Saturday, 29 September 2012

What is the point ?

What is the point ?

There was still a climb I had to do to get onto the mountain path through the forests above which would see me well on my way into the Great Glen way. I met a few walkers coming towards me that had left Drumnadrochit this morning to walk all the way into Inverness. As I had been putting the tent away, it had rained so I needed to find a spot to dry it. Almost at the top of the trail I found a place and opened the tent up and pegged it, but just as it was almost dry it began to rain once more. Heavens above, I raced to get it scrolled up and into the bag but then it was hailstorms, and I nearly wet myself laughing at this scenario. The tent might be dry...ish and the bag certainly isn't but I was gladly fully kitted for the surprise turn of events. For a while I stood hunkered down over the tent and backpack hoping to save it all from getting wet and covered with hail, but couldn't stop laughing.....
Oh how nature can be cruel...

Later chilled and sweating I managed to make it out of the forest an onto an open stretch of road, where I met a lady called Barbara and her Daughter Susan who were just leaving her home for a brisk walk. They knew of the Eco Campsite and said that they would walk me to the gate, and also to pass on their regards to Sandra and Howie the owners of the cafe/campsite, heralded as an alternative experience. Again that familiar welcome from complete strangers was evident as they accompanied me to the spot were the track fell back into a small forest of new sapling trees. I thanked my escorts for their kindness as they returned the way we had come.

The signs were telling me that food and drinks were on offer as I wound my way into the Rowan forest. I followed the carefully arty signs and was soon at the turning into the heart of the site, where I found a lady de-barking a pine tree. We made our introductions, Sandra was surprised at my name, but very welcoming and happily filled my order for tea, three mint variety. She brought along some extra biscuits as well, bless her. I had wanted to know all about the site and their ideals as it were for an alternative lifestyle. They seemed to have everything under way for a self sufficient way of sustainable living. Admittedly there was no hot shower here, at least for the campers, but everything else was a wonderfully rich experience, that I ate up with glee. Having myself a camp fire for the first time was a lovely touch, as I bedded down in the late evening in this forest of Rowan trees.

Sandra unfortunately was not the person I thought would be able to explain my recent fascination with this tree, but she added a few other new considerations to the melding pot.

For example, she was from the Orkney Islands. Apparently there, they thought that the Rowan was a tree to ward off the witches, rather than my idea that they were tools of the witches of old. Oddly enough and with good reason, they say that if the tree hangs heavy with berries, it will be a very cold winter or a very hot summer. As winter is due, I thought it made sense, that the birds and animals that would live on these berries would have a decent supply to stock up with, if a harsh winter came. And every tree I have seen this last few months are hanging very heavy indeed.

In the morning Sandra and I got chatting again, about everything and she wished me well for the rest of my journey. A few other walkers had come by for the hot drinks and she was busy rushing about after them.

Later in the morning as I reached the top of the ascent into the hills again, I had a strange feeling that things had changed in me. That is to say, though I am not unduly sad, I had a feeling that I can only describe as a lack of vision towards what I am doing here on the road to John o' Groats. I was temporarily struck dumb as to my reasons for the walk and the project as it is evolving.
Sure it is without doubt a great adventure and the people I am meeting are being very conducive to my aims of finding out what is great about Britain, but as to the real aim and reward I felt bereft of an idea. So I did what one must do in such circumstances, I gave up....
I said to the Universe,
Ok, I'm baffled, I have no idea what you want of me any more and I am going to quit and go home.”

As I stood there in the middle of the road I wondered what would happen next. Time seemed to have slowed right down, the sun was bursting through dull clouds and I had just quit. Three months of adventure and it was now at an end. As to what I would do now was anyones guess. Time ticked by.....tick tock...tick tock....
Then I thought, well as you have quit you might as well go home then.
Unlike the Forest Gump moment of realisation however, I have no home as such to go back to. So instead of turning around I carried on ahead, glad to be moving again and on my way home, where ever that would prove to be.
After a while I arrived at a crossroads, and found a Hotel where I had myself a celebratory meal, and loads of tea, as I contemplated my next move. The staff seemed at ease with my being here using their services and not being in a hurry to get away. I got chatting with Karen who was off camping this weekend in Ullapool, where there was a music festival on. I almost asked if I could tag along as I had nothing else pressing to do.
Later as I pressed on to a camp site near Beauly I was wondering whether my earlier conversation with the Universe had occurred or not, as I fell back easily into the routine of walking and paying attention to the omens. The Robin had popped up once or twice to tell me something, but maybe I hadn't been listening very well, no ideas came to fill the void.

At the Lovat Bridge Holiday park I met the owner Jimmy who graciously offered me both a free pitch and the use of all the site facilities as donation to my efforts in raising money for the 5 charities I am supporting, and I knew that I was supposed to be here. The facilities are indeed spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to have a shave and get cleaned up with hot water.

I settled into the camp bar later for a bite to eat. The menu consisted of Scampi and chips, Scampi and chips and more Scampi and chips, but none the less the food was excellent and hot and went down very well with this tired old walker. The place was sporting a fine looking log burning stove which kept the chills at bay, as I read a while from my old mate, Gandhi and his travels in the book I am reading about him and his beliefs.

The next day I set out happy and fed and looking forward to the retirement, when I walked into Beauly and sat to have my breakfast at the Cafe on the Corner.

As if by magic, after a few minutes of being there, in walked three men and a mid-life crisis. The cyclists asked me where I was going with such a huge bag and so I told them. Before you could say Tom Robinson they had asked to sit with me and asked me all about my journey. I likewise asked about their epic trip so far from Lands end by bicycle and only a day and a half to go until John O Groats. They were such fun, and oozed a warmth as they joked with everyone.

We basically took over a corner of the Corner cafe with out bags and helmets and cameras and requests for pictures to be taken. Sean asked one of the staff to take our pictures on his I Tablet. When it was taken she asked if it was ok.
He said, “oh its no good, we'll have to find somebody else who can take a decent picture for us.”
The waitress soon cottoned on as did I that this was his type of comedy, and we all laughed. In fact I complimented the three men, Sean, Ian and Ian all from Manchester, for the renewed wit and humour that was taking me out of my dour mood of yesterday, when I had quit. Meeting the three amigos who had cycled to raise money for charity, (Christies and Tameside Titans) all the way across the country had restored my conviction not to quit at all but to go on as planned. In fact I guess I own them a debt of gratitude for helping to raise me out of the temporary doubt about the rewards of the project. At the end of the day I can control only my aims, and not the responses of people to it. I have to have hope that eventually people will get where I am coming from and help me to achieve great things in the world.
Actually I needed these 3 to remind me that many people have been supporting me all the way along, with both kindness and gifts of charity and practical and financial support, and that I should be more grateful for that help. I am indeed humbled again by this revelation and thanked the guys as they not only paid for my refreshments, but helped raise some money for my charities too from other people in the restaurant. Thank you to Debbie for the generosity and her friend Liz, for the kindnesses. And a massive Thank you to Ian, Sean and Ian for being such great sports and helping me to regain my mojo....

They threatened to walk with me as I get around to Manchester, and I sincerely look forward to putting my tent up in their gardens... (Hope it isn't Mosside)

With this renewed vigour I sped along the highways and was soon laughing again at my temporary lack of vision and the remedy that had saved me.

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