasted and out before I could open my eyes. Which was great as I do not like rushing out in the morning myself. I had the room to myself as I carefully packed my stuff away again.
In the town I had decided despite the possible costs that I would need another warm top. Having worn both of my fleeces and my coat coming through the pass had been just on the borders of comfortable, and if I had to sleep in my clothes and they were damp with sweat too, then that would certainly not be conducive to a good and warm sleep. So I needed at least another lite fleece. I found a shop and got speaking to the salesman, Duncan who was from South Africa. He understood I couldn't be bullshitted so gave it to me straight. The stuff they had was way too expensive....
I accepted that honesty and we got on well, and he suggested other places. He understood my financial concerns as is obvious when trying to walk for a year. If I have to spend huge sums on clothing and equipment then I will have less available to support myself with food and drink, and therefore more need for charity and the goodwill of the people of Great Britain. Though in the main these folk are doing the most amazing things to help me out, I still need a small dowry to travel with. I am preparing myself for the possibility of finding a job in the next month or so, as funds are dwindling and I am hoping that the job may be in the route of my journey too. Either that, or I will have to start begging outside churches....

I set off from Aviemore passed the Macdonalds restaurant, the only one I would recommend eating at. It was a massive hotel, with a shopping complex beside it. Oh to be rich and wealthy, not...

The roads took me towards Carr Bridge. It rained as it does occasionally, and I survived the maelstrom of cars trying to ditch me as I worked my way northwards alongside their road. Nearer to the village there were some very pretty walks through the woodlands taking me away from the havoc of the roads. I found a cafe and wrote some poems before stocking up on supplies at the local post office shop.

It was late in the day again, but I was in good spirits to walk on into the late afternoon/evening, arriving at Tomatin as it got dark. There was little in the way  flat areas off the road, so I chose a place directly under the street lamp at the corner of the road leading to the local primary school. I figured that as it was Saturday tomorrow nobody would mind me being so close to a school. The sleep was welcome and deep.

The next day I was out early as the sun shone brightly and the forecast seemed very good. As it happens, I soon passed a whiskey distillery, so nipped in for a wee dram, and a chat with the locals...

I had never heard of Tomatin to be fair, but it would seem that it was once one of the largest producers of malt whiskey in Scotland, and even now still houses stock for several other manufacturers. I liked the product, but unfortunately can't carry the bottle... I cried all the way to Inverness.....woohoo....

Seriously, after the crying, I walked on to find a place close to Daviot where the path descended into the valley and then across a suspension bridge for walkers. Phew that would save me a long walk to the bridge along the valley, and it took me all the way up to the Village of Daviot, though they had no public house for refreshments or food. I saw a sign by the church that showed a map of the local area and apparently the nearest place to eat was the Culloden Moor Inn some 4+ miles away.

To be fair I was starving, and the thought of walking for another hour and a half was painful, but it was a lifeline. I began my hike at a stong gait and narrowly avoided the selfish people racing past me along the back roads, before I saw the lights burning in the village ahead. God was I worn out. By the time I arrived I had decided that cost was not going to be an issue, and heartily tucked into Broccoli soup and a jacket Potato with chilli con carne..... Amongst the beautifully dressed clientelle and staff I must have looked a sorry sight. Windswept and tired and eating for Great Britain as if my life depended on it.....

I later found a spot to camp at the fringes of the famous battlefield of Culloden Moor. I was so tired I welcomed the noises of the night and haunting ghosts that roamed these moorlands for eternity, as a distraction from the road traffic.

Someone had told me not to bother with the expensive tour of the site and museum, though it possibly would have given me a more factual basis for my discoveries, and just walk the fields which is free. The place is enormous and you could easily put yourself in the days of that battle, where the soldiers and clansmen gathered for the slaughtering to come. Some 1500 Jacobites, clansmen and hired soldiers died here alongside an indeterminate number of English soldiers under the Duke of Cumberland. Bonny Prince Charlie left defeated it would seem, though to see the place, you could see why it was a fated attempt. The owners of the site are attempting to return the moorland to its original state at the time of the battle, after centuries of deforestation and farming have changed the terrain somewhat. I was actually surprised (and pleased) that the site is open to the public to walk across from several access points. Of course you are expected to show respect for the site, and the monuments as is correct, but usually sites like this are fenced off completely.

