Day 10. Alltsigh to the Great Glen Hostel. 23 miles.
Due to my shortened mileage yesterday, and the necessity to meet up with Becky and some close friends in Glasgow on the 19th, I was now faced with two back to back 23 miles marathons with an Achilles feeling about as stable as Teresa May on a bouncy castle (if you're reading this blog far into the future, and I assume that many tens of thousands are, you may need to look up who Teresa May is, sorry for not making this blog less time sensitive). However, upon waking I found that the hours of stretching and massaging had helped my tendon and calf considerably, and the ibuprofen and cocodamol I munched heartily for breakfast only served to increase my relief (note, always eat before taking ibuprofen, mmmkay?).
With 23 miles to go I set off at the crack of noon and strolled, at first cautiously, then briskly through the woods. I was faced immediately with a decision, take the shorter, flatter, less scenic 'Lower Route', or attempt the longer, steeper, but prettier, 'High Route'? Just recently on the mend I boringly opted for the low route and trudged on, only to find myself climbing a practically vertical path around half an hour later. A cursory check of my maps confirmed that, somehow, I had taken the high route. I couldn't face going back down the slope and so boldly staggered forth.
My god that climb was brutal, it snaked and weaved and doubled back, never once slacking in gradient. Oddly enough, this was great for my Achilles as walking uphill places far less strain on the tendon, for now. Ultimately the high route was worth it. The sun poured out its greedy rays which seemed to soak everything in a wondrous kind of technicolour, like a music video from the late 1960s, the wind whipped the tree tops into frenzy and the Loch reflected back all this majesty with interest - I was pleased with my error.
Eventually I descended from the hard, but rewarding path into Fort Augustus, where I topped up on sweets, over the counter medication and blood alcohol content. I knew from passers by that from here to Fort William it was pretty flat, and even though I had at least 12 miles still to go I indulged my penchant for hoppy cask ales and washed down my late lunch of Melton Mowbray pork pies and Tangfastics with 3 wonderful pints that tasted of sunshine and fields of hops, with a slight twang of gummy bears.
I casually turned the dead straight 12 miles into 14 by weaving along the tarmac path. Much of the rest of this day was spent walking the canal that links up the lochs of Ness and Oich, and I was very pleased to take a breather when the latter finally sprung into sight (my stitch was killing me and the booze was wearing off).
My plan was to wild camp this evening after I had been unable to find accommodation (affordable accommodation... ) anywhere nearby. I had phoned the Great Glen Hostel and left a message 2 days ago and had forgotten all about it when my phone rang with a lovely Aussie man at the end of it saying that the hostel was still closed for the off season, but he could leave a key out for me if I wanted. I could hardly believe my good fortune (or his trusting nature) so I jumped at the opportunity, and quickened my pace towards the hostel.
When I arrived there was no one around and a key with my name left at the reception. I entered the kitchen to find the floor completely flooded and a tap dripping into an ill-placed and overflowing saucepan. Well, one good turn deserves another, so I turned the tap onto full, opened up all the fridges, played around with the dials on the toasters and microwaved the cutlery. I actually spent 20 minutes in wet flip flops doing some mopping, but that's just not as interesting.
I went to bed noticing some rather unpleasant insect bites on my ears (foreshadowing?) and feeling rather good about myself considering my sorry state the night before.