I was soon out of the moors and into the outskirts of Inverness. I found a Tescos 24 hour store as I wanted to use the cafe and toilets. I met a very helpful young lady by the name of Jen, who had recently begun working here after a very long time unemployed. She was a delight to be around. Full of life and energy and glad for the chance to get on with her career in the hospitality trade. Her story was a very heart warming one, it touched me, and I hope that I left her feeling equally rewarded for the kindness she showed me. Tescos need more staff like Jen, but well done them for giving her the chance. I say this even if I am not a fan of huge chain enterprises.
Later, shopping in bag, I made my way into the town and looked for signs as to where to lay my head. In the public house called the Pheonix, I met Sally, the manageress from the isle of Bute, and Ian one of the regulars, an ex taxi driver, and then Johnnie a man from the Midlands who lived and worked here now. They were an odd crowd. To say that they were an unusual mix of people gathered in a quiet pub where nothing much was happening, except idle chatter and drinking. I made my way later to a field in the north of town and set my tent up and fell quickly to sleep.

Waking I found myself in a playing field close to another school and behind the Go Outdoors store. This was a fortunate occurrence as I wanted to buy a stove to cook on or at least provide myself with hot drinks on cold days. The store was recently open when I had packed away which was great as I needed the loos too.
I love this shop. It has everything you can possibly ever need for outdoor adventures and every season. They had a cheap and small attachment and a small canister of gas for the job which I purchased. The Jetboil brand of burner was a dream, but at around about £100 I could not justify such decadence. 

In another store in the town, Craigdon Mountain Sports I later bought a mug/saucepan for boiling water/food and was served an given a handsome reduction by Robert the salesman. I appreciated the kindness, as I saved a little on the costs.
The city of Inverness is quaint and many things here to see, though I avoided the town in the main and walked along the river bank where I came across the lovely coffee shop called Manna House. I could not tell from outside what the difference was except my intuition told me to go in. It turned out to be a place run by a multi religious community as a local project for helping the needy and be a meeting place for quiet and reflective passers by. Everyone seemed to know one another, both staff and clientelle, and soon the lady running the cafe today, as a volunteer came over to make herself known and enquire of me my travels. Betty was a delightful woman, of mature years who made me feel right at home in the cafe. Bill the guy serving brought me tea and scones and I was in heaven, or close to it as we chatted about this and that. Faith is a big part of many peoples lives and I was happy that they were using it in such a genuine and helpful way. I had been reading a story in a small booklet about addictions too and we chatted about the lady from the book who was also a local. It was an inspirational account about someone addicted to Valium, prescribed by her doctors, that went on for almost two decades.
Betty was a real star, who made my day I have to say, and as I got up to leave, she wouldn't accept any payment from me for the refreshments, as a gift from her towards the Imagine project and my ongoing needs. I have much gratitude for people like Betty who see the need and act upon it. Too many people unfortunately are too obsessed with the life they lead to have time to notice a stranger and the chance to help them. God bless you Betty and Bill and the people of the Manna House project.

I also got into conversation with a couple, Ian and Audrey from Manchester and Dundee respectively, who made a wonderful donation to the cause and shared a while with me telling me all about life here in Inverness, and helped me to navigate my way towards the Eco campsite that I had been told about by Phil from Kent.

I said my farewells and set off along the river and across the islands that are the start of the Great Glen Way towards Abriachan. The Nessriver flows with incredible speed, so I must be careful not to fall in or I might not ever get out.

I enjoyed the trek out of the city and into the hills as the day drew on towards evening. A huge building, all the lights burning stood at the top of the nearby hillside. I wondered what was going on there, but received no answer, other than it was possibly a government run establishment. And what need have they for economizing with our tax payers money by turning the lights off in an empty building....!!!
I found a place to camp amidst a block of abandoned old buildings, possibly a former hospital. The wind was getting up so I set my tent in the shelter of some huge trees, and on soft grass and let the memory of the climb here take me rapidly into dreamland.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